Looking for the best ribbon microphone? Whether you’re a musician, planning a special event, or just need to make yourself heard, the right ribbon microphone will make a difference.
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Here’s everything you need to know — including eight of the best ribbon microphones on the market this year.
What is a Ribbon Microphone?
A ribbon microphone is one of the most natural mics for capturing sounds, voices, instruments, and ambiance. These dynamic mics feature super-thin metallic strips hanging in strong magnetic fields. They are also passive devices.
Here, passive means that the mics lack any active onboard electronics. These devices specialize in subtracting certain elements from signals. It doesn’t have its own power the way an active device does.
Unlike active devices, no vintage ribbon microphone will add an ounce of noise to a signal. These devices are also quite effective at not distorting the signal in the slightest bit. In many ways, they are the musician’s dream instrument.
What is a Ribbon Microphone Used for?
The best ribbon microphone is a highly detailed device. Despite that, they are not overly sensitive as is the case with other similar products. This quality ensures that they have no problem:
- Picking up the hints of close sources
- Remaining separated from room noise and all manner of off-axis sound, thus winning any debate over ribbon microphone vs. condenser
As for practical ribbon microphone uses, do you have a choir that you would like to see performing in large spaces? In that case, you should definitely go with a ribbon mic. Apart from that, it does an awesome job in miking guitar cabinets too.
For years, ribbon microphones have enjoyed unmatched popularity among radio and TV presenters. They are a favorite of talk show hosts because of their ability to capture the two sides of a conversation well.
These stunning devices are nonlinear too. Here, non-linearity means their sonic output is excellent, honest, and remarkably accurate. Your recordings sound as natural as possible with them — this settles the ribbon microphone vs. dynamic debate.
They win such debates because condenser and dynamic mics introduce a bit of color to your sound. Not all people like this kind of addition. On the other hand, a quality ribbon microphone allows you to record in the exact tone and pitch you crafted.
What Type of a Mic is a Ribbon Mic?
A ribbon microphone is what you call a passive mic. There are passives and actives. Ribbon mics have always been passives since their introduction into the market. Passive means that they are:
- Simple at their core
- Composed of one ribbon, transformer, and two magnets
Passive mics are renowned for their excellent sound. They also have specific requirements without which they would not be the superb devices that they are. However, in some ways, they are also worth classifying as active mics.
The active mics have phantom power that allows them to operate. Phantom power means the ability of the mics to distribute direct current (DC) when they need electric power for driving active circuitry.
A ribbon microphone is dynamic too. In other words, these mics rely on electromagnetism for the conversion of sound into electrical signals. Dynamic microphones are in two categories, and these are:
Are Cheap Ribbon Mics Any Good?
There is nothing wrong in inquiring about the cost of acquiring one or more ribbon mics. The ribbon microphone price is different. Typically, you need upwards of $1,000 to buy a quality ribbon mic.
However, should you buy cheap versions of this type of mic? Several models of this microphone cost less than $1,000. For example, some cost as low as $384.99 on Amazon.
Are they worth it? Yes, they are, as you will see later in the review!
Are Ribbon Microphones Good for Vocals?
Should you buy ribbon microphones for vocals? Are you wondering if they would be suitable for vocals or something entirely different? Below are reasons that should convince you to use them for their vocals.
For starters, it’s worth mentioning that tiresome plugins will not help you much, especially in your struggles with de-esser. A ribbon mic can provide the solutions you need for this problem.
Ribbon mics are renowned for their remarkable proximity effect, which supports creation of big sound. The mics are able to provide warmth to the not-so-powerful vocals. Amazingly, they do this without calling for equalizers.
A ribbon mic rolls off smoothly too, which is great for certain types of tracks. This quality ensures that it accepts general equalization, which often becomes necessary when a track requires a bit more of a kick.
Our Top Picks for Ribbon Microphones
Here are a few of the best ribbon microphones available in 2021.
1. ART AR5 Active Ribbon Microphone*
ART AR5 Active ribbon mic is the best for high-pressure sound. With its dual-ribbon construction and compact design, the mic will not disappoint you. Its active integrated electronics, improved stability, and increased output stand out too.
2. Cloud Microphone CL-1 Cloudlifter*
This ribbon mic is perfect for creating crisp and clear sound. It’s the perfect device for optimizing sound, guaranteeing zero tone coloration, and producing reduced feedback. This device is also capable of enhancing signals right at the source.
3. *CAD Audio CADLive D82*
This moving ribbon dynamic is exactly what you need to fill your sounds with warmth and a bit of an added sparkle. This mic’s build and design prove that it can perform beyond your wildest expectations. It’s equally sensational at miking guitar amps.
4. MXL Ribbon Mic*
Do you operate on a tight budget? If so, you should get this amazing ribbon mic. It captures smooth, natural, and compact sound. The mic will not disappoint you when recording trombones either. It also holds the loud dynamics well.
5. M160 Dynamic Ribbon Mic*
Are you interested in a ribbon mic that offers a full range of frequencies? M160 dynamic ribbon mic is what you need. It’s extremely versatile and capable of breaking the normal dark sound associated with most ribbon mics. This device is perfect for rock bands.
6. sE Electronics Voodoo VR1 Ribbon Mic*
The authentic tone and unmistakable warmth of this ribbon microphone make it ideal for the recording studio. It’s also sturdy enough to last and save you money that would go into replacing it frequently. This passive ribbon delivers fairly low output too.
7. MXL R144 Ribbon Mic with Shockmount*
Fewer ribbon microphones are as perfect as the MXL R144 mic with a shock mount for guitar and all sorts of brass instruments. Moreover, it also performs amazingly well when used for vocals and compliments the horns while cutting the vast midrange of the guitar amp.
8. *sE Electronics X1R Passive Ribbon Mic*
This ribbon microphone is perfect for recording multiple sources. You can use it for recording strings, guitar cabs, overhead drums, brass, and woodwind, to mention a few. It’s the ideal high-performance passive ribbon mic that you never knew you needed!
Ribbon mics are the greatest tools for the kind of music you want to produce. The accurate and stellar sound reproduction they deliver is incomparable to what you get from condensers and dynamic mics.
To get a better idea of what they are, you should check any ribbon microphone diagram online. In our view, sE Electronics Voodoo VR1 is the best ribbon mic to go for. Most sE Electronics products are wonderful ribbon mics too!