What can a ribbon mic give me that a quality condenser can't ?
Tashez
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#1
2nd July 2012
Old 2nd July 2012
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What can a ribbon mic give me that a quality condenser can't ?

Hey now G-sluts ! I'm looking to add a few more mics to my little studio and I see ribbons mentioned here a bit . I like the sound that I get from my condensers and have never used a ribbon . So what am I missing out on ? Can you recommend a few that I should take into consideration . I mainly record Vocals , Bass , acoustic and electric guitars . The rest is electronic . I am how ever looking to record a cello in the future and have read that ribbons are great for violins . Great for cello's ? As Always thank you for your time and response .
#2
2nd July 2012
Old 2nd July 2012
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frans's Avatar
Quality happens in front of the mic and from there it's an artistic choice, what kind of gear you pick to use in context of your music. If it's detail you're after, just get 3k $ Schoeps condenser and be done. A ribbon like, for example the Coles 4038, is used because it 'concentrates' on some aspects of the signal and lessens others. That can be a good thing, but YOU got to choose what you want to record. As ribbons mostly have little output you either need a good preamp or you simply get a Cloudlifter, because on lesser preamps it reveals the shortcomings... and don't confuse treble with quality.
#3
2nd July 2012
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Kubilay's Avatar
 

I mostly use a ribbon for those rare occasions when I need to have the highs mellower and smoother than my KSM-32 picks them up: In a close-mic setting like in my studio, small plucked strings, reeds, etc. can be strident. Ribbons can take the edge off there. That said, when I had a Royer 121 here, 90% of the time the KSM32 won hands-down for most acoustic instruments. It did sound amazing on my 1960s Harmony guitar amp.

I used to rent or borrow a Royer when I needed a ribbon since it didn't compute for me to spend the money for the few occasions when I needed one. But I've since bought a Nady RSM-5 upon a recommendation, which does a great job for me most of the time I need this mellower high end (which in my case often goes hand-in-hand with needing a bit more dirt and character, too.) The Nady sounds great in a "SM57 with much mellower highs" sort of way, and is dirt cheap (about $80.) I hear the quality of the specific units varies greatly from mic to mic with this model, but i must have gotten a good one. Obviously it's not a Royer, AEA or Coles... but like the SM57 it fills a very useful niche in my studio and gets used quite a bit. (With a FEThead for the extra gain.)

My favorite all-rounder instrument mic is still the Shure KSM32 (condenser.) It's amazing.
#4
2nd July 2012
Old 2nd July 2012
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Ribbons get used most for electric gtr and drum ohs. If you do a lot of that then it's worth investigating. Condensers will always work well for acoustic instruments and are the main choice for this. Most people use dynamics or ribbons on Gtr amps but I noticed in old pics of Abbey road U47s on Beatles' AC30s and Fenders... No rules obviously.

It's worth a/b ing a ribbon with a condenser on a typical source for yourself to see if it's for you.
#5
2nd July 2012
Old 2nd July 2012
  #5
nothing like it on horns too.
#6
2nd July 2012
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RFZ DUDE's Avatar
ribbons can be quite natural sounding, most take eq really well.nothing compares the massive low-end warmth of an 4038 on a softly played, intimate piano for example.
#7
2nd July 2012
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Traditionally, you could say ribbons preserve the "silence" beyond the sound as accurately as accuracy permits, which makes the sound as three dimensional as three dimensions permit. But these days, is there really like that much difference between all the makes and models of mics that fall into the "worthwhile, respectable, don't worry about the way things used to be" category? Well.............
#8
2nd July 2012
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Excellent analogy Joel. I just got my first ribbon, a B+O BM5, about 3 months ago and now I use it as much as possible even though I have around 15 other good to great mics. It has a unique quality that sounds very life-like, especially on dynamic sources. I use it acoustic guitar if it is to be featured prominently. I don't find the top end to be lacking, nothing that can't be fixed with eq.
Tashez
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2nd July 2012
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Thread Starter
Quote:
Originally Posted by joelpatterson View Post
Traditionally, you could say ribbons preserve the "silence" beyond the sound as accurately as accuracy permits, which makes the sound as three dimensional as three dimensions permit. But these days, is there really like that much difference between all the makes and models of mics that fall into the "worthwhile, respectable, don't worry about the way things used to be" category? Well.............
The " Silence beyond the sound " . Just that line makes me want to buy one now . Sounds intriguing . Good title for a album . I've already got lyrics in my head . I should write a song about it and use only ribbons to record it .

I was looking at this mic ...The KSM313 SHURE RIBBON . It says that you have two different ribbon sounds depending on which side you use . Is this a Gimmick ? Do other ribbons have this feature ?

Silence beyond the sound .... I love it Joel . Too cool !
#10
2nd July 2012
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Karloff70's Avatar
 

Rent a Coles for a day and see what you think.

One thing to bear in mind is although recording something with JUST a ribbon may be a pretty specific choice not always ideal, recording something with a ribbon AS WELL as another mic, say a condenser, gives very sweet options of tone. In fact a ribbon and a condenser in the same place and then balance the faders to where you want it is a very addictive way to get sweet tones for loads of things.....you'll see why when you try it.
#11
2nd July 2012
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AllBread's Avatar
 

Ribbons give you a very natural, organic sound, smooth top end (that often needs a little eq) and, not yet mentioned but a biggie for me, almost 100% 90 degree rejection. Although most are bi- directional by design so you do get some room sound, they have a smaller "bubble" than most condensers so give you more control over bleed.

I'm currently tracking at a place with many a great mic but their pair of Coles 4038s and beyer m160s are about all that's getting used. First it was a a beyer m160 on guitar cab and the other on the snare (with the Coles as overheads). Then when the piano and hammand/Leslie came out the piano got the Coles while the Leslie got the m160s with a d6 on the bottom. Both sounded fantastic!
#12
2nd July 2012
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popmann's Avatar
Don't get hung up on the topology. Some random mic that happens to use a ribbon might add nothing important.
#13
2nd July 2012
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Tashez View Post
I was looking at this mic ...The KSM313 SHURE RIBBON . It says that you have two different ribbon sounds depending on which side you use . Is this a Gimmick ? Do other ribbons have this feature ?
Ribbon microphones have a Figure of 8 / Bidirectional pickup pattern. That means it'll pick up sound on both sides of the microphone with side rejection rather than rear rejection. It's common from what I've seen that ribbons with Figure of 8 pickup patterns such as the KSM-313 to have a different tonal quality to either side. Usually one side is a bit warmer sounding than the other. Shure honed in on this and tweaked the microphone so it's exaggerated a bit more than on other ribbons, turning it into a feature.

If there's one company that doesn't really run on gimmicks, it would probably be Shure.
#14
2nd July 2012
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Karloff70 View Post
Rent a Coles for a day and see what you think.

One thing to bear in mind is although recording something with JUST a ribbon may be a pretty specific choice not always ideal, recording something with a ribbon AS WELL as another mic, say a condenser, gives very sweet options of tone. In fact a ribbon and a condenser in the same place and then balance the faders to where you want it is a very addictive way to get sweet tones for loads of things.....you'll see why when you try it.
Fully agree here - one of my favorite guitar amp micing setups is a Royer 121 and a u87 in figure 8 mode right next to each other and about 8 inches back. Come mix time you rarely need eq!
Tashez
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2nd July 2012
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So I would use the ribbon where I would normally put a dynamic on a guitar Amp ?
#16
2nd July 2012
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Tashez View Post
So I would use the ribbon where I would normally put a dynamic on a guitar Amp ?
Depending on the microphone, sure. Why not? Just experiment with placement. The best thing you can do is go to a local store, put down a deposit, and just check out a small handful of mics and try them out. See which you like, which you don't, and go from there. Listen to them, play with positions and how they react. How different does each side sound.

While yes, you can use them like you would a 57, maybe you'd like the sound a bit further back.
#17
2nd July 2012
Old 2nd July 2012
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Matt R View Post
Ribbon microphones have a Figure of 8 / Bidirectional pickup pattern.
Most ribbons that is, not all. Majority of Beyer ones are directional (except M130), and some others have pattern choices (RCA 77dx, Altec).
Tashez
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#18
2nd July 2012
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The M160 you can pick up for around $500 too . Might just get one at that price and play around with it . The word " Ribbon " always made me think " fragile" as in delicate sound . I'm sure I read the sound being described as "round" from a Ribbon mic . So you think the M160 is a good intro to ribbons ?
#19
2nd July 2012
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Tashez View Post
The M160 you can pick up for around $500 too . Might just get one at that price and play around with it . The word " Ribbon " always made me think " fragile" as in delicate sound . I'm sure I read the sound being described as "round" from a Ribbon mic . So you think the M160 is a good intro to ribbons ?
The M160 is an excellent mic, particularly on guitars, but it's unique for a ribbon mic. It sounds much more mid-forward, with more highs and less lows, than most other ribbon mics that I've used. Also, it's unique in that it's a hypercardioid mic (most ribbons are figure-8). So while it's a great intro to ribbons, it's not really representative of all of the things that people love about ribbons, does that make sense?

If I only had one ribbon mic to rule them all, I'd go with the Coles 4038. It sounds HUGE, it's got tone and character for days, and it's the sound I think of when I think of ribbon mics. It's pricier than an M160, but damn....
#20
2nd July 2012
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Tashez View Post
The M160 you can pick up for around $500 too . Might just get one at that price and play around with it . The word " Ribbon " always made me think " fragile" as in delicate sound . I'm sure I read the sound being described as "round" from a Ribbon mic . So you think the M160 is a good intro to ribbons ?
Get two old M260N's instead. That is one WITHOUT the hipass filter of the newer M260.80.......old grey ones are sweet. And cost you all of £150 on the bay. Pair of those are excellent for loads of stuff. Nothing wrong with M160's either, only more cash and to me I actually prefer my old grey M260N.
#21
2nd July 2012
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Quote:
Originally Posted by AllBread View Post

I'm currently tracking at a place with many a great mic but their pair of Coles 4038s and beyer m160s are about all that's getting used. First it was a a beyer m160 on guitar cab and the other on the snare (with the Coles as overheads). Then when the piano and hammand/Leslie came out the piano got the Coles while the Leslie got the m160s with a d6 on the bottom. Both sounded fantastic!
#22
2nd July 2012
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Karloff70 View Post
Get two old M260N's instead.
#23
2nd July 2012
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Seamus TM View Post
Shoot, you weren't supposed to find out that I'm putting one of your nice ribbon mics on the snare!

Your U-67 sure sounds great on snare bottom - at first it was a little too clean but then it got real trashy real quick!
#24
2nd July 2012
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Quote:
Originally Posted by AllBread View Post
Shoot, you weren't supposed to find out that I'm putting one of your nice ribbon mics on the snare!

Your U-67 sure sounds great on snare bottom - at first it was a little too clean but then it got real trashy real quick!
No worries, man!

We have one of those Beyer M500 modified by Sank with the RCA ribbon and transformer that I love on snare.

You get that big pillowy, dry Neil Young Harvest/Gold Rush snare with it.
Fezzle
#25
2nd July 2012
Old 2nd July 2012
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Fezzle
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A quality ribbon mic will sound totally natural, the way ribbons respond to sound pressure is more akin to the way our ears respond than a capsule in a condenser does...thus avoiding unnatural resonances through the bandwidth. Of course a quality condenser will have very little of this kind of thing, but in my experience have a 'sound' whereas most good ribbons Ive used dont have a 'sound', they just give you whats there without hype. Something like a BK-11 or an RCA-44 can sound so much like your there and theres no mic or speaker its rediculous. I find hearing back sound like that very satisfying!
#26
2nd July 2012
Old 2nd July 2012
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I have found in "real world" situations, that a ribbon, like a Royer 122, tend to retain more of the body/thickness/intimacy of a sound at larger distances than condensors. For example, a solo violin from 10 feet away, a string section, a small choir .... you get the picture.

They are also great for sibilant singer where most condensers may be too bright.
#27
2nd July 2012
Old 2nd July 2012
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mjdrums's Avatar
Shure 313

This was awhile ago, but the OP mentioned the Shure 313... I've used this mic quite a bit. Love it for a drum room actually. I don't know if it's a normal use. We got a loaner from Shure so I've been trying to experiment haha. Also cool on guitar cabs, it can handle a really high SPL, and it's durable... I'm not saying it may have accidentally received 48v at some point... but still works great. Also the sonic difference btw the two sides of the figure 8 is actually musical, and was useful as a sonic decision when tracking.

So... +1 from here, like 40 posts ago

Last edited by mjdrums; 2nd July 2012 at 06:40 PM.. Reason: More Info
#28
2nd July 2012
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popmann's Avatar
Royer is GOD of the amp. Two ways...couple feet in front by itself...or right on the grill, blended with a 57 (specifically-not just "another dynamic")...to two tracks, blend at mix.

My 121 also picks up the hammers of the piano in a woody way, where condensers add a transient distortion that you may or may not LIKE...

But, it doesn't do this solely because it's a ribbon is my point. I'm mixing some dogshit sounding overheads right now cut with some Chinese ribbons...I personally can't stand M160 on much of anything, save maybe high hat because of its HC pattern...

So, while there are maybe some qualities to being "a ribbon"...those Chinese ribbons are to. Royer what a Chinese LDC is to a U67.
#29
2nd July 2012
Old 2nd July 2012
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Quote:
Originally Posted by BLUElightCory View Post
The M160 is an excellent mic, particularly on guitars, but it's unique for a ribbon mic. It sounds much more mid-forward, with more highs and less lows, than most other ribbon mics that I've used. Also, it's unique in that it's a hypercardioid mic (most ribbons are figure-8). So while it's a great intro to ribbons, it's not really representative of all of the things that people love about ribbons, does that make sense?

If I only had one ribbon mic to rule them all, I'd go with the Coles 4038. It sounds HUGE, it's got tone and character for days, and it's the sound I think of when I think of ribbon mics. It's pricier than an M160, but damn....
I totally agree but I also would say that the M160 and 4038 complement each other extremely well.

The 4038 tends to pick up a lot of room which is great but can also work against you in live tracking. A M160 on a guitar cab or OHs will give you plenty of isolation even in small rooms and I like the leaner and sparklier sound of the M160 for a lot of things.
#30
2nd July 2012
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According to George Massenburg, putting a 57 and a ribbon on a guitar amp gives you tone options at mix time that negate the need for EQ. With the 57 aimed at the sweet spot near the center of the speaker and the ribbon off to the edge a bit more, you get your lows and your highs on two separate channels.

Ribbon mics can have an enhanced proximity affect, which makes them tricky to use on vocals. The response graph generally shows a rolloff in the high end compared to condensers that generally show a rise in response in the high end.

Sometimes I'll use a ribbon for an acoustic guitar solo, but use a condenser for the acoustic rhythm part. It's all about sonic space. If you used a ribbon on everything, you could end up with a really "thick" (muddy) mix. If you only use it on certain elements, you can keep the instruments from competing for the same sonic space. Likewise, if you use nothing but bright condensers, you could end up with a mix that lacks warmths and sounds harsh and tinny.

(Contrary to conventional wisdom, I think it's harder to "de-harsh" a track recorded with a harsh mic than it is to brighten up a track that's recorded with a neutral or dark mic. Ideally, you already have the sonic space issue mapped out in your head so you know which mics to choose for which sources, but if the production is fluid, you may not know in advance what elements the final will contain.)

I would say the M160 is more like a 57 than a regular ribbon. It has the presence peak of the 57, but the high end is a little less harsh.
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