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Marshall Simmons 30th December 2002 10:07 AM

AEA R84 ribbon mic review
Hi there.

Over the weekend i recieved my new R84 mic and i got to test it on a couple of sources. I figured yall might be interesteded in what i found.

First of all, I don't have great preamps (mackie 24x8) and my ward beck pre;s haven't come in yet. But, all of the mics i used went through the mackie, so it does have a good basis.

Overall i enjoyed the microphone. AEA has done a great job packaging the mic, with a hard foam, cloth covered flight case, and a softer foam case. The mic itself has a built in 6ft mogami xlr cable, and a yolk stand adapter. The biggest problem i noticed with the yolk adapter is that because its not shock mounted, floor vibrations and foot tapping were very prevalent. I'll have to call AEA to see what my options are regarding this.

Now to the sound

I was recording a New metal artist who was actually a pretty decent guitarist. I spent a hour or two setting up the mics around the amp rig and used no eq directly to hard disk through nuendo at 24/44.1

I ended up using a pair of schoeps small condensers about 4 feet back in a spaced omni setup and the ribbon was about 3 feet back from the amp in the center of those mics (think of it as a semi-decca tree setup) The differences between the two mics were quite apparent. The schoeps produced a very clear reproduction, with strong transients and a full range sound that was pretty tonally balanced to what i was hearing in the room. The R84 on the other had was a much darker sound, smoothing out the transients and enriching the bottom end. The upper midrange (800-2k ish) seemed a bit scooped as well. Using all of these mics in the mix provided a great large sound. I panned the omni's hard left/right and the ribbon dead center.

The other thing i tried the ribbon mic on was his vocal. He had a very soft quality to his voice, very breathy and melodic (actually a nice contrast to the staccato guitar track)

The first thing i noticed when i put the mic up was the lack of high end, especially compared to the ksm32 that i also tried. I added a small boost to the high shelf on the mackie eq and everything was great (about 3db at 12k and up)

The mic also exhibited a very strong proximity effect, which was nice to beable to really work the mic for differnt parts of songs. The proximity effect wasn't a problem when the vocalist was about a a foot and a half away from the mic. The highs were still retained and the quality was great. I think that that high mid scoop really helped out in this regard because i'm used to cutting a bit of 800-1k in vocalsits.

The mic needed quite a bit of gain go get usable levels in the daw. I had the input gain near maximum and the fader at unity. The nice thing was that by backing off the gain a bit, the noise was exponentially reduced. I really didn't notice an overall problem with noise with this mic.

I'm really interested in trying this mic on acoustic guitar due to the reduced highs and the proximity effect. I think combing this with the schoeps will give an excellent blended stereo sound. Also i'm already thinking trying it on drums as well, although that would require another one for overheads. Maybe i can try in on front of kit, and use the schoeps for the overheads.

I just thought you might be intersted. I feel very priviledged to have on of the first off of the production line (number 9! woohoo)

I feel like i have a great rounded collection of mics to work with now (57, 421, RE20, a pair of ksm32, a pair of schopes condensers, and the R84)
Now i can start working on compressors and preamps

Thanks to wes dooley and crew at aea. They were very helpful

Marshall Simmons

Marshall Simmons 2nd January 2003 11:00 AM

wow--- i'm surprised noone cared about this at all

Curious G 2nd January 2003 03:38 PM

Is the R84 based on a vintage RCA design? Didn't AEA start by repairing old RCA's and then issue reproductions? I worked at a studio that had some old RCA 44's and 77's... instant Bing Crosby!

It would be interesting to know where the AEA's stand compared to other ribbons that I hear about more (namely Beyer, Royer, Coles and RCA etc...) and specifically each ribbons abilities to do something special. For instance the Royer (championed by Jules and others on this board) is pretty well known for handling high spl gtr without damaging the ribbon.

Happy New Year Marshall, and thanks for the review!

David R. 2nd January 2003 06:37 PM

Marshall, the sound you described is that of most ribbon mics. Darker, low gain, proximity.

I am very surprised you were able to get enough gain using the Mackie pre's.

Having met Wes and knowing his reputation, I am curious to hear how they compare and differ from the RCA 74 which I believe is what he based the AEA 84 on.

Marshall Simmons 3rd January 2003 09:44 AM

I had it running on a guitar at about 120spl and it worked great (of course i had it about 3-4 feet back, but still)

The mic is supposed to be based of of the 44 ribbon design and the 77 body... I can't wait to hear other reviews of it too.... It was VERY detailed tho--- something i hear is different from most ribbons. Even though the high end seemed shelfed a bit, there was alot of detail in that upper range when boosted.


bopmachine 3rd January 2003 10:47 AM

Regarding the mackie pre's and ribbon mics low gain in general - It's not really an issue for most things. In my early days I regularly used a 1604 and RCA 44BX to record acoutsic bass (no di, no amp). I've even used it to record finger picking guitar (to lesser success, but passable). I think people tend to take the issue out of porportion. It's kinda like the noise issue on the RNP. It's not really an issue until you get to very quite things. Heck in these days of multi-trakking its even less of an issue!

I will say this - a good pre with some good iron does make a sig difference though!

David R. 3rd January 2003 06:34 PM

Jose, when I picked up my first ribbon mic all I had was a Mackie 8-buss. I could barely get a signal from the mic.

I am not a Mackie basher, I still use my 32x8 every day. From my experience, they do not have enough gain for use with ribbon mics.

bopmachine 3rd January 2003 07:42 PM

Really? Maybe it needs a new ribbon? I just tried my RCA 44, 77 and WE 639 as well as my Beyer m500 (tracking some horns and doublebass at the moment, so had them setup!) all with the 1604 and seemed fine? definatley enough for guitar or vox.

or maybe its the mic pre added a charecter to the ribbon thats unacceptable? I will say that my RCA pres, and even my SPL pre sounds LOADS better, clearer whatever!!!

bopmachine 7th January 2003 04:58 PM

Anyone interested in hearing some double bass (pizz ammiced with the following through the following:

WE 639
STC 4038
Could also throw in a Beyer 500

Mackie 1604
SPL Channel One
Altec 1567
Ampex MX10
Chilton Mixer

If anyone is interested I'll post some very small (like 30 seconds mono) wav files somewhere.

Dave Martin 7th January 2003 09:30 PM

If you get the chance, you should also try a Royer - I recorded Byron House's bass last month, and he brought a Royer with him. It smoked my RCA 77DX.

Drupoet 17th August 2014 02:58 PM

I have a Royer R121 , Beyer M-160 & AEA R84 & run them thry my AEA RPQ Pre Amp.........LOVE EM ALL !!