Long before we had dynamic and condenser microphones, ribbon mics were ruling the world. At one point in time, they became phased out by the two designs we have just mentioned, only to come back in style. Today we are going to show you some of the best ribbon microphones you can get at the moment. These are going to be from various price ranges, giving you more flexibility to make the right choice for your own needs.
Things To Consider When Choosing The Best Ribbon Microphone
When they first appeared, ribbon microphones were used for a wide spectrum of applications. That has changed to a point where these days a ribbon microphone has a niche use. With that in mind, there are some things you need to consider when making the final choice on which one of these to get. Let's go over the most important factors.
Why a Ribbon Microphone?
Where ribbon mics excel is providing you with a lot more definition in both the upper and lower end of the frequency range. These things are extremely responsive, meaning that they can pick up even the most subtle details. This type of nature has prompted many producers to use them as a tool for recording instruments in a studio. No matter if you are trying to record your guitars or drums, a ribbon will beat a condenser cardioid microphone in most cases. The only real drawback is the higher price tag that comes with ribbon microphones.
Ribbon microphones have a lot of benefits compared to modern dynamic or cardioid units. However, they also have some drawbacks. First and foremost, if you are looking for a microphone to use outside of a studio, you are much better off going with a dynamic one. Ribbons are extremely fragile and would hardly give you the necessary consistency outside a controlled environment such as a recording studio.
Unfortunately, ribbon microphones are not something that can be made cheaply. At least not if you want that microphone to provide you with any kind of meaningful performance. When you are in a tight spot with your budget, it is only normal to try and cut corners where possible. After all, there are so many other pieces of equipment that also need to be acquired. Here's the thing - ribbon mics are one type of gear that you don't want to cheap out on. Simple as that. While it doesn't mean you should go all out and spend large sums of money on professional gear, you should find a happy median.
A proper ribbon microphone is not a standalone device. These things need auxiliary power and a lot of super clean gain. When making a decision on what ribbon mic to get, make sure that you have the equipment necessary to support that microphone. Otherwise, you are going to be left with one pretty expensive paper weight.
Ribbon Microphone Rundown
MXL's R77 is one of the cleanest and clearest ribbon microphones you can get at the moment. It's flashy design is only a small part of what this mic has to offer. Frequency range you're looking at here spans from 20Hz up to 18kHz, with the sensitivity of -55 dB. Now, R77 requires a rather decent preamp, especially if you are planing on recording vocals with it. The more gain you are able to push into it, the better performance you will get. What makes it so amazing is the warmth and definition of sound it offers. With a standard figure 8 pattern, you can catch even the very subtle details in your music. While it's not really affordable, MXL R77 is the way to go if you refuse to compromise.
While it doesn't enjoy the same kind of popularity as the MXR model from above, this Cascade Microphones ribbon unit is more than great for home or studio use. The thing with Fat Head is that it was specifically designed for instrument recording. Everything about it is geared towards that end. This is the type of ribbon microphone you'd want to get if you are looking for the best bang for your buck. Its frequency range is more than decent while its sensitivity goes to -56 dB with a 2 dB margin of error. Well made and durable, this Cascade Microphones solution is something we strongly recommend.
Here's something a bit different. ART AR5 is a ribbon microphone, but an active one. Having this type of design in your toolbox allows you to record directly to digital format. The best thing is that you don't lose any of the benefits that a classic ribbon microphone offers. AR5 still brings you that warmth, range and lightning fast response time. Another advantage this ART mic has up its sleeve is the inherent ruggedness of its design. Not only can it take more abuse than a standard ribbon mic, but it can also deal with much higher pressures.
Moving on to more affordable ribbon microphones, we find another MXL. This time around it is their R144. If you are wondering what is the difference between this one and the R77, the answer is lies within the level of detail it delivers. R144 is much more rugged in nature, even though on paper its specs are more or less similar to those of the R77. However, this one is a true workhorse that won't set you back too much, and is a great choice for multi-microphone recording setups.
Last but not least we have the Nady RSM-4. In terms of quality and price, this is as low as we are comfortable going. What RMS-4 has to offer is strong core performance. It is not as sensitive nor as versatile as the R77 which we put in the first place. Its frequency range is a bit limited and the ribbon is not as responsive. However, it is a great budget performance for anyone who wants to get into ribbon microphones on the cheap. This is even more true if you are looking for a microphone to learn the ropes on.
While ribbon microphones are gaining in popularity, it is important to remember that these are different than your standard modern microphone design. The ones we have shown you today are by far some of the best ribbon microphones on the market. The price range covered in our guide is right in the middle where you get the best bang for your buck. With that in mind, chances are that you will find something that works for you.