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Puffer Fish 30th July 2010 06:53 PM

Chinese ribbon mic transformer shoot out
 
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Okay, it is only two transformers that I am comparing here, but it is a shoot out.

The mics are two Nady RSM5 ribbon mics. One of the microphones has the stock Chinese transformer in it. The other microphone has a Cinemag CM-9888 in it. Both mics have sound ribbons that are appropriately tensioned.

The recordings were through my TL Audio PA-2 (modded) dual mic pre and then into my Firepod. No e.q., no compression. The two sides of the TL Audio PA-2 do sound alike. I also ran some checks through an Allen & Heath ZED 248 board, but there are no sound samples from that. I ran the signal through the board to verify some of what I was hearing via another set of reliable mic preamps.

Here are the sound samples:

On the first post I will include two rock rhythm guitar samples. They are a Rickenbacker 650D through a dimed out Fender The Twin, in case you care.

Puffer Fish 30th July 2010 06:54 PM

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Okay, here are two clean electric guitar samples. Same amp and guitar as before...

Puffer Fish 30th July 2010 06:55 PM

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And now two samples of a mono drum over head.

Puffer Fish 30th July 2010 06:56 PM

2 Attachment(s)
and lastly, a set of samples from some male vocals.

Puffer Fish 30th July 2010 07:08 PM

My studio partner and I listened back to this stuff and were surprised by what we heard. I fully expected I would like the Cinemag (pronounced like cinema and magnet = cinemag, in case you ever wondered) transformers better than the stock transformers.

The initial thing we noticed was the output between the two microphones differed by 2 ~ 5 dB. I say those numbers based upon how much I had to adjust the gain knob. The output difference between the microphones was a very consistent and predictable thing. The Cinemag transformer had slightly less output. Very interesting.

As it turns out, when listening via the Event SP6 boxes, I actually preferred the stock transformer. At least for what I really wanted to hear, that is what I preferred...

I was hearing a slightly brighter high midrange eq bump with the stock transformer. I did not really discern a whole lot of other differences (besides the already mentioned dB difference). However, listening back to the same sound samples on another set of speakers, I thought the stock transformer sounded grainy in that same eq range. mezed

I was all ready to swap the transformer BACK to the stock tranny. But now I am not sure. I think the Cinemag may be a little smoother, but I believe now that I need to go back into the studio and do some more listening. I have two other pairs of monitors I want to play these files back through and see what I think after some more time with ears on the signal.

Other folks, please post what you think about the differences between these two transformers. I would like to read what other people's impressions are regarding these sets of comparisons.

BTW--if you did not already figure it out, these sound samples pairs were recorded simultaneously, taking care to achieve equal pick up from the sound sources.

drBill 30th July 2010 08:47 PM

Never tried the Cinemag, but compared to the Lundahl, I prefered the Lundahl 90% of the time on EGtrs. thumbsup

Retinal 30th July 2010 09:43 PM

Gotta be honest, I think i prefer the stock transformer, thanks for the shootout!

dylanwissing 30th July 2010 10:28 PM

Hmmm, I'm not hearing an enormous difference myself listening through headphones. I think I prefer the Cinemags ever so slightly, but not by a large margin. I like how that one sounded a bit more on the vocal take (the esses were a little more pleasing to my ear) and I felt a little more presence on the drum take.

On a very selfish note, I'm hoping you'll swap out the stock transformer and do a shootout between the Cinemag and Lundahl on a set of drums - trying to work up the courage for a DIY swap myself on a pair of Fatheads, and curious to hear the difference before I start ripping my mics apart.

And Puffer Fish, thanks for taking the time to record and post the shootout! kfhkh

dysenterygary 30th July 2010 10:46 PM

I liked the cinemag much better on all of those except for the vocals. How did you make sure the mic placement was the same on all of the takes? On electric guitar it wasn't even a comparison IMO.

once a roadie 30th July 2010 10:59 PM

cinemag wins on everything - drums was closest call for me

Puffer Fish 31st July 2010 04:10 PM

I am NOT going to do a Lundahl shoot out, sorry! I certainly enjoy a bit of DIY and am decent with a soldering iron, but I also have a preference for recording over screwing around with parts and wiring. diddlydoo Plus I do not own any Lundahl trannies and don not plan to purchase any. I may eventually do a DIY ribbon mic with the pair of extra transformers I have from messing around with my Nady RSM5 mics. Maybe.

As for mic placement, on the guitar amp it was easy--same speaker, with the two mics pointed in at the same point of the cone from two different axis. Drums I had the two mics side by side up in the air, pulled back from the kit about three feet, but pointed down over the entire setup. For vocals, I had the microphones side by side, but both of them pivoted in toward the singer with both mics back far enough so they were receiving essentially the same thing. Perfect? Of course not! The sound can't possibly hit two different points exactly the same way, but it is very close. Plus the variations between takes were revealing the same themes. And THAT was the important thing for me, to find the general difference between the two transformers.

Puffer Fish 31st July 2010 04:13 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by dysenterygary (Post 5638512)
I liked the cinemag much better on all of those except for the vocals. How did you make sure the mic placement was the same on all of the takes? On electric guitar it wasn't even a comparison IMO.

Quote:

cinemag wins on everything - drums was closest call for me
What did you folks monitor the takes through? I am curious. Because, as I wrote earlier, at this point, having listened through two different sets of monitors, I felt differently about the two transformers in each setting. Headphones? Good studio monitors (what ones?) Computer speakers?

dysenterygary 31st July 2010 07:19 PM

I listened through my Boston computer speakers. The midrange bump on the cinemags were so much nicer to my ears than the stock transformer which sounder smaller and tinnier. Basically the cinemag sounded like it would fit right in a mix w/very little tweaking where as I would have to tweak the stock transformer a lot to basically get it to sound like the cinemag.

Puffer Fish 31st July 2010 08:07 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by dysenterygary (Post 5640998)
I listened through my Boston computer speakers. The midrange bump on the cinemags were so much nicer to my ears than the stock transformer which sounder smaller and tinnier. Basically the cinemag sounded like it would fit right in a mix w/very little tweaking where as I would have to tweak the stock transformer a lot to basically get it to sound like the cinemag.

Like I had said, I need to do some more listening. I do not regret purchasing the Cinemag transformers and dropping the one in thus far. It was a relatively simple task on a late winter afternoon when I had nothing else going on. I just used that mic for a bunch of electric guitar tracking and some vocals and it certainly worked well in that setting.

I want to go back and listen to the Cinemag tracks and try tweaking the eq and listen to how well the track handles the tonal changes. I like a little more high mids on some things than what the Cinemag was giving me, but I do think the Cinemag transformer produced a smoother sound. That sort of makes sense in that the voltage spikes were probably better controlled via the Cinemag transformer.

...more listening required.

M.S.P. 1st August 2010 04:27 PM

After a quick listen, I wouldnt say either are better, just different.

Stitch333 1st August 2010 04:39 PM

Depending on what parts are in circuit on the way to the transformer,
just swapping out the transformer may not produce as large a difference as one might hope. Crappy mylars/polys and low temp, cheap bipolars do nothing but degrade, smear and haze audio signals.

Just a thought...

Puffer Fish 1st August 2010 07:14 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Stitch333 (Post 5643174)
Depending on what parts are in circuit on the way to the transformer,
just swapping out the transformer may not produce as large a difference as one might hope. Crappy mylars/polys and low temp, cheap bipolars do nothing but degrade, smear and haze audio signals.

Just a thought...

With passive ribbon microphones there is nothing in the circuit except the transformer and the ribbon motor.

Stitch333 1st August 2010 07:51 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Puffer Fish (Post 5643541)
With passive ribbon microphones there is nothing in the circuit except the transformer and the ribbon motor.

You are right!

I need to brush up on my Ribbon mic designs..
Its a shame you don't want to try other transformers.
I've noticed a big difference in the different manufacturers and the design and material use vs. tone.

Anyways, good shootout!

Cheers

Puffer Fish 1st August 2010 08:54 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Stitch333 (Post 5643639)
You are right!

I need to brush up on my Ribbon mic designs..
Its a shame you don't want to try other transformers.
I've noticed a big difference in the different manufacturers and the design and material use vs. tone.

Anyways, good shootout!

Cheers

I know, it would be very enlightening to load the mics with other transformers and listen to the difference. But honestly, when I get into the studio, I hate to waste time on stuff like this when I could be producing real recordings. I just have so little time to get in there. shiee

Plus to do a similar shoot out, I'd need another mic to load it with a Lundahl so I could compare all three transformers on the same sound source recorded at the same time. As for the Edcor transformers, what I read and heard regarding those trannies compared to the Cinemags and Lundahls did not seem like it was worth the effort.

As far as I know, those are the only games in town. There MIGHT be something else out there, but I have not been able to easily find any other ribbon mic transformer manufacturers. Maybe someone will pipe in here and share some other manufacturers with us. howdy

dysenterygary 1st August 2010 08:59 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Stitch333 (Post 5643639)
You are right!

I need to brush up on my Ribbon mic designs..
Its a shame you don't want to try other transformers.
I've noticed a big difference in the different manufacturers and the design and material use vs. tone.

Anyways, good shootout!

Cheers

If you search there is a site somewhere that has clips of the lundahl vs stock and edcor vs lundahl. The lundahl was the best but not by much, the cinemags are obviously (imo) much better over stock so this thread helped me make my decision. Thanks for posting these clips. Now the ultimate shootout will be a modded nady vs an r121. Unfortunately people that own nadys don't seem to own royer's and vice versa!

tapehiss 1st August 2010 10:33 PM

I wouldn't worry much about trying other transformers...


Like DysenteryGary, I thought the Cinemag sounded much better, and not in a small way... However, on vocals, I still liked the Cinemag, but the difference was not as noticeable...

The difference was extreme on guitars, and the sound was much more refined with the Cinemag...

It would be no question if these were my mics....

Puffer Fish 1st August 2010 10:41 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by dysenterygary (Post 5643805)
If you search there is a site somewhere that has clips of the lundahl vs stock and edcor vs lundahl. The lundahl was the best but not by much, the cinemags are obviously (imo) much better over stock so this thread helped me make my decision. Thanks for posting these clips. Now the ultimate shootout will be a modded nady vs an r121. Unfortunately people that own nadys don't seem to own royer's and vice versa!

Yeah, as for that Royer VS Nady shootout... not on my budget! gooof Maybe someday I'll find that one of my colleagues in the area has a Royer 121 and then we can check it out. Until then... this is all I've got.

I am pleased to hear that this shoot out was helpful for you. That is the reason why I bothered. I was pretty certain there were other folks out there who would like to know.

SkunkWorks 2nd August 2010 11:37 PM

There's a comparison on Cascade's website of the Fathead with stock vs. Lundahl tranny (because they offer both configurations) and the difference is not subtle. The Lundahl smokes the stock on distorted guitar. It's too bad you're not willing to try it. I'll probably be ordering a Lundahl from K & K Audio for my Fathead II this week.

... by the way I was surprised that I didn't prefer the Cinemags on most of those clips.

captainate 2nd August 2010 11:40 PM

I liked stock better on most of the sources, but the true champion here is whoever wrote those lyrics!!!

Puffer Fish 3rd August 2010 12:01 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by captainate (Post 5647306)
I liked stock better on most of the sources, but the true champion here is whoever wrote those lyrics!!!

Ahhh, that was me, and me, and me... except for the drums. I figured, what better song to post than one I have the copyright for. I am glad you like the lyrics. If you have an interest, I'd send you an MP3 of the song. let me know. kfhkh

I am learning that the stock versus Cinemag transformer is highly dependent upon what monitors the signal is coming through. This has been a very enlightening experience thus far.

Puffer Fish 3rd August 2010 12:02 AM

oh, the song is called "File Suit" for anyone who cares.

Puffer Fish 6th August 2010 12:29 PM

What transformer to buy...
 
I should have said this when I made the post... The transformer from Cinemag you should get for a Nady RSM4/5 or any other lollipop style ribbon mic is the UNSHIELDED version of the CM-9888. The shielded version WILL NOT FIT into the small diameter shaft of the NADY RSM5 (or RSM4). Just a word of caution so you do not need to send stuff back through the mail, like I had to do. shiee

monkeyxx 23rd August 2010 11:36 PM

man, I can't believe how much better the Cinemag sounds compared to the stock microphone! I'll be doing this soon for myself. need some of that ribbon sound, it's soooo smoooooth!

you should post up two mixes! one with all the stock tracks together, and one with all the cinemag tracks, for a "mix" comparison of the two

J.Hunter 11th January 2011 07:28 PM

thanks for the shootout. i'm now having second thoughts about doing a tranny swap. listening through my $9 earphones, i could not hear a difference with the drums and guitar recordings. however i prefer the vocals on the cinemag. it sounds richer with a bit of ring to it. the stock sounds a little flat and dull. but the question is... do i really need to swap out the trannies or is this something i can fix with a little eq maybe? or pantheon? again complete noob here. will listen again later with my $5 at30 headphones! ;) thanks again.

Trakworx 11th January 2011 07:45 PM

I had a similar experience when comparing the Fat Head II with stock vs. Lundahl X-formers on a bass cab. I preferred the stock because it had a more natural-sounding midrange. The Lundahl seemed to hype the low end at the expense of the mids. I also compared both against my R-121 and the stock FH II sounded more like the Royer.

Perhaps it is best to use the transformer that the mic was originally designed for...

.