I know there have been threads regarding budget ribbon mics, but I haven't found anything recent. My partner and I are looking at Cascades for overheads and other uses, but I see so many differing opinions on those mics that I thought I'd ask, what else is out there that should be considered?
Also, I'd like to hear recommendations on budget ribbon mics for vocals, piano, horns, etc...
I have a pair of the Cascade Fathead II mics with Lundahl transformers and like them a lot, but if you want other options under $500 check out ShinyBox, too. I have a ShinyBox 46MX (now replaced by the 46U) and a 46MXC and like them both a lot. The MX in particular is a darker mic but it's my go-to on snare and a solid choice for guitar amps.
The Golden Age R1 MK3 (active) is a contender that isn't as dark as many ribbons. The Shinybox stuff is a classic sound within budget, and Jon is a stellar dude. I gotta say though the Royer R101 or AEA R92 are both worth investigating if you can get to the $800 range. We consider both quite a leap from the entry level priced stuff.
The Beyer M160 I've never been a big fan, but am definitely reconsidering my view of them after our recent session adding them to the Clipalator.
IMO, most of the under 500 ribbons will need "modding" to get them to their full potential. They need some hand holding and attention to the ribbon, to tune it to where it should have been, potentially replacing the thicker ribbon with a thinner one for better transient response, removing excess silk and screens in the headbasket, and a decent or better yet, great transformer. The good news is that they can be had for WAY under $500, and even modded, you'll still be way under $500. The even better news is that modded, they rival and often exceed the more high priced alternatives IMO. Check this for comparisons between Apex and Coles 4038 : https://www.gearslutz.com/board/gear-...mparisons.html
For everything but distorted electric guitar - my choice would be the Apex 205 w/ mods (see above). If E Gtr is your thang, then I'd go with a Fathead, and have it modded.
I like the sound of a long ribbon over the short ribbon of the fathead for everything but that grinding gtr sound.
MJoly does these mods, but if you don't want to "deal with it", Shinybox sells basically the same thing. (For long ribbon design - Fathead for short ribbon design.)
I'm really impressed with the Diyac RM-5 ribbon I bought from Artur. I first discovered him from an ebay purchase of a ribbon motor that I never found a place for. I was impressed with his passion about all things ribbon and interested that he's in Latvia (Blue mics anyone? At least the original BLue), so I took a shot on his DIY ribbon mic and I have to say it is really great, not too dark, very good mids and natural high end, at least for the electric guitar tracking I'm doing and even some Foley where it was better than one of my u87's esp on transient material. Here's his website check it out, who knows he could be the next Royer and his mic IS truly handmade.
The proof is in the pudding ...maybe...The Diyac RM5 On a Vox AC15 (handwired/Celestion Blue) playing a Vintage Tokai Tele w/ Dimarzio AreaT bridge pup via UA 6176 to PT9 via Tascam DM4800...no other condiments. #1 sample is an mp3 @ 192 and the 2nd a 48k 24 bit file. Hope this works as it's my first UL to GS, but god knows I spend all day doing this kinda crap in my real job.
Tho the info is in the file names I forgot to mention in my post above that the second wav clip is a Marshall 1974x attenuated by a Weber MinMass 50 @ about 2 o'clock. Now this beast and I have never quite gotten along at least recording wise. I'm still hoping to capture the grunt of this bulldog and I don't think I quite have it with this RM5 yet...BUT...I was being conservative and had the mic a good 12"+ off the combo cab. I will next try the RM5 with the mic closer to get the usually famous ribbon proximity effect going on. Even though these are raw files you can eq very easily and get that low end I refer to. Me being old schooool I always want to get more at the source with any mic. All this being said the Diyac does not exhibit a gob of ribbon type low end at the distances I've use here, and that could be a good thing.
The Golden Age R1 MK3 (active) is a contender that isn't as dark as many ribbons.
I was actually pleasantly surprised by the R1 MkIII. I got the active version of it in a trade for a preamp. I would have never bought it otherwise but figured it was worth a shot.
It sounded pretty good out of the box, and much better after I opened it up, ripped out the screens protecting the ribbon, and all of the extra mesh junk inside there. Also threw a bit of foam in the bottom to stop any resonance.
I think I was lucky because the ribbon seemed to be almost perfectly tensioned.
I question the quality of the active circuit in the mic though. I'm tempted to rip it all out and upgrade the transformer.
Still, it's a nice sounding mic!
Thanks all! So many mics mentioned that I never knew existed! I'll be doing some homework.
Just to add, I am looking for a mic than can handle an electric gtr amp, but I don't mind 'dark' sounding. Does anyone know what was used on those Miles Davis recordings? They seem dark sounding to me, which I like. Thank you
I've got the Fathead II's with Lundhal transformers and give them a thumbs up, but for some sources you have to be ready to EQ them a bit. On acoustic guitar and as overheads, they can be very nice. On voice, only singers that want more body to their tone have been happy with them in my experience. On electric guitar, I have not been very impressed although in combination with a dynamic mic, the Fatheads deliver some grit that works. I just think they need a source with high frequency transients to shine.
I have heard a number of ribbons. The cheaper mics can be modded to sound very nice! Very Nice! I would consider Joly and www.samaraudiodesign.com. I have 4 mics modded by him. All very high end now.
If you want aggressive sounding ribbons then go with modded Fatheads. They can be cool for electric guitar and drum rooms. But I would and do prefer the Aphex 205's or stellar RM-3's modded by Samara for pretty much all other things.
so I just got a Fethead and a Cloudlifter CL1 yesterday from Warren/ZenPro Audio...thanks for the fast ship and coffee! I'll be damned...the Fethead totally made my crappy little N-sonic (ebay lollipop ribbon from many years back) work wonders recording my Marshall 1974x that I posted above. It's a dark, dark mic, but with the Fethead (and to slightly different degre the CL1) I get the low end grunt with some now usable midrange that I've never been able to get naturally before on that amp. Not quite the magic on my Diyac RM5 or my GAP R1, but those mics are atypically not dark or murky. Will try to post some short clips.
Bottom line...if you're into cheap ribbons...grab a Fethead and/or CL1 from Warren. Great to have in the toolbox.
One other observation. I've been in the middle of recording a lead track with the Diyac RM5 thru a UAD6176. When I threw either the Fethead or CL1 inline to do some punch ins, it altered the sound too much, a bit too HiFi, so I took 'em out. They're best used right from the start...but that seems logical of course.