I had been looking at several microphone options especially in the budget price bracket which I equate with being about $600 or less. I'm a female with a contra alto voice and was looking for a darker mic with clarity that might sound good on both my vocals and an acoustic guitar.
After reading Sound on Sounds ribbon mic shoot out. It really is no surprise that the Royer and the Coles consistently came out on top in each category but the surprise was this little (not so little in size though) budget mic from Golden Age Projects. Fortunately they tried a few of the microphones from Golden Age but the top performer seemed to be the MKII Active Ribbon which costs a little over $200 new. With little lose I ordered.
I haven't tried the more expensive mics in this category but I can say that I am very pleased particularly considering the cost. But regardless of the price the mic sounds really good. Being a ribbon it is a tad darker but I don't find I have to EQ or de-ess much which is what I was hoping. True to the review I find it smooth and with a good presence. I have not compared this mic through different pre amps but I am running it through an A Designs Pacifica. Anyway it is definitely a keeper.
Golden Age Project delivers another killer piece of studio gear at an incredible price & sound quality....
A few years ago while i was the house engineer at a residential UK studio - I had the privilege of assisting a session with Jack Douglas and Shelly Yakus at the helm (recording a rock band called Cat the Dog) and we had the opportunity to use the range of GA ribbon mics of which this and the R2 were the stand out winners..(See separate review of R2) On everything from drums to vocals and it seemed there wasn't an instrument or sound it couldn't do justice to! Also capable of handling insanely loud sound sources (165dB SPL!!!!!) we used this Tube Ribbon (albeit with a pop shield to protect from air blasts) INSIDE a kick drum with the front head off and WOW what a sound!!! Thick and tubby (but in a really nice tight way) and due to the fig8 pickup, capable of getting beater and shell sound in one go.. I can't actually remember if we used anything else on the kick... later on doing backing vocals and percussion the R1 was awesome with dual pop shields front and back) with one band member either side... very cool indeed...
Jack was so impressed with the mics that at the end of the session he bought the R1 Tube and a pair of the R2's!!! - can't get a better testimonial that that!!! On other sessions i used another R1 Tube as a mono drum room mic, on an upright Acoustic Bass and in front of a guitar amp - always delivering fantastic lifelike results and definitely worth a place in any mic locker - the only caveat is - a few years later, that the build quality isn't quite as good as the sound quality and - but given that its paid me back more than what i paid for it i'm not complaining at all!!!
Having used all of the original ribbon mics that GA makes - this one, while not may fave - still would find a place in the locker due to its natural ability to tame hi freq sounds - while not sounding overly dark and muffled and coupled with the active electronics and needing phantom power means that its a lot less finnicky when it comes to preamps..
The example which springs to mind is when it beat out a MUCH more expensive mic (Brauner VM1) - and while not overly fair test/comparison to the brauner - it shows that it's the mic that makes all the difference in any given situation.. The female singer in question had quite a naturally bright voice, which coupled with the Brauner (normally the go to mic for "posh" vocal sounds) was just too bright and fizzy and definitely NOT what we were looking for... changed over to the R1 Active, same everything else in the vocal chain resulted in a perfect tone that still had plenty enough hi-end in the sound but also without needing de-essing.. Its other main use on sessions was for drum room mic (while the studio's Royer 121's were in use on the guitar cabs) and using a pair in a Blumlein configuration about eight feet away gave a really nice wide big sound that sounded great on its own, but but even better when abused with a bit of distressor action!!!
Overall - although i still prefer the R1 Tube Ribbon for its combo of tubes and transformers and the extra density to the sound that brings, but the R1 Active is still a solid performer..
So I bought 2 R1's because why not, they are 189 each. I wanted some ribbons that I could use in situations where I would be nervous using other ribbons, like 6 inches off the front of a BD or above the bass drum pointed down toward the shell. I have gotten some use out of them and I am pleased with them. The in front of the bass drum (45% downward angle) performance is stellar. I put it in front of a 26" BD with a full resonant head tuned slightly high and not muffled. What I got was nothing short of Massive. Below 100hz was so clean and so much more usable than my usual set up (SM7 and a Subkick). I didn't have to add any bass what so ever, which I normally do with an EQ1A. It isn't as fast or as articulate a setup as my usual but the bass is so thick and round that it is definitely my new go to for any songs with slower tempos and nice deep thud over a punchy rock kick are needed. I did muffle the drum and put it through a transient shaper and I was really surprised how great it performed, but is still isn't quite as punchy as I would like for certain things. I have used them as ambient mics, but my room isn't big enough to do a figure 8 any justice in this role. I have used them in Glen John's config and they were really good. Very nice picture and a big round woolly sound. Above my snare is treated really well so the comb filtering wasn't an issue on the top mic. I haven't gotten to a guitar amp with them, but with how they have performed so far I think they would do great paired with a brighter dynamic, like a beyerdynamic m201.
So, at the price point, you really can't g wrong. Thick ribbon sound and if the errant thrown stick hits it and kills it, I wont cry myself to sleep for the next 3 to 5 years.