Of course, the way the ribbon element is tensioned and tuned, its size and thickness, the type of corrugation and the materials in front and behind the ribbon all have a huge impact on the sound and tonality of the microphone. RCA got such a strong reputation for its ribbon design that its 44BX ribbon from the late 1930s has long been considered the most musical microphone ever built.
From the beginning, ribbon mics inherently had figure-of-8 pickup patterns, meaning they received sound from both the front and back sides. This pick up from the back is a factor in what makes ribbon mics sound so natural and appealing. Ribbons have very strong nulls and do not pick up any sound at all on the sides. This can be used to great advantage when recording multiple instruments in the same room.
Ribbons with a figure-of-eight pattern have the most proximity effect of any other type of microphone. The bass gets more pronounced the closer the mic comes to the source. Radio announcers love ribbons because it makes them sound like “the voice of God.”
This proximity effect can also beef up thin sounding musical instruments and make them sound warmer. It gives kick drums a deepened booming effect. Thin vocals are boosted and made to sound richer and deeper.
Ribbon mics have a high-frequency roll-off that is similar to how human ears hear sounds. Our ribbons are tuned lower than human hearing so that they capture the low end past the sub frequencies. Almost no other microphone out there captures as much low-end as our models.
Different Kinds of Ribbon Mics
Today’s AEA ribbon mics are more robust and convenient to use than ever before. The original RCA 44BX weighed eight pounds. We make a replica of it called the AEA R44C, which weighs the same. But we realized that an eight-pound mic is not for everyone outside of the studio. It is not the most convenient size and weight for extreme portability in today’s increasingly mobile world. So our line has expanded to become lighter and more flexible through the years.
We now make near-field and far-field microphones in both active and passive versions. Near-field mics, like our active, one-pound N22, the supercardioid KU5A, and adjustable R92, can work at just an inch away from the sound source and maintain an excellent balance of highs and lows.
Listen to the N22 on vocals and electric guitar
Far-field mics, like the active N8 and passive R88, are designed to work at greater distances for the pick up of room sounds and to give instruments, like drum kits, more ambience.
Listen to the N8 on drum overheads and R88 on room