Ribbon microphones, ribbon mics

ribbon microphones
 
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Spring is in the air and a young mans fancy turns once again to microphones! We have decided after trying out a LOT of mics that ADK are the best mic manufacturers at any given price point and we are going to start knocking on your door to let you know about them

......CHECK IT OUT.....

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ribbon microphones

Ribbon Microphones

Considered by many as the most natural sounding microphones ever made, ribbon microphones were immediately embraced by the broadcast and recording industries in the early 1930s. Not requiring any awkward power supply or batteries in their operation, the first commercially produced ribbon microphones produced some of the most detailed and memorable recordings ever made but with the development of condenser microphones, over the past 30 years or so ribbon mics slowly disappeared off the radar with only the British company Coles still producing mics for the BBC. However recently the huge growth in home recording has seen a renewed interest, with new high quality ribbon microphones from companies like AEA and Royer becoming studio standards along with recent releases from Chinese companies like Sontronics, SE and Golden Age.
As the name suggests, at the heart of a ribbon transducer is an extremely thin, ultra light ribbon of aluminium suspended by both ends. This ribbon is vibrated by sound pressure within a powerful magnetic field and the ribbon's bidirectional movement, coupled with its insensitivity to vibration at its sides or ends, produces a figure-8 pickup pattern. Because a relatively low output voltage is produced from the motion of the aluminium strip, a ribbon microphone really needs a good clean preamp with up to 60 dB of preamplification to achieve a standard 0 VU signal level. Generally the delicate ribbon is surrounded by a large, weighty magnet assembly, making many of the old ribbon mics relatively large and bulky, though recent designs like range of Royer ribbon microphones have brought a new lighter style ribbons.

Recording

Ribbon Microphones have gained a reputation for being fragile and it's true that the ribbons can break or become distorted by wind pressure; even slamming a lid shut on the mic box has been known to wreck a ribbon but this doesn't mean that they can't deal with high SPLs if a sensible pop shield is used and in fact it's good practice to use a pop shield all the time. Added to this they require special handling during use and storage to avoid damage to the ribbon element but the benefits of a good ribbon mic far outweigh any of these difficulties as they can sound stunning on the right recording session. Typically the sound is characterized as smooth and natural with very silky highs, a full bottom-end response at any distance, and high-SPL handling. Low noise and superb transient response are additional benefits, especially when a ribbon is paired with a quality microphone preamp.
Generally speaking Ribbon microphones tend to be quite expensive and companies producing premium quality Ribbon Mics such as Audio Engineering Associates (AEA), Coles, and Royer Labs produce mics in the £500 to £1000 range (and beyond) though of course as with everything there is a new raft of budget Chinese models by Apex and Nady and also the EH-R1, an updated version of the Russian-made Oktava ML-52.
Normally the inherently low output of Ribbon microphones means that the choice of preamp is really important and they can impart a great deal of character to the sound of the microphones. The classic Neve 1073 and 1081 have always performed well, along with the more contemporary Grace units and in fact AEA have produced their own TRP preamp specifically for Ribbon Mics. It might seem like yet another expense but you really need a good quiet preamp with lots of gain to really get the best out of the mic and when Reelsound bought a pair of AEA R84s it became clear that we would need a much better set of mic preamps and we eventually settled on the Focusrite ISA 428 which really brings the mics alive.
The Golden Age company have developed a range of interesting and keenly priced Ribbon mics and their R1 ACTIVE is very interesting Ribbon mic featuring a F.E.T. buffer ampilier which means that you can use this mic with long cables and virtually any pre-amp featuring 48V phantom power, getting round the need to lay out for a quality mic pre.
I'm sure that in the next few years the re-emergence of the Ribbon mic will play a significant role in the recording world and there will spawn a huge range of ribbon mics of all shapes and sizes.

 
 
 
 
Microphones and recording 2008. Ribbon Microphones