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I'm a professional composer looking to purchase a new mic that produces a round warm vintage sound recording for jazz pieces. I'm trying to replicate a similar sound/mix to this piece by The Cinematic Orchestra:…"]The Cinematic Orchestra - Everyday - YouTube[/]="…"]The Cinematic Orchestra - Everyday - YouTube[/]

I looked up some mic recommendations online for vintage sounding mics and found theses:

Golden Age Projects R2
Royer Labs R-12

Royer SF-1

Groove Tubes Velo 8 (discontinued?)
Sontronics Sigma

Which mic(s) are recommended to produce the type of sound I'm looking for? My budget is 1500.00$CAD.

Thanks for all the help!


Davedog Sat, 03/03/2012 - 08:50

I listened to that link. You're gonna need more than a single vintage sounding mic to get that kind of audio nirvana. That is some serious arrangement and control of a lot of different elements of tone. The mix is superb and the spacial quality tremendous. Just the bass track alone is incredible. A good starting point might be the AEA but thats not all that you'll need. I didnt hear very much electronica in there. Sounded like a lot of actual instruments.

ayco Sun, 03/04/2012 - 12:25

Thanks for your replies.

I'm aware that I'll need more gear/software to establish the pristine sound from The Cinematic Orchestra but I also know that the type of mic is probably one of the most important starting points:) I'm trying to invest in better gear. Right now I use Apogee's Duet, SM27, and At2020 as mics and a bunch of software processing plugins such as PSP, Waves, Air Windows etc. I invested in Whisper Room Isobooth so I feel like it's a waste if I don't record with a higher end mic than what I currently have. I'm thinking about investing in a nice preamp as well in the near future.

I'll try out the AEA R84 at my local music store if they carry it. I read amazing reviews for it but couldn't find many isolated recording examples of that mic. I've been reading a lot about the Royer R-122 Active Ribbon Mic and the audio examples from their site sounds pretty nice. Does anyone know how the AEA R84 compares to the R-122? I love the R-122V Vaccum Tube Ribbon mic's audio examples, sounds like butter but the price is far more than what I budgeted for. I love how the R-122V has a round dark sound similar to my audio example and a warm high end couple with a beautiful natural response. If that mic is exceptional compared to either the AEA R84 or the R-122 I might save up a bit more and invest in the R-122V.

gehauser Sun, 03/04/2012 - 13:07

I have the R84 and the front side is pretty dark, the back side is a bit brighter. I find when using the front (main) side on just about any source, I have to EQ some low end (150hz) out and boost (shelf) the high end to make it sound reasonable to me. It has a very real sound though, like you are right there beside the performer, and once EQ'd it sounds bigger and better than all my other mics. Which is good, as the R84 is the most expensive mic I own.

The R84 has a big proximity effect, so 12" is about as close as you can get to it, so it really picks up a good bit of your room. I have read of folks putting up blankets on the back side of it while singing into the front, to at least minimize the room sound coming in the back of the mic (ribbons are fig 8, so you need to consider how you will handle the room contribution).

The R84 and R122 and R122V can all be compared in this shootout (on voice and instruments):
[[url=http://[/URL]="http://recordinghac…"]The $60,000 Ribbon Mic Shootout | recording hacks[/]="http://recordinghac…"]The $60,000 Ribbon Mic Shootout | recording hacks[/]

I especially love the sound of the R122 on the voice in this shootout. It has a powerful, chesty sound and seems to be brighter and more detailed than the R84 in the upper mids and highs. All good in my eyes, but for jazz you might prefer the darker, rounder tone of the R84.

ayco Sun, 03/04/2012 - 14:30


The R84 and R122 and R122V can all be compared in this shootout (on voice and instruments):
[[url=http://[/URL wrote:
="http://recordinghac…"]The $60,000 Ribbon Mic Shootout | recording hacks[/]="http://recordinghac…"]The $60,000 Ribbon Mic Shootout | recording hacks[/]

Wow, thanks so much for that page. It really helps. I checked out the sax comparisons and the R84 sounds far better than the R122v even though it's only a third of it's price! I wish there were more pages like the 60,000$ Ribbon Mic Shootout with more diverse instruments since I do like recording a wide variety of acoustic instruments. Audio examples speak for itself rather than reading any reviews! But I do agree that the R84 sounds amazingly round, warm and dark! I'm planning to compare each ribbon mic.

ayco Sun, 03/04/2012 - 15:10

The rep from my local music store got back to me, they don't currenly carry the R84 currently in their store but they do have a SE Tube Ribbon mic and it's on special now. I'm wondering what your opinions are about that mic, I think I remember reading that it wasn't that good and was being discontinued. Any thoughts?

ayco Sun, 03/04/2012 - 16:07

gehauser, post: 385640 wrote: Never heard it. Generally speaking, I am wary of tube ribbon mics, especially the cheap ones, due to noise that tubes are known for.

You can get the R84 from Sweetwater Sound and other reputable dealers.

Thanks again for all the advise! I'll stay away from tube ribbons. I played around with the sax and acoustic guitar recordings of the R84 and eq'd them following your tips and it sounds beautiful! I really appreciate all your helpful advise, and everyone else's too! I purchased from Sweetwater before and they had great service but I'm going to see if Tom Lee Music store can order one in for me since I get a slight discount being a good customer of there's, plus no customs fee:) I'm pretty sold on the R84.

gehauser Sun, 03/04/2012 - 18:13

One more thing...

The R84 requires a lot of gain so you need a clean, low-noise preamp, like the AEA TRP, which was made for the R84 and other AEA ribbon mics. I use the Grace m101 with it successfully - the m101 has a ribbon setting with high impedance like the TRP.

There is the AEA A840 mic (~$1500) which is the active version of the R84 - it has higher sensitivity than the R84 so you don't need as much gain, but I always wonder how much noise the active circuitry introduces.

ayco Sun, 03/04/2012 - 19:02

Great thanks again!

I did a quick search for AEA R84 with Apogee and I found a review for Cloud Lifter:

“I want to say that your Cloudlifter is such a great product. It clears up the noise and muddiness that I got when I had to crank up my Apogee mic pre while using my AEA R84. I love that it’s phantom powered – simple and easy to use. I’ve been checking it out on acoustic and electric guitars, vocals and drums. Awesome. And it’s especially nice that it’s affordable for the working musician. Thanks.”

It's very affordable at 179$. Have you heard of that product before?

[[url=http://[/URL]="http://cloudmicroph…"]Products | Cloud Microphones[/]="http://cloudmicroph…"]Products | Cloud Microphones[/]

RemyRAD Sun, 03/04/2012 - 22:21

One recording classic mid-20th century jazz, you'll want to have smooth ribbon high-frequency natural roll off. So I don't think their " ribbon " preamp or any Cloud-Lifter is necessary. And if anything, I would even consider a 5 kHz low pass filter to make her sound like she came off of a 1930s Atwater Kent on the AM radio band since FM hadn't been invented yet. At least that's what I did for the classic 1930s/40s jazz recordings I did at the Corcoran Art Gallery. I didn't utilize long geometry ribbons. I utilized short geometry ribbons such as the Beyer M-160/130 & RCA 77 DX ribbons into API 3124's. It sounds glorious and it sounds authentic. And when they are within 2 feet of that microphone, no problem.

A $160 Cascades along with the $100 optional transformer upgrade would make a lot of financial sense.
Mx. Remy Ann David

gehauser Mon, 03/05/2012 - 08:55

Hey ayco:

You said your budget was $1500 so I was thinking the $990 R84 and the $595 Grace m101 preamp might be in your budget range.

So you are working with the pres in your Apogee interface? Are they noisy at high gain? Do you have any external pres that can add 60db or so gain without noise?

I have not used the Cloudlifter, but I have read good reviews about it. I think it only provides 20-25db gain boost so you will still need your interface pre, but you just won't have to crank it as much and you could thus possibly avoid its noisy range. Not sure of the benefits though, since you are now going thru the circuitry of 2 preamps to get the gain you need. Each gain stage will introduce noise. That said, the Cloudlifter seems to make a lot of folks happy and it was designed for ribbon mics. It supposedly turns phantom power from your Apogee into gain for the mic without letting the phantom power touch your ribbon mic.

RemyRAD has a reasonable suggestion if you want to try a ribbon on the cheap, i.e., get a Cascade FatHead with Lundahl transformer for $300. You will still need a powerful preamp boost, though, because from what I read the FatHead and the R84 have the same sensitivity spec, so both need a ton of gain. The Cascade will be brighter, but as RemyRAD said you could roll that off as needed with EQ. With the FatHead ($300) and a Cloudlifter ($150), you are in the game for $450.

But if $1600 is within your reach, I would go with the R84 and a Grace m101, and then not worry about the need to upgrade (you will keep these tools forever). I think the R84 sounds very big and natural, where the FatHead samples I have heard sound thin in comparison. I don't have a FatHead, though, so I don't know what all you could do with it. Lotsa folks use the FatHead on electric guitar cabs and such - not sure how many use it for jazz.

ayco Tue, 03/06/2012 - 12:41

Thanks RemyRAD and Gehauser for the tips! I'd rather stick with higher end equipment so I don't need to upgrade in the future. I think I'll purchase the AEA R84. I found some recordings online of the FatHead and the sound wasn't as good as the AEA R84.

I looked up reviews on the Grace m101 and for the price, it's a really good preamp. I was planning to purchase a preamp in the near future for around 1000$ and been recommended the UA la-610 for around 1675.00$. It also has a compressor and shelving eq. I read great reviews on it. I can put the microphone savings towards the preamp once I budget for the preamp. I'm thinking about purchasing the Cloud Lifter for the time being since a one mono channel box is less than 200$.

I hooked up a cheap dynamic mic through my Apogee Duet and cranked the gain up to maximum. The noise registered to be around -43db. Hopefully the R84 won't need max gain. The instruments that I'll be recording have quite a lot of amplitude.

I'm going to pick up the R84 in the next few days, I'll report how it sounds directly into my Duet, maybe post a link to some recording examples.

RemyRAD Tue, 03/06/2012 - 14:34

Well, if you had gain cranked to maximum with the cheap dynamic microphone, you can be fairly certain that the ribbon is going to put out less level than the cheap dynamic microphone, guaranteed. Of course, that Cloud Lifter gizmo will solve most of your low-level gain issues, I will also recommend that you put that cloud lifter as close to the microphone as possible. Not at the end of the cable going into your preamp but right out of the microphone. If it's too awkward to just plug into the back of the microphone, make yourself some 1 foot XLR cables with goldplated pins. This way you won't have the line loss since The Cloud Lifter has a low impedance buffered output and it will be getting its input nearly directly off the microphone.

It's fun using figure of 8 microphones.
Mx. Remy Ann David

ayco Tue, 03/06/2012 - 16:04

Thanks Remy! I just purchased the R84, just about to play around with it! I'm very excited. They sold Cloud Lifter from Long and Mcquade but the rep said that with the pres on my Duet, I wouldn't need a boost. Apparently has around 75dB of gain. He advised me to try it out without the pres first.

RemyRAD Tue, 03/06/2012 - 23:51

Absolutely try it first. You shouldn't need more than +75 DB of gain in most any application. Screw all of the nonsense about microphone input impedance load levels i.e. 30, 150, 300, 600, 1200 & 1500. Enjoy what you have just the way it is. You're going to love this. I'm all excited for you.

It'll have that classic BX 44 sound
Mx. Remy Ann David

ayco Wed, 03/07/2012 - 13:26

Wow! I love this mic! It's sooo amazing especially following the advise of Gehauser to boost the high shelf in the upper frequencies and reduce around 150Hz. Thank you so much for the recommendations. I can't be happier.

RemyRAD's pretty right on the dot, the Duet has enough gain. The signals pretty good through the Duet, it adds a tiny bit of noise but I actually find it a bit charming since it sounds more raw, less produced. I might use a noise reducer slightly. I'm still planning to invest in a nice preamp so I'm guessing it'll sound even more beautiful once I do.

The mic worked wonders on my vocals (which is amazing since I always had a hard time making my vocals sound right), classical gtr, acoustic bass, celtic harp, flute (lower register), kalimba, tambourine, cow bell. The only instrument that sounded better with the Shure SM27 was my dejembe, but that might be because I didn't mic it properly. I'll post up audio examples soon.

gehauser Thu, 03/08/2012 - 05:58

Congrats on your new mic!

Regarding EQ...

I have noticed that the farther I put my R84 from the source, the less EQ I need to do. The lows and highs get in nice balance for me with the mic 15-20" from source. Had it at 18" yesterday to record an autoharp and it was gorgeous there - no EQ at all. I needed a lot of gain from my m101 for the R84 at that distance, but the sound of the mic was awesome - different and better than any mic I have tried on that instrument. Most mics make the autoharp sound scratchy, but it was smooth with the R84.

But if I put it close, and "close" for vocals with the R84 is about 9-12", it has a big proximity effect, and as I think about it, that is probably what I am EQing out with those suggestions I gave you earlier.