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Which chinese ribbon mic (modded or otherwise) can get me close to a 44-BX?
Old 10th November 2009
  #1
Question Which chinese ribbon mic (modded or otherwise) can get me close to a 44-BX?

Way under $1000.
Old 11th November 2009
  #2
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Michael_Joly's Avatar
 

Any of "long ribbon" type of microphones - Apex 205 etc will get you there. There are a number of similarities to the RCA 44 ...

* The ribbon dimensions in the Chinese "long ribbon" mics (2 micron x 5mm x 60mm) are essentially the same as the RCA 44.
* Both the Chinese "long ribbon" mics and the RCA 44 have minimal front-to-back path length over most of the ribbon length for extended HF.
* The 44 required large magnets to provide high field strength in the gap, modern mics with Neodymium bar magnets get the job done in less space.
* Modern transformer material and techniques actually exceed the performance of transformers found in the vintage mics.

So with ribbon dimension, path length and field strength similarities - plus the availability of superior transformers, that leaves only headbasket acoustical differences to impart minor reflection coloration differences between the classic RCA 44 and the new Chinese built "long ribbon" mics.
Old 13th November 2009
  #3
Quote:
Originally Posted by Michael_Joly View Post
Any of "long ribbon" type of microphones - Apex 205 etc will get you there. There are a number of similarities to the RCA 44 ...

* The ribbon dimensions in the Chinese "long ribbon" mics (2 micron x 5mm x 60mm) are essentially the same as the RCA 44.
* Both the Chinese "long ribbon" mics and the RCA 44 have minimal front-to-back path length over most of the ribbon length for extended HF.
* The 44 required large magnets to provide high field strength in the gap, modern mics with Neodymium bar magnets get the job done in less space.
* Modern transformer material and techniques actually exceed the performance of transformers found in the vintage mics.

So with ribbon dimension, path length and field strength similarities - plus the availability of superior transformers, that leaves only headbasket acoustical differences to impart minor reflection coloration differences between the classic RCA 44 and the new Chinese built "long ribbon" mics.
Really appreciate that
Old 13th November 2009
  #4
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Empty Planet's Avatar
 

While that's all good information, for the most part, and of course is perfectly valid as an opinion (needless to say), having just landed an old RCA 44BX of my own, I personally would very much hesitate to use the phrase "gets you there" when discussing a Chinese ribbon's capacity to get into the sonic territory of a 44BX. (Actually, let's just say "inexpensive" instead of Chinese, because, as Mr. Joly has correctly pointed out elsewhere, it's more about western investors using Chinese labor, and the specs and price point the Chinese are expected to build to, rather than anything particularly Chinese.) I don't think the dimensions of a ribbon tell the whole story.

If the qualities stipulated actually performed the job that the original components perform in a BX, it would be a great, fantastic, amazing thing, but I'm afraid that in this particular case you really can hear the money, unfortunately. I've used a lot of ribbons over time, and I own a few now, but the first time I spoke into the 44, my jaw dropped.

When I first got mine, I left it set up for days, just so I could hear that sound whenever I had a spare moment.

On the other hand, I have a $99 MXL 144, have tried the Shinybox with the Cinemag transformer, and own a Peluso R14, and they are all cool tools that have their function, their own mojo, and can definitely give you that ribbon thang. The Shinybox had a great even tone and a nice reach, the MXL 144's tone is more uneven, but for the sources I was using it on had more character of the variety I like and was a better fit for me.

The Peluso -- at around 600 bucks -- comes much closer, actually. I don't know if the model or components have changed since I purchased mine, three or four years ago I'm guessing, but it gives the 44 a run for its money. It even aced a 44 from a local studio in certain ways, which, despite the claims of its owner, I felt wasn't quite up to spec. I lucked out with the 44 I managed to snag, though, and it's clearly the king of the roost these days.

All these other mics have their functions, and some are better on certain things, but nothing really touches the class of a well-maintained 44BX -- the solidness, the authority, that amazing high end.

What would be great is if you could demo a real 44 at a local studio and record a few demo tracks (it wouldn't even take an hour of studio time and you could probably strike an inexpensive deal). Then you could do your comparisons based on what you hear, what you like, and what you want. You can get something that will work great for you in the meantime, and start socking away money for your real BX while you use these other capable ribbons in the interim.

Best of luck in your search!


Cheers.

Old 14th November 2009
  #5
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hgen's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Michael_Joly View Post
Any of "long ribbon" type of microphones - Apex 205 etc will get you there. There are a number of similarities to the RCA 44 ...

* The ribbon dimensions in the Chinese "long ribbon" mics (2 micron x 5mm x 60mm) are essentially the same as the RCA 44.
* Both the Chinese "long ribbon" mics and the RCA 44 have minimal front-to-back path length over most of the ribbon length for extended HF.
* The 44 required large magnets to provide high field strength in the gap, modern mics with Neodymium bar magnets get the job done in less space.
* Modern transformer material and techniques actually exceed the performance of transformers found in the vintage mics.

So with ribbon dimension, path length and field strength similarities - plus the availability of superior transformers, that leaves only headbasket acoustical differences to impart minor reflection coloration differences between the classic RCA 44 and the new Chinese built "long ribbon" mics.
Maybe a better question is which is the best sounding or quality chinese ribbon in your opinion? We all appreciate your considerable experience here Michael thx!
Old 14th November 2009
  #6
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Karloff70's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Empty Planet View Post

When I first got mine, I left it set up for days, just so I could hear that sound whenever I had a spare moment.
LOL. On that sound like sweeties. Smiling Gearslut!
Old 14th November 2009
  #7
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Michael, Will you be using an active design for higher output?
Old 14th November 2009
  #8
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No. I'm a bit of a purist in this regard. A ribbon mic traditionally is a ribbon motor and a transformer, end of story. No additional circuitry is need for adequately loud sources, but for quiet sources additional gain can be had from an inline, phantom-powered FET preamp like the Triton Audio FetHead. This approach gives the recordist the option of using addition gain before the regular mic preamp or not.
Old 14th November 2009
  #9
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Marik's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Michael_Joly View Post
... only headbasket acoustical differences to impart minor reflection coloration differences between the classic RCA 44 and the new Chinese built "long ribbon" mics.
Hey Michael,

Knowing this is coming from you, I find that statement quite strange. This is you, who advocates for a pure non-resonant environment, finding that even side bars do affect the sound (it is another matter whether it is audible, or not, but this is not the point, right now). This is you, who removes the wafer plates in the 205 (again, as you put it), seeing them as filters, which shows that you are familiar with the concept of filtering and resonant modes in the basket, and their (rather big) impact on the sound and its shaping.

If we even briefly look at the RCA 44 basket:

http://www.coutant.org/rca44bx/1844.jpg

and compare it to the 205 wafer plates, we will clearly see how it is different--RCA has the angled shape in the middle, different "filter" tuning, different size of the basket, which goes all the way around. Plus on top of that we have a blast protection silk screen, which is not the last to affect the sound.

In this respect, I'd like to remind that Shure 57 and SM7 both share the same dynamic element. However, there is enough differences to put those mics into different league (and price range).

To put the differences between Apex205 and RCA 44 as a "minor reflection coloration"? Sorry, I don't think so, and somehow it seems you have an agenda here.

Best, M
Old 14th November 2009
  #10
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Empty Planet's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Karloff70 View Post
LOL. On that sound like sweeties. Smiling Gearslut!
No doubt! In fact, I set it up again, and for the same damn reason. Nutty.

Once in a while, just pure sound can be a delight.

Hello London!



Cheers.

Old 14th November 2009
  #11
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Michael_Joly's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Marik View Post
Hey Michael...To put the differences between Apex205 and RCA 44 as a "minor reflection coloration"? Sorry, I don't think so...
Marik, while your comments are accurate, that's a level detail I don't believe the original poster is looking for. He wants to know what Chinese ribbon mic can get him close to the 44 sound - for way under $1000.

Well, a classic long ribbon style mic is going to come closer than a dual ribbon or medium ribbon mic. That's all he wants to know. In the interest of answering the OP's question I felt it was more important to point out Chinese mic similarities to the 44 rather than differences, because what he is looking for is a mic that offers the most similarity - not how far it misses the mark and why. That does not help him in his quest. My guess is if the OP had a chance to put a stock 205 up against a 44 he would not go without eating for several months to purchase the latter and would find the stock 205 met his request to "get close...for way under $1000".
Old 14th November 2009
  #12
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I dunno, a real 44 is, well, maybe a bit over the top to some degree, but there is no comparison to be made with the Apex 205!

There is an AEA reissue.
Old 14th November 2009
  #13
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Maybe this is an issue Dr. Bill "mic madness shootout" Pearson can settle ; )
I'd love to hear a direct comparsion of a 44 and a 205. I've got a 4038 but I don't have a 44 to through into the ring.
Old 15th November 2009
  #14
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drBill's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by Michael_Joly View Post
Maybe this is an issue Dr. Bill "mic madness shootout" Pearson can settle ; )
I'm afraid I'd only cause more controversy..... You know how I am that way don't you...... heh heh

I must say that my MJ modded 205's are PHENOMENAL mics and I use them almost constantly. Along with my Gefell's, they are some of the most used mics in my 60+ mic closet. I have 2 and I really need 4, with a 5th as a spare as I cannot do without them if one were to fail.

All that said, there is something magical about the RCA's. Listening to them is like stepping into a time machine. But their price is off the hook, and as much as I'd love a few, they are way too expensive for me at this point in time when I can reach for an EQ and accomplish very close to the same thing. Especially when the chance of getting a decent working version is low. (Almost better to buy a junker for cheap and have Clarence Kane set it up.) The last 77DX I looked at went for over $3500US, and then I swore off looking.....

I trust Michael's observations about which type of chinese ribbon is closest to the 44 as I don't really know what's inside em - only what they sound like.

Let us not forget that the OP said that he wanted a mic WAY under $1k. That's important. Although there are a couple "pillbox" mics entering the market, from everything I've been able to discerne, they are basically 205's on the inside.

I think it's important to note that MJ didn't say the 205 would sound like a 44, because it won't. (At least mine don't) Michael's mods tend to go the OPPOSITE direction of what I feel RCA's sound like. He's opening up the top end and RCA's are VERY, VERY (to the point of not using them unless you want extremely vintage sounds) rolled off sounding. You notice that he says the Chinese specs often "exceed" the vintage RCA mics. Whenever I hear "exceeds", I either back off or get excited. It's all in your perspective. Exceeding the RCA specs if you want an EXACT REPLICA RCA sound is not something I'd be looking for.

If I want to record a crooner, I'd prefer an RCA 44/77, but if I'm going to mic a piano and use ribbons (my favorite), I'd much rather use a modded 205 with Lundahl. Scratchy rock vocal? 205. Guitar amp? Fathead or 121 depending on sound. Room mic for drums - no question - 205 @ chest level 5 feet in front of the kit, slightly tilted down.

Back not too many years ago, those mics (RCA's) were almost throwaways cause everyone was sick of the covered sound and excited about condensers. (We were also running tape) You could pick them up for a song. But these days everyone is after anything at all that's "vintage", and dark, and non-digital as we're mostly digital - SO, the RCA's take on a new life in the eyes of those who missed out using then the first time around who are in search of "that" sound.

I'm excited about Michael's new line of mics - especially any ribbons he designs. But unless he tells me that he's cloned an RCA and gone for that sound - rolled off, retro and covered sounding - (and he hasn't to my knowledge) I wouldn't expect his offerings to sound like a vintage RCA.

And in reality, no two RCA's even sound the same as they are mostly 50+ years old. The good thing is the RCA's take EQ very well, and you can open them up that way if you want to.

Please bear in mind that most ribbons DO have "that" distinct sound that was most notably pioneered by RCA, but when hairs start to get split (as AE's are soooooooooooo good at heh), the newer ribbons (ie: anything that's NOT RCA) diverge from that sound to some degree.

IMO, the only mics that have even ventured into RCA territory are the high end AEA's. Most decidedly nice, most decidedly NOT anywhere near or under $1k, and most decidedly new and ready for years of use.

So, if you want a 4038 clone, you can find one. If you want a royer clone, you can find one. If you want....um, nevermind, that about covers the current classics. If you want an RCA and you REALLY want that sound, I don't think the chinese mics are going to do it for you. I've been looking, and they just aren't out there. There are a lot of reasons for that, not the least being the internal baffling.

However, if you want something "similar", then by all means try a 205. They will compete with ANYTHING out there, but they sound more modern.

So, goom, how thin do you like to split hairs? heh heh heh

So many words for so little content.,,.,,,,,sorry guys.

bp
Old 15th November 2009
  #15
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drBill's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by Michael_Joly View Post
I'd love to hear a direct comparsion of a 44 and a 205. I've got a 4038 but I don't have a 44 to through into the ring.
Hmm, interesting thoughts. I can get my hands on some 44's & 77's.
Old 15th November 2009
  #16
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Karloff70's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Empty Planet View Post
No doubt! In fact, I set it up again, and for the same damn reason. Nutty.

Once in a while, just pure sound can be a delight.

Hello London!



Cheers.

lol.....hello back from London! Enjoy that sound of lush, sizeable confident sweeties. If I was as lucky as owning one, likelyhood says I would dip into the velvet sound for no reason myself too......like a wee bath. I wish that collection of emotions would reach my guts through a cheaper version, but it doesn't work that way, does it........specs and emotional reality....bit like classical physics and quantum mechanics.........I know which is THE reality for me.........which makes the real answer to the original question : none, sorry.
Old 15th November 2009
  #17
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Marik's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Michael_Joly View Post
Marik, while your comments are accurate, that's a level detail I don't believe the original poster is looking for. He wants to know what Chinese ribbon mic can get him close to the 44 sound - for way under $1000.
Well, I realize that, and my answer to the OP would be: "None!" because there is no any other mic on the market, which would bring CLOSE there... in any price range, BTW... with probably one exception--Melodium 42B, but still, the differences would still be rather obvious. Other mics can be better, worse, and/or have their own merits. Indeed, for certain applications properly modified Apex205 can be a very good performer, but the bottom line, the 44 has an unique sound of its own (and headbasket is one of the major contributions) and the Apex205 would be the last to get you there.

But I think you misread my message. All I was commenting on is your passage:

... only headbasket acoustical differences to impart minor reflection coloration differences between the classic RCA 44 and the new Chinese built "long ribbon" mics.

which is inaccurate, by any stretch, regardless of the price range. Between those there are MUCH more differences than similarities.

Best, M
Old 16th November 2009
  #18
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Quote:
Originally Posted by hgen View Post
We all appreciate your considerable experience here Michael thx!
+1 MICHAEL... YOU RULE ! thumbsup
Old 17th November 2009
  #19
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ShinyBox's Avatar
 

I'm getting Mark and Michael each a pair of boxing gloves for Xmas

Of the microphones I make, the 46MXC shares the most in characteristics with my 44BX. Which isn't in any way shape or form saying it is one.

Regards

jon
Old 17th November 2009
  #20
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Michael_Joly's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by fum View Post
I'm getting Mark and Michael each a pair of boxing gloves for Xmas ...
didn't you hear? We've kissed and made up and only do this tussle for entertainment value and Jules's advertising page view count.
Old 17th November 2009
  #21
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Marik's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by fum View Post
I'm getting Mark and Michael each a pair of boxing gloves for Xmas
Make sure to give me a set of detailed instructions how to use them (and don't mention it to Michael, so I can kick his butt) .

Best, M
Old 17th November 2009
  #22
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tapehiss's Avatar
as said above, someone empty room mentioned using the shinybox and the peluso ribbons and said they were both great mics, since they maybe great options for the op

i ask which seems to offers more in the way of classic ribbon tone, the shinybox or peluso??????????



gong,
nathan
Old 17th November 2009
  #23
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Empty Planet's Avatar
 

Hmm. Well, that's hard to say, as "classic ribbon tone" is a bit vague. There are a few classic ribbons, and they each sound different. Different tools for different jobs, I suppose.

The Peluso has some hardcore proximity effect, but its tone is quite gentle and flattering. Very thick. I think it rolls off on the top rather faster than the Shinybox I used. Mine does this really interesting euphonic thing on one of my acoustic guitars in open voicings, really thick and flattering -- but again, you can't be afraid to wade in with a good eq, because it will need it. Fortunately, ribbons usually take eq quite well.

The Shinybox, on the other hand, was a very even-sounding mic, a much more balanced tone, and would probably provide a somewhat more modern, possibly more reliable sound, whereas the Peluso was magic on some things but perhaps not what you'd want to use on everything. Jon at Shinybox offers extraordinary support; I'm sure he'd be happy to send you one to try out -- as, no doubt, Michael would as well. In fact, I bought a Fethead through Michael, and he and Meryl offered service that seemed top-notch as well. I'm not aware of any dealer that lets you try out a Peluso, but I'm not hip to all that stuff either, so that may not be right.

Hope that helps. Really, the best way of course is to hear the mics you're curious about in your own space, through your gear, recording what you like to record. I could rave all night and day about one of these mics but you might find it's not at all what you had in mind.

Best of luck with it, though!


Cheers.

Old 17th November 2009
  #24
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warhead's Avatar
 

The Shinybox 46MXL (Lundahl transformer) is a thing of beauty with a linear and open / detailed sound.

War
Old 18th November 2009
  #25
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tapehiss's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by Empty Planet View Post
Hmm. Well, that's hard to say, as "classic ribbon tone" is a bit vague. There are a few classic ribbons, and they each sound different. Different tools for different jobs, I suppose.

The Peluso has some hardcore proximity effect, but its tone is quite gentle and flattering. Very thick. I think it rolls off on the top rather faster than the Shinybox I used. Mine does this really interesting euphonic thing on one of my acoustic guitars in open voicings, really thick and flattering -- but again, you can't be afraid to wade in with a good eq, because it will need it. Fortunately, ribbons usually take eq quite well.

The Shinybox, on the other hand, was a very even-sounding mic, a much more balanced tone, and would probably provide a somewhat more modern, possibly more reliable sound, whereas the Peluso was magic on some things but perhaps not what you'd want to use on everything. Jon at Shinybox offers extraordinary support; I'm sure he'd be happy to send you one to try out -- as, no doubt, Michael would as well. In fact, I bought a Fethead through Michael, and he and Meryl offered service that seemed top-notch as well. I'm not aware of any dealer that lets you try out a Peluso, but I'm not hip to all that stuff either, so that may not be right.

Hope that helps. Really, the best way of course is to hear the mics you're curious about in your own space, through your gear, recording what you like to record. I could rave all night and day about one of these mics but you might find it's not at all what you had in mind.

Best of luck with it, though!


Cheers.

thanks alot empty planet,

that was helpful,,,,,

i am looking to invest in my first ribbon and the information you provided was quite helpful...

what im looking for (due to budget) is a great ribbon that i can still use after i upgrade to better ribbons, because i plan on getting r84's and maybe a groovetubes velo8t tube ribbon in awhile.....

but to get the job done now, i want a great ribbon for reasonable buck that doesnt become useless after upgrading....

thanks
Old 18th November 2009
  #26
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Bob Vinsick's Avatar
Warhead, I agree with you. At AES, I checked out Shinybox ribbons at their booth and the 46MXL (Lundahl transformer) beat out the others.
Old 18th November 2009
  #27
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Corran's Avatar
 

I'd like to mention the Bang & Olufsen BM-3 ribbon mic with a Stephen Sank NOS RCA ribbon.

I had one for a while before trading it for some stuff, but when it was in my possession it was just an amazing mic, and it had "that" sound to it that I hear on old jazz recordings on trumpet. I think it's kind of "under the radar" even though I've heard others compare it to a 44 (but I won't say it does or does not sound like a 44 as I've never used one).

There happens to be one on ebay cheap right now that I'm itching to buy but I just can't imagine needing it since I have the stereo B&O BM-5 ribbon anyway. But it is tempting because it was so nice sounding. A re-ribboning from Sank I think runs between $150 and $200. You might be able to buy one direct from them (proaudioheaven) for $500 or so, which is far below the hypothetical budget.
Old 8th April 2015
  #28
Thumbs up

seriously consider some less famous RCA's like the SK-46 and the Varacoustics. They will really blow you away. Varacoustics have same ribbon motor as the 77's and the SK-46 (with its huge ribbon) is much more of a 44bx little brother than the 74b junior. Those mics will totally serve up the sound. RCA all the way. You can find those mics for well under 1k. Then you can spend 300 getting a new old stock ribbon and NOS cable put on it by Stephen Sank, and you will be in the sacred realm. I got 2 sk-46's for around 800 or so by patiently sniping them on ebay (they do not show up often). Varacoustics can range from 400-1000 and have switchable patterns just like the 77! (get the Varacoustic 6203 not the 6204-which is the same mic, but high impedance. Try to hear some "good" ones that have been maintained somewhere if possible, you'll love the sound. I Have an excellent British RCA 44bx and a 77dx that have been Sanktified, but the 2 sk-46's and 2 varacoustics get just as much use. just sayin. Plus they are smaller and lighter and won't make you stressed out putting them on stands etc.

Last edited by Pauly Stax; 8th April 2015 at 06:35 PM.. Reason: typo
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