As weird as this may sound, I just got a ribbon mic. For whatever reason, I never had my own but I have used some royers in the past. I bought an old 1960’s Altec 670b that was in great shape. I almost got a set of Fathead IIs ut opted for the Altec because I thought it would be a better investment. Main reason for the ribbon is because I have a lot of distorted guitar recording to do over the next few months. The 670 is multi pattern, but not a true multipattern mic with multiple elements. It looks like this:
The recording clip there sounded so natural in cardioid. The figure 8 was so different… I think the 670 will be pretty versatile.
I’m really looking forward to putting this on some sources: in the big room as a room mic for this massive drum set that is coming in, guitars like I said and on voice.
I’m curious… What ribbon microphones do you have in your closet? What are your experiences, bad and good. I know they have a low output and it doesn’t bother me since I have some real clean and high gain preamps. I could have used it last week, if I had it, when I recorded washboard, but instead I used a set of at4033’s in a acoustic micing setup (one over shoulder and one in front) which actually sounded pretty good. These sounded horrible though when recording the sack of coins that accompanied it. Hmmm… that’s where the ribbon may have been really helpful.
I had an APEX 205 (around the internet considered one of the best Chinese made ribbons) for a couple of days.
Could tell the difference between my Audio-Technica AT4040 and it immediately (made the AT4040 sound crisper and airy).
Unfortunately, the output from the mic paled in comparison to the AT4040 (level wise). I would have had to chain two preamps together for the levels to match. Didn’t want to spend another $150 and up, or use my best preamp (a UA Solo/610, has mic level out for chaining) on such a cheap mic. So I returned it.
Phantom normally won’t damage them (like a dynamic). However, if you were ever to get a short in your cable…
We’re talking a few micron thick piece of metal being flung around in there. And you thought sheet metal bent easily? The damage comes in the form of the ribbon being bent out of shape (and tune). Even moving the mic fast through the air can bend the ribbon.
And always remember to store the mic upright to avoid gravity causing the ribbon to sag.
Ribbons sound good, but whoo boy, they’re even more fragile than condensers.
That’s a bloody beautiful mic. I wouldn’t even matter how it sounds. Just putting it to the front of any vocalist would improve the performance by factor of 10.
In general, phantom power doesn’t damage ribbon mics. It can, if the mic or the cable is wired incorrectly or if you plug the cable in while phantom power is on (and pins of the cable don’t make their contact at the same time).
EDIT: Just realised, this is my post #666. Post of The Beast!
Cool, I was looking at getting a ribbon mic just a few days ago, fatheads are not really available in Europe it seems, but it I was looking at the cheapo chinese ones though, can’t really invest in expensive ones. I was really looking for an allround mic though, and it appears ribbons are not typically suited for all types of vocal use very well. Will probably get a LDC instead.
But, yeah, ribbons are usually not all-arounders from my knowledge, but I think they could fill a nice slot if you had a slot to fill.
There are a lot of LDCs though to choose from. Buy used and sell it if you don’t like it. Just get a decent deal. The AT4033 mic sits at a low number which may fit the bill. It has a history of being a good all-arounder too. I’ve had a few for years and they get used and there is no intention of selling them, meaning they are really useful years later in a closet with a lot of other mics. I use them a lot.
I don’t know how dynamics are affected by phantom power on a shorted cable (possibly the cartridge getting slammed around).
Ribbons on the other hand (remember, on a shorted cable):
The ribbon element will mimic the AC current from a short, thus flinging it around.
This action can permanently bend the ribbon out of shape (and thus, out of tune).
Can cause muddy sounds or no sound at all.
It’s always best to not have phantom on when plugging a ribbon in. An open connection on pin 2 or 3 would not be good either, allowing a spike through the transformer. although soft start would help a lot.
These things are delicate and should be treated as such. The link to royerlabs I posted above details some dos and donts.
I’ve been sitting here for a half an hour kicking around ideas of micing the kit. I tend to put a lot of thought into big projects before they start.
I’m thinking of doing an 3-mic overhead on the kit with 2 LDCs (maybe sdcs but leaning to the ldcs) cymbal heavy (rock/metal traditional placement) and the ribbon behind the kit above the drummers head all spaced equally from the snare with the lobes of the ribbon perpendicular (in figure 8) mirroring the the LDC placement. A room mic would be in front of the kit. I will place this one about the height of the snare shell then place it till I have a good balance of kick + snare usually 4-5’ in front. Maybe another room mic way back then the traditional close-micing of the toms, snare and kick. I really liked the isosceles triangle technique I used a little while ago. The stereo field was so malleable with a more perimeter style micing of the kit.
My thinking is that the ribbon no doubt will be a lot smoother than the LDCs, so A: it can be used to smooth out the cymbals globally in a blend if everything is placed correctly or in certain sections of the song and B: using that and pushing the LDCs to the extreme sides by panning and/or using a widener plug and bringing the ribbon up the middle will easily “bloom” the outer reaches of stereo field, creating space for highly processed vocals (early reflections/short verbs, etc) in the middle and on the sides.
That could be really flexible in the mix stages to create a huge drum sound just do to the nature of how the ribbon responds to transients along with its response curve.
Guitar cabs would be a no-brainer. Check this out: I’m transformer splitting the hi-z from the guitar to 3 different guitar amps. I’m gonna aim them all at the ribbon after it is set to omni. Aeh, perhaps I will just record the DI and reamp with the other amps. It would be interesting to see what the room would do with the 3 amps simultaneously. I do still love my E/V PL9 on distorted cabs among other things…
umph… Rambling of my ideas. I usually wear one of these to keep me quiet.
All this ribbons will make you think and if to you this is insanity, then I recommend you just wear them instead!