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Ribbon Mic Mini-forum

Member for

17 years 5 months
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.



Member for

17 years 5 months

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....

Member for

17 years 6 months

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.


Member for

17 years 5 months

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...

Member for

16 years 8 months

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.

Member for

16 years 2 months

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

Member for

17 years 8 months

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.

Member for

17 years 8 months

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 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.

Member for

16 years 9 months

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...

Member for

17 years 8 months

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 -


Member for

17 years 5 months

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: )

Member for

17 years 8 months

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.



Member for

17 years 5 months

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:

Member for

20 years 9 months

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.


Member for

17 years 8 months

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.)