Golden Age R1 Active Ribbon microphone

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Golden Age R1 Active Ribbon

The Golden Age range of mics are Chinese in origin but have been tweaked here and there to improve performance by the GA company which is based in Alingsas in Sweden. GA are one of the best known pro-audio dealerships in Scandinavia and they have had a considerable input into the design of this range of Ribbon mics which includes a couple of passive ribbons, a valve ribbon and the active ribbon we bought for the studio.The R1 Active Mk3 is unusual in having active F.E.T. circuity which boosts the output to similar levels as a condenser microphone which means that the mic can run of any normal 48 phantom desk pre without the need to buy an expensive high gain pre that most ribbons require. It's a good looking sturdy mic and comes in a padded bag like AEA which considering the price of this mic is stunning value.

Because of the number of emails we have had to the site asking us to recommend a good budget ribbon mic, we have made a deal with Golden Age to sell the latest Mk3 version of the mic here on the website....
CLICK HERE

 

Recording

Over the past year we have rediscovered our lust for life with the awesome AEA R84 ribbon mics but of course they are very expensive and we get a lot of emails to the website asking about cheaper alternatives so when GA offered to send us a mic for review we jumped at the chance. In reality the Golden Age Active Ribbon was always going to be on a hiding to nothing against the AEA which I just can’t praise enough but for a chance to try out the joys of ribbon mic recording we thought that the R1 had to be a good bet.

When R1 active first came I was in the middle of recording the Mostly Autumn album and had been recording Heather’s vocals with the AEA and we were really happy with the sound but I put up the Golden Age just to hear how it compared to my current favourite mic.
Immediately I was very impressed with the mic. It sounded different to the AEA and had a dip around 1K and a little presence lift around 4 or 5K but first impressions were of a very nice sounding mic and Heather actually preferred the sound of her voice with the Golden age in a dry A/B test probably because it made her sound a little "shinier". When it came to the mix the R1 did need a bit more work to hold its own and that mid range dip kind of flatters to deceive but we were very happy with the vocal sound
The GA feels really sturdy and well made and it comes with the standard swivel type mount common to ribbons. These work fine but you need to remember that there is no real shock mounting. As with all ribbons it's a figure 8 pattern and you quickly get used to the sense of space that ribbons bring to the recording picking up the room, though the back of the mic isn’t as open as the AEA. The USP of the R1 is that it has a Fet system built into the mic to use phantom power so its great advantage is that you can use it in any decent desk pre without having to resort to expensive hi gain pre amps. I know when we bought the AEAs we then had to go out and buy a Focusrite isa pre to get the best out of them at another £1000 ! The Fet system works great but that does give it that slightly "transistorish" edge to the sound compared to a true ribbon like the AEA but it's no big deal.

We have to keep reminding ourselves that this mic is under £200 and really it's a bit unfair to keep comparing it to the AEA which is five times more expensive! In fact using the R1 in the studio over the past few months has been great and it's shown itself to be good on loads of things and certainly not just a fifth as good as the AEAs. Over the past few sessions I’ve used it on lots of different things from vocals to a flute, nylon acoustic and really loud electric guitar. I've got into putting up a pair of the R1s as room mics infront of the kit, not as overheads but as a spaced pair about 6 foot infront of the kit at cymbal height and they really give me something to work with in the mix without any of the peaky top you can get off cymbals with condenser mics. It was interesting that when I put it up on a huge distorted Marshall cab alongside an AT4047 and the R84 and you could hear the 1K cut instantly in the noise coming out of the cab but it handled the volume brilliantly and really it was only about 10% behind two mics which are way, way more expensive. Again, coming back to the price, it’s just ridiculously good value for money and while it’s not the mic for the guy who’s looking to buy one mice to do everything, for under £200 if you can afford it, just go out and buy one.
I took it with me on a session to a project studio in Doncaster and Shane already has a few good mics, a AKG414, a Sennheiser 609 and a couple of other things but he instantly loved the Golden Age Active because it was like nothing else he’d got and it really brought something new to the party. Thats the point really and as engineers we really need to have DIFFERENT mics at hand to give us options at the recording stage. He’s bought one and really happy. I think if you’ve got a couple of other mics then it’s almost a no brainer… Go and buy a Golden Age Active Ribbon and try it out on everything. You'll be surprised....

And lastly, we had our huge celebrity endorsement as I took one over to Bill Nelson’s studio recently for some vocal overdubs. Bill had been asking me to bring over something different for vocals and when we tried the Golden Age he loved it instantly. Bill sings quite quietly but has quite a hard edge and what he was looking for was warmth. His vocal area is really quite small and he runs the mic with a good pop shield through a DBX valve pre into his desk. He’s made a small home made reflection shield from material in a simple frame that he puts a couple of feet behind the mic to tame some of the room reflections and it gives him everything he wants. Bill has promised to write us a short review some time in the future. Look out for it!
JS

Hi John
I just thought I'd respond to the letter you put in with the the mic (which I got yesterday) saying how you were looking for feedback. Ok, so I've only had it for a day but was excited about responding so thought I'd fire off a few thoughts.

First, I have been working with my singer for 12 years (I'll come clean, she's my wife) and over that time we have used various mics to try and suit her voice which is on the low side for a female voice, fairly quiet and intimate. So we've used valve mics, dynamics and FET condensers of various flavours and budgets  (we took advantage of SE Electronics try before you buy policy to go through their entire range). She's also recorded in a number of studios using all manner of condenser mics from Neumanns downwards. She has never been quite happy with the response she got out of any of them as she was looking for a slightly contradictory combination of accuracy and flattery! LIke a lot of singers she doesn't like her own voice very much and so she wanted a mic that would help her get over her own reservations and inspire her performance. Well, I can report that finally we have found THE ONE. Having read about ribbon mics but never used them, I sort of guessed (and hoped) this technology would be generally in the zone, and at this kind of price the GA mic was worth taking a punt on. Anyway it has really paid off in this case. The first test, which was really just to make sure it hadn't been damaged in transit, showed that it is an excellent match for her voice but also for her perception of her own performance.

The other thing to say is that the mic really looks the part - which is again essential to inspiring a good performance.

All the best

Nicholas



Hear the GA R1
In Audium session: Guitar/Drums/Vocal
Mostly Autumn session: Flute
 
 
Microphones and recording 2012. Golden Age R1 Active Ribbon Microphone