Ribbon Mics for Drums Overhead
I'm wondering if anyone out there is an advocate of using ribbon mics as drum set overheads? I've seen pictures on magazines that showed a ribbon mic as overhead looking down on the whole set. I'm very temped to try the ribbon mics, however, I'm concern about keeping a safe distance between the fragile ribbon and the drum set. The studio that I work at doesn't have very high ceiling, so how far should I put the mic without worrying about blown the ribbon mics?
It depends on the type of ribbon mic you're using. I use a Royer Labs.
Modern design, takes high SPLs and has a nice frequency response for that application.
The rule is that if you feel the air moving where you place the mike, it's not good. I think that ribbon get blown more from air movement than high sound level pressure. Usually, ribbon microphones have a very low sensitivity, it's a good thing for recording drums overhead.
Check Royer Labs website, they have tons of photos of actual recording session. It should give you an idea of where to start with your overhead mic placement.
I have never worked with old ribbon microphones, so can't tell you about them.
I have used my SF12 on jazz drumset with terrific results-- a very natural sound that does not beam through in the mix. I often use it M-S since I do not want "wall-to-wall" drums.
A few comments on your questions:
You cannot overload a ribbon-- it is a passive device, producing about 20dB less gain than a condenser. This makes ribbons good candidates for guitar amps. Input impedance of your micpre is important, however. A Royer has an impedance of 300 ohms, so the micpre needs to have an input impedance of at least 1500 ohms. Les than that and the LF response will suffer. Little noise and lots of gain (60db at least) are also important.
The only way you will get too much air movement off drums is by putting it in front of the small hole in the front head of the kick drum, if the drummer is a fan of that. This is the last mic I would choose for kick drum simply based on sound.
You are correct in assuming that the air you feel moving is from HVAC, and if you can you will run the risk of stretching the ribbon. Not good!
Bring it on... Royer SF-24 on drums sounds pretty awesome (the SF-12 sounds good too...). Because of the rear lobes when I'm using it on stage, I'll usually put it as a M-S pair over the kit with the mid "looking" right at the snare. Means you can avoid micing the snare and you just augment it with a kick drum mic. I also have been known to place it in front of the kit where I don't even need a kick mic at that point...
BTW, I don't recommend it unless you really know what you are doing, but a R121 *can* be used on a kick and it sounds awesome. You do need to watch out about positioning it in a way where you'll stretch the ribbon (don't put it in the hole, place it off axis of the drum, etc...), but when done right, you'll get a very pleasing sound. I would not recommend *ANY* other ribbon mic on a kick.