The AEA R84 is one of the most flexible ribbon microphones in use today. Designed as a lighter, more compact, and lower cost version of the R44, this Swiss Army knife of ribbon mics fits a wide range of applications.
Though passive ribbon mics like the R84 have always been known for their incredible sound, they also come with certain requirements needed to reach their full sonic potential. This mainly involves using a very high-gain, high-impedance mic preamp — characteristics that many older and even modern preamps lack.
Passive ribbons generally have low output level and require preamps that supply a high level of gain. If the preamp you use doesn’t have enough gain, the mic signal may seem too soft or noisy. This can be apparent when recording quiet acoustic guitars or strings, especially at a distance or with long cable runs. In addition, if the preamp paired with a passive ribbon does not have a high enough impedance, it can negatively affect the low end, top end, and transient response of the microphone.
Due to these inherent issues in passive ribbon mics, we were inspired to come up with a way to allow people to use any preamp and still experience the full potential of the microphone. We developed active circuitry for our ribbon mics allowing just this.
Are They The Same?
They are almost identical in sound! The R84A is an R84, with the addition of a custom-made Lehle transformer and active electronics. The two versions of the microphone sound very similar and both offer that classic ribbon sound. Other than these two changes and an 18-carat gold-plated grill for the R84A, the passive R84 and the active R84A are essentially the same microphone.