There are certain factors you have to consider before buying a ribbon microphone. Luckily, you’ve wandered into the right place. This article will give you a detailed breakdown of some of the best ribbon mics and offer a brief comparison to help you make an informed decision on the exact model to go for. While we strongly believe that one of the best you can find anywhere is the MXL R144, there are some ribbons mic models that we have seen and have decided to make a list of 10 of the best. The criteria used were pricing, preference of connection, intended use, efficiency and additional accessories that may be needed depending on the function you want to use it for.
So what are ribbon microphones and what are they used for?
A ribbon microphone is a distinct kind of microphone that has an amazing performance and receives lots of positive reviews by mic enthusiasts as a result of its recording accuracy. They offer an amazing, special recording quality and accuracy and to top it up, they are some of the most beautiful set of mics you can find out there. When it comes to recording, so performers say it’s a ribbon mic or nothing and while it all depends on the ear that will hear the sound, I am yet to see a negative review on the performance of a ribbon mic.
In comparison with the condenser mic (perfect for just about anything and everything) and dynamic mics (which are perfect for Performing), they are a little bit restricted to a specific kind of use. Ribbon mics are amazing for recording vocals and acoustics, podcast and radio broadcasts as well as other kinds of strings.
Picking the best ribbon mic
Budget range – what can you afford to spend on a ribbon mic? This will help reduce the options to a few that you can study to pick the best. We have searched only the common-price places for the prices of ribbon mics to ensure that this list is as close to accurate as possible. Who knows, the ribbon mic that would be perfect for you might just be cheaper than what you anticipated or if slightly more expensive, you know how to prepare for it. That said, some ribbon mics are really pocket friendly and despite their cheaper rates, they do not compromise on quality.
Connectivity – majority of the ribbon mics make use of the XLR input (similar to most condenser mic), and this implies that you might have to buy an external phantom power. However, some of the brands and models out there have a plug and play USB model that can work perfectly with you PC. It all depends on preference however; some people feel that the quality and performance of a mic might be reduced by the USB connection.
Additional accessories? There are some accessories you need to have when it comes to microphones. While these accessories depend on the use of the mic, there are some that you will almost definitely be needing e.g. the audio interface/phantom power, pop filter, shock mount, mic stand etc. note that if you have budget restrictions, you have to factor these accessories in as well.
The Best Ribbon Microphones
Just as we noted in the intro, the MXL R144 is one of the best ribbon mics ever made. If you need an affordable ribbon mic that is very close to a professional mic, this model is what you need. It comes in a 1.8-micron aluminum ribbon as well as a Figure-8 polar pattern ribbon. This enhances the sound clarity and ensures great sensitivity – perfect for broadcast, acoustics or vocal recordings. It has an accurate directivity, true side rejection and SPL ability thus ensuring it holds down a place in this list. It comes with 250 ohms impedance, -56 db. sensitivity and rated load impedance of more that 1,500 ohms; all these add up to make the solid quality and capability earlier mentioned. Its ribbon is 47 mm in length; it is a compact lightweight mic with an amazing chrome and metal finish.
This is another great model, especially f you need a custom design and an included transformer for varied performance. This mic comes with a 1.8-micron aluminum ribbon and a 2-directional polar pattern that offers amazing sensitivity and a lovely sound production for broadcast or sound recording purposes. It has its own internal shock mounting system and ability to handle high SPL; this mic definitely deserves to be listed as one of the best mics in the market today. It is relatively cheap and comes with an impedance of 20Hz to 20 kHz range and 200 output ohms, which is an amazing technical proof of its abilities and quality. This mic is designed with a mate black metal finish, giving it that heavy-duty look. Your sound while using this mic will definitely come out professional.
Avantone Audio CR-14
The next mic on our list is the Avantone Audio CR-14. With consideration to its lovely looks, mid-price point and amazing quality, this mic definitely deserves a place on our list. If not for looks, its price or quality will definitely attract anyone in need of a ribbon mic. This is a 14-ribbon mic that offers high-quality smooth sound. Its SPL handling is up to 145 db. and this ensures your vocal or studio recording comes out perfect. Similar to most mics, it offers a front and back Figure-8 polar pattern and reduces residual noise. It has a frequency response rate of 30Hz to 15KHz, with a +/- 3 db. distortion which is amazing for a ribbon of this class. It has under 600 ohms impedance and a sensitivity of -52 db. making it one of the best within its price range. This amazing mic is lightweight and comes with a nickel trim, metallic wine red and heavy-duty dusky grille. If you have a limited budget and still intend to get a quality mic with great design, this mic is your answer.
Since this mic was released in 1998, it has been a favorite ribbon mic. The fact it has survived different paradigm shifts in the ribbon mic market gives an insight to the quality of this product. The best part is that it has picked up quite a number of awards along the way. Its technical verification for classification as a ribbon mic, its flat frequency response of 30 to 15,000 Hz plus or minus 3 db., its figure-8 polar pattern and its 300 ohms impedance – its not hard to see why this mic deserves a place in our list. This mic has a unique offset ribbon transducer ensuring that the frequency response is always accurate. There are a large number of positive feedbacks on this model thus giving us the confidence to back it to be a long-term investment. If you can afford this mic, then go for it buy all means.
This model is another product by MXL. It has a passive circuitry, in combination with its elegance ensures that you have a smooth classic sound. Compared to others, it is cheap. It has an XLR connector at the base in place of the switches in circuit path commonly seen in other ribbon mics. For the piece, its an amazing acoustic sound recording mic with a frequency range of 20Hz to 17KHz making it a superb choice if you wish to record with higher SPL. It is a durable lightweight mic with a metallic and electric blue finish. This mic deserves its place on our list and if you are working with a thin budget, this mic is definitely worth looking at.
Golden Age Project R1 MK2
If you need a super vintage looking mic with the same characteristics as a ribbon mic in terms of sound quality, then you need not look beyond this MK2 masterpiece. Its high and low sound is clear and prolonged. It has a 2 mm thick micron and a 55 mm ribbon that will ensure that the transient response is quick and realistic. Just like almost every other ribbon mic, it has a figure-8 polar pattern and is suitable for acoustic instrument recordings as well as vocals recording. Another reason why this mic deserves a spot on our list is the fact that it is compatible with all classic preamps and mixers. It is relatively affordable and can be grouped with the cheaper classification of mics on this list.
This mic is definitely one of the best there is. With its amazing versatility and adaptability, it pretty obvious that a mic like this deserves to be on our list. It comes with a double ribbon design for proper classic sound quality. It has an output impedance of 200ohms and a load impedance of 1000 ohms as well as a frequency range of 40Hz to 20KHz. It weighs just 0.8 pounds with a long classic design – black and chrome finish. Looking to get a clean and well-defined sound, this mic will give you just that. Also perfectly suitable for stereo recording!
Blue Microphones Woodpecker
Blue Microphones constantly expand their production line and this particular model has qualities that can attract just about any body in need of mic. Its design is amazing with the lovely wood finish. This woodpecker model has a figure-8 polar pattern and a frequency response from 20Hz -20KHz making it ideal for recording with high SPL. This mic is suitable for instrumental and vocal recording. Less than 22 db. noise level can be delivered by this A-weighted mic. This mic has an impedance of 50 ohms. These qualities, in conjunction with its retro wooden design, it isn’t hard to see why it has a place on our list.
This is another masterpiece from MXL. This ribbon mic combines sensitivity and a clear frequency as a classic characteristic of the best ribbon mics in the market. It makes use of a direct USB connection, making easy to plug and use. It also has a figure-8 polar pattern that offers amazing side rejection that the instrument from unwanted noise while ensuring that the instruments and vocals are recorded clearly. This model has a very low noise preamp and its in-built headphone jack. There are some software that it has capable of assisting you use all its functions into good use. This mic has a frequency range of 20HZ to 18KHz and an 89 db. signal to noise ratio. For its price, it’s an amazing addition and is often regarded as the most ideal mic for beginners. Professionals also make use of this ribbon mic; especially the ones that wish to avoid the hassle of an audio interface or a phantom external unit.
This is the last but definitely not the least on this list. That said, it is the cheapest model on this list. It has amazing versatility and qualities make it ideal for different applications, including instrumental, acoustic and vocal uses. It has an amazing sound output and its low-tension, 6-micron thick, 45 mm long aluminum ribbon gives it great aesthetics. Just like almost every other ribbon in the market, it has a figure-8 polar pattern. It also has a high 165 db. SPL and a decent transient response. It also has the capacity to offer an off-axis high frequency response on the sides. People who wish to carry out stereo recordings and have a tight budget can easily opt for this model. This brand is known for its drum mics but they also have some other models that are very efficient for other uses as well.