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
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 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
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