Q: Lately I’ve seen several ribbon mics that are “active.” What does this mean, and what’s the advantage?
A: Active ribbon mics have been gaining in popularity over the past few years. An active ribbon includes onboard electronics that “condition” the mic’s signal before it is sent out to a mic preamp, in the same way that a condenser mic’s onboard electronics work. The big advantage is that active ribbon mics aren’t sensitive to the impedance of the mic preamp they’re feeding, making them more consistent with a range of preamps, with more robust output levels than passive ribbons, and greater sensitivity.
A passive ribbon sounds incredible, especially when matched to a complementary preamp. An active ribbon resolves any issues with preamps, such as impedance matching and gain levels.