RCA Type 77-DX by Paul Ryan
I've had other ribbons, but the RCA 77DX is at a totally different level from those. It's not even close. I've had it now for a dozen sessions over a few months used it in various roles, and hopefully am able to offer a few observations.
For my material (acoustic country/bluegrass) it really shines on pitchy instruments like banjo and mandolin. From here on I expect it will be used as a go-to on these, or at least auditioned pre-session. On banjo for example the mic has a way of "taming" the sound so the instrument has great weight and presence-even at the highest ranges. Its not easy to make a banjo fretted at the end of the neck sound thick and rich, but the 77 does that. On acoustic guitar and dobro it is a good mic, but possibly I'd have others able to do an equal or better job there. Upright bass, an absolute knockout. I have other mics known as being real good upright mics, but they dont touch the 77 if you place it correctly. I'd knew it would be good there, but it really is impressive 2 feet off the floor aimed at low bout and especially mixed with a Neumann KM150 on the neck. But what really surprised me was how good it sounds on vocals. I knew it would be warm but honestly did not anticipate it being so crystal clear-both male and female. On one male vocal we recorded with the 77 and a Neumann TLM49, and the combination was really cool, and very large. The 77 I placed a bit farther back and the combination was 5-stars, big, round, and clear.
In terms of settings, figure 8 or "bi-directional" gets most use, however the L3 setting is good too-slightly more clarity, slightly less warmth. And for preamps it likes the Grace. I have more expensive pre's but the more I use this mic, the more it seems to sound best with the uncolored nature of the Grace. Maybe that's the mic's beauty-its natural sound tends to do better without any help, not sure. Finally a lot has been written about it's low output and yes, you will need a pre with enough room, or a cloudlifter. However I noticed that on banjo, the signal was equal to any other mic at 2 feet-nice big wave forms. On less aggressive instruments like acoustic guitar, even 6 inches away though, you were reaching for the gain dials pretty quick.
I rate the mic as 4's and 5's except for ease of use. Its heavy and needs a real solid stand, plus if you change polar patterns you need to have a small screwdriver handy.
If you have the coins and want a really good mic, something different, consider the RCA 77DX. Its a classic ribbon, will prove to be a great studio tool, and should serve as a good long term investment.