For those of us on a budget, “cheap” ribbon mics (referenced in the last post) make for a great introduction to recording with ribbons.
Most of the cheaper ribbon mics are manufactured in China. Among the most popular: Apex, Shiny Box, and Nady. I have a pair of Apex 210s that make great drum “underheads” (as recently discussed on the TapeOp messageboard.) The rolled-off high frequencies yield a much more controlled cymbal sound, a plus for anyone recording drums in an untreated basement.
If you’re unfamiliar with ribbon mics, here are two great magazine articles describing how they work, and when you might want to reach for one:
From Electronic Musician, Ribbon Revival:
The benefits of ribbon miking are often characterized as a smooth and natural timbre without sibilant highs, full low-end response at any distance, and high-SPL handling. Low noise and superb transient response are additional benefits, especially when a ribbon is paired with a quality microphone preamp. (See the sidebar “Preamps for Ribbon Mics.”)
From Mix Magazine, Ribbon Renaissance:
The qualities that make them prized are many: “Warm,” “musical” and “syrupy” are words often used to describe a ribbon mic’s trademark sound, which is attributed in part to a gentle proximity effect that becomes pronounced within a few inches of the mic, as well as an inherently flat frequency response with a smoothly attenuated top end. They’re naturally bidirectional, perfect for both mid/side (M/S) and Blumlein stereo recording techniques. In addition, the low mass of a ribbon diaphragm allows for fast transient response. Ribbons also offer a wide dynamic range, useful on everything from capturing low sounds from stringed instruments to handling extreme SPLs at high frequencies, making them an ideal choice for miking brass and percussion.
If you’re handy with a soldering iron, the Chinese mics also lend themselves to some easy modifications that can dramatically improve their sound. The easiest involve removing the internal mesh, and upgrading the microphone’s transformer.
The transformer mod is straightforward. two wires on primary, two wires on secondary. Desolder, mount new transformer, resolder.
On the Cinemag transformer, the primary pair is red/brown wires, the secondary pair is the orange/yellow wires, with the white wire connecting to ground.
So the upgrade is simple as desoldering the existing wires, mounting the new transformer, and connecting the new traffo wires to their appropriate spots.