Ribbon Microphones | The Revival Continues

Aug 17, 2010 4:46 PM, By George Petersen



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It’s been nearly 80 years since RCA engineer Harry Olson filed his patent (#1,885,001) for the first ribbon (velocity) microphone, and the audio world hasn’t been the same since. Long a mainstay of instrumental and vocal recordings, the popularity of ribbon microphones is at an all-time high. The number of users who appreciate the flexibility of these figure-8-patterned mics continues to grow, and in the past 18 months more than two dozen new ribbon mics have come on the market, resulting in more models, more options—such as onboard active electronics or mics ruggedized for live sound applications—and a greater selection at nearly every price range. With a lot of activity in the market, we checked out what’s new.

Audio-Technica AT4080 and AT4081

Audio-Technica AT4080 and AT4081

Unveiled at last year’s AES show and now shipping are the AT4080 and AT4081, the first ribbon mics from Audio-Technica. These hand-built, active ribbon designs feature onboard phantom-powered electronics that bring their output to near-condenser levels, allowing for use with any pro preamp. Both the larger AT4080 ($1,245 with shockmount and carrying case) and the low-profile AT4081 ($895 with isolation clamp mount and windscreen) feature powerful neodymium magnets and innovative dual-ribbon construction for smooth bidirectional response with high SPL handling. The company’s MicroLinear ribbon design minimizes lateral flexing for durability and freedom from ribbon distortion. (See Russ Long’s review.) qqq

Apex 215

Apex 215

The Apex 215 combines two low-mass aluminum ribbon elements to provide greater output sensitivity. List price is $249, including shockmount. Also with a $249 list is the Apex 210, a single-element design with a 2-micron ribbon that handles 165dB SPLs. It has an integrated yoke mount with internal shockmounting and ships with an aluminum carry case.

ART M-Five

ART M-Five

ART’s M-Five has a 35mm low-mass/low-tension, 2.5-micron corrugated aluminum ribbon handling 148dB SPLs and a dent-resistant, stainless-steel mesh windscreen atop its black aluminum body. The M-Five retails at $199 and includes a shockmount and aluminum carry case.

AEA R88mk2

AEA R88mk2

Wes Dooley of Audio Engineering Associates almost single-handedly began the modern ribbon mic movement with his reissues of classic RCA ribbon mics, starting with the R44 in 1998. Now, AEA has expanded its extensive offerings with two new models. Optimized for recording instruments and ensembles in stereo, AEA’s R88 ribbon mic has been redesigned as the R88 mk2, with improved shockmount and cable connections. Its two undamped, long ribbon elements are angled at 90 degrees to each other in the Blumlein stereo configuration, and the mic is finished in stealth black for unobtrusive use in live applications. Retail is $1,895, including a high-quality soft-sided case, cotton mic bag, 4-meter stereo XLR breakout cable and variable-angle stand adapter. AEA is also now shipping the R84 Silver Limited Edition (SLE) of its R84 with chrome-end caps in a run of only 125 units. The R84 SLE’s output is 3 dB higher than the RCA 44, and its 11.5-inch-tall silhouette is reminiscent of the RCA 77. The R84 SLE is $1,225 (or $2,550 in match pairs) with hard-wired 3-meter output cable, stand adapter and upright hard case.

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