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DIY Preamp for Ribbon Mikes?

Being a newbie, a tinkerer, and one who is interested in recreating "that sound" from the early 60's obtained in some of those great jazz recordings, I have obtained my first really decent microphone; a Stephen Sank modified B&O. It has the sound I want, but the mixer boards I use have too much hiss and not enough gain. As others have noted you need quiet gain in the area of 65dB plus to get good level out of a ribbon, especially if placing in an ambient x-y position. I intend to record live jazz using minimal miking. Can any one suggest a DIY circuit topology that might give me some pre-gain that I might put out there next to the mike? Any thoughts short of spending a fortune on World class dedicated pres? Do I need a tranny if I put the pre near the mike? I see lots of circuits out there, tube, class A, Neve clones, but I was wondering what other ribbon mike users have learned, trying do do it on the cheap.


knightfly Wed, 05/22/2002 - 14:38
Hey Keith - On a similar note, I saw a Royer ad a couple of days ago where they've released a new ribbon (122, I think) that is a 121 with a phantom pre, I think they claimed 15db more signal level - sounded like a good move to me.

Also, ""If it measures good and sounds bad,it IS bad. But if it measures bad and sounds good, you've measured the wrong thing." Daniel von Recklinghausen, retired design engineer at H.H. Scott" - I don't know how long you talked to Danny, but if it was for more than 5 minutes you probably realize just what an amazing person he is. My wife and I both had the pleasure of working with him briefly at H.H. Scott in 1966-67, and other than the purchase of my first Webcor tape recorder I think Danny was the single biggest influence on my wanting to know always more about sound. We lost touch shortly after, so it was a really pleasant "blast from the past" to hear that he was still kicking in 1999. Your signature block made my day, thank you... Steve

anonymous Wed, 05/22/2002 - 15:34
Several things to respond to folks. First, I'd REALLY like to see some info about a "phanthom preamp device". When you think about it, it would serve several useful purposes with low output mikes like ribbons:

1) Provides early gain (up near the mike where it belongs. We all know what that can do for noise and cable issues.
2) Makes it possible to use mixers which are reasonably quiet and clean if their input gain trim isn't pushed to the top. May explain in part why condensers are as popular as they are. More output.
3) Most mixers have phanthom supplies which when switched on, are available at EVERY mike input, whether you want it or not. Although some vintage ribbon mikes tolerate this, not all do. With a phanthom preamp in line, The phanthom supply not only can power it remotely, but the preamp can effectively isolate the ribbon mike from this DC voltage, allowing the phanthom supply to power any consenders as well.
4) Adding gain up near the mike would serve the same purpose as a preamp found in condensers, possibly eliminating the need for a transformer at the phanthom preamp's input to reduce noise, because the distances traveled are very short.
I was thinking This preamp would have perhaps as much as 30dB of "pre-gain" before the mike preamp, but it could also have more gain and run closer to a line level. Of course, any tube design may need its own power supply, making it more of a stand alone.

Also, I would LOVE to buy a real nice two channel tube preamp. MY wallet, unfortunately is too challenged and since I am at heart a hobbyist/DIY-er, finding a suitable design and making a couple prototypes makes $en$e to me. That's why I'd rather build it.

Finally, DVR is indeed one of those individuals who can indeed make you stop and think about how we started out pursuing better audio and got sidetracked about 40 years ago, when the audio horsepower and gadget marketing got out of hand. He is a gentleman of the highest order, and we collectively owe him a great deal to the success of the art. His statement, which I quoted, reflects how I have often thought in my pursuits as a broadcast engineer. I am happy to say, Danny is still out there, lecturing overseas at various audio engineering society meetings, still tinkering in his basement, very active - and he is in his 80's! The 4 hours I spent with him I will never forget. Much of the entire interview is published on the vintage H.H.Scott website.

Anyway, I'm open for suggestions on an available design. I was kinda thinking maybe a discrete class A "Neve-ish" front end. Perhaps I should go to that DIY group and ask....



mig27 Tue, 07/02/2002 - 00:04
off topic, since not DIY...
Let me recommend you a vintage telefunken V276 mic pre.
They're solid state, very clean, dark and full sounding. 76dB gain should be largely enough for your B&O's. Plus, they won't break the bank - you usually can find them for around $300.00 at eBay.
best of luck...



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