Jump to content

ribbon mics


Recommended Posts

Hmm... Anybody using the FetHead' date=' Cloudlifter, or Marti Audio phantom powered in-line preamps? [/quote']

 

The Cloudlifters are a fantastic accessory for ribbon mic users. :philthumb: Here's a link to my Cloudlifter CL-Z review...

 

http://www.harmonycentral.com/expert-reviews/cloud-microphones-cl-z-cloudlifter-z-variable-impedance-mic-activator

 

 

  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • Members

It's hard to find specs for the noise floor of all of these preamps :( . Before I buy one (probably the Marti Audio as It's only a $60 mic I need it for) I'll try my various interfaces's preamps and an old Behringer MIC100 tube preamp I have around here someplace. The latter I had used to bring a normal mic up to line level - I suspect it's not any quieter than my interfaces's pre's as I'm pretty sure the tube isn't supplying much gain as it's run starved (ultra low plate voltage).

Edited by RoadRanger
Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • Members

I bought an MXL R40 and R144 for less than $40 each. I had to replace the ribbon in both. Took a bit of practice, especially using the 1.6 micron aluminum. Of the pair I think the R40 sounds better then the R140 which I used 2.5 Micron film. I think the thicker film has more midrange ring. The thinner film has a more syrupy sound.

 

Eventually I'll cough up the cash for a better ribbon and retire these to recording drums.

 

I really like what ribbons do for my own voice though. The output isn't that strong when I'm actually tracking. I can just get enough volume to track with headphones with the interfaces an/or preamps I have.

 

I don't actually hear the quality the mic puts out when tracking however. A Large diaphragm Condenser can have a much crispier tracking sound for example.

 

Where I do get the quality is when I mix the track. I have some standard plugins I like using and the vocal tracks really come to life when I tweak them because the track it contains the frequencies that can/ need to be enhanced.

 

Condenser mic tracks have overhyped frequencies in the upper mids and highs which aren't complementary for my voice. I wind up having to taper and scoop frequencies and by the time I'm done getting the vox to sit in the mix properly its lost allot of its realism. I can use the Ribbon and Nail a Jim Morrison voice tone with a little compression and presence boost and very little additional tweaking.

 

The most difficult part is I have to keep a close eye on the tracking meters when singing so I don't track too high or low. Working the mic to keep the voice at a good volume level is more difficult then other mics. Back off too far and you loose the rich low end. Too close the signal gets too hot.

 

I am able to recognize these budget ribbon mics probably wont be suitable to many singers, especially singers unable to maintain a consistent dynamic level, but for me that's actually something I'm pretty good at so I can get the tracks I need from them. The element between many ribbon mics is surprisingly similar. Its the film, transformer and head basket which make the biggest variances.

 

I've considered a cloud lifter but I ordered an upgraded transformer recently instead. I figured it was the best way to get the best quality sound first. A cloud lifter would only be boosting mediocre tone otherwise.

 

I'd likely try a Fethead over a cloud lifter first however. They are both just simple FET preamps and since the Fethead is half the cost I think it would suffice my needs. I could probably make my own for even less but its not like its something I have to have.

 

I bought the Edcor RMX1 Transformer as a replacement Its supposed to be comparable to the Lundahl. I figured it would be a step up from the Stock transformer and I see MXL's being sold for double the cost with this upgrade done on them. If it is a big improvement then maybe I'll try one of the more expensive transformers. (I'll pass on the $800 silver wound transformers top end mics use however)

 

 

 

http://shop.geistnote.com/transformers.asp#gsc.tab=0

Edited by WRGKMC
Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • Members
The most difficult part is I have to keep a close eye on the tracking meters when singing so I don't track too high or low. Working the mic to keep the voice at a good volume level is more difficult then other mics. Back off too far and you loose the rich low end. Too close the signal gets too hot.
I'd not think them that critical - I thought that was part of their appeal. Anybody else have an opinion?
Link to comment
Share on other sites

I'd not think them that critical - I thought that was part of their appeal. Anybody else have an opinion?

 

 

If you or the singer you're working with tends to bob and weave a lot as you sing, a ribbon might not be the best mic choice for you.

 

Ribbon microphones (and figure-8 mikes in general) tend to have prodigious amounts of proximity effect, and moving six to twelve inches closer or further away from one as you sing can make a big difference in the amount of low end. However, many will slice a lot of the proximity effect boost off with a high pass filter in the mix. You usually don't need a ton of extra 100Hz boost, although some singers do benefit from a bit of beefing up. One of the really cool things about the Cloudlifter CL-Z is that you can adjust the overall sound and frequency response of the mic just by varying the impedance load.

 

As far as any level fluctuations, those can usually be handled with a bit of judicious compression and / or limiting. :)

 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • Members

With 24 bit converters I've not much worried about trying to maximize the signal - the 8 bits above 16 bits gives you 48 dB to mess about with I believe? But that assumes that all of them bits are "real". I usually shoot to peak at -20dB FS and that pretty much eliminates clipping and still gives you a solid 16+ bits. I don't have a hardware limiter or comp worth using for serious recording - plus then I'd be stuck with the "sound" of whatever I used. I'm mostly using free plug-ins but their quality tends to be better than the source audio anyways - no potential Grammy winners here LOL.

 

BTW anybody use a "clip fix" plug-in? Saved my arse once before I stopped treating digital like tape and learned to stay well way from them nasty red lights ;) .

Edited by RoadRanger
Link to comment
Share on other sites

With 24 bit converters I've not much worried about trying to maximize the signal - the 8 bits above 16 bits gives you 48 dB to mess about with I believe?

 

It's approximately 6 dB per bit; 96dB for 16 bit vs 144dB for 24 bit. It's 6.02 dB per bit, to be precise, so for those who worry about such details, it's 96.33dB and 144.48 dB. :)

 

And FWIW, I agree. No need to slam it or try to maximize levels when recording at 24 bit resolution. I recommend keeping your average levels in the -15 to -18dBFS range. You're using more than 16 bits if you do, and you're leaving yourself sufficient headroom to avoid the vast majority of overs, even if you record without any compression or limiting.

 

 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I bought an MXL R40 and R144 for less than $40 each. I had to replace the ribbon in both. Took a bit of practice' date=' especially using the 1.6 micron aluminum. Of the pair I think the R40 sounds better then the R140 which I used 2.5 Micron film. I think the thicker film has more midrange ring. The thinner film has a more syrupy sound.[/quote']

 

Did you corrugate your own ribbons, or buy pre-corrugated ribbon material?

 

I'd love to read a "how I did it" thread about your re-ribboning experiences. :idea::) Pics would be awesome too!

 

Eventually I'll cough up the cash for a better ribbon and retire these to recording drums.

 

Royers are really popular for drums, but again, don't overlook the Beyer M160 either.

 

  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • Members
And FWIW' date=' I agree. No need to slam it or try to maximize levels when recording at 24 bit resolution. I recommend keeping your average levels in the -15 to -18dBFS range. You're using more than 16 bits if you do, and you're leaving yourself sufficient headroom to avoid the vast majority of overs, even if you record without any compression or limiting.[/quote']And there are always "clip fix" plug-ins if you screw up and can't re-record a track. One band I was videoing on the Fourth of July weekend had occasional clipping from fireworks. I used some sort of impulse noise removal plug-in and the clip-fix plug-in - I forget the order, it was a couple years ago.

 

BTW the "zero" on a couple of live sound digital mixers I own is around -17 dBFS and I usually set the channel comp at that on vocals and start to get worried if the gain reduction on peaks exceeds -6 dB. Mostly protecting the audience's ears against the occasional wailer, harp player, or horn player.

 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • Members

 

Did you corrugate your own ribbons, or buy pre-corrugated ribbon material?

 

I'd love to read a "how I did it" thread about your re-ribboning experiences. :idea::) Pics would be awesome too!

 

 

 

Royers are really popular for drums, but again, don't overlook the Beyer M160 either.

 

Yes I did corrugate my own. I'm going to redo the R144 with 1.6Micron instead or the thicker 2.5 micron I used. I'll take some photos when I do it and post a separate thread. The thinner ribbon has less midrange ring and sounds plusher to me.

 

 

I experimented corrugating two different ways.

 

I first had some large gears. They were angled gears that created a slanted corrugation. I didn't get the ribbon on without breaking so I never got to hear if it had any change to the sound. The second try I used some gears that were non angled. (I have many such gears at work from gear they repair)

 

The last one I did I used a toothpaste tube squeezer. I had purchased two sheets of ribbon material and they missed shipping the corrugator so I had it show up later and used it for the third attempt and my second mic.

 

The big key to getting it done is to use the treated typing paper they ship with the film. If you tried to corrugate the thin aluminum without it the thin aluminum would instantly shred. The paper is what was commonly called lemon paper back in the day. Its very thin and has a slippery coating that allows a typist to erase the print.

 

What it does for the foil is allow the foil to slip and resist breaking as it gets corrugated.

 

My method was to first measure the magnet gap so I knew how wide I'd need to cut the film. 4mm is about as wide as I can go without touching the magnet sides. You can go thinner and its supposed to have a better response but it does get even more fragile to install.

 

I's then use a steel ruler and place it over the foil that's sandwiched between the paper and cut along the ruler with a razor knife blade.

 

I's wind up with two thin pieces of paper and the foil between. I'd take another piece of the typing paper about 4: ling, 2" wide and fold it lengthwise, then place the sandwiched foil and paper inside this folded paper. This was needed to keep the foil straight and aligned as well as running it through the ringer to serrate it.

 

Getting it out of the paper was the tough part. The paper is stiff and you gout to open it up like a clam now.

 

Along with the crimper they set two miniature plastic cloths line clips. (I actually had good results using the full sized one first go round)

You take one of the clips and grab the tail of the film and then open to paper to remove the film without tearing it.

 

Then with the magnet assembly ready you lay one end of the film in place centered between the magnets.

 

This is where it starts to get tough. You have these metal clamps at bot end that are screwed into place. You have to sit them down on top of the ribbon and have the screw holes align perfectly. Once you sit the clam down, if you try and move it side to side it drags the film out of alignment.

 

The trick I used was to take two tooth picks, cut the ends off so the clamp fit onto them without dropping. I'd then set the clamp down in place like using chop sticks. I'd sit the tooth picks into the holes and when I let the clamp drop it was dead on straight.

 

From there I'd pull one toothpick out at a time and put the screws in.

 

At the other end I'd do the same thing except you'd have to take the slack out of the film. The cloths pin did wonders here. You could move it a little to take out the slack before you drop the clamp. So long as the film doesn't move side to side and stays centered you're good.

 

The work is tedious and you do have to have good hands and be patient but it isn't rocket science. Even non electronic types could probably do the job with a little practice.

 

I have the Edcor Transformer showing up tomorrow. I'll probably put it in later in the week and try it recording this weekend.

Ribbon mics are really simple. You have magnet strength, Film thickness/length, Transformer type and head basket. That's it. you can vary all four for different tone but no voodoo magic. Just changing to a thinner film and upgrading the transformer is supposed to have a big improvement.

Edited by WRGKMC
  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • Members

Yes, its about maintaining a consistent proximity effect for consistent tone. Its similar to a dynamic mic. Beyond 6" the bass really disappears - At least with my Tascam interface's built in preamps and my singing skill. Between the mic caddy and pop filter the distance from the voice is 3" at the closest. for doing intimate stuff.

 

If I sing close to the pop filter I turn the mic slightly off axis so I don't pop my P's If I back off the bass drops out at about 6". I can gain it up but then I may wind up pinning my meters.

 

The signal is highly dynamic so maintaining distance and signal strength is less forgiving then a condenser where you can have a good 12" with very little change in tone or strength.

 

I'm used to working a mic so its not something unfamiliar to me. Its just something I naturally use when singing to maintain the best tone vs signal strength.

 

I do have some other preamps that have built in compressors, EQ's and or limiters. I've used them too and gotten very good results. I can Nail a Jim Morrison voice to a T with the one preamp. The Tascam is very good though so I've been sticking with it lately. I do have one more preamp I need to try.

 

Like anything else they have their own flavors so spending time to get to know what they can and cant do is part of the process learning to use the gear. Once I know its limitations I know how to get best results when micing others.

 

The Tascam drivers come with some DSP Effects that I can use in real time. I've tried EQing and limiting the mic signal and it didn't sound half bad. I normally do all my tweaking in the box however. Most of my rack EQ's do have a certain amount of noise and I'd have to preamp the signal first. I just haven't bothered with it because a short path yields less noise.

 

What I need to try is using my old Teach reel to reel preamp. its got high impedance inputs and used to get me some wonderful sounds used as a preamp recording mics. I'd have to use a Low to High transformer on the ribbon mic bit I have plenty of those.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • Members

I replaced that Edcor Transformer in my MXL R40 mic last night. Man that was a pain in the rear. The transformer needed to fit up inside a metal cap and the wires fed up through the top to a mini PC junction board. The two transformers were the same size but the wires on the old one came out the bottom on either side. This new one had the wires extending from the sides, one set from the top side and one from the bottom side.

This made it very difficult to get the transformer deep enough inside the metal cap so I could screw it back in place.

 

I eventually got it deep enough in there after an hour putzing around, closed it up and gave it a try.

 

First thing I noticed was the signal strength was lower. The Tascam preamp I was using has a -68dBu maximum gain.

 

Before changing the transformer I could run the mic between 6~7 on the preamp knob used maybe -50dBu to get a strong enough signal. With the new transformer I had to run the knob between 8~9 it at maybe -60dBu and was still a little low. Between 9~10 full up the signal strength was good but the preamp hiss was a problem.

 

I'll probably need to try one of my other preamps to see if I can get a little more or I may wind up having to get a cloud lifter now.

 

The best part is the fidelity did noticeably improve. It sounded like a completely different mic having a much more plush sound. The frequency response in definitely broader and has a character you'd expect from a better mic. That $50 I spent for the transformer seems to have been well worth it. I was a little worried because I read other accounts where people didn't notice much of a change. My ears are well trained so I was able to clearly hear what happened.

 

This is exactly what I expected however. Its no different then what happens with guitar pickups. If you use a lower impedance pickup coil you get a broader frequency response and weaker output. If you have a hot coil you have a stronger signal with bumped mids. (Given the magnet strength stays the same) You also need a stronger amp to get a weaker pickup to drive vs the stronger pickup.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • Members

Well, I decided to buy one of these for $55 shipped (refurb):

http://artproaudio.com/downloads/owners_manuals/om_tubempps.pdf

They claim:

Equivalent Input Noise: -130dB (XLR to XLR ‘A’ weighted)

We'll see about that ;) . It does have a couple of input impedance selections on the XLR and high impedance unbalanced capability - plus switchable peak limiter and 40Hz HPF. Looks like a good utility preamp that can supposedly make my cheaparse $60 ribbon mic usable too :) .

 

So, does anyone know how that noise figure compares to a CloudLifter and its competitors? This latest model of this Tube MP supposedly has a new design ultra low noise discrete front end similar to those.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.
Note: Your post will require moderator approval before it will be visible.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

 Share

×
×
  • Create New...