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MXL R40 ribbon microphone
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monkeyxx
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#1
31st March 2011
Old 31st March 2011
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MXL R40 ribbon microphone

So there's a new ribbon mic out from MXL, the R40

It looks the same as the R144, slightly different shade of paint. It's touted as being "more durable" yet still recommending a pop filter and typical careful handling to avoid wind?

anybody tried this yet or want to? couldn't find a lot of information on this yet other than a "20 to 17kHz frequency range" and that it's a passive transducer-transformer design

wonder how this compares to the R144 and other cheap ribbons
#2
31st March 2011
Old 31st March 2011
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Bump! I too would like to know if anyone has tried this mic or if anyone knows how it differs from the R144.
#3
21st April 2011
Old 21st April 2011
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bump. me 2
#4
22nd April 2011
Old 22nd April 2011
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R40 vs. R144

OK, here goes. I bought both mics. Each was used with an ultra low noise preamp based on the TI INA217 chip, so the limiting factor on noise was the microphone, not the preamp. The tests I ran used an acoustic steel string guitar with a rather bright sound and new phosphor bronze strings at low playing volume and at a distance of a few feet from the mic.

There is a difference in the sound of these mics. My observations:

R40: Higher output by several dB. At the same time the noise level (high frequency hiss mainly) is several dB lower than the R144. These combine to give the R40 a noticeably better SNR. WHY two passive mics of almost the same design would have different noise levels I don't know. I would expect the noise to be the same, or for the mic with more noise to have a higher output, but that's not the case. Less noise, more signal out of the R40. Also the R40 sounds the same from the front and the back, with a slightly "clearer" sound and noticeably more high and low frequency content than the R144.

R144: Sounds brighter from the rear than the front, with the rear closer to the sound of the R40, but from the front the R144 is noticeably "dull" sounding compared with the R40. The R144 also has less bass. We're not talking about a lot, but enough to notice.

To my ears the R40 is a step up, ESPECIALLY in noise performance. The combination of less hiss, higher output, and brighter sound make getting noise free, clean recordings easier with the R40. It also just sounds "clearer" for lack of a better word, even when ignoring noise and using EQ to bump up the highs in the R144.

I suspect the difference in the mics is the windscreen design and perhaps a different transformer. The ribbon motors I THINK are the same but it's hard to tell and I'm not opening them up. I'm sending my R144 back and buying another R40.

For the $30 price difference this is a no brainer.

BTW, You can build a preamp based on the Texas Instruments INA217 for less than $50 and the plans are on the datasheet. The chip is only about $8 and is ideal for inexpensive ribbon mics for which the phantom power can be omitted. An R40 paired with an ultra low noise mic pre is a definite winner IMHO and a clear improvement over the R144.

Any questions?
#5
22nd April 2011
Old 22nd April 2011
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Quote:
Originally Posted by sampleaccurate View Post
OK, here goes. I bought both mics. Each was used with an ultra low noise preamp based on the TI INA217 chip, so the limiting factor on noise was the microphone, not the preamp. The tests I ran used an acoustic steel string guitar with a rather bright sound and new phosphor bronze strings at low playing volume and at a distance of a few feet from the mic.

There is a difference in the sound of these mics. My observations:

R40: Higher output by several dB. At the same time the noise level (high frequency hiss mainly) is several dB lower than the R144. These combine to give the R40 a noticeably better SNR. WHY two passive mics of almost the same design would have different noise levels I don't know. I would expect the noise to be the same, or for the mic with more noise to have a higher output, but that's not the case. Less noise, more signal out of the R40. Also the R40 sounds the same from the front and the back, with a slightly "clearer" sound and noticeably more high and low frequency content than the R144.

R144: Sounds brighter from the rear than the front, with the rear closer to the sound of the R40, but from the front the R144 is noticeably "dull" sounding compared with the R40. The R144 also has less bass. We're not talking about a lot, but enough to notice.

To my ears the R40 is a step up, ESPECIALLY in noise performance. The combination of less hiss, higher output, and brighter sound make getting noise free, clean recordings easier with the R40. It also just sounds "clearer" for lack of a better word, even when ignoring noise and using EQ to bump up the highs in the R144.

I suspect the difference in the mics is the windscreen design and perhaps a different transformer. The ribbon motors I THINK are the same but it's hard to tell and I'm not opening them up. I'm sending my R144 back and buying another R40.

For the $30 price difference this is a no brainer.

BTW, You can build a preamp based on the Texas Instruments INA217 for less than $50 and the plans are on the datasheet. The chip is only about $8 and is ideal for inexpensive ribbon mics for which the phantom power can be omitted. An R40 paired with an ultra low noise mic pre is a definite winner IMHO and a clear improvement over the R144.

Any questions?

Yes, where can I find the plans to build this preamp?
#6
22nd April 2011
Old 22nd April 2011
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Earslutz View Post
Yes, where can I find the plans to build this preamp?
http://focus.ti.com/lit/ds/symlink/ina217.pdf

Page 7 of the datasheet shows the schematic. Omit the phantom power circuitry. The hardest part is building a +/-12V or +/-15V power supply (not shown). You can also omit all the diodes if you're careful not to damage the chip with static although I would recommend keeping them. The 50uf caps should be either non-polar or use two 100uf caps in series with their negative terminals tied together to create a 50uf non-polar cap.

There are plenty of websites that show how to construct a balanced power supply for op-amps.
#7
22nd April 2011
Old 22nd April 2011
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awesome thanks!
#8
22nd April 2011
Old 22nd April 2011
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Specs

One more thing worthy of mention: The published specs of the R40 found in the packaging are identical in every way to the R144 including the frequency response curve, which means the ribbon must be the same. This tends to confirm my suspicion that the windscreen was altered and the transformer was altered but not the ribbon.

Another possibility is that I received an inferior R144. But the fact that there is a very noticeable difference in the quality of the sound between the front and the back of the R144 (that others have also noticed) leads me to think that the windscreen in the R144 leaves something to be desired (and improved upon). According to the polar response specs it should be the same, but it's not.

The ribbon doesn't look or act loose on my R144, and it sounds good, it's just that my R40 beats it. The rear of the R144 sounds almost as bright and clean as either side of the R40, but *my* R40 has about 2 or 3dB higher output, is slightly brighter than the R144, and has less noise in the form of hiss by about 4 to 6dB (judging by experience, not measured, but it's close). The result is a noise floor of hiss that sounds about 6 to 9dB higher on the R144 when it's used from the front and the EQed to sound as bright as the R40. Keep in mind that 6dB higher than something almost inaudible is still almost inaudible, but every dB helps.

I think I've pretty much beat that to death.
#9
22nd April 2011
Old 22nd April 2011
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Surprised

Quote:
Originally Posted by sampleaccurate View Post
One more thing worthy of mention: The published specs of the R40 found in the packaging are identical in every way to the R144 including the frequency response curve, which means the ribbon must be the same. This tends to confirm my suspicion that the windscreen was altered and the transformer was altered but not the ribbon.

Another possibility is that I received an inferior R144. But the fact that there is a very noticeable difference in the quality of the sound between the front and the back of the R144 (that others have also noticed) leads me to think that the windscreen in the R144 leaves something to be desired (and improved upon). According to the polar response specs it should be the same, but it's not.

The ribbon doesn't look or act loose on my R144, and it sounds good, it's just that my R40 beats it. The rear of the R144 sounds almost as bright and clean as either side of the R40, but *my* R40 has about 2 or 3dB higher output, is slightly brighter than the R144, and has less noise in the form of hiss by about 4 to 6dB (judging by experience, not measured, but it's close). The result is a noise floor of hiss that sounds about 6 to 9dB higher on the R144 when it's used from the front and the EQed to sound as bright as the R40. Keep in mind that 6dB higher than something almost inaudible is still almost inaudible, but every dB helps.

I think I've pretty much beat that to death.
They both use the same transformer, and the same ribbon motor.
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#10
22nd April 2011
Old 22nd April 2011
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Openreel24 View Post
They both use the same transformer, and the same ribbon motor.
so where's the difference, the windscreen as hypothesized?
#11
23rd April 2011
Old 23rd April 2011
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Quote:
Originally Posted by monkeyxx View Post
so where's the difference, the windscreen as hypothesized?
I second that question. It's clear that the windscreen is not acoustically transparent on the R144 as evidenced by the fact the sound is noticeably brighter on the rear than the front. That, along with the fact the R40 sounds the same on both sides (or extremely close) makes me believe that the windscreen was DEFINITELY changed in the R40. There isn't much else in the mic - ribbon motor, transformer, windscreen. If the ribbon and transformer are the same that leaves...

Maybe I'll get up the guts to completely expose the ribbons and retest. That might shed some light on the matter.

May I ask how you can be certain that the transformers are exactly the same? I find that stuff from China changes all the time, and there are no markings that I can find on the transformer (I opened the case to look at the transformers but not the ribbons). It seems possible that the transformer could have been improved without "prior notice". I will admit the specs are quoted as being the same for both mics and I'm at a loss to explain the increased hiss in the R144. But unless there is information from the manufacturer to the contrary, I don't think a design modification of the transformer can be absolutely ruled out. They look the same, but the same case mold for the mic was used so they had to be shaped the same to fit and I'm sure they used the same case for the xfmr. But it's relatively easy to change the number and ratio of the windings, core material, etc. and have the transformer look exactly the same. Even if the DC resistance is the same, unless you perform AC tests on the transformer, or MXL says they didn't change the design, you just can't be certain it's the same. It's not nearly as easy to make minor modifications to a ribbon. Retooling isn't required to change the design and construction of a transformer, just readjustment of the winding machines. I would imagine that making a change to the ribbon motor would involve a lot more investment, which is probably why there are only a handful of cheap Chinese ribbon motors on the market. The differences between mics using the same ribbon motor are in the way the ribbons are protected and the transformer designs, at least to the best of my knowledge.

I vote it's the windscreen. I also base that on the posts concerning removing it to improve the mic.

But I still don't get the hiss. I'm running my tests again right now to be absolutely certain.
#12
23rd April 2011
Old 23rd April 2011
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Hmmmm... "Openreel24" is in a pretty excellent position to know all about these things...
#13
23rd April 2011
Old 23rd April 2011
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Quote:
Originally Posted by joelpatterson View Post
Hmmmm... "Openreel24" is in a pretty excellent position to know all about these things...
I'm just curious what position he's in. If he mods these mics and he's dissected them and tested the transformers or has inside info - whatever it is I'm simply curious. I don't doubt his veracity.

Like I said, I vote it's the windscreen, or even perhaps a defective mic.


I just ran the tests again with the same results, only I can better quantify the noise. My R144 has about 6dB more noise (hiss) than my R40. This is a combination of lower output (about 2dB) and more hiss (about 4dB). It's also addressing the rear of the R144. If the R144 front is addressed the difference becomes more like 10dB when EQ is used to compensate for the lack of treble.

By comparison I tried a cheap Behringer B-2 Pro condenser mic. The noise is more than 20dB lower on the Behringer than the R40 with EQ applied to make the mikes sound as close as possible. Even with the B-2 sounding much brighter it still has MUCH less hiss.

Conclusion: These cheap MXL ribbon mics are very noisy, even compared with inexpensive condensers. They sound good IMO, but for low level acoustic sources they need to be used with care and driven as hard as possible to squeeze every last dB of headroom out of them. For loud sources there should be no issues.
#14
23rd April 2011
Old 23rd April 2011
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He's in the Roy Harper position-- and that would be the company's interface to the wider English-speaking world.
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#15
23rd April 2011
Old 23rd April 2011
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Quote:
Originally Posted by joelpatterson View Post
He's in the Roy Harper position-- and that would be the company's interface to the wider English-speaking world.
I would classify that as "inside information". My curiosity has been satisfied.

Mr. Harper, if the ribbon motor is the same and the transformer is the same, may we safely assume that the windscreen has been changed and is responsible for the differences in the sound of the two mics, or do you believe I have a defective R144?

As a EE I'm also a little perplexed by the hiss although a damaged or defective ribbon could explain both the hiss and the slightly reduced output. I don't really know. It could also be a defective transformer.

I need another R144 to test to be certain these results are valid. Take them with that caveat. The LAST thing I want to do is misrepresent your mics. For the price they are a fine product. And whatever the case, the new R40 sounds great.
#16
23rd April 2011
Old 23rd April 2011
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Quote:
Originally Posted by sampleaccurate View Post
I'm just curious what position he's in. If he mods these mics and he's dissected them and tested the transformers or has inside info - whatever it is I'm simply curious. I don't doubt his veracity.

Like I said, I vote it's the windscreen, or even perhaps a defective mic.


I just ran the tests again with the same results, only I can better quantify the noise. My R144 has about 6dB more noise (hiss) than my R40. This is a combination of lower output (about 2dB) and more hiss (about 4dB). It's also addressing the rear of the R144. If the R144 front is addressed the difference becomes more like 10dB when EQ is used to compensate for the lack of treble.

By comparison I tried a cheap Behringer B-2 Pro condenser mic. The noise is more than 20dB lower on the Behringer than the R40 with EQ applied to make the mikes sound as close as possible. Even with the B-2 sounding much brighter it still has MUCH less hiss.

Conclusion: These cheap MXL ribbon mics are very noisy, even compared with inexpensive condensers. They sound good IMO, but for low level acoustic sources they need to be used with care and driven as hard as possible to squeeze every last dB of headroom out of them. For loud sources there should be no issues.
It's interesting that you claim them to be noisey. They are passive ribbon mics with NO active electronics whatsoever. They are low output devices compared to condenser mics however. So any excessive noise I would suggest is coming from possibly your pre-amp generating noise at high gain settings. I regularly use these ribbons on even quiet sources, with no invasive noise issues. There should be no noticeable difference between the front and rear of the mic as far as tonal quality, however, bear in mind that the rear is of course 180 degrees out of phase to the front.

There is no difference to my knowledge between the windscreens on the R40 and the R144.

Regards
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#17
23rd April 2011
Old 23rd April 2011
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Openreel24 View Post
There is no difference to my knowledge between the windscreens on the R40 and the R144.

Regards
can you tell us what the difference IS then?

or is there one?
#18
26th April 2011
Old 26th April 2011
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R40's are $80 on MF right now.
#19
26th April 2011
Old 26th April 2011
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Quote:
Originally Posted by spiral View Post
R40's are $80 on MF right now.
what's mf? thanks!

edit: oh, musican's friend
#20
26th April 2011
Old 26th April 2011
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MXL R40 ribbon microphone

Ouch. I just ordered a pair from GC this weekend to use my $30 Easter coupon.
#21
26th April 2011
Old 26th April 2011
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R40 vs R144

Roy,
From your description, if the motor, xformer and basket are the same, then it sounds as though this is R40 is a re-branded/painted R144. If this is not the case, I'm w/ monkeyxx, what is the difference? Is it more of a name recognition thing? (going from R44 to R144 and now to R40). I'm just curious and my questions are not intended to be derogatory. I know how marketing is. I own two R144's and, if there is a new offering from MXL that's better and in the price range, I'd be interested in it.

Cheers!
Mitchell
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26th April 2011
Old 26th April 2011
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Aeolian View Post
Ouch. I just ordered a pair from GC this weekend to use my $30 Easter coupon.
Yeah, I hate when that happens.
I'd still try to hit em with the 30 day (or is it 45) guarantee deal though and see if they'll come down to $160 for the pair. I don't know about the coupon though. But, it never hurts to try. I've done it several times and they refunded the difference if it's within the alotted time period. However, I swore off GC's website about 2 yrs ago and don't know if their policy has changed.
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26th April 2011
Old 26th April 2011
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Quote:
Originally Posted by joelpatterson View Post
He's in the Roy Harper position-- and that would be the company's interface to the wider English-speaking world.
Are you saying we're fat?
#24
26th April 2011
Old 26th April 2011
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"Full figured," if you like.
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26th April 2011
Old 26th April 2011
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thanks for the heads up, might have to pick one up for evaluation
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26th April 2011
Old 26th April 2011
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mhs2xs View Post
Roy,
From your description, if the motor, xformer and basket are the same, then it sounds as though this is R40 is a re-branded/painted R144. If this is not the case, I'm w/ monkeyxx, what is the difference? Is it more of a name recognition thing? (going from R44 to R144 and now to R40). I'm just curious and my questions are not intended to be derogatory. I know how marketing is. I own two R144's and, if there is a new offering from MXL that's better and in the price range, I'd be interested in it.

Cheers!
Mitchell
maybe the posts above were a "don't ask don't tell" covert way of saying they're the same thing? It'd be nice to have a final answer, though. I bet inconsistency is enough to make two mics like these sound different, even something like just variation in ribbon tension which is known to be a wild card in chinese microphones like these.
#27
27th April 2011
Old 27th April 2011
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Quote:
Originally Posted by monkeyxx View Post
maybe the posts above were a "don't ask don't tell" covert way of saying they're the same thing? It'd be nice to have a final answer, though. I bet inconsistency is enough to make two mics like these sound different, even something like just variation in ribbon tension which is known to be a wild card in chinese microphones like these.
I am not quite with you on the inconsistency in the manufacturing process. We take such matters very seriously, and batch testing has proved there to be little in the way of variation from mic to mic.

The R40, is an OEM product, manufactured exclusively for Musicians Friend. As such, I am not at liberty to discuss the design specifications, construction etc, as that information is the property of Musicians Friend. I can only suggest that if you require specific information, that you contact them.

Sampleaccurate. If you believe that you have received an R144 that is faulty in any way, please contact me via PM, and I will let you know how to return the mic to us for testing and if faulty replacement. We take the performance of our products very seriously, and the satisfaction of our customers is paramount to us. The R144's have had an outstanding reliability record, and we have sold a huge number of them. There is always the possibility that your microphone was damaged in transit.

Regards
#28
27th April 2011
Old 27th April 2011
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Openreel24 View Post
I am not quite with you on the inconsistency in the manufacturing process. We take such matters very seriously, and batch testing has proved there to be little in the way of variation from mic to mic.

The R40, is an OEM product, manufactured exclusively for Musicians Friend. As such, I am not at liberty to discuss the design specifications, construction etc, as that information is the property of Musicians Friend. I can only suggest that if you require specific information, that you contact them.

Sampleaccurate. If you believe that you have received an R144 that is faulty in any way, please contact me via PM, and I will let you know how to return the mic to us for testing and if faulty replacement. We take the performance of our products very seriously, and the satisfaction of our customers is paramount to us. The R144's have had an outstanding reliability record, and we have sold a huge number of them. There is always the possibility that your microphone was damaged in transit.

Regards
So are they the same mic or not?
#29
27th April 2011
Old 27th April 2011
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Do the words "Fifth Amendment" mean anything to you?
#30
28th April 2011
Old 28th April 2011
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MXL R40 ribbon microphone

Okay. Now I'm confused here. I just ordered two of these from Guitar Center (which I realize is corporately connected to MF). So it's not exactly exclusive. I was going to get some Apexs or 144s But the review here convinced me to go for the latest version. Which is a new paint job for $30 extra?

Direct information is usually wonderful. But in this case it seems to open a can of worms. I'll have to see if I can borrow a 144 to compare my new mics to when they come and see if I get similar results to the OP.
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