I was in the market for some ribbon microphones. I wanted something that would add some different, tone and character to my piano and guitar but would also sound great on brass and strings. As a composer and music producer, this is a part of my creative pallet, but with so much choice where do you start? A ribbon microphones test.
For me Sound on Sound is usually my first port of call. They offer comprehensive and objective reviews on everything in the musical technology domain and it’s an industry benchmark for producers and mix engineers alike.
The problem is, that as good as the reviews are, only I know what sound I’m looking for. Sound on Sound have some great AB ribbon microphones tests – micing guitars and drums etc. But there are so many factors which can affect a recording, such as the instrument, the room etc.. I really wanted to test them for myself.
It’s like art. It’s very personal. You can always try and articulate what you want, ask a pro or even ask peers for recommendations but ultimately, the only way you can make a truly informed decision is to listen for yourself.
So I used reviews etc. to whittle down my short list to three mics. The lovely people at Funky Junk lent me a Coles 4038, AEA R84 and Nuvo N22.
When AB testing ribbon microphones or indeed any mics you need to remove as many result affecting variables as possible. So I set all three mics up to record the same performance, from the same source, from the same position. Granted I couldn’t get the mics in exactly the same position but close enough. I also compared close micing and distance micing as it’s always good to get an idea for proximity effect of different mics.
All three sounded great but for different reasons and ultimately I was using my ears to determine which tone and character I preferred. In situations like this I often find myself over thinking the situation. Analysis paralysis. Ultimately, I believe the best thing to do is to go with your gut. From the start my gut told me that the AEA R84 was going to be the best for my needs and it sounded wonderful. I felt that it brought out the low and low mids but wasn’t as dark as the Coles. It also retained some nice top end clarity.
I intend to post the audio recording below so you can listen for yourself so watch this space.