Ribbon microphones provide a cosy vintage 50s, 60s, or 70s ambiance from the golden age. They perfectly balance the lows and mellow the highs of an instrumental or vocal jam that has been recorded. They are particularly favoured by artists for taming harsh sounding instruments that have an off-ish sound on condenser mics because they bring a whole velvety smoothness to a track. Given the abundance of options and information to weigh, finding the best ribbon mic can be a frustrating affair.
Right before the dynamic microphone was the best ribbon microphones. Its main component, a thin steel ribbon, is where its name comes from. This ribbon, which is placed between the two poles of a magnet housed inside the capsule, may be made of aluminium, duraluminum, or nanofilm. The steel ribbon functions as a transducer and diaphragm, catching sound waves and converting them into signals. The speed of the air coming from the sound source causes stress to be imposed on the ribbon.
Audio-Technica AT4081 Phantom-Powered Bidirectional Ribbon Microphone
- Low profile stick design maximizes placement options
- Smooth, warm and natural sound tuned for instrument reproduction
- Audio Technical ribbon design with 18 patents pending including proprietary Micro Linear ribbon imprint for superior durability
The Audio Technica AT4081 is an active dual ribbon microphone that requires phantom power. The 4081 has a unique ribbon design that allows it to be stored on its side without destroying the microphone. With a maximum SPL of 150dB, it can take pretty much anything, and the fact that it’s active makes it more tolerant of underpowered pre-amps.
Audio Technica AT4081 mic has a low-profile stick design that makes the passive ribbon mic easy to carry and use while also allowing for placing in confined spaces. The 4081, unlike many other ribbon mics, has a MicroLinear ribbon imprint that protects the dual ribbons from lateral flexing, distortion, and other types of damage. When it comes to versatility, the microphone is a natural. It works with a variety of instruments in the studio and on stage, including horns, orchestras, drum overheads, and strings. When you use it to record close vocals, you’ll enjoy how brilliant it sounds. This is due to the lack of cushioning that would protect the ribbon.
The 4081 is distinguished by the fact that it is an active ribbon mic that, unlike most of its kind, requires phantom power. This has a few advantages, such as a greater output impedance that requires less preamp gain and allows for quieter recordings. A studio novice might be concerned about finding the right preamp or mixing board to provide the necessary 48 volts. So, don’t worry, because the XLR cable can carry both power and audio signals.
Overall, one of the greatest vintage ribbon mics for recording close vocals is this one. Its wide range of applications elevates it to the top of the industry’s ribbon microphones. This is the Best Ribbon Microphone in 2023.
Royer Labs R-121 Large-Element Ribbon Microphone
- High SPL capabilities
- No internal active electronics to overload or produce distortion up to maximum SPL rating
- Extremely low residual noise
The Royer 121 is the flagship ribbon microphone from Royer Labs, a world-renowned company. The mic was first brought to the world in a small, lightweight, yet sturdy body, a far cry from the traditional huge, heavy, and super-fragile ribbon mics. The new design maintains the warm, natural tone that ribbon mics are known for.
This is a best-seller because it sounds great on anything from woodwinds to percussion, guitar amps, and voices. You can stop fiddling with the EQ on this mic since it will capture exactly what you hear, allowing whatever you record to sit properly in the mix. Royer employs a proprietary offset ribbon arrangement that allows the element to move more freely. It comes with a lifetime warranty and ribbon replacement, just like all Royer mics, but it’s built to last, so hopefully you won’t need it.
The R-121, like all other Royer R-series microphones, features a ribbon transducer technology that brings the diaphragm closer to the mic’s front. There are several advantages to this, including a brighter response to the mic’s rear, a more natural bidirectional pattern, and a greater maximum sound pressure. It also eliminates phase distortion at high frequencies. Furthermore, the mic has a sturdy structure that ensures long-term endurance, and it produces superb audio with full-body well-defined detail and a classic natural character. It’s for this reason why brass instruments and electric guitars prefer it. It also works with a variety of other sound sources, such as singers, strings, and drum overheads.
With a sensitivity rating of 4.5mV/Pa, the R-121 can be used with a variety of high-end pre-amps. To be safe, stick with a high-gain pre-amplifier. This is one of the best premium ribbon microphones on the market, with a lifetime guarantee and extras like a microphone sock, protective wood case, and free re-ribboning. This is the Best Ribbon Mics in 2023.
Beyerdynamic M160 Double Ribbon Microphone-Hyper-Cardioid
- Unique double ribbon microphone transducer with hypercardioid polar pattern
- Extended frequency response
- Excellent transparency and transient response
Since its release in 1952, the M160 has been used in innumerable albums and audio productions. What makes this microphone so unique? The M160 features a double ribbon construction that creates a warm, natural-sounding, clear sound with a wide frequency range.
For a double ribbon mic, the Beyerdynamic M160 is unique in that it possesses a hypercardioid pickup pattern rather than a figure 8 polar pattern. When it comes to recording guitar amps and drum overheads, the M160 shines. Of course, it’ll also work beautifully with strings and horns. For mid-side (MS) recordings, pair it with the Beyerdynamic M130 figure 8 ribbon mic.
Beyerdynamic is a well-known brand that has been creating high-quality ribbon microphones for over a decade. Their vintage mics are still as wonderful as they were when they first came out, so they haven’t lost any of their oomph. The M160 has a small but tough design. Its design is dynamic, and you can take it with you wherever you go, whether you work in film or music.
The mic is ideal for recording violins, guitars, pianos, and drums, as well as other stringed instruments. This is due to its exceptional transmission quality. It’s the ideal all-around and entertaining solution for a stereo recording setting when combined with a dynamic microphone. To summarize, if you want to add some rich and warm tones to your studio, you may rely on this Beyerdynamic ribbon mic to match all of your sound quality requirements. It’s a well-known go-to for most industry professionals because it’s from a well-known brand.
MXL R144 Ribbon Microphone
- Classic ribbon sound with a rich smooth midrange
- Figure-8 polar pattern that naturally captures instruments and room sound
- High SPL capability—ideal for horns and electric guitars
This is the best alternative for anyone looking for high-quality items at a reasonable price. The MXL R144 is one of the best cheap ribbon mics available, and its top-notch functionality lives up to the high praise it has received from professionals and hobbyists alike. When purchasing this mic, you have two options: a bundle with just the mic or a bundle with the mic and a shockmount.
The mic can be mounted on the shock mount for excellent location and to reduce mechanical noise. The MXL R144 has a super-rich and smooth sound, which is typical of classic microphones of this type. It was meticulously engineered to flawlessly record all of the sounds and instruments in a space. Because of its high SPL capacity, this should be your go-to mic if you play electric guitar or any type of horn as your main instrument.
Furthermore, the mic is incredibly small and light, allowing you to take it with you wherever you go. As a result, it’s an excellent alternative for a beginner who wants to experiment with different sounds on their instruments.
Rode NTR Premium Active Ribbon Microphone
Rode is known for producing high-quality condenser microphones for over a decade, and this is one of their flagship ribbon mic varieties. For horns, guitars, and vocals, this Australian-made mic is ideal. The NTR is distinguished by active electronics and an unique transformer that work together to provide maximum output level, making it an ideal match for virtually any phantom-powered microphone preamp.
It also has a high-frequency response, thus it doesn’t require much EQ to get a more detailed and balanced sound, unlike most ribbon mics. The bidirectional mic is built to last, with a heavy-duty black matte coating that won’t scratch easily, even with the countless minor mishaps that occur in the studio and on the road. Furthermore, the mic’s build prioritizes durability with strong and high-quality components.
Other appealing characteristics, like as the internal shock-mounting system, have made this microphone a popular choice among many experts. It’s ideal for live performances with a lot of noise because it’s incredibly sensitive and will function brilliantly to ensure that all of the notes are heard.
When you consider the extensive list of features as well as the warm and rich sound generated by this mic, you’ll see why it’s one of the best premium quality ribbon mics available. It is a little on the pricey side, but it is well worth the money.
AEA R84 Figure-eight Large Ribbon Geometry Velocity Microphone
If you’ve never worked with ribbons before, you’re in for a treat! The AEA R84 Ribbon Microphone is a great all-around microphone that’s great for solo and accent work. It’s difficult to think of a situation where the R84 mic wouldn’t be useful. The R84’s pleasant tone and figure-8 directional sensitivity give it everything a professional wants in a ribbon mic.
The AEA R84A has a large pure aluminum low-tension ribbon element, measuring 2.35″ by 0.185″ by 2 micron, which offers a speedy reaction in any application. This implies that the R84 reproduces percussive strikes, vocal consonants, and other rapid-attack material cleanly and correctly, with no “dull” or “flabby” qualities. You sound like you’re right there in front of the source.
Right off the start, AEA is a well-known microphone manufacturer best recognized for its association with the famed RCA ribbon mics. The R84 has the same classic character and natural tonality as the RCA R44, but it’s designed to sound more current. The mic features a high-end frequency that has been expanded to improve clarity and proximity effect. This ensures that everytime you close-mic, you get better results. The mic has a lot of detail in the high end and a lot of punch in the low end.
Furthermore, you may simply control the proximity effect to boost the bottom-end of instruments such as drums and voices such as bass and treble. The R84 has a large ribbon element and output transfer akin to the iconic 44 ribbon mics from the 1930s. It does, however, have a number of new components that increase its versatility and improve its sensitivity and durability. Because it has a low sensitivity rating of 2.5mV/Pa, it is recommended that you use a high-gain, high-quality preamplifier.
The mic also comes with a yoke mount, which not only allows for flexible positioning but also works as a shock mount to assist prevent mechanical noises from entering the signal. This is one of the greatest ribbon mics on the market, with a 2-year guarantee and a bespoke storage or shipping case.
Shure KSM313 Dual-Voice Ribbon Microphone with Roswellite Ribbon Technology
- Bi-directional polar pattern delivers Premier audio with superior off-axis rejection
- True dual-voice tuned specifically for user’s for choice of response: warm and full for amplifiers, or swivel for bright and flattering vocals
- Revolutionary roswellite proprietary ribbon material replaces traditional foil ribbons with high tensile strength, Toughness, and shape memory that...
For increased robustness and the ability to tolerate accidental phantom power and extreme SPL, the Shure KSM313/NE incorporates Roswellite® ribbon material. Because the mic has dual-voice functionality, you can choose a different sound based on how you position it. With its gorgeous red grille and black casing, this is a microphone you’ll want to put on show. A sturdy case, a soft protective pouch, and a mount stand are included.
The Shure employs a bi-directional polar pattern, which aids in the production of outstanding sounding audio with some of the greatest off-axis rejection available. Superior transient response in vocals is provided by a frequency response rate of 30 to 15000Hz and an SPL of 146.
Shure, like Audio-Technica, spent a lot of time designing a high-end ribbon that employs a proprietary roswellite ribbon material instead of typical foil ribbons and offers exceptional endurance and form. This enables the microphone to endure high amounts of sound pressure (SPL).
Avantone Pro CR-14
- Use for: Mic guitar amps & cabinets, acoustic guitar, mandolin, drum overheads, vocals, room mic, etc
The Avantone Pro C-14 is a low-cost ribbon microphone with excellent quality and a stylish design. It has many of the same features as other high-end models and comes with a variety of extras. The Avantone Pro C-14 has a bi-directional polar pattern that allows it to isolate a single voice with a small pickup angle. It can also assist keep the attention on instruments that are surrounded by other sounds. It’s a unique technique that isn’t used very frequently.
The twin low-mass ribbon element provides remarkable sensitivity, enhancing the depth and precision of your recordings. Because the transient response is so fast, high vibration sound sources can be easily recorded. The Avantone Pro C-14 has a maximum SPL of 148dB, which offers it an advantage for loud sources.
Overall, it’s a fantastic ribbon microphone for the money. For singing, I’d select it above similarly priced condenser microphones.