The technology used in the ribbon microphone employs one of the oldest transducer designs from the earliest days of sound professional sound recording. They have long been revered for their incredibly detailed sound. Its magic is in the ribbon itself. The way that ultra thin metal ribbon responds to sound pressure is more similar to your ear than diaphragm based mics. The result is a super realistic recording that sounds natural and warm. Ribbon mics used to be extremely delicate and highly susceptible to damage from jostling and excessive sound pressure levels. Modern versions are much more robust and able to handle higher volume sound sources that ever before.
For a long time obtaining a good ribbon mic was just a crazy dream for a recordist on a limited budget. But these days there are excellent choices for every budget. Now the big question is what features are you looking for? There are also some unusual aspects that you need to know about before throwing down your dead presidents.
One interesting characteristic of the ribbon mic is that its normal polar pattern is the figure-8. In other words, the ribbon element is suspended between two magnets allowing it to pick up sound from both sides of the capsule. That said, ribbons are available in a variety of other patterns such as cardioid, crossed figure-8 (which is shaped like a four leaf clover), and multi-pattern. There are even several stereo versions that employ two elements in a single capsule.
Another consideration is what types of sources you plan to record with your ribbon microphone. Most ribbon mics can handle sources up to around 140dB. This covers most applications in which you would be looking to achieve that airy, detailed sound, such as vocals, cello, and acoustic instruments in general. Lately it's become popular to place a ribbon microphone in close on guitar amps being pushed into power tube distortion. While that can capture an incredible rock sound you definitely want to make sure you use a ribbon mic that can handle a maximum sound pressure level (SPL) on the far side of 150dB.
A stereo ribbon mic is a wonderful tool to have in your kit. They are amazing when placed in front of an acoustic ensemble, as a general room mic, or as drum kit overheads. One of the most exciting applications is in front of a vocal ensemble such as a choir. It's hard to beat the stereo realism this technique can produce. Take note though, stereo ribbon microphones often use a 5 pin XLR connector so you'll want to make sure you've got the right cable for the job.
If you're mulling your options, call us. Our Sales Engineers are knowledgeable in all of the features and attributes of our ribbon mics. Tell us your features wish list and we'll talk you through the options. We're here to help you choose the best ribbon mic for you. Learn More
Sweetwater's Sales Engineers are regarded as the most experienced and knowledgeable professionals in the music industry, with extensive music backgrounds and intense training on the latest products and technologies. They are available to offer you personalized product advice any time you need it.