Greg Wurth explains that a ribbon microphone is based around a small metal ribbon that is stretched between two powerful magnets. He discusses the specifications for this mic type, which include a bidirectional polar pattern as well as sensitivity to high sound-pressure levels. He shares the history and features of several classic microphones that are found in professional recording studios.
- [Instructor] A ribbon microphone works similarly to a dynamic microphone. It uses a very thin metal ribbon that is stretched between two very powerful magnets. The ribbon vibrates when a sound wave hits it, and like the dynamic coil, it creates an electrical voltage as a result. Ribbons typically don't require any sort of power to operate, but there are a few existing models that do require 48 volts. It's always recommended to refer to the operation manual before applying any sort of power to a microphone if you're not completely certain that the particular model requires it.
Ribbon microphones typically have a fixed bi-directional polar pattern, although there is exceptions to this. They're also very sensitive to high sound pressure levels, so care must be taken not to place them too close to loud sources, as the ribbon may tear. Here are some of the most recognizable ribbon microphones. The RCA 44-BX is the oldest microphone that'll be discussed in this course. It was introduced in 1932 and was specifically designed for broadcast use.
Engineers became fond of ribbon mics because of their smooth and rich tonal characteristics. In 1976, RCA had unfortunately closed their microphone department. Currently, the Los Angeles based company, AEA, is manufacturing what they refer to as a museum-grade reproduction of the RCA 44. The RCA 77-DX was introduced in 1954, and offered a multi pattern selector that would allow for cardioid and omnidirectional patterns in addition to the typical bidirectional pattern.
The way in which this microphone switches between the directional patterns is very interesting. It utilizes a rotating shutter that closes the opening behind the ribbon element. With the shutter wide open, the microphone operates in bidirectional mode, and when it's fully closed, it operates in omni. The in-between setting activates cardioid mode. The Beyerdynamic M one 60 has a unique lollipop-shaped body that was introduced in 1952. This microphone utilizes a double ribbon design, and has a fixed hyper-cardioid polar pattern.
Andy Johns created history when he put two M one 60s at the top of the stairwell at Headley Grange and fed them into a pair of ADR Compex Limiters and a Binson Echorec Unit to achieve the monstrous drum sound that can be heard on Led Zeppelin's "When The Levy Breaks." The Coles Electro-acoustics 4038 was introduced in 1953, but was originally released by a company called STC, which stood for Standard Telephones and Cables. The founders of Coles worked for STC as toolmakers, and then, in 1972, began manufacturing their microphones for them.
In 1974, STC gave up on marketing those products. Coles stepped in and bought all of the manufacturing rights and patents. The 4038 is still in production today. The Royer Labs R one 21 is the newest microphone that's mentioned in this course. It was introduced in 1998 with an aim to reintroduce the ribbon microphone in a new way. Their special new design offered the same characteristics that engineers love, but in a package that was much more practical.
The R one 21 comes in a small, but extremely durable shell. It can also handle extremely high sound pressure levels, making it virtually indestructible and perfect for loud sources such as electric guitars and drums. They're so confident in their design that they offer a lifetime warranty on their products. So, those are some of the most common ribbon mics that you might find in a recording studio.
Throughout the course, Greg shares images, diagrams, and audio examples that can help you grasp how this equipment functions, and why you might want to opt for one piece over another. Greg dives into working with different kinds of microphones and preamps, describes the main types of compressors and equalizers, and shows how an analog-to-digital and digital-to-analog converter works. Plus, he covers analog summing—the process of combining multiple audio channels down to a stereo signal—and analog emulation.
- Dynamic, condenser, and ribbon mics
- Tube mic preamps and solid state mic preamps
- Different types of compressors and equalizers
- Analog-to-digital and digital-to-analog conversion
- Analog summing
- Analog emulation