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sE Rupert Neve RNR1 Active Ribbon

sE Electronics RNR1

4.65 4.65 out of 5, based on 7 Reviews

A mic which is surprisingly limited in application, but where it does shine it's the pick of the bunch.


29th December 2011

sE Electronics RNR1 by Yellowbears

  • Sound Quality 5 out of 5
  • Ease of use 5 out of 5
  • Features 4 out of 5
  • Bang for buck 4 out of 5
  • Overall: 4.5
sE Rupert Neve RNR1 Active Ribbon

What happens when an old master of circuit technology and an ambitious studio microphone manufacturer join forces to share their knowledge?

In the case of Rupert Neve and Siwei Zou an extraordinary ribbon microphone that sets a new benchmark for performance and active microphone circuitry.

Last week me and my friend got the chance to test the first mic designed by Rupert Neve in our little studio: the sE Electronics RNR-1. I'm sorry if my English is not perfect, I'll try my best and I hope it won't stop you from reading on!

Let's take a look at the microphone. Oh yeees! It is an eye-catcher. The unusual long design reminds me of the silhouette of the Shanghai Business Towers. The mic is very well built, it should be very resistant against scratches! A strong stand will be necessary, especially for boom operation. This weight is a mark of quality- powerful magnets, good casing( RF protection) and two transformers should never result in low mass.

The newer ribbon mics are usually trying to compensate the same disadvantages, a low output and their mechanical sensibility, by different approaches. However the frequency response rapidly drops at about 10-15kHz. The reason is that the output level will be too soft and will be covered by the noise floor of the mic. So the goal of the creators of the RNR-1 was to develop the first ribbon mic that reproduces the whole available human frequency range linearly.

Because of the high output the RNR-1 doesn't have any special provisions for the preamp. Of course every mic profits of a good preamp, but because even low signals are "transformed" into a lot of output voltage, even the preamps in the fireface 800, as an Avalon 737-Channel Strip gave comparable results. In both tests the result were amazing: An openness and transparency that was never heard before when recording with ribbon mics, but still keeping the typical ribbon mic sound! Immediately the mic convinced us for vocal recordings! In the higher frequency range the vocals are reproduced perfectly straight away. S-Sounds are very smooth and discreet- No need for a De-esser! As opposed to other ribbon mics the RNR-1 served us with a more plastic and natural Top-End! Just great! The integrated High-Pass-Filter was a nice help to avoid too much bass. Anyhow a Pop-Filter and an exact adjustment of the mic shouldn't be missed.
What really surprised us is when we recorded an acoustic guitar. In the past this was a " banned "area for ribbon mics. The very low noise floor with the extended high range gave the possibility to reproduce fantastic results: It sounded so natural, even better than with a condenser mic! This is probably a real secret for all guitar players and engineers.
This response is consistent across all sources: drums, electric guitar, bass guitar, voice, harmonium and upright piano. The mid-range has the classic smoothness and clarity for which ribbon mics are renowned!

Summary:

The sE Electronics RNR-1 fulfills all ribbon-mic-expectations. In terms of high frequency definition the RNR-1 outshines all other ribbon mics. Because of this characteristic the mic is usable for everything! It gives voice and instruments an own, smoky character, with a nice body! This mic is really a hot recommendation. The only minus point this mic gets is, that it is relatively expensive. If I had enough money, I would grab myself one for sure; I hope I can do so in the near future!

Thank you very much for reading, I hope you liked it!

All the best from Switzerland

Oliver

4th January 2012

sE Electronics RNR1 by dsykut

  • Sound Quality 5 out of 5
  • Ease of use 4 out of 5
  • Features 4 out of 5
  • Bang for buck 4 out of 5
  • Overall: 4.25
sE Rupert Neve RNR1 Active Ribbon

I too had the opportunity to spend time with this impressive new mic, the RNR1 from Se. Going in I had very high expectations..I had previously purchased (and reviewed here) a pair of the RN17's, the small diaphragm condensors from the SE/Neve lineup. The 17's had exceeded my expectations, and the rep from Fingerprint Audio (USA distributor) had me salavating at what the RNR1 might offer...a great sounding ribbon mic with all the characteristics we know and love...PLUS great, open, shimmery high end response. Could it deliver?

The previous posting says it nicely....this is a great sounding microphone all around. But I wanted to add a few specifics from my trials.

I'm a big proponent of traditional stereo microphone techniques....M/S, Blumlein, you name it I've probably used it and will use it again. Some reflections on the RNR1 used in this way.....

1)In M/S array with a LDC tube microphone....recording a live concert, used to capture a string quartet, recorded via the a Grace M201 w/ AD option. This was one of my first runs with the mic, and I certainly wasn't used to it's frequency response yet. But it was hard to tell the difference, monitoring pre MS summing between the tube LDC and the RNR1....LDC wasn't particularly high end, a Sterling ST69 tube multi-pattern. This was disconcerting for a few reasons...1)the sterling has a somewhat audible noise floor, suggesting that maybe the RNR isn't quite so quiet? 2) The character and detail between the two wasn't all that different...certainly not what I expected puting a high end, big price tag ribbon against a $500 condensor.

2)In blumlein, coincident figure of 8's.....this is where the units really shines. I had two demo models, and set them up twice...solo acoustic guitar and solo cello. I had to admit some skepticism moving into this part of the test after the string quartet experience. On the noise floor issue....well, the noise floor wasn't there this time, even when compared to my Rn17's which run at relatively high gain because of their immense head room. My sense is that the null points in the pattern are not entirely null, and during the live performance i was catching an HVAC vent that I hadn't noticed while setting up. In the solo situations, working in a pair, the mics were awesome. The solo acoustic player showed influences of Phil Keaggy and some strong fingerstyle chops, stylistically adding in finger percussion on the instrument's top, harmonics, etc....the signals from the mics reflected all very well, and I found myself greatful for the extra top end...the reproduction of the harmonics was well balanced, had no stridency, and was detailed. The cello recording, after some finesse on the positioning, was equally impressive. I got a sense of the complete picture of the performance, a nice mix of the resonant parts of the cello sound mixed with bow noise.

Not related to stereo usage...

1)These mics sound great, but are not easy. What I experienced was that they were very subject to their placement. I might almost call them finecky. Out of the sweet spot, which my first attempts in using them apparently were, they were disappointing. You have to spend some time and find the right spot for them...it's like focusing a camera, it's obvious when the lense is dialed in properly. It's interesting to note that I was also testing out SE's 4400a's and had a very similar experience....the mics just seem to be very particular in their positioning.

2)I had chosen my Grace preamp for the test precisely because it is neutral, transparent, and musically detailed...it also has a ribbon mode, not needed here because the RNR1's are active. What surprised me is that I enjoyed the sound via the grace, however found the results when using a preamp with some color to be far better. Units tried here included a Neve 5024 and a UA 6176. Running the mics throuhg something with a little more attitude definitely brings out the best in them, brings them to life. They spent most of the week patched to pre's other than my grace after making this discovery.

3)Features...the fit and finish is what I've come to expect from SE...these are build substantially, the packaging (flight case, wood display box, etc) is actually over built. Where I hesitate to post this as a solid 9 is the shock mount. It might have been that the demo units I used had been through many hands and perhaps mistreated, but i found threading the mics onto the shockount to be less than easy. Taking a look it didn't look as if the threads on either had been cross thread or mangled in any way, so I have some reservations about the machining in this small but important detail. At the pricepoint I'd like to see a nice build on the shockmount over all, a feeling i had regarding the include shockmount from the Rn17's as well. The matte black is a nice touch for low visibility appilications (live recording, film, theater, etc) but the metal of the mounts themselves doesn't give me a sense of high end the way something from Neumann or korby or other top shelf makers does.

All in all, this is a great product and i find i'm really splitting hairs and offering observations to help a potential purchaser, not to discourage them. I've concluded after spending a week with the RNR1's I'm certain to add one if not two to my mic cabinet. They're certainly something you have to adjust your expectations of.....it's not going to sound like a Royer or an AEA or a Coles....but it's definitely a ribbon sounding mic...just minus the need to bump the high end or augment with a second mic to catch the HF you always missed with one.

Worth the price....it's steep, but having played with these any other ribbons, you get what you pay for. If SE would address the shockmount question i'd give this a qualified 10.

3rd February 2012

sE Electronics RNR1 by TonyD

  • Sound Quality 4 out of 5
  • Ease of use 5 out of 5
  • Features 4 out of 5
  • Bang for buck 4 out of 5
  • Overall: 4.25
sE Rupert Neve RNR1 Active Ribbon

I first heard about the sE Rupert Neve RNR1 some years ago in TapeOp magazine while I was working as an assistant. Of course I had heard the name 'Neve' bandied about, but the studio was my first exposure first-hand to Neve design gear (the studio I was employed by owned an old AMEK G2520 whose preamps and EQ sections are of Neve design). Since then I have always associated Neve with the kind of sound character I adore - larger-than-life, round and fat, smooth and slightly saturated. So when I heard Mr Neve was moving into microphone design, I could barely contain my excitement.

I received my RNR1 in April of last year. The first thing that struck me is how beautifully made the microphone (and its packaging) is. The flight case is sturdy and contains a beautiful wooden microphone box, the shockmount and documentation. The microphone itself is surprisingly heavy and requires a good strong mic stand, though it feels satisfyingly sturdy and tightly machined for it. The rubberised black finish is an interesting touch and almost every client remarks on how striking it looks!

So far so good. One of my favourite applications for ribbon microphones has always been as a drum overhead, so the first place I put this mic up was here. My main stereo overheads were AKG C414EBs (with CK12 capsules) while the RNR1 was placed directly in between as a mono flavour to blend and add weight to the centre image.

First of all, I can safely say I was disappointed in this application. On listening to the microphone itself in solo it seemed to me to be rather thin-sounding, congested in the midrange, and realistic in the most unflattering and cold way; it didn't add punch or vibrancy, either, to the drum mix when blended with the rest of the microphones, but added a boxiness around the 300-500Hz region that meant it wasn't used in the mix at all. The preamp used was an Audient ASP8024 onboard desk pre.

The next application was for a female vocal, having seen the Sonic Circus video using it in a male vocal role. Here, again, I was a little disappointed. For the most part the tonal balancing was suitable, and the dual-transformer topology of the electronics did indeed impart a more 'condenser-esque' quality to the high frequencies as the marketing bumf has boasted. It took to EQ and compression well, but I found that the upper mids, especially between the 1.5kHz and 5kHz marks, were incredibly 'peaky' and resonant. An entire 7-band Digi EQIII plug was used just to tame these incessant peaks. Admittedly, the vocal talent is known for her slightly nasal quality, so it wasn't necessarily the best microphone to use here, but I was surprised at these peaks, given the fact that an archetypal ribbon microphone is smooth in its midrange and HF response. The preamp used was a Focusrite ISA430 mkII.

A role where I tend always to favour a ribbon mic is on electric guitar cabinets, so here's where I headed next. My mic of choice here is an AEA, either an R92 or R84, so these were my benchmark to test against. Here, the RNR1 really, really shines. The instant I opened up the channel (again, an Audient ASP8024 preamp used here) I was smiling at the smoothness of the tone. At once it was both present and sparkling without being harsh, detailed and punchy in the midrange and with a gorgeous depth in the low end. I immediately put up an AEA R84 beside to compare the two directly, and found that while both had great tones, the RNR1 was rather brighter and took less EQ to sit in my rock mix. I didn't feel the need to add a dynamic for 'bite' as I usually would do if using the AEA as I could EQ the RNR1 and get everything I needed.

Another area where the RNR1 really shone was on grand piano. My go-to for pop piano is a stereo pair of Earthworks TK30s, for a wide, mid-scooped mix-ready piano tone. The Yamaha G1 I was recording is rather dark so I favour brighter microphones here. However, since the track was to feature piano as the main instrument, the midrange felt a little anaemic so I slung up the RNR1 as a third mic, positioned directly over the soundboard holes pointing downward, at a distance of roughly 10". Here, blending in the microphone with the Earthworks pair was an absolute revelation. In solo it sounded as described on drums - mid-heavy, a little thin. But when blended with the Earthworks it filled in the midrange hole in the most perfect way and became by far and away the best piano sound I've produced in my career. The depth and smoothness that the mic added to the sound was astounding. (Mic pre - onboard Neve VR60).

One thing I had ached to try since receiving mine was to use it in stereo. I'm a huge fan of the Blumlein stereo technique, and in early December I was able to try thanks to a client endorsed by sE. Here the RNR1s were used for the saxophone with the saxophonist stood in the centre of the image. As soon as the mics were opened on the console (again, a Neve VR60 using onboard pres), the entire control room took notice. With eyes closed, it really seemed that the player was stood on the meter bridge! The realism, depth, tonal characteristic and image of the pair was truly unparalleled; again, like nothing I've heard in my career before. No EQ or compression required here! I was, and still am, absolutely astounded at the sound produced. The mic is now my go-to for brass and woodwind instruments as well as guitar cabinets.

In all, then, the RNR1 is something of a fickle beast; it is either the perfect choice or the perfect opposite. It defied everything I felt about ribbon mics. I have found myself thinking of it as a 'deep, unhyped capacitor mic' rather than a ribbon and since then I have found myself using it in more appropriate applications than I first thought would suit it. For a microphone which is fairly limited in application, the price tag is rather hefty (though they have come down in price in recent months since I first received mine for £1800), hence my grading of a 7 for 'bang-for-buck'. I keep bouncing between wanting to sell it (it was listed on the Classifieds section for a few weeks!) and absolutely adoring what it does. Seemingly, it redeems itself every time.

Audio files are available on request.

26th February 2012

sE Electronics RNR1 by rooster1

  • Sound Quality 5 out of 5
  • Ease of use 5 out of 5
  • Features 4 out of 5
  • Bang for buck 4 out of 5
  • Overall: 4.5
sE Rupert Neve RNR1 Active Ribbon

I've personally always thought SE products were fantastic bang for the buck (starting my experience with an early pair of SE 2's). They never struck me as just another Neumann knock off as so many of the Chinese mic companies do. When I heard about the collaboration with Rupert Neve I couldn't wait to get my hands on one of these ribbons to try it out. With Rupert's electronics on board the theory was that it would eliminate the age old problem of the high end roll off normally associated with ribbons. On paper this seemed to be the perfect combination to me so I ordered one up as soon as they came available to the public and I've never regretted it for a second.
The RNR 1 arrived in a beautiful, extremely solid feeling metal briefcase which housed the unique shock mount and a wooden box which contained the mic itself. Everything is 1st class on this mic and the packaging is definitely no exception. Well protected and screams pro quality gear.
The shock mount has a rubberized kind of feel to the coating and is extremely heavy duty and solid feeling. This is necessary as the RNR 1 is a HEAVY microphone. Your average, good quality stage boom stand isn't a viable option with this mic, you need to either use a straight stand or something with a fairly heavy counter weight.
This mic does very little in the way of coloration - it's just ridiculously natural sounding (as a good ribbon mic should be) so if you feed good, clean signal in to it you shouldn't be disappointed with the output. I pair this up with my Avalon 2022 and it produces just beautiful sounding, pristine recordings. The natural warmth and depth of this amazing microphone makes everything sit in the mix so nicely to my ears. It's definitely my go-to mic for vocals and acoustic guitar. It also works great as a room mic and I've seriously considered buying a second one for stereo pairing. The mic has held up very well over the past few years and has seen quite a bit of use. The only problem I've ever had was one of the screws falling out when I first received it but a simple fix.
In my opinion the high price tag of this microphone is well justified and let's be honest, anything that Rupert attaches his name to will automatically have a hefty price increase but I've never complained once about the cost. If this collaboration had have occurred with another (say European) manufacturer I'm sure you would've been looking at something several times the cost of the RNR 1 so really it's a bargain.lol I've waited quite literally for years for the release of the pencil mic's so now that the RN 17 is out I'm just socking away cash for a stereo pair of these....

7th April 2012

sE Electronics RNR1 by Ripple Q

  • Sound Quality 5 out of 5
  • Ease of use 5 out of 5
  • Features 5 out of 5
  • Bang for buck 5 out of 5
  • Overall: 5
sE Rupert Neve RNR1 Active Ribbon

Mr. Neve's collaboration resulted in a great microphone, which requires a great vocalist.
It hears everything and reproduces everything... some vocalists may need a warmer sound - as I doubt, that there is 'one' capture that will do everything and be all things, for all recordists.

It is a piece of amazing artwork that inspite of its huge physical size, definitely makes a statement in the studio. The engineering of the body and shockmount is perfect.

Bring up the horns as this excels on brass - wow.

Yes, it is expensive - but, so is good Scotch.

6th March 2014

sE Electronics RNR1 by Ichabod

  • Sound Quality 5 out of 5
  • Ease of use 5 out of 5
  • Features 5 out of 5
  • Bang for buck 5 out of 5
  • Overall: 5
sE Rupert Neve RNR1 Active Ribbon

I hope this helps add some info and clarity about the SE Rupert Neve RNR1.

My short review of the RNR1:

I bought it to be a ribbon mic, it turned out to be much more. I've used plenty of high-end mics - this is now my absolute #1 favorite instrument microphone, I've used it on anything from steel string acoustic guitar to flute to accordion to tambourine to bass drum to snare to classical guitar to electric guitar to hand clap to secondary vocal mic. Because I do so much instrument recording prior to tracking vocals, I spend most of my tracking time with this mic. I consider it a god-send.


My long review of the RNR1:

INTRO -
My plan was to obtain a ribbon mic to get me a unique sound, and there was very little info out there on the RNR1, so it was a bit of a risk buying one, since I'm a lowly retail slug low on cash. Anyway, I took the risk and bought one. I'm familiar with good instrument microphones and have used them in recording - Schoeps CMC641, DPA 4011... and I've used a lot of high quality mics in general - Josephson C700S, Wunder CM49, Neumann U87... I worked making music for TV commercials and have experience in professional studios. Nor am I a price snob: for my own vocals I use a Shure SM7B. I monitor on the tried and true Yamaha NS-10s and "street check" on some portable Bose home speakers. My main conclusion: The SE Rupert Neve RNR1 isn't just a unique ribbon microphone, it is the best all-around instrument microphone I have ever used.

IN SESSION -
After a session to get situated with this phantom powered ribbon, I was blown away time after time, instrument after instrument in my recording process. First it was steel string acoustic. Wow! Then bass hits. Wow! Then snare hits. Wow! Then tambourine. Wow! Then accordion. Wow! Then I placed it as a 2nd vocal mic to blend it in to my main vocal mic sound. Wow! One song down. Next song – electric guitar. Wow! Then flute. Wow! Then classical guitar in the Spanish style. Wow! Again and again with this microphone, I am stunned. It sounds just as like-able as any high end instrument mic I've ever used, but it requires less EQ. And IN THE MIX!!!!... oh, man, the mix just blends!

CHARACTERISTICS THROUGH THE RNR1
Note - I use a lot of subjective terms here, and I acknowledge that, but I hope these descriptions help.
Most of these instruments I barely have to EQ.
Kick drum: (mic'd at a distance) beautiful round bottom, and packs a very big punch.
Snare: (mic'd at a distance) natural, nice, salty and sweet
Accordion: sweet, just the right bit of crunch, big and mellow.
Steel string acoustic guitar: Just gorgeous, right in the mix, sterling, shiny, natural, balanced.
Flute: warm, expressive, earthy, full.
Tambourine: (mic'd at distance, EQ'd to taste) balanced, shiny, sweet, wet.
Spanish classical: Huge bottom end, fresh, clean, gorgeous, earthy.
Electric guitar: (non-distorted) big, upfront, balanced in the mix, shiny, sweet.
Vocal blend: I place the RNR1 right behind my front-address SM7B and blend it in (no phase issues). WOW. On its own the RNR1 may not be a vocal mic in my opinion, but heck if it does not take an already good vocal mic and give it that final "full"-ness. I'm not a fan of double-tracking vocals because I like a very natural sound, so this is a HUGE help to my vocal tracking as well.
To every description above I'd probably add the word "natural." The mic doesn't GIVE the instruments these nice characteristics; the instruments already have them and the mic captures them extremely naturally. There's something about this microphone that just sounds “nice” as hell. There’s no other way to put it. Hi-fi digital recordings with condenser mics can sound brittle, painful to listen to. Analog recordings from the past are easy to listen to, but don’t sound that clear, that fresh. The RNR1 gets me clear, hi-fi recordings with extremely high ease of listening, and I have honestly never met a microphone that does this so well. It is not a technician’s microphone, but a music listener’s microphone. It meets all the requirements of sonic clarity while devoting itself first and foremost to the love of musical sound and musical instruments.

A HUMBLE ANALYSIS -
The RNR1 isn't exactly just a ribbon mic, and I was actually somewhat mistaken for buying it to behave like a ribbon - although I'm insanely glad I got one because of what it turned out to be - the best all-around instrument recording mic I have ever used. Unlike a regular old-school-style ribbon, the RNR1 has a contemporary frequency response. A regular ribbon has a noticeable dip in the high frequency, "smoothing" or "muddying" depending on what you're recording. The RNR1 is absolutely clear but somehow remains exactly "smooth." It gives the sense that you are in the room just listening to the instrument, in the most pleasant of ways. Phantom power must have some relationship to this extremely customized frequency response, and it's no surprise that Rupert's magical ears honed this microphone design because dear god it sounds NICE. So unlike an old-school ribbon, the RNR1 is a modern, hi-fi mic that captures all of the sparkling detail of instruments in a sweet and natural manner. Unlike a condenser, it gathers full frequency without the clinical, sometimes brutal harshness that can come from condensers. Although the RNR1 is technically a ribbon mic, I think of the mic as existing in a "sweet spot" between ribbon and condenser, and hallelujah it is one sweet spot. I checked the SE website, and the description pretty much says "a ribbon that behave like a condenser" - but it should finalize with one description: "Neve's golden ears distilled into a microphone."

CAREFUL - Of course you have to be careful with any ribbon. I keep it in its sleeve while I screw it on, and then I remove the sleeve - in effect I don't touch the microphone much at all, except to adjust it a little on occasion.

NO GAIN ISSUE - Most ribbon mics require a LOT of gain and impedance capabilities. But because the RNR1 is phantom powered, you're not going to need 60+ db of GAIN. My gain knob moves around in the 40s.

WORKING FAST
If you deal with multiple instruments as I do you can work very quickly with this microphone. I have my recording channel set to a basic EQ that manages low end hum, a VCA compression that acts as a general-use limiter. From there I only need to change the GAIN to move through instrument after instrument. Of course, mic placement is everything, and the RNR1 requires smart placement. If you misuse a ribbon, you will wonder why you bought it. The RNR1 will sound good the moment you plug it in, but you WILL find a sweet spot with this mic and that sweet spot will seriously blow your mind. The purpose of gear is to help you create. With this mic as a workhorse you can GO, and you can focus on your creativity.

MY CONCLUSION -
SE and Rupert Neve Designs have done a bang-up job, and I wish them more recognition and exposure for this mic. I thought the SE Rupert Neve RNR1 would be a very good workhorse instrument mic, but I found it made a phenomenal one. Why did I choose a ribbon as my workhorse instead of a condenser? I wanted to be different – I wanted to have my own unique sound while maintaining really high fidelity. In the end, it wasn’t just unique sound I obtained, it was the most like-able sound I’d ever heard out of an instrument microphone. Lucky me!

Buy yourself an RNR1, feed it a a healthy preamp so it can be extra happy, turn it into your #1 go-to workhorse for all instruments, and get to work! If you are in fact getting one - LUCKY YOU!

ANY QUESTIONS? I'm happy to answer any questions, feel free to PM me.

TX and all the best,
Ichabod

 
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