AEA's R84 Ribbon mic review
Over the weekend i recieved my new R84 mic and i got to test it on a couple of sources. I figured yall might be interesteded in what i found.
First of all, I don't have great preamps (mackie 24x8) and my ward beck pre;s haven't come in yet. But, all of the mics i used went through the mackie, so it does have a good basis.
Overall i enjoyed the microphone. AEA has done a great job packaging the mic, with a hard foam, cloth covered flight case, and a softer foam case. The mic itself has a built in 6ft mogami xlr cable, and a yolk stand adapter. The biggest problem i noticed with the yolk adapter is that because its not shock mounted, floor vibrations and foot tapping were very prevalent. I'll have to call AEA to see what my options are regarding this.
Now to the sound
I was recording a New metal artist who was actually a pretty decent guitarist. I spent a hour or two setting up the mics around the amp rig and used no eq directly to hard disk through nuendo at 24/44.1
I ended up using a pair of schoeps small condensers about 4 feet back in a spaced omni setup and the ribbon was about 3 feet back from the amp in the center of those mics (think of it as a semi-decca tree setup) The differences between the two mics were quite apparent. The schoeps produced a very clear reproduction, with strong transients and a full range sound that was pretty tonally balanced to what i was hearing in the room. The R84 on the other had was a much darker sound, smoothing out the transients and enriching the bottom end. The upper midrange (800-2k ish) seemed a bit scooped as well. Using all of these mics in the mix provided a great large sound. I panned the omni's hard left/right and the ribbon dead center.
The other thing i tried the ribbon mic on was his vocal. He had a very soft quality to his voice, very breathy and melodic (actually a nice contrast to the staccato guitar track)
The first thing i noticed when i put the mic up was the lack of high end, especially compared to the ksm32 that i also tried. I added a small boost to the high shelf on the mackie eq and everything was great (about 3db at 12k and up)
The mic also exhibited a very strong proximity effect, which was nice to beable to really work the mic for differnt parts of songs. The proximity effect wasn't a problem when the vocalist was about a a foot and a half away from the mic. The highs were still retained and the quality was great. I think that that high mid scoop really helped out in this regard because i'm used to cutting a bit of 800-1k in vocalsits.
The mic needed quite a bit of gain go get usable levels in the daw. I had the input gain near maximum and the fader at unity. The nice thing was that by backing off the gain a bit, the noise was exponentially reduced. I really didn't notice an overall problem with noise with this mic.
I'm really interested in trying this mic on acoustic guitar due to the reduced highs and the proximity effect. I think combing this with the schoeps will give an excellent blended stereo sound. Also i'm already thinking trying it on drums as well, although that would require another one for overheads. Maybe i can try in on front of kit, and use the schoeps for the overheads.
I just thought you might be intersted. I feel very priviledged to have on of the first off of the production line (number 9! woohoo)
I feel like i have a great rounded collection of mics to work with now (57, 421, RE20, a pair of ksm32, a pair of schopes condensers, and the R84)
Now i can start working on compressors and preamps
Thanks to wes dooley and crew at aea. They were very helpful
Marshall, very interesting comments about the R84. While I have not heard this mic yet I have a feeling it you will find it sounds very different when used with your new mic pres.
Ribbons are unique mics and when compared to many condensers which can have a high freq. bump they can sound a little dull and dark. Which of course is why they are so great for things like horns.
You also discovered one of the other issues with ribbons and that is they have relatively low output so I would not advise anyone get a ribbon (other than the powered Royer 122) unless they have a high quality, low noise mic pre with at least 60-70 db of gain. I have tube mics that have the same problem and the Mackie just doesn't have the gain for a mic like the R84.
I would bet dollars to donuts that if you get a chance to plug the R84 into a Buzz MA-2.2, Millennia HV-3 or any other high quality mic pre that is known for it's transparency, you would hear a whole new mic. :) Also, having a mic pre with the ability to switch input impedance can make a world of difference.
Good information and thanks for the post.
Yep--- i totally agree, I was actually surprised how good the ribbon sounded with the mackie pre... I'll hopefully get to test the ribbon with the ward beck this week. I've been looking into compressors. What do you feel is more important with a ribbon mic: cleanliness or the impedence matching?
That's a tough question because they are related. Maybe I didn't understand your question but without going into a lot of detail impedance matching is a big part of getting the most out of a mic.
If you have a mic that is not looking at the proper impedance then your frequency response will be effected. If the impedance is too high then you will get a boost or a bump in the high end. Too low of a match and it will kill the highs.
Now this is over simplifying and all of this because in the real world the impedance changes over the entire frequency spectrum. :)
A really good mic should provide subtle detail and clarity. If the mic is not matched properly you will still get the definition of a well made diaphragm or ribbon but just not across the entire spectrum. The problem of course is high frequencies are what normally give the brain the information about clarity. When people talk about how "airy" or transparent a mic or preamp sounds, that is generally because of the quality in the high frequency response.
Sorry for telling you how to build a watch when all you asked what time it was, :) but this can be a complicated topic.