Battle of Two Near-Fields: R92 vs N22 on Guitars Amps

Same wavelength or not?

With so many mics out there in the world, searching for the right one can be a daunting task– especially when it comes to the world of guitars! Guitars are some of the most interesting instruments to record because there are so many different combinations of guitars, amps, and players creating various tones. At AEA, many of the staff members are guitarists, all with different concepts of what a guitar should sound like. With these varying ideas, we were able to come up with two mics that we think can capture any guitar out there: the R92 and N22.

Ribbons are known for sounding great on guitar amps. With enough finessing, you could get by with most ribbons on guitars. But why settle why there are specific mics out there designed to capture the tone that you hear in your head and from your amp?

AEA’s R92 and N22 ribbon microphones are near-field models designed for close-miking. While most ribbons can be positioned up against an amp these two are special because they eliminate most of the bass build-up caused by proximity effect. While both are near-fields that share the same big ribbon and ribbon tuning, each has a unique sonic signature. But how do you tell the difference and which one should you choose for miking your guitar?

Ribbon Mics

Old School Tones With the R92

The R92 has buckets of character. It was modeled with the sound of the classic R84 in mind but tailored for use up-close by reducing its proximity effect and giving it a more pronounced midrange making it perfect for guitar and bass amps.

With a thick pillowy low-end and beefy midrange, the R92 is ideal for good tones, which is why it is a mic of choice for musicians Ryan Adams and Jack White on electric guitar. Imagine playing a 57’ strat into a dimed 65’ Deluxe Reverb — there is no better mic to impart its signature character on that kind of vintage tone.

Listen to the R92 on a Magnatone Amp played by a Gibson SG

The R92 is Two-Faced (in a good way)

Both sides of the R92 have a different sound. The front side offers a crisp sonic signature — tailored to have a bright sound. The back side is darker and smoother. It is a subtle difference in tonality that can be the secret ingredient in shaping your mix’s final sound.

Listen to the front side of the R92 playing blues
Listen to the back side of the R92 playing blues

Techniques for Top End

From up-close, the R92 has thick a midrange and low-end that works to capture the power and mid-range detail of your guitar amp. These are the characteristics that have made the R92 a studio standard on amps.

Though sometimes engineers are looking for some more top-end bite. With the R92, there are two popular methods that engineers use to add more top-end to their guitar tracks.

1. Pull It Back

Even though the R92 is a near-field, it still has a proximity effect that kicks in between 4–6 inches away from the source. Leveraging this proximity effect is a common method used to thicken up the sound of your instrument. But this proximity effect can mask the top end of your R92. By pulling the R92 back to roughly 6 inches away from an amp, its top-end will open up.

Ribbon Mics
Listen to the R92 positioned 8 inches away from an amp

In most situations, positioning the R92 from 6 inches away works great for recording a balanced sound with limited room tone. Though there are those musicians that want the pure direct sound of their cab with as little room tone as possible. To accomplish this, the mic needs to be right up against the grill moving you back into proximity effect territory.

Ribbon Mics
2. A +1 for your R92

The second way to achieve more top end in your guitar recordings with an R92, is to pair it up-close with a bright dynamic microphone. For years, the classic way to use an R92 has been to position it next to a bright dynamic mic up-close against an amp, and blend them until you find the right combination of bite and warmth to fit in the mix. For more top end, turn up the dynamic mic. For more warmth and body, turn up the R92.

Listen to the R92 2 inches away blended with an SM57 from 2 inches away

Some engineers choose to treat the compound signals from the two mics as one by panning them together. Others opt for hard panning both mics to their own ends of the mix, a method that adds dimension and depth to an electric guitar tone.

Sample delaying one of the two microphones by roughly 20 to 50 milliseconds gives the impression of a larger room, achieving greater depth in a mix. Remember to ensure that the sample delay is short enough to avoid phase issues.

Preamp Flavor

As a passive ribbon mic, the R92 can be used with different preamps to experiment with the overall frequency response. If you want less low-end and attack, use a low-impedance preamp. This feature allows for an unlimited amount of combinations to give you tons options for shaping your tones!

Ribbon Mics

New Vibes with the N22

Listen to the N22 on a Magnatone amp played with a Jazzmaster

What the R92 might lack in top end, the N22 makes up for it in spades. The N22 is a microphone on a mission to capture the tone of your instrument up close without the need for blending additional mics. If you like the existing sound of your guitar and amp, why muck it up? The N22 is the perfect mic to capture the natural sound of your guitar and bass amps.

The N22 has even less proximity effect than the R92 giving it a balanced sound from an inch away from your guitar amp. Its low end response is tight and focused making it especially useful for heavily distorted guitars and baritones.

Ribbon Mics

Unlike the R92, the N22 is an active microphone. This means it has electronics and a custom transformer inside that boosts the mic’s level and keeps the impedance consistent. The N22 can be used with any modern preamp and the frequency response will sound very consistent allowing the engineer to choose mic preamps that add color and saturation to the audio without sacrificing low end and transient response.

Listen to the N22 on blues electric guitar

This is especially useful for bands like the Alabama Shakes and the War On Drugs who take their N22s on the road to amplify their guitars and engineers who like using older preamps for their color while retaining the full frequency response of the N22. This flexibility with preamps — along with added ruggedness, a compact size, and extra output — is a major innovation with the N22 for traveling musicians.

Musical Choices for Musical Artists

It’s a tough choice, but both mics are meant to serve a single purpose–to capture the guitar sound that you hear in your head.

Tricks of the Trade
Near-Field vs. Far-Field Ribbon Mics: What’s The Difference

Knowing the difference will change the way you record.

Tricks of the Trade
Active Vs Passive Ribbons: What’s the Difference?
Tricks of the Trade
Should I Choose an Active Ribbon Mic or a Ribbon Preamp?

Active ribbon, ribbon preamp, or both?