Ribbons on the Road

Jul 1, 2011 9:00 AM, By Steve La Cerra

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Brian Setzer Orchestra’s engineer, Jimbo Neal, places an R-121 a quarter-inch from the grille, roughly a half-inch off the dome, angled toward the paper cone about 30 degrees.

Brian Setzer Orchestra’s engineer, Jimbo Neal, places an R-121 a quarter-inch from the grille, roughly a half-inch off the dome, angled toward the paper cone about 30 degrees.

Jimbo Neal, who has been mixing the Brian Setzer Orchestra and Stray Cats, was “sold on the Royer SF-24 for overheads. I have never felt so comfortable pushing overheads where they should be into a live mix. Sometimes when you bring up the overheads you get this sort of white noise, but I think there’s two reasons that doesn’t happen with the SF-24. First is the fact that it is a ribbon and second is the fact that since it is a stereo microphone, the two mics are phased correctly.”

Royer SF-24s are used as overheads for Brian Setzer Orchestra’s drum kit.

Royer SF-24s are used as overheads for Brian Setzer Orchestra’s drum kit.

What about situations when the rear lobe of a ribbon is capturing leakage from other instruments? Meticulous engineers strive to reduce leakage for two main reasons: control over the mix and off-axis pickup anomalies. Before we discuss the latter, let’s check out how FOH mixer Bryan Allinsmith mikes the Gin Blossoms guitarists Jesse Valenzuela’s and Scotty Johnson’s guitar amps. “John [Richardson, drums] liked the sE Electronics VR1s in his studio and brought them out on the road for me to use,” says Allinsmith. “They changed my concept of miking and mixing the Gin Blossoms. Each guitarist uses two amps: Jesse uses a Marshall and a [Roland] JC120, Scotty uses a [Fender] ’65 Reissue Twin and a Vox AC30. What I want to hear in the house mix is mostly the Marshall and the AC30. In the past, I’d put a little of each player’s secondary amp into the mix, then bring the guitars up and down for solos using VCAs to control both mics [for the respective player].

“A great deal of their signature sound is the vocals and that jangly ‘harkening back to the ’60s’ guitar tone. The VR1 made that happen,” he continues. “They sound huge partially due to the complimentary leakage from the back of the mic, but you also hear the definition of every note. Now I double-mike each amp with a 57 and a VR1. I place the VR1 about three-quarters of the way to the edge of the cone, face-on, and place a 57 next to it. I set my rhythm sound using the VR1 and pretty much leave it there, then use the 57 to bring out the guitar solos. I rarely even put the secondary amps into the mix anymore.”

Miking guitar amps is a big strength for ribbon mics, complementing the somewhat bright nature of the typical P.A. system. Engineer Marc Carolan was sold six years ago on using ribbons for Muse guitarist Matt Bellamy: “I’ve used Royer and only Royer for Muse’s guitars going on six years now. For Matt’s guitar sound—which everyone raves about and wants to know how we get—I have to explain it’s a Royer 122 and flat channel.”

“Brian [Setzer] plays through early 1960s Bassman amps, and initially I used mics that had been spec’d previously,” explains Neal. “I’d listen to his amp, then listen to what I was getting in the P.A. system, then listen to the headphones, and I thought, ‘How am I going to fix this?’ I tried the Royer R-121 on Brian’s amp, and it was like, ‘Are you kidding me?’ This is what I wanted. I have the R-121 a quarter-inch from the grille, roughly half-inch off the dome angled toward the paper cone about 30 degrees. Lately, I have been mixing that with a Mojave Audio MA-201 FET condenser, and I am getting really good results.






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