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Ribbon Mic Mini-forum

Hi all;

I'd like to start a sane, professional, civil discussion on the state (and spate) of ribbon mics out there available today. It seems like every time I turn around, there's a bunch of new ones availabe - some brands I've just started hearing about, some even newer than that.

In no particular order, and no particular model, I'd be interested in reading about folk's experiences with these, including bang for the buck, reliability, real-world results, preamp issues, etc. etc. (Anything is fair game, as long as your statements are provable or at least based on something tangible. Gut reactions are OK too, but no needless bashing or trash talking! Hahaha)

I've just come across some brands like Shiny Box,Cascade, (seem to have a competitor to the SF-12 going on, too!) Tripps-Crowly, and many other newcomers I can't recall at the moment. (Add your favorite here; seems like every time I look at ribbons for sale on Ebay, there's yet another strange new brand popping up.)

I'm sure a lot of these have at least something of a far-eastern heritage, let alone country of origin, but I always keep an open mind.

How about you? Any favorites? Dogs? Good experiences, bad ones? Mainly, I'd like to know the real-world difference between the big guys and the new upstarts. They can't all be as good as they claim, yet I'm sure there's actually a lot of very good and quite usuable mid-level new ribbons out there.

Anyone?

Comments

JoeH Tue, 02/20/2007 - 00:23

well, that's a good start, alright. But I have to admit, I'm sensing a bit of snobbery in those posts.

What I'm hoping for is real-world listening and testing, not just complaints and pot shots without testing them in use. I also realize you can't go by just the Disney samples alone (I too heard them, and liked them), and figured the Cascades are Chinese.

But even if they are, what are they like in real world use, etc? Worth the $, or better to wait on the upper end stuff? Lots of choices out there, and I'm hoping to get as much info as possible.

Hope to hear more from those who own or have used any of these, good or bad....

ghellquist Tue, 02/20/2007 - 12:17

Ribbons seems to be all the fashion right now. A lot of models are coming to the market right now.

To put it simply, in my mind, there is a reason that ribbon technology was more or less dead a long time, overtaken by the in almost every respect superior condensor mic.

My own experience is limited to running an SF24 for classical remote recording. I find it difficult to use, extremely sensisitive to the room making it more or less useless in many places. A few recordings has been really superb: on soprano singers (the opera type) where it sort of tames the worst parts, on grand piano, on brass. Considering how seldom I use it, it is now up for sale.

Gunnar

JoeH Tue, 02/20/2007 - 12:55

Interesting to hear that, Gunnar. I have access to an SF-12, which keeps my happy, but as for one of my own, I'm still finding the cost of the SF-24 extremely dear; cannot afford one right now, although I'd be interested in chatting with you privately about yours, and what you might want for it.)

I've got an AEA RE84 here, and it's simply gorgeous - at least up close, on male vocal and other things that work better in a controlled environment. (I doubt I'd EVER take this out on a gig...)

Having seen the new Cascade stereo ribbon (very similar looking to the Royer stereo, but obviously a cheaper outing), I'm wondering what the net difference would be, for the times I use it. I'm NOT knocking the good folks at Royer, and I know they make a fine product. But for the $ I'd spend on the SF-12 or 24 vs. the few times I'd use it, I'm wondering if the Cascade isn't a better deal overall.

I can't help but feel the proliferation of ribbon mics - good, bad, somewhere in the middle - might make for a more level playing field overall. More folks can have access to them, and get a taste of what the fuss is all about...

Zilla Tue, 02/20/2007 - 17:53

My experience with getting desirable results from ribbon mics has been when they are employed as spot mics. Not so much as main stereo arrays. My all-round favorite ribbon would probably be the Coles 4038. Brass, pianos, harps, lutes, guitar cabinets, percussion all sound just wonderful through those mics.

RemyRAD Tue, 02/20/2007 - 22:17

David those two examples sure were sweet! And what kind of preamp? Very quiet.

And what about that Nady "tube ribbon"??

I test ribbon microphones by blowing into them. If they don't sound good after I blow into them, you can give them to me.

I can't get these ribbons out of my hair!
Ms. Remy Ann David

Cucco Wed, 02/21/2007 - 06:57

Ahhh....ribbons. I love em. No.... I hate em....

They're great for some things. I often use ribbons for certain things and they work well. Other times, I try to use them and just don't like them.

For example -

I use them on operatic soprano and I LOVE them.

I use M/S or Blumlein spots in orchestras and I just can't get enough of them. They blend well and really add serious depth.

I like using M/S on piano accompaniment with ribbons. It allows for good rejection of the solo instrument and still gets a great stereo image with great depth.

On the other hand...

I owned an SF12 and I could not find an application where I preferred it over other mics with the exception of vocals. I tried it over a few orchestras and couldn't get a mix that I liked (even after over an hour trying to get it set up.)

I tried another Blumlein pair (ribbons) over a Balalaika orchestra recently and, while the sound was smooth, the balance was all wrong.

My whole thought on the subject is simple. Use the right mic for the job, regardless of whether it's a ribbon, condenser, or dynamic. What's right for engineer A and group A may be different than what's right for engineer B and group B.

Cucco Wed, 02/21/2007 - 07:02

I should also state that I prefer the figure 8 pickup from a ribbon over that found in a dual capsule condenser.

To me, the pattern is more predictable and.....organic? When I do M/S, it's almost always with the M130/M160 combo. Occassionally, I use a Schoeps CMC6 Mk4 (or MK21) as the mid as well if I need a little more forwardness.

moonbaby Wed, 02/21/2007 - 07:50

Well, after all of these very nice high-end models have been discussed, I guess my input on a "cheap-o" ribbon is moot, but here goes...
The only (2) ribbons that I have are the Beyer M160 and the Apex 210.
I'm sure that you are familiar with the M160. It is very smooth, and has the uncanny ability to remove that "edgeiness" that can occur from certain instruments (fiddles, brass, winds).
The Apex is no way near that! It is probably made in the same factory as the Nady and the Cascade models. Typical Chinese affair-lots of accessories (pretty case, windscreen,etc), OK fit-and-finish. And I trusted the Apex to have maybe better performance because Apex has been around for a number of years designing transducers. Maybe not. But the mic has it's place as a "color" for vocals, some guitar amps (small Fenders, not a Marshall stack!), and some acoustic instruments. The (2) lobes of the figure-8 pattern have remarkably different timbres. The "rear" side of the mic is very dark compared to the "front", and this can be good if you're doing a country or rock thang. But I would reserve a mic like that for "character" as opposed to "natural" or "realistic" results, but you already knew that, right? My only real bitch about it is the
attached cable. Their other model has an XLR socket. Had I realized this difference, I'd have gone with the 205. That, and the fact that some dude named "Kurt" who used to be a mod here flamed me when I brought up the mic last year. Of course, he wouldn't touch a mic like that with a 10-foot pole, but I've found it pretty useful...

Cucco Wed, 02/21/2007 - 08:34

I've put this one up elsewhere on this forum before...but here it is for this one.

(Dead Link Removed)

The soprano is recorded with a Beyer M130.

The piano is recorded with an M/S pair of M130/M160.

The only condensers are:
1 under the piano (Schoeps CMC 6 MK 4) mixed in VERY lightly

2 hall mics (Gefell M296 - can you tell I love these mics. I can't think of a recording that I've done in the past 2.5 years in which I HAVEN'T used these mics).

I'll post a clip in the next couple days with a chamber orchestra recording that I did of the Strauss Serenade for 13 Winds in which an M/S ribbon pair was the primary pair also with M296 omni flanks in-hall. It's a VERY live recording (lots of natural reverb) but I'm perfectly okay with that. It sounds fine and is representative of what was actually being heard in the venue.

Cheers -

J.

JoeH Wed, 02/21/2007 - 09:46

Jeremy, that's a lovely, wonderful sounding clip, and I often refer to that mentally when thinking about ribbons, mic placment, etc. To me, that's how those kinds of things SHOULD sound. Well done, indeed. I was really impressed the first time I heard this one. My experiences with ribbons to date are similar to yours, they're not great for EVERYTHING. (And althought they're fantastic on vocals up close, I'd NEVER take my RE84 out on a live gig, period.)

Moonbaby, please don't EVER feel intimidated to make those kinds of honest, real-world comments. (Kurt is longggggg gone.) Your comments and experiences are every bit as valid and important. Those are exactly the kinds of things I'm interested in finding out. (YES, I love my DPA 4006 TLs, Neumans, etc., NO I wouldn't hesitate for a second trying a Cascade or Apex ribbon (instead of something higher end like an AEA or Royer) if budget and applications warranted it.)

What I'm hoping to generate here is feedback about experiences - pro and con - about this type of mic, and their manufacturers. Product support is good to know as well, ditto for long-term use, reliability, re-saleability, etc. We've got tons and tons of Condenser mics out there now, far too many to keep track of, and it's looking like Ribbons have made quite a comeback, or at least a start.

And David, yes, I KNEW you were going to be curious about the mic under the piano...hehehe. (I've mic'd many a harpsichord this way, as well, but perhaps Jeremey has his own explanation. :wink: )

Cucco Wed, 02/21/2007 - 11:03

Think of it this way David - what part of the piano makes the sound? Yes, initially it's the vibration of the string due to the hammer. However, it is amplified and colored by the sound board.

The sound board sends signals both out of the top of the instrument (which are easily affected by the placement of the lid) as well as the bottom of the instrument (which is not affected at all by the lid but most definitely by the floor).

By placing a mic or multiple mics below the instrument, you are essentially picking up the soundboard alone minus the strings and percussive aspect. You can really capture quite a lovely piano sound this way.

In fact, the first time I had ever done this was as part of a live recording of a university orchestra where a piano soloist was performing Beethoven's 5th Piano Concerto. I had set up a stereo mic configuration on a stand on the front of the stage roughly 4 feet away from the piano and aiming in. During sound check, I was very disappointed by the sound I was getting. A lot of bleed from the orchestra and a very ugly piano sound.

Well...while I wasn't paying attention, one of the sound guys working on site (the stage crew) took my mics off of the boom (thinking that the boom was theirs) and set them on the floor under the piano to avoid damage to the mics.

I came back to my listening position to hear more rehearsal and the piano sounded noticably better! I was quite impressed. Of course, putting them on a stand and minimizing the early reflections from the floor made it much better, but nonetheless, I was quite impressed. I subsequently recorded the entire concerto that way and it worked quite well. The overheads picked up the orchestra very well and also provided enough "sparkle" to be decidedly Beethoven while the body and soul of the instrument (a 9' concert Steinway) rang beautifully through the "under" mics.

Anyway...long story short...I do it because it works and it sounds good. You can add a LOT of depth to the piano sound by doing this one little trick.

Cheers!

Jeremy

JoeH Wed, 02/21/2007 - 11:20

Not to get sidetracked on Jeremy's excellent tip, but I've found similar little things that can make a diffence. For example, on some larger concert grand pianos, I sometimes mic the tail as well, on a separate track, in case I need it later. For solo piano recording, it's not unusual to use five mics - two stereo up closer, one on the tail, and two omni' outriggers/flanks, all mixed to taste, of course.

And very often, if it's a situation where they don't want mic's showing, (on camera, etc.) going on the DL isn't bad at all, in a pinch. I mentioned doing a harpsichord this way, and amazingly, it works quite well, too, ESP with all the plucking the mechanical noise inherent in a standard harpsi. It can be quite a mess sonically, if you have to get in too close.......hey, there's another good reason to try a ribbon on a harpsichord - more meat, less flack, er...pluck, er....whatever.... :wink:

FifthCircle Wed, 02/21/2007 - 11:43

I'm not a fan of the "under piano" sound. Used it a couple times when I've had to, but I just don't like the lack of detail and several other issues (like tonal balance, etc...)

What I do, however, is a somewhat similar thing. I'll place the mic in pretty close to the instrument (perhaps a foot from the curve) and I'll aim the mic at the lid. You still get some of the direct sound and a good tonal balance, but you don't end up getting quite as much of an in your face kind of piano sound from the mics being close. Advantage of close mics- very little orchestra.

Also, depending on where your main pair and flanks are, you'll be picking up a lot of piano bleed in your orchestral mics.

--Ben

Cucco Wed, 02/21/2007 - 12:11

Well...the clip I posted earlier includes under piano mic....

Ben - I agree...when used by themselves, they are WAY too...hmmm...muddy? no...indistinct - perhaps. However, when brought up just for taste, they work quite well. Adding them to a good pair of overheads (orchestra and piano) or a good main pair (piano and soloist) or even just multiple arrays (solo piano). It's always something I put out when recording but not always something I use when mixing.

I would gladly get you a copy of the Beethoven but it's on a different hard drive in storage. Unless I have a REALLY good reason to go get it and hook it in, I just don't see it happening...sorry... (I vacuum seal them with dessicants in the packaging and put them in self-storage when they're done. It's a pain to pull them out.)

J.

anonymous Wed, 02/21/2007 - 12:29

RE

I purchased an Apex 210 as well and so far, what I have tried with it has sounded pretty good to my ears. I would agree that it definetely ads some colour to the sound, but it is a nice colouring IMO. I haven't used it for any orchestral recording and whatnot, so I don't know how well it performs in that regard. Micing a guitar amp with a SM57 and the 210 provided a really fat sound with the SM57 picking up more of the treble and the 210 giving it a bit of a fuller sound with more of the mids and low end. I've done some scratch track vocals with it and they sounded really good as well and it seemed to suit the singer's voice quite well. It works good as either a room mic/overhead/kick drum mic (with proper placement) for drums. I don't have anything to compare it to in the ribbon mic department since it is the first one I have used, but I am enjoying it's uniqueness in my mic "locker" thus far. On a side note, I have actually been pretty suprised and happy with the results I have achieved from all of the Apex mics I have purchased.

Have a good one,
Wyatt

ghellquist Wed, 02/21/2007 - 12:39

OK then. I´ll put up what it sometimes sounds like. SF24 + Sound Device 722. This is a rehearsal and someone is talking in the church. Mics are far back. It is a rehearsal and I am somewhere there playing trombone.
http://hem.bredband.net/trombonisten/SF24.mp3

You can hear the very distinct positioning in the stereo picture. Sorry but the soloist far to the right.

Different church, different music, same orchestra though (nominally, it is project by project). Same setup of mic + recorder.
http://hem.bredband.net/b121263/freude.mp3

Note that only purpose was to document, actual recording was with quite a few more mics.

Day after freude above. Different church. Several other mics used, this is only the SF24 as main mic. (Millennia HV3 + Lavry Blue). Sorry for lower quality of mp3 encoding.
http://hem.bredband.net/b121263/freude2.mp3

All of the recordings has something talking for them, but none of them really are useful to my ears.

Gunnar

mdemeyer Wed, 02/21/2007 - 23:32

Made some simultaneous recordings last weekend with an M160/M130 MS pair (AEA TRP) and Schoeps MK4 and MK21 close pairs (Hardy M1) on string quartet and violin/piano works. Live concert without a good sound check, so the recordings are not ideal :( , but I'll post samples this weekend for comparison anyway. I was planning to do MS (Beyer) vs MS (Schoeps) comparisons, but decided I wanted a little different sound from the Schoeps on this one.

Stay tuned...

Michael

JoeH Thu, 02/22/2007 - 01:14

All of the recordings has something talking for them, but none of them really are useful to my ears.

I would have to agree with you there, Gunnar. Don't get me wrong, these are lovely recordings, but I can hear what you're talking about, along with a few things of my own that I noticed.... I do think, though, that this is a wonderful start to a solid centerpiece of a recording. Soloists, etc. do need a helping hand in some areas.

Overall, though, the detail is quite wonderful and warm, of course. I just don't think they're enough, by themselves for this sort of thing. Nothing seems overloaded or overpowered, though, and that's always a good thing. Things seem to sit well in their place, but again, I'm sure there are things you'd want to adjust (soloists, choir, brass, etc.) and this pair of SF-24s alone are not doing the job. (Nor would one expect them to, in these kinds of situations...)

All in all, though, I'm really enjoying what's being offered in this mini-forum. Hope to hear more from folks!

mdemeyer Fri, 02/23/2007 - 22:42

As promised (or perhaps threatened :wink: ) here are some recordings of the Beyer M130/M160 mics as an MS pair (using some Schoeps mics as a comparitive reference) to give people a feel for them as a main pair. This is not a scientific comparision, given the differences in pattern, setup, etc., but I think it does show the character of these fairly reasonably priced, and well established ribbons.

These recordings were made at a chamber music concert. Two of the selections are for violin and piano and the third for string quartet. Both sets of mics were on the same stand, effectively in the same position relative to the performers.

The Beyers were run through an AEA TRP preamp with gain at 74db. (I'll let you form your own opinions about the noise floor of this setup. I think it's fine for this purpose.) The Schoeps were CMC5 bodies with MK4 or MK21 capsules (as indicated) run into a Hardy M1 at 44db gain. Both mic pres were feeding a 4-channel Benchmark AD2404-96 A/D. No processing other than decoding the MS (as needed in software) and conversion to MP3. Levels are reasonably matched, but not perfectly.

[I am posting both MP3 and some MP3Pro files. Let me know if you all can decode MP3Pro, since they are quite a bit smaller...]

Tchaikovsky, Melodie, Opus 42, No. 3

Schoeps MK4, 60 degrees at 21 cm

(Dead Link Removed)

Beyer M130/M160 MS

(Dead Link Removed)

Grieg, Sonata No. 3 in C minor, Opus 45 (Second Movement)

Schoeps MK21, 60 degrees at 21 cm

(Dead Link Removed)
(Dead Link Removed)

Beyer M130/M160 MS

(Dead Link Removed)
(Dead Link Removed)

Brindel, Music for Strings #3 (String Quartet Version)

Schoeps MK21, 60 degrees at 30 cm

(Dead Link Removed)
(Dead Link Removed)

Beyer M130/M160 MS

(Dead Link Removed)
(Dead Link Removed)

The Tchaikovsky and Grieg are played by different musicians - same piano, different violin.

Comments always welcome.

Michael

Cucco Tue, 02/27/2007 - 06:11

I haven't done a direct comparison between the two, but I never hesitate to use the Beyers along side the Schoeps. In the case of the the clip I posted above, I did actually run a Schoeps CMC6 MK4 beside the beyer on the soprano's voice. We both agreed that the beyer was the clear winner on her voice.

I think it's always a matter of choice and differences.

Davedog Tue, 02/27/2007 - 15:58

Please forgive this infidel for hijacking your wonderful thread...I'll only be a moment....

Just a quick comment on the under-the-piano-micing that J mentioned earlier.......(yes yes I know this is a ribbon mic thread....okay, my M500 died years ago and I was too dumb to have it repaired!)....For definition and better frequency response under the piano, try a PZM. We had one mounted to a piece of plexi-glass and I gotta tell ya, it filled all the holes the other mics on top left open.

Thanx for your kindness.....back to your program........davedog

anonymous Thu, 03/08/2007 - 21:18

Beyer M130

Jeremy,

In the piano/vocal recording clip you posted, where was the M130 placed relative to the vocalist? How close? I enjoyed the sound of that clip you posted - very nice.

Does anyone else like the M130 ??? What do you end up using it for?

I've used the M160's before with drums and really enjoyed them. They've been able to zoom right in on a drum kit when there is a lot going on on-stage...

best,

-dave

RemyRAD Fri, 03/09/2007 - 01:09

jazzbutcher, I love my M130 and 3 M160's. I generally use my M130 as the side microphone of an MS pair. Sometimes, I'll use it like I use the other figure of 8 microphones I have and enjoy that kind of pick a pattern for certain applications. It's the same microphone as the M160. That's why they suggest it for use in an MS pair.

They are particularly eloquent for jazz and fine arts classical recording. Great on jazz guitar amplifiers. Marvelous for drum overheads. Great on female vocalists! Fabulous on violins, violas and cellos. I always use a foam pop filter when recording vocalists. Much safer. Can't really use the nylon embroidery loop screens for live shows.

Plus, these particular ribbon microphones have more of that older "RCA 77" like ribbon sound. Not as bright or condenser like sounding as the Royer's, which are great but I don't really think they sound like ribbon microphones? To me they sound more like condenser microphones. So I haven't purchased one yet as I have plenty of condenser microphones.

Ribbon crazy
Ms. Remy Ann David

IIRs Fri, 03/09/2007 - 03:24

I also love my M160 & M130 mics!

I use them as a stereo pair for recording choirs, and sometimes as drum overheads.

Individually I love them for certain types of guitar sound, and certain types of female voice.

Often when I record vocals with my usual LDC I put up one of those ribbons as well and use it to feed the reverb: it makes the verb sound really warm and natural!

Cucco Fri, 03/09/2007 - 05:49

Re: Beyer M130

jazzbutcher wrote: Jeremy,

In the piano/vocal recording clip you posted, where was the M130 placed relative to the vocalist? How close? I enjoyed the sound of that clip you posted - very nice.

Does anyone else like the M130 ??? What do you end up using it for?

I've used the M160's before with drums and really enjoyed them. They've been able to zoom right in on a drum kit when there is a lot going on on-stage...

best,

-dave

The 130 was placed about 4 feet in front of the soloist and slightly lower and angled up.

I use 130/160s all the time.

I love them as a M/S spot in orchestra woodwinds. I'll also use them on larger choirs where gain issues aren't a concern.

IIRs Sat, 03/10/2007 - 02:22

rfreez wrote:

Often when I record vocals with my usual LDC I put up one of those ribbons as well and use it to feed the reverb: it makes the verb sound really warm and natural!

wah! thanks for that tip, never heard of it before but sounds just right :)

respect,

As far as I know I invented it!

8-)

anonymous Sun, 03/11/2007 - 08:31

M130

Remy, IIRs, Jeremy,

Thanks for the info on the M130. I've just never had a chance to try one out, but it sounds like I need to at some point. I keep wanting to try some M-S, but somehow it keeps falling by the wayside - I need to make time for it.

I too love ribbon mics and enjoy my 4038's and RCA mics a great deal. I've also been getting a lot of use out of the R88 for drums, percussion and horns recently.

I'm tempted to try out that new pre-amp from AEA as well - sounds like that thing is pretty quiet!

-dave

mdemeyer Sun, 03/11/2007 - 15:23

Dave,

Re: the noise of the AEA mic pre, the tracks I posted earlier in this thread give a direct comparison (using an M130/M160 pair in MS) vs. Schoeps CMC5 into a Hardy M1. It's a live concert setting (chamber music), and I think the noise is not an issue if the sound is to your liking.

I like the AEA a lot.

Michael

JoeH Wed, 03/14/2007 - 07:41

Jazzbutcher: if you haven't tried the TRP yet from AEA, you should check it out. (Full disclosure: I just reviewed it for MIX magazine, coming out next month or shortly thereafter...I can comment more after its out.)

I love the thing, and it's taught me more than ever: good ribbons need good pre's. They're nothing worth using without a good preamp. I hated to send it back to AEA (couldn't afford it - yet), but I'm planning to get one as soon as my finances improve. (Got an R84 that I luuuuuv, and it's fine with my Grace pre with the ribbon setting, but I still prefer the gain with the TRP.)

Robak Mon, 03/19/2007 - 09:43

Hi, ribbon users. Can anyone of you identify this Beyer? It looks like an old M260 but it has a M-S switch (Muzik-Sprache, I guess). It might be M310 but model number is unreadable. I can't find any info on M310. I got it with original cable but on the preamp side there is a (not original) mono jack (TS) but I guess this mics output could be symmetrical. I need some technical info. Can you help?

x

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