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Ribbon mics with ultra-low noise floor
Old 19th September 2017
  #1
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Ribbon mics with ultra-low noise floor

Looking for recommendations on your favorite ribbon mics with low noise floor (passive and active mics both). I do lots of very natural quiet acoustic recording, and find that most ribbons just have too much background noise, when I'm going for a clean recording rather than vibey.

I know there are some great small new companies out there doing cool stuff, and I'm also interesting in unusual ribbons like the Shure (Crowley and Tripp) mics, the Rupert Neve SE mic, the giant Ocean Way. I guess total gain and signal-to-noise are two different but related considerations.

I want to be able to make, for instance, a solo flute recording, where there isn't an instrument playing all the time. Many mics are terrific so long as there's a sound coming through at all times, on a rhythm instrument. But I'm looking for the most silent silences as well, along with the transient response that makes ribbons great on peaky instruments. I often use a Neve style preamp, but also have a Millennia for clean sounds.

So any opinions on various offerings from the names I mentioned above, and AEA, Cloud, Royer, Mesanovic, Stager, Beyerdynamic, and whatever else?
Old 19th September 2017
  #2
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Brent Hahn's Avatar
 

By "too much background noise," do you mean noise generated by the mic itself?
Old 19th September 2017
  #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Brent Hahn View Post
By "too much background noise," do you mean noise generated by the mic itself?
Yes, or at least I think so. Ribbon mics are often written about has having higher noise floors than condensers in general. It's possible that I'm hearing sound from turning a preamp to high gain and any number of other factors including the room itself at high amplification levels.
Old 19th September 2017
  #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by apossibleworld View Post
Yes, or at least I think so. Ribbon mics are often written about has having higher noise floors than condensers in general. It's possible that I'm hearing sound from turning a preamp to high gain and any number of other factors including the room itself at high amplification levels.
Passive mics (of any sort) don't generate noise on their own, as far as I know. There are some that are more susceptible than others to to picking up hums and buzzes originating in the electromagnetic outside world, but I don't think that's what you mean.
Old 19th September 2017
  #5
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That's correct -- passive mics have no self-noise as such, but the low sensitivity of ribbon elements means that thermal noise in the mic and/or preamp is the limiting factor. In practice a good active ribbon, or a passive ribbon with a good preamp, will be roughly comparable to a good SDC in terms of noise, but not as good as the best LDCs.
Old 19th September 2017
  #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Peller View Post
That's correct -- passive mics have no self-noise as such, but the low sensitivity of ribbon elements means that thermal noise in the mic and/or preamp is the limiting factor. In practice a good active ribbon, or a passive ribbon with a good preamp, will be roughly comparable to a good SDC in terms of noise, but not as good as the best LDCs.
Thank you for clarifying. So it's really the signal-to-noise that I need to pay attention to, so that I'm not amplifying everything else in the chain unnecessarily.
Old 19th September 2017
  #7
Gear Head
 

Sontronics Apollo Stereo Ribbon with matching pre-amp. We used on a grand piano recording session. You could clearly hear someone scratch on the wall 50' away. Unbelievably clear, clean sound.
Old 19th September 2017
  #8
AEA A440.

Samar VL37A (no experience with this one).
Old 19th September 2017
  #9
Gear Nut
 

royer sf24. superquiet.

bojan_1
Old 19th September 2017
  #10
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jtvrdy's Avatar
 

Aea a840
Old 28th September 2017
  #11
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Scott LaChapell's Avatar
 

IMO, it's hard to go wrong with the Royer 122V. Incredible detail and the noise floor is really low.

My 2-cents
Old 29th September 2017
  #12
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My experience is that "noisy ribbon mics" are usually noisy-when-maxed preamps. I'm not sure that one brand of passive ribbon is going to be much different than another in terms of noise.
As Brent Hahn pointed out, passive mics don't by themselves generate noise. But they do require a ton of gain. Even with my best-case scenario of Joly LR44 into Cloudlifter into ISA, the ribbon is a poor choice for very quiet sources, very distant sources, or your case, a source that leaves spaces for noise in the track. There is going to be more preamp gain and thus more preamp noise from a ribbon that from a good LDC or even a good condenser shotgun.
I don't have any experience yet with active ribbons, so I'm unaware whether some of them are less noisy than good passive+preamp combinations.

Last edited by Bushman; 29th September 2017 at 05:55 AM.. Reason: Spelling
Old 29th September 2017
  #13
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I have been told the following by a few experts: A ribbon with a stronger magnet type will have a lower noise floor and higher output. A ribbon that does not have a clean contact between the ribbon and it's mount will have higher noise. That can be assembly conditions, or atmospheric conditions combined with age, so a re-ribboned old mic that has been cleaned and reassembled properly can be quieter than it was. Sometimes additional magnets are added to old mics to strengthen the magnetic field. I agree even the quietest high output ribbon is not always suitable for low level sound pickup, no preamp can overcome certain conditions.
Old 29th September 2017
  #14
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Yep, the ribbon mic doesn't make noise, and neither should the pre.
Old 29th September 2017
  #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by vernier View Post
Yep, the ribbon mic doesn't make noise, and neither should the pre.
The preamp is an active device. It does generate (make) noise. In use, we try to minimize hearing whatever noise it makes. The only times a preamp doesn't make noise is when it is turned all the way down or the power is off.
I know it is a semantic thing, but people will find the no-noise preamp on a shelf next to the perpetual motion machine.
Old 29th September 2017
  #17
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Bushman View Post
The preamp is an active device. It does generate (make) noise. In use, we try to minimize hearing whatever noise it makes. The only times a preamp doesn't make noise is when it is turned all the way down or the power is off.
I know it is a semantic thing, but people will find the no-noise preamp on a shelf next to the perpetual motion machine.
If you're hearing noise, you need to look into your signal chain.
Old 29th September 2017
  #18
Beside the quality active alternatives like the AEA R-122V/R-122 and AEA A440 I find the Coles 4038 to be pretty quiet with a low noise preamp. It's very well shielded from picking up external hum/RFI and has strong magnets with good output for a ribbon. But like mentioned here; in some delicate situations a ribbon is just a stupid mic choice.
Old 29th September 2017
  #19
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Scott LaChapell View Post
IMO, it's hard to go wrong with the Royer 122V. Incredible detail and the noise floor is really low.

My 2-cents
This is what I use for these situations. Besides the low noise floor, just a great mic.
Old 29th September 2017
  #20
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Quote:
Originally Posted by vernier View Post
If you're hearing noise, you need to look into your signal chain.
Or use a higher output mic, to the point of the thread.
Old 29th September 2017
  #21
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Has anybody used the new Mesanovic 2AS (or the regular 2A mono active version)? It seems like it might be a great option, with high gain and extended frequency range. Their page specifically recommends it for quieter sources.

https://www.mesanovicmicrophones.com/model-2as
Old 29th September 2017
  #22
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Quote:
Or use a higher output mic, to the point of the thread.
Or mic a little closer to the source - *keeping in mind not to damage the mic.
Old 29th September 2017
  #23
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Quote:
Originally Posted by emrr View Post
I have been told the following by a few experts: A ribbon with a stronger magnet type will have a lower noise floor and higher output. ... Sometimes additional magnets are added to old mics to strengthen the magnetic field.
I have a couple of old Bang & Olufsen BM5 stereo ribbon mics. These are notorious for their low sensitivity: they used small weedy magnets in the first place, and they lose field strength over time. So I had Stewart at Xaudia replace the magnets in one of them with new neodymium magnets. The sensitivity is now greatly improved but what we discovered was that if you make the magnets too powerful, they compromise the low-frequency response of the microphone. I'm not sure if this is universally true of all ribbon mics, or just this design, it would be interesting to find out.
Old 29th September 2017
  #24
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emrr's Avatar
Interesting on the low response of the stronger magnets.
Old 29th September 2017
  #25
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emrr's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by apossibleworld View Post
Has anybody used the new Mesanovic 2AS (or the regular 2A mono active version)? It seems like it might be a great option, with high gain and extended frequency range.
I have a couple Samar ribbons, and they fit the bill within practical limits. Any ribbon runs into realistic limits. The extended range of the Samar help mask treble hiss you might find with a traditionally drooped response in a quiet environment. Have not heard a Mesanovic, or seen a comparison.
Old 1st October 2017
  #26
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Peller View Post
... if you make the magnets too powerful, they compromise the low-frequency response of the microphone. I'm not sure if this is universally true of all ribbon mics, or just this design, it would be interesting to find out.
Not just true for ribbon mics, but for speaker drive units also. It's a well known characteristic, and accounted for in the electroacoustic theory. Effectively, what happens is that the Q of the fundamental resonance, which in both speakers and ribbon mics is at their low frequency end, gets reduced, i.e. seriously over-damped. This in turn affects the amplitude response, to progressively higher frequencies as the Q decreases.
Old 2nd October 2017
  #27
Old 2nd October 2017
  #28
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jazzcabbage View Post
These are sold for AC power cables. Are you thinking the do something on mic cables beyond adding weight? Are we going to thank you later for providing comedy relief or what?
Old 2nd October 2017
  #29
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Bushman View Post
These are sold for AC power cables. Are you thinking the do something on mic cables beyond adding weight? Are we going to thank you later for providing comedy relief or what?
They are EMI/EMF noise filters and they work, really well.

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ferrite_bead
Old 2nd October 2017
  #30
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jazzcabbage View Post
They are EMI/EMF noise filters and they work, really well.

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ferrite_bead
I've never seen or heard of one being used on a microphone cable.
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