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Author Topic: Need suggestions for first ribbon mic please  (Read 6542 times)

Offline robft

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Need suggestions for first ribbon mic please
« on: May 08, 2010, 08:34:38 pm »
I've got a great collection of new and vintage mics including things like the U-47, M49, C12, 414's, etc. But I never bought a ribbon mic (had considered a 77DX years ago but didn't get it).

So now I still find myself wanting a ribbon mic (or two). I would use mostly on things like guitar, ukulele, and voice (narrative and vocals).

I'm more concerned about the versatility and getting a great, natural warm sound than budget. With so many new ribbon mics from so many manufacturers, it is hard making a decision. I don't know of where I could try out several, so I thought I'd ask here.

Would anyone care to suggest models to consider for such an application? I've been looking at the models from AEA such as their 44 recreation. Do these newer ones like AT and Shure (bought out another company) really compare soundwise to the older designs? I'm familiar with Royer too, but it seems they are very good for guitar amps and such, but don't know of anyone using it for vocals. Would the AEA stuff be better on vocals? What about acoustic strings?

Thanks for any input you'd care to offer.

Offline tom eaton

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Re: Need suggestions for first ribbon mic please
« Reply #1 on: May 08, 2010, 09:29:12 pm »
Beyer 160 are super versatile and great sounding mics... not a great vocal choice, though.  Great for amps, fiddles, drum overheads, etc.

I've not heard a Royer I like on voice... would love to spend some more time with an AEA R84... only used on once, and not on a vocal!


Offline compasspnt

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Re: Need suggestions for first ribbon mic please
« Reply #2 on: May 08, 2010, 09:30:53 pm »
For what you are wanting it for, I would say the AEA R44, or maybe a Coles 4038.



Offline hargerst

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Re: Need suggestions for first ribbon mic please
« Reply #3 on: May 09, 2010, 01:52:47 am »
I have a pair of R84's, a Coles 4038, an RCA 44BX, a 77DX and a Beyer 260 (with the Stephen Sank 77DX ribbon mod).  All of them are great sounding mics.  Some of the newer ribbon mics have similar sonic characteristics.
Harvey "Is that the right note?" Gerst
Indian Trail Recording Studio

Offline seedyunderbelly.com

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Re: Need suggestions for first ribbon mic please
« Reply #4 on: May 09, 2010, 03:15:34 am »
4038, rca74,77 beyer m160  

Offline Derek DiFilippo

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Re: Need suggestions for first ribbon mic please
« Reply #5 on: May 09, 2010, 12:35:15 pm »

Coles 4038, railroad tracks, tutti fermata, ds al coda, at 2nd ending purchase a 2nd 4038, cadenza, fade to silence.  I wish I could be as concise in my recommendation as the others but I'll just go ahead and gush gush gush...

Given your current mic collection, and the fact that budget is not an issue, damn the torpedoes and rationalizing, dive in on a pair of 4038s and feel good about your first ribbons.  It's impossible to go far wrong and more often than not you will be emotionally devastated in the best possible sense.  They will the provide the versatility and warmth you are seeking.

I believe I've had great fortune with them in singles and pairs on a variety of sources, including gentle vocals, acoustic guitar, electric guitar, burning synthesizer overdubs... horns, singly or in groups, mono or stereo... drums, place a 4038 nearly anywhere in the room and enjoy... the list goes on.  For a singing acoustic player, point a 4038 at the voice, point the null at the 12th fret, put a cardioid condenser somewhere close to the acoustic... can be an instant classic.  That's to my taste.

When the sound is close but not quite working, at the point where others may consider putting up another microphone, I rotate it a bit, or move it around, or place it in a corner with some soft fabric behind it, or talk with the player, or change something about the instrument, or try some EQ or compression, etc.  That's my preferred working method and I think of it as a musical strategy rather than as a limitation.  You might find like I have that your desire to check out other ribbons will subside.  With the right musician, instrument, & room, the Coles can capture sound at a distance of 4 feet or more in a way that I never quite believed was possible for me to personally achieve until it went down for real.

The people I record have *never* clamored for me to put up a different ribbon "flavor".  That is for certain.  And I don't think that way either.  The musicians hear the sound and nod in agreement... or we decide the sound demands a change in microphone. I make a condenser choice and repeat the strategy.

I didn't start with the Coles, I started with an AEA R84, had plenty of exposure to a Royer SF-24, a Royer R121, Beyer M160.  Once I got my first 4038 I felt like I finally got the message regarding ribbons.  Everything else in my ribbon world to date is now heard in comparison to the 4038.  The other mics I mentioned above are very respectable microphones and have their fantastic moments.  But for me the 4038 is in a class of its own.  I would *love* to have a pair of Beyer M160s in my collection ... they have their own unique cool thing going on.  But the M160 is not a "mic collection foundation" contender in my opinion.  

I haven't tried the AEA-R44.  If Terry recommends it I'm sure it's another safe bet.  For the same amount of money you could get two 4038s which I think would give you more play than a single mic.  I personally like having microphones in multiples of two.

Offline maarvold

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Re: Need suggestions for first ribbon mic please
« Reply #6 on: May 11, 2010, 09:53:12 pm »
RE: Coles 4038--I feel I have to chime in here.  Many years ago I bought a matched pair of Coles 4038's from AEA, thinking that I would reach some kind of sonic nirvana.  I tried them on a lot of different things over the years, but eventually sold them--they just weren't to my taste.  

The very best use I ever got from them, and the one time I felt they did a perfect job for the occasion was in Blumlein 12' away from a too-small Steinway, trying to achieve a quasi-classical piano sound (GML preamps).  But every other time I'd put them up (trombones, trumpets, gtr amps, drum room) they would just leave me shaking my head and saying "next"... and I really wanted badly to like them, because they weren't inexpensive.

I now own 4 Royer 121's and like those pretty well on tpts & tbns, sometimes in conjunction with a 57 on guitar amp.  But I think the best ribbon I heard & truly liked was a restored (quite probably by AEA/Wes Dooley) RCA 44 that a client rented one time.  I just remember hearing that mic before we even started, in a very informal context, and thinking "that mic sounds GREAT... now I get it (the ribbon thing)".  FWIW, RCA 77 never completely did it for me either.  

My advice: if you are considering the Coles, try them before you commit to buy.  And I'd try to hear the AEA R44C first--I'll bet it's a lot like the 44 I referred to.  
Michael Aarvold
Audio Engineer

Offline tekis

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Re: Need suggestions for first ribbon mic please
« Reply #7 on: May 28, 2010, 05:10:48 pm »
While 4038's are very nice, keep in mind they're figure of 8.  I'd get a pair of Beyer 160's to start (hyper-cardioid).  Tony Visconti used 160's on David Bowie's voice here and there.  I think they're quite versatile. I had a pair of RCA 77D's that were nice on solo violins, certain voices and distant-miked electric guitars, but the Beyer 160 has aged very well in my opinion.  I like M260's as well.

Offline Vertigo

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Re: Need suggestions for first ribbon mic please
« Reply #8 on: June 09, 2010, 11:40:39 am »

But the M160 is not a "mic collection foundation" contender in my opinion

My experience has been quite the opposite. My m160's see use on every project, from death metal to jazz. Wonderful on drums, wonderful on guitars, wonderful on horns, AMAZING on percussion.

On vocals I think they give a very natural and accurate picture of the perfomer's voice, although I will say that "natural and accurate" is pretty much not what I'm looking for from a vocal mic 99% of the time.

All in all, a pretty well rounded ribbon in my world. But then again, I find that with ribbons the room has a LOT to do with the end result. Maybe moreso than with other mic's.