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Thread: Ribbon Mics

  1. #1
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    Default Ribbon Mics

    This thread is a follow-up to the home studio thread I started last week. After great input, I have chosen the Scarlet interface and will purchase an AT4033 to get started. In researching the mic world I am also considering a Ribbon Mic with maybe a secondary mic to record fiddle. I am looking for a warm, rich tone which my current fiddles have naturally. What would be suggestions for a Ribbon Mic set-up in the $ 300.00 range in addition to the AT4033.

    Will I capture the richness of the fiddle better with Ribbon vs. AT4033?

    Thanks again for the great input.

    Michael Smartt

  2. #2

    Default Re: Ribbon Mics

    I can't remember exactly where, but if you Google ribbon mics, there is a comparison of affordable ribbons. This is a relatively new market segment.
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    Registered User McIrish's Avatar
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    Default Re: Ribbon Mics

    Like all mics, ribbons can be good or bad depending on who made it. The really cheap ribbon mics that flood the market are not going to be a great option. many of the better ribbons are passive and need huge amounts of gain. An old RCA 44 or 77 will sound very nice on a fiddle, but not for live. Other than Royer mics, I can't see using a ribbon in a live situation. The AT4033 is an OK mic. It wouldn't be my first choice on fiddle but it works as an all around mic on many sources. It needs less gain and thus will be quieter than a ribbon.

    I picked up a couple Beyerdynamic MC930 small diaphragm condensers a while back and was very pleasantly surprised at how well they worked on fiddle. I had used a U47 clone but the MC930 was much nicer. It is fairly flat and very smooth sounding. No midrange bump (as most vocal mics have). You might be able to find a used one near your price range.
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    Registered User Pete Martin's Avatar
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    Default Re: Ribbon Mics

    I only own/use RCA, Beyer, AEA and Royer ribbons so can't speak with authority personally, BUT have heard a couple friends say they really like the offerings from Cascade. Pretty close to the higher quality ribbon mics.

    http://cascademicrophones.com/microp...fatheadribbons


    Another thing that helps a ribbon is the TRP preamp from AEA. BIG difference in my ribbons sound when I got one.
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    Default Re: Ribbon Mics

    I like my SE Voodoo VR2 active ribbon mic. You might have enough gain on the Scarlett to run it, but it could be iffy.
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    Default Re: Ribbon Mics

    You could look at MXL, Fatheads, Nohype audio, http://recordinghacks.com/microphone...lectronics/210, SE electronics etc but first you should try the AT with your interface and see if you need a preamp more. At one time i ran the 4033 and 4040 thru a scarlett 2i2 1st gen, not impressed by track quality.

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    Registered User Bauzl's Avatar
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    Default Re: Ribbon Mics

    Consider a pre-preamp in your budget, unless your audio interface has more than 60 dB noise-free gain.
    I get good results with an MXL R144 + a Clou Lifter (needs phantom power) + any decent standard interface.
    This should be well below 300$. But in this orice range the quality of the mics might not be consistent.

  9. #8
    Registered User foldedpath's Avatar
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    Default Re: Ribbon Mics

    Beginners to recording usually never listen to this advice once they get infatuated with the idea of a ribbon mic, but I'll post it anyway.

    Don't buy a ribbon mic as your first mic.

    First, they need a healthy amount of very clean preamp gain, and the 50db in that Scarlett preamp probably isn't enough. Yeah, you can use a Cloudlifter as a band-aid, but stacking preamps is not the ideal route to clean sound. If you get seriously interested in ribbon mics later on in your recording journey, you can pick up something like an AEA TRP or any other high-end preamp with lots of clean gain. You could also buy an active ribbon mic with its own preamp, but the good ones are expensive, and you lose the ability to mix and match with different impedance loads that can greatly affect the sound.

    Another problem for beginners to home recording is the figure-8 pattern, which works best in a room with very good acoustics and sound isolation. Yet another issue is that most ribbons have a fairly steep roll-off of high frequencies. You might need to boost that with EQ during the mix, and if you do that, you'll want a really good software EQ to avoid artifacts (not all software EQ is alike). This may mean buying an expensive EQ plugin instead of using whatever comes stock with your DAW software.

    So with all that said, in my opinion, the first thing a beginner to home recording should focus on, is learning stereo mic technique. Acoustic instruments come alive in a stereo recording, especially in the stripped-down recordings most beginners start with. Get a decent pair of small diaphragm condensers as your first mics, and experiment with X/Y and spaced pair techniques. Then get one or two ribbon mics later on, when you have your basic mic techniques down.

    I'm not exactly anti-ribbon mic; I've recorded with them frequently and own Royer 121's with an AEA TRP preamp ahead of the interface. Great mics, and I like how the side pattern null works when recording a band playing together. But I'm also just as likely to use small diaphragm condensers depending on the situation.

    P.S. the other bit of advice beginners tend to ignore, is don't spend all your money on mics, preamps, and an interface. Save some for a good pair of monitor speakers and room treatment (if necessary) so you can hear what you're doing. You need to mix with an ear towards what it will sound like to others. Don't mix on headphones. Not everyone will listen that way, it exaggerates the stereo field, and the bass response can be way off.

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  11. #9

    Default Re: Ribbon Mics

    Quote Originally Posted by gtani7 View Post
    You could look at MXL, Fatheads, Nohype audio, http://recordinghacks.com/microphone...lectronics/210, SE electronics etc but first you should try the AT with your interface and see if you need a preamp more. At one time i ran the 4033 and 4040 thru a scarlett 2i2 1st gen, not impressed by track quality.

    https://www.gearslutz.com/board/low-...on-mics-2.html
    The 2i2 has different, cheaper preamps than the 18i20 - or so I've read. Never A/B'd the two, but have seen some complaints about the 2i2. I have the 18i20 and have had no problem getting good sounding recordings out of it with condensers, dynamics, or ribbons. I do have to crank the gain to get a decent signal when using a ribbon and I prefer to use an external preamp (I have an ISA One and an ART MPA), but it's not absolutely necessary. I haven't used one myself, but the Cloudlifter does seem like a good inexpensive and transparent way to get more gain if needed.

    As to the OP's question: will you capture the richness of the fiddle better with the 4033 or a ribbon? Maybe. I would say that the 4033 will give you a good (relatively accurate) recording. If it doesn’t sound good with the 4033, it's probably not going to sound good with a ribbon. But if it sounds decent with the 4033, a ribbon could fatten it up a little or help smooth out the top end. Or, maybe it could make it sound muffled or muddy.

    Foldedpath gives some good advice above, and I'd agree that learning how to record well in stereo would be more fruitful than getting a ribbon (although with a figure-8 ribbon you can record mid/side, which is a great stereo technique). Recording, especially when starting out, is all about trial and error. What works great for me and my room and my ears and my instruments may be not so good for you. The more you do it, the more you'll hear and understand the differences between different mics and other gear. Be thoughtful in your choices, but don't overthink things. Stick your 4033 a foot or so away from your mandolin (2-3 feet for the fiddle) and hit record; I bet it will sound pretty good and gets you to about 90% of what is possible quality-wise with your instrument and playing ability. Spend a few months or so learning and (maybe) a couple hundred more dollars and you'll be at 95%. Then you can spend the rest of your life and your children's inheritance chasing the last 5%.

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  13. #10
    Registered User foldedpath's Avatar
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    Default Re: Ribbon Mics

    I can't resist posting these shots from the Goat Rodeo recording sessions. This is how to have your cake and eat it too! Either a brilliant technique, or a very conservative recording engineer wanting to maximize the options (looks like a Royer ribbon with two small condensers in A/B for the stereo field):

    Click image for larger version. 

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    Seems like they went with just the two small diaphragm condensers for Chris' mandolin:

    Click image for larger version. 

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  15. #11

    Default Re: Ribbon Mics

    Nice - any more pics?

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    Registered User foldedpath's Avatar
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    Default Re: Ribbon Mics

    Better than pics, here's the video they're from (took me a while to remember the source):


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    Default Re: Ribbon Mics

    foldedpath,

    Excellent advice and will be well taken. I appreciate the time for your response helping a newbie out!

    Michael

  19. #14

    Default Re: Ribbon Mics

    The best decision I made for my modest studio was a pair of Shure SM81 small diaphragm condensers. Those and my Rode NT2 are what I use 95% of the time.
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    Registered User almeriastrings's Avatar
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    Default Re: Ribbon Mics

    The 2i2 will really struggle with a passive ribbon. They are OK with condensers, but low output dynamic/ribbon mics are not a good match. You could add in a Triton Fethead pre-preamp.... but honestly, to get the best out of a ribbon a really good, quiet, high-gain pre (preferably with variable input impedance) is essential.
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  22. #16
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    Default Re: Ribbon Mics

    what everybody else said....not enough gain on a small interface like the focusrite. Hard to get a good one for that budget. Plus ribbons can be a pain - quite delicate, can be damaged by phantom power, can be damaged with air pressure on the diaphragm (even bad plosives), typically need lots of EQ to sound 'ideal', figure of eight pickup pattern, ideally should be stored vertically.....

    There are lots of good options out there other than ribbons, as foldedpath said, getting a matched pair of SDC could be a better option. I work at a university teaching sound engineering and a couple of years ago we did a SDC shootout with the students, testing a number of mics on a number of acoustic instruments. Think the mics were DPA 4011s, Neumann KM184s, AKG 451s, Rode NT5s, Rode M5s and some other cheap pair one of the students owned. All through an Audient ASP8024. To my surprise, my favourite spot mic on the mandolin (Gibson teen paddlehead) was the Rode M5s. Pretty decent on fiddle as well. They can be bought well within your budget. Just another option. Best of luck with your recording setup!

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