Best Ribbon Microphones: Complete Guide + Buyers Guide!
The moment of selecting a microphone for your home recording studio entails two massive questions. Certainly one of them is the need for such a tool; the other one is the kind of sound that may be produced with it.
And once we speak about the kind of sound, the ribbon microphone comes up as one of the vital charming and peculiar of its type. At present, the design of this mic refers to these models utilized in radio and old recordings, you might have seen in movies and photographs. However that sound, elegant and tender, continue to maintain its persona.
Inside studios, it has at all times been present, even in occasions of fast-evolving technologies. Right here we’re going to tell you the secrets and techniques and particulars of this traditional microphone so that you perceive why and the best way to use it is one of the simplest ways possible.
How does the ribbon microphone work
The ribbon microphone came right before the dynamic microphone. Its title originates from its primary piece: a thin steel ribbon. This ribbon might be aluminum, duraluminum, or nanofilm and it’s put in between the 2 poles of a magnet contained in the capsule.
The steel ribbon works as a diaphragm and transducer, capturing sonic vibrations and turning that vibration into a signal. The stress induced on the ribbon is created by the pace of the air coming from the sound supply. That’s the reason it is usually referred to as “velocity microphone”.
What kind of sound ribbon microphone produces
One of the vital known definitions of the ribbon microphone was given by AEA founder, Wes Dooley. In accordance with Dooley, ribbon microphones “hear like your ears”.
The pure way that it captures sound could be very clear within the ultimate audio; whereas different microphones supply a really correct sound, capturing nuances that you simply didn’t even hear or may not even need. The ribbon microphone could be very linear, due to this fact, very trustworthy.
The low frequencies have a larger impression on steel ribbons, producing peals of resonance. Then again, the ribbon accepts effectively and even reduces slightly excessive frequencies, producing a plain response to that sort of wave. That is why the nice sound, warm, gracious, and in addition darkish or dim for some folks.
Security Tips For Ribbon Microphones
As previously advised, ribbon microphones are fragile. We’ve compiled a listing of do’s and don’ts that will help you protect your ribbon mics and save yourself from having to re-ribbon your instruments.
Do’s Of Ribbon Mics
- Do use a pop filter when recording vocals.
- Do use a windscreen if working with a ribbon microphone in windy environments.
- Do place the microphone off-axis when recording loud SPL sources.
- Do use high-quality mic cables with correct wiring.
- Do use a “mic sock” when transporting a ribbon mic.
- Do keep the ribbon microphone correctly and upright when it’s not in use.
Don’ts Of Ribbon Mics
- Don’t expose the microphone to wind or blasts of air.
- Don’t patch the ribbon mics with phantom engaged.
- Don’t subject the ribbon microphone to foreign particles.
- Don’t “mic drop” a ribbon microphone.
By following the above guides, you’ll stand a greater probability of maintaining your ribbon microphone protected and sound. Keep in mind that ribbon diaphragms are comparatively easy to stretch, snap, or damage basically. Taking some easy precautions will assist tremendously within the longevity of your mic (and in your price range).
Caution with Phantom Power
The phantom power sends electrical current to power condenser microphones, direct boxes, and different gear, via balanced cables. For the reason that conventional ribbon microphones are geared up with an inside transformer – the T-power – it doesn’t need phantom energy.
So be very cautious when utilizing this useful resource, because many ribbon microphones could be broken by it. As a rule of thumb, don’t ever turn Phantom Energy on before checking carefully in case your ribbon microphone supports it.
Presently there are some models of ribbon microphones that want phantom power – not for the transducer ribbon, nevertheless, however to different inside elements. Corresponding to Royer’s R-122 MKII, AEA’s A 840, and Shure’s KSM 313.
We just want to let you know that we’ll list these ribbon microphones in no particular order. They’ll be randomized as we don’t wish to sort them from best to worst.
Listed below are our Top 10 Best Ribbon Microphones for 2021:
1. Royer R-121
No matter its high price tag, this exemplary instance of a modern ribbon microphone has tempted many, and they’ve by no means looked back. It’s suitable with any present set-up, protected towards accidental phantom powering, and constructed to resist excessive SPLs.
Versatile enough for any instrument, with a flattened tuning response that is still constant from any distance and a replaceable ribbon. You should use it to seize something with a life-like quality. The additional brightness of the bottom capture offers your recordings a gorgeous tonality. The high frequencies do not distort, and the lows are exceptionally wealthy.
It’s expertly engineered, with trendy parts integrated into an older design and constructed to last. Royer has shaped the way forward for the trade by breathing new life into neglected technology.
Though it has a value that may make you wince, you will not remorse the addition to your studio. It can provide recordings of a recent lease of life, capturing nuances you most likely missed for the time being. It has an idyllic sensitivity to seize sound waves, without coloring your recordings with any undesirable background noise.
- Directional characteristic: Figure 8
- Extremely low inherent noise
- Ribbon element insensitive to heat and moisture
- Frequency range: 30 Hz – 15 kHz +/- 3 dB
- Sensitivity: -54 dBv re. 1 V/pa +/- 1 dB
- Output impedance: 300 Ohm @ 1 k (nominal)
2. Shure KSM313/NE
The KSM313 has what is named a dual-voice design as a result of the 2 sides of the figure-8 polar pattern is exploited to supply two distinctly different frequency responses and sound. The front (emblem) side has the traditional thick and creamy ribbon sound, whereas the backside is considerably brighter — virtually just like the rising high-frequency curve of a very good vocal condenser mic.
The KSM313 has a metal physique that’s painted black, and its red mesh screening covers the machined sound-entry ports. It feels hefty, and a threaded nut attaches it to a “monocle” swivel bracket that enables any microphone orientation. The 313 makes use of direct point-to-point wiring, gold ribbon connections, and a high-efficiency, custom-wound transformer. It is available in a foam-lined mahogany “cigar box” case that’s expertly constructed utilizing finger joinery and fancy hardware.
Invented by Bob Crowley and Hugh Tripp, Roswellite — not like typical aluminum ribbons — is stronger, but immediately responds precisely to excessive frequencies and returns to shape after being bodily deformed by windblasts, plosives, phantom-power jolts, and high-SPL sources.
The KSM313 is a rugged, worry-free ribbon mic that you just don’t have to baby. The warm and clear sound makes it an important all-around sonic different from a studio’s or live stage’s workhorse condensers and dynamics.
- With different sounds depending on the talking side
- Specially designed for stage use
- Directional characteristics: Figure 8
- Frequency range: 30 – 15,000 Hz
3. Rode NTR
Rode’s new NTR, although, the Australian firm’s first foray into ribbon territory after a protracted and profitable line of condensers, breaks with tradition. The truth is, Rode, says that the NTR, “Addresses widespread criticisms of different ribbon microphones, whereas opening up the attainable usage scenarios significantly.”
Rode tells us that each component of the NTR, from the transformer to the ribbon component itself, has been designed and created in-house, and that the ribbon, at 1.8 microns is, without doubt, one of the thinnest in existence and has been laser cut (not like the manually cut ribbons of many producers), eliminating microscopic frays along the sides that would decay over time, which ought to give it extra longevity.
That longevity will probably be helped by the truth that Rode has geared up the mic with an easily operated Travel Screw to secure the delicate ribbon in place when not in use. In addition, they supply one free ribbon substitute during the ten-year guarantee interval.
In addition to vocals, it works great on acoustic guitar and on a guitar cabinet with nice outcomes. All in all, we believe that the NTR is can be a great addition to every studio that works seriously in the business.
- Extremely fine aluminium ribbon (1.8 μm)
- Low-noise preamplifier
- High sensitivity (30 mV)
- Frequency range: 20 – 20 000 Hz
- Low background noise (15 dBA)
- Limit sound pressure level: 130 dB
4. Beyerdynamic M 160
The Beyerdynamic M 160 Twin Ribbon Hypercardioid Microphone was initially launched in 1957, bringing about its personal distinctive twist on the normal ribbon type. It has so many versatile uses and has a historical past of being used by a few of the most legendary musicians the world has ever seen, like Led Zeppelin’s John Bonham for his drum set. It is positively narrowed right down to the music market, whether or not you are a singer or instrumentalist, so if that sounds such as you, keep on reading!
A lot of these microphones use a skinny electrically conductive ribbon, usually a product of aluminum, duraluminum, or nanofilm, which is then positioned between the poles of a magnet to supply a voltage by electromagnetic induction. They’re extraordinarily delicate because the ribbon is often 1/50th the thickness of human hair.
Crazy, right? However, the greater sensitivity to input impedance results in an extra pure sound. Nonetheless, ribbons are carefully associated with dynamic microphones, and generally should be paired with a microphone preamplifier to extend the input quantity.
Whereas it contains a dual-ribbon setup, it is truly using a Hypercardioid polar sample, which is without doubt one of the most unusual options of the Beyerdynamic M160. This makes it very directional, which pairs nicely with the pure, broad, and wealthy pick up from ribbon microphones.
It has a wide-range frequency response rate of 40Hz – 18kHz, sustaining a rich, heat sound on the lows and crystal clear high-end.
- Pure aluminum membrane
- Polar pattern: Hyper cardioid
- MS stereophony with the M 130
- Frequency response: 40 Hz-18 kHz
- Nominal impedance: 200 Ohm
5. Golden Age Project R1 Active MKIII
Beneath this traditional (albeit generic) exterior, the R1 employs a two-micron thick, 50mm corrugated aluminum ribbon, tensioned inside a magnetic subject. Both ribbon and magnet assembly is mounted within an inside shock mount, however, don’t let this fool you, the shock mount does little to guard the mic’s delicate mechanism from the tough treatment or misuse.
Golden Age Project hammers this level home with a ribbon guarantee that extends no additional than your ‘preliminary inspection’. Speedy movement, exposure to wind or breathy plosives, and horizontal storage might all lead to harm to the ribbon alignment (which is the case with most classic ribbons).
It nearly goes without saying that a ribbon mic ought to never be used and not using a pop shield, however regardless of its susceptibility to a mighty wind, the R1 MkIII Active is more than able to handling excessive sound pressure levels (as much as an impressive 160dB @ 1kHz).
Its Figure-8 polar pattern is characterized by the wide entrance and rear lobes and the same old 90-degree off-axis null factors, making it much more forgiving of a vocalist’s sideways motion than many different large-diaphragms condensers. Conversely, its vertical axis may be very slim at high frequencies. The limited size of the ribbon implies that shorter wavelengths can be partially ignored in the event that they’re not channeled straight into the microphone.
- Directional characteristic: Figure 8
- Frequency range: 30 – 18000 Hz +/- 3 dB
- Sensitivity: -40 dB (0 dB=1V/Pa) @ 1 kHz
- Max. SPL (<1% THD @ 1kHz): 150 dB
- Recommended load impedance: > 1000 Ohm
6. Audio Technica AT4081
Launched in 2009, the AT4080 and AT4081 feature a number of new ribbon-motor developments. Audio-Technica claims to have 18 patents pending for these new mics.
The motor is a dual-ribbon design. The usage of two ribbons can improve the sensitivity of the transducer, as they’re wired in sequence. The 2 ribbons are mounted front-to-back, with one barely in front of the magnetic pole and one slightly behind it.
The ribbon motor is mounted behind a resonator plate — a perforated metallic plate that’s in a way a hardware EQ gadget. It’s possible accountable for elevating the mic’s HF response. Presumably, each side of the ribbon motor is capped with identical resonators.
The pure aluminum foil utilized in ribbon microphones is prone to corrosion from moisture within the air, leading to a coating of aluminum hydroxide upon the surface of the ribbon. Additionally, the bimetallic junction of the aluminum ribbon with its mounts (often brass) can result in electrolytic corrosion, rising the resistance of the circuit and leading to decreased sensitivity and elevated noise.
Coating the ribbon and its junction plates with a skinny (500 Angstrom) film of gold can stop corrosion, without adversely affecting the mass or resonant frequency of the ribbon.
- Frequency Response: 30Hz-18kHz
- Max SPL: 150dB
- Output Impedance: 100 ohms
- Signal to Noise Ratio: 69dB
- Self Noise: 25dB
7. AEA R84A
The AEA R84A rapidly endears itself to engineers and musicians because of its remarkably expansive frequency range full of sweeping highs and booming lows. The R84A balanced and manageable proximity effect simply toes away from the supply bolsters the low end of vocals, drums, and brass. With a ribbon mic as multi-purpose, light-weight, and maneuverable as the R84A, it’s well-suited for each close-up and ambient mic purpose.
The AEA R84A mic retains the identical sonic character as the AEA R84, however with an extra 12dB of output and a stable impedance. This provides a constant frequency response and higher flexibility with totally different preamps, together with these present in audio interfaces for personal computers. That is nice for on-the-road musicians who may need to make use of a different preamp every evening.
The additional 12db of output is a big assist when recording quiet sources like vocals and tender acoustic guitars. The energetic circuitry additionally prevents noise, interference on lengthy cable runs, or when working close to large lighting rigs. The R84A requires standard 48-volt phantom power to operate the active circuitry. The R84A additionally possesses an 18-carat, gold-plated grill.
The R84A’s beautiful mid-range captures the distinctive qualities of many instruments with detailed elegance. Its giant low end is ideal for beefing up the sound of drum kits or thickening up the bass in thin vocals. It’s a mic that works effectively on virtually any voice or musical instrument, making it a great tool in each recording and broadcast studio.
- Frequency Response: 20Hz-20kHz
- Max SPL: 141dB SPL (1% third harmonic > 1kHz)
- Output Impedance: 92 ohms
- Self Noise: 17.5dB (A weighted)
- Power Source: 48V phantom power
8. Royer SF-12
The SF-12 stereo coincident ribbon microphone from Royer combines high-quality audio efficiency with excellent stereo separation and imaging. It’s a fashionable ribbon design with no audible diffraction effects or cavity resonance. An SF-12 is definitely two matched ribbon microphones positioned one above the other; each aimed 45 degrees from the middle within the classic Blumlein configuration. The frequency response is great whatever the angle of sound putting the ribbons and off-axis coloration is negligible.
The SF-12 is uncanny for creating “you-are-there” stereo recordings that seize not only the instrument being recorded, however, relying on positioning, the acoustic surroundings as well. In the event you pay careful consideration to the sound of an instrument or ensemble within the recording surroundings, you’ll possibly discover a place where it sounds greatest to you. Position the SF-12 mic in that place and you’ll capture that sound.
The Royer SF-12 is a wonderful alternative for drum overheads, where its stereo imaging and realism assist to create highly effective, dynamic drum tracks. In a jazz setting, recording the equipment flat gives extraordinarily pure sounding cymbals, tom-toms, and snares. In rock and pop recordings where you’d prefer to seize the meat of the equipment but with extra air on the cymbals to assist them to minimize more aggressively, merely open the top end up with EQ.
Ribbons take EQ extraordinarily nicely because they generate nearly no self-distortion. Whenever you increase a frequency, even by many dB, you will carry up only the musical response you are looking for without disagreeable distortion artifacts joining the party.
- Polar Pattern: Dual Figure 8, Bluemlein, M-S
- Frequency Response: 30Hz-15kHz
- Max SPL: 130dB
- Output Impedance: 300 ohms
- Connector: 5-Pin XLR
9. Avantone CR-14
For probably the most part, the CR-14 follows a customary passive ribbon mic design. So, a low mass ribbon and magnet association (or motor) are mixed with a transformer-coupled output to supply a ‘velocity’ mic with a really pure figure-of-eight polar pattern.
As with related mics, the frequency response naturally tails off within the highs, and the general sensitivity is low. Nonetheless, as you will have noticed, this is a ‘twin ribbon’ design. This implies two ribbons sit side-by-side. Avant declares this produces higher sensitivity, and at 3.2 mV/Pa, that is definitely higher than some we have tried.
The opposite side worth noting in regards to the CR-14 is its mechanical traits. First up, it comes with a conventional suspension cradle, and utilizing this significantly helps with eliminating low-frequency rumble and stand noise.
It is also worth mentioning the mic grille design. The exterior grille is doubled up with a tremendous wire mesh just behind it. How this influences the frequency response is difficult to say, however it does affect susceptibility to plosives and wind. In use, we discovered the CR-14 coped effectively with these, including to the final sense of robustness and ease of use.
The CR-14 is superb value for cash, and though you might not be instantly drawn to the red color, overall it’s properly made. Nonetheless, the shorter twin ribbon design does trade some high-end elements for its compact design.
General, the CR-14 could be a great selection in case you’re after a strong but reasonably priced ribbon mic to add extra variety to your assortment.
- Max. SPL 145 dB
- Dual Band (Aluminium 35 x 5 mm)
- Sensitivity: -52 dBv / – 2 dB Re.
- Dimensions: 37 x 175 mm
10. sE Electronics Voodoo VR1
The Voodoo VR1 ribbon microphone is a passive microphone (with the VR2 being the energetic model) that implements a patent-pending design by Siwei Zou, the corporate’s CEO, which allows a full frequency seize from 20Hz to 20kHz, with a reasonably linear response throughout the range.
The sleek response that sees ribbon microphones employed in varied recordings shouldn’t be misplaced with the additional capture of upper frequencies with this microphone. Because of this, the VR1 can be utilized for a far higher variety of purposes than most ribbon microphones. It really works very properly in most conditions where a high-quality condenser microphone could be employed and is a perfect choice to double up takes with when wanting so as to add a barely different taste to your sound capture.
There are all-time the same few microphones that flip up many times when folks begin to construct a collection, and this implies many recordings are inclined to have the same sound. Why not break the mold and have a go at sE Electronics’ new Voodoo VR1 ribbon microphone? It can definitely add a brand new character to your recording that any condenser microphone in the marketplace can’t provide.
- Figure 8 characteristic
- Impedance: < 300 Ohm
- Equivalent signal to noise ratio: 10dB(A)
- Maximum SPL at 0.5% [email protected]: 135 dB
Well, this is the end of the listing we prepared for you on our top 10 best ribbon microphones, and we believe that we delivered very nice and thorough information on these 10 picks.
Everybody deserves and needs to have a ribbon microphone in their selection for various random uses. And the price range nowadays can be suited for every pocket.
If you wish to check out another microphone that we didn’t cover, please let us know in the comment section and we’ll do our best to provide information on it!
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