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Are there any negatives to getting an ACTIVE Ribbon Mic verus PASSIVE? Differences? Ribbon Microphones
Old 21st December 2010
  #1
Gear Addict
 

Are there any negatives to getting an ACTIVE Ribbon Mic verus PASSIVE? Differences?

This may be a dumb question, but are there any negatives to getting an active ribbon mic versus a passive one? I'm talking about like a Royer R-122 versus an R-121, or a Cloud JRS-34 versus a JRS-34-P, or an AEA A440 versus a R44, or an AEA A840 versus a R84? Yeah, I need less gain and can expect less noise on quiet sources which is great but are their sonic differences in tone at all? I thought I read in a post somewhere that with active ribbons the type of mic pre you use has less effect on the mic sonically when compared to the use of different mic pres on passive ribbon mics? Is that correct at all?

So yeah, are there any reasons I wouldn't be better off getting the passive versions of these ribbon mics other than saving some money?

Last edited by 121840; 21st December 2010 at 09:01 AM.. Reason: mispoken
Old 21st December 2010
  #2
Gear Head
 

I'd like an answer to this as well.
Old 21st December 2010
  #3
R84

Me too. I'm just about to buy an R84 for female vocals....unless you guys know better ?
Old 21st December 2010
  #4
The only negative I can think of (and it's not necessarily a negative - perhaps others can chime in) would be that the preamp / impedance you're using with an active ribbon mic will have less of an effect on the sound of the mic - sometimes this is a good thing (more consistent sound from the mic regardless of the preamp used) but some people (myself included) like to use different preamps and impedance settings with passive ribbon mics to open up more tonal possibilities.

For instance, a passive ribbon like the Royer R121 will yield noticeably different sounds if you switch the impedance on a 1073-style pre (for example) between 1200 and 300 ohms. An active ribbon like the R122 generally won't exhibit such a difference. Like I said, some people like this and some don't.
Old 21st December 2010
  #5
Gear Addict
 
keiffer's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Gatsby View Post
This may be a dumb question
Not dumb but uninformed

Quote:
Yeah, I need less gain and can expect less noise on quiet sources which is great but are their sonic differences in tone at all? I thought I read in a post somewhere that with active ribbons the type of mic pre you use has less effect on the mic sonically when compared to the use of different mic pres on passive ribbon mics? Is that correct at all?
An active mic has an amp inside the mic. So the noise spec is pre built in. You don't get something for nothing.

If you have a very good low noise mic pre, you'll be good with a passive. Understand what noise specs means.
Old 21st December 2010
  #6
Lives for gear
 
softwareguy's Avatar
 

You have to listen to both of them. They won't sound exactly the same. Pick the one whose sound you prefer, without regard to whether it's active or passive.
Old 22nd December 2010
  #7
Gear Maniac
 
ShinyBox's Avatar
 

Passive ribbon microphones (as well as other passive dynamic microphones), will respond differently depending on the load presented by the microphone preamplifier. This is caused by the load being reflected from the mic pre.

So you can get slightly different response depending on what mic pre you plug it into. This can be a cool thing.

Active ribbon microphones also employ a transformer inside, but follow the transformer with an amplification stage, be it phantom powered, or in some cases a tube stage.

In this design, the load/impedance seen by the ribbon will be fixed, and is normally set for best frequency response/performance. This can also be a cool thing, as whatever mic pre the microphone is plugged into will effect the performance of the microphone less, yielding more consistent results across a range of mic pres.

So for the passive ribbon, a higher impedance will result in the best performance/frequency response. But sometimes you don't want the best performance, read, making the ribbon work a little harder may be less "hi-fi", but sure can sound cool.

Hope this helps

Regards

Jon
Old 28th December 2010
  #8
Gear Addict
 

Thanks for the feedback. You guys pretty much restated what I had read in another thread about passive ribbon mics being more affected by the mic pre and the settings being used versus using active mics.

Anyways I asked this because I'm looking into getting my first ribbon mic. I suppose the more important question I need to ask is whether with any of those passive versions of mics I mentioned if noise is an issue on quiet sources and I should get the more expensive active version. I suppose the advantage of passive ribbon mics being more affected by the mic pre being used isn't a benefit for me since right now I only have one mic pre and it will be a long while until I get another.
Old 16th June 2011
  #9
Gear Addict
 

OP here again, just revisited this thread. Rereading, Shinybox what you said about impedance is interesting. I've only recently begun to grasp impedance after some intense reading and I didn't know that setting my impedance on my mic pre to the higher level would result in better response. And of course I didn't know about reducing impedance to get those lo-fi sounds. There is an impedance switch on each channel of my mic pre and until now hadn't realized the functionality of that switch in connection with passive mics. But now I do! And thanks BLUEllightcory as well for mentioning that as well
Old 16th June 2011
  #10
Gear Addict
 

This impedance switching thing is a great bottle of worms to open. My first experiences with it suggested lower impedances emphasized low end and higher ones emphasized top end.

But apparently this depends greatly...if a microphone is built for a roughly MATCHING load (approx same input impedance on preamp as output impedance on mic) the result will be totally different from if the microphone is designed for a BRIDGING load (approx ten times input impedance on preamp as output impedance on microphone)

Such that -- the 'frequency response curve change' from lowering impedance can actually reduce bass frequencies in some nonlinear way. Because it's essentially affecting energy transfer, and bass frequencies are higher in energy, and ... god I'm a little underwater on this.

But it's tremendously interesting.
Old 16th June 2011
  #11
Gear Head
 
Billshafer1's Avatar
 

For the $$$, I'm really pleased with my new sE VooDoo VR2 (active) ribbon. Definitely more sparkle & transparent than Royer 101, IMHO...
Old 8th July 2011
  #12
Gear Addict
 

andonwego, thanks for the added technical info. I do love to geek out on stuff, so those were words well written.

Bill, yeah I've looked at that particular mic, although I've never actually had my hands on one. They look cool for sure. But I kind of lost interest in that mic as a purchase option somewhat because of Gearslutz. Not many people comment on SE electronics mics and those that do say bad things. They say bad things because their mics are made cheaply in China. If that actually equates to anything truly negative about SE's mics or if it is true in any fashion, I have no idea. Could be awesome mics as you've said. Just scared me off I guess. Or possibly I just fell in love with some other ribbon mics instead.

As of this posting, I still haven't purchased even one ribbon mic. Other purchases got in the way. Right now I have interest in the Coles mics, AEA mics, and Royer mics. The mic I most want is the AEA R44. However it costs a boatload and I might at first make due with their R92 to use on both acoustic guitar and electric guitar/amps.
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