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A ribbon microphone instead of a condenser microphone?

Sampling pipe organs and turning them into something you can play in Hauptwerk.
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A ribbon microphone instead of a condenser microphone?

PostSat Nov 03, 2018 2:19 pm

Several times in this forum we talked about sampling microphones. I do not want to go into the specifics of stereo, surround, ambisonic recording techniques but to understand how important the microphone is to give an interpretation to the recorded sound. In particular, how can a monophonic recording be more convincing? The answer is both in the accuracy of physical reality but also in subjective reinterpretation.

Probably the most interesting contribution dates back to 2007 from Auriel ( professional Sampling: Techniques, Mics... viewtopic.php?f=2&t=1887 )

It is still largely valid for the professional user. I would also add the Earthworks microphones that are designed for great accuracy, especially omnidirectional ones. ( ... ochure.pdf )
The sound of Earthworks may not please those looking for a colorful sound (for example with tubes, transformers and equalization curves), it may seem neutral and without character but they represent reality in an extremely faithful way. They are quite compact and easy to position thanks to their omnidirectional polar diagram and very small capsule. The only "problem" of these microphones is a high noise (20dB or higher).
For those who want to do a "neutral" job, they are probably the ideal choice. If you see the video of Marshall & Ogeltree you can watch them ( ) and also MilanDigitalAudio makes no secret of the fact that he used them for the Salisbury organ (Earthworks QTC30 and Neumann KM183).

It could be said that those who want a colorful sound could even think of elaborating it in post-production rather than inside the microphone. Today you can use many analog and digital sound modeling devices so you could use a DSP like Vertigo VSM-3 (Mastering Grade Saturation & Color, ... vsm-3.html ) to give character and presence to a neutral sound, even using a measuring microphone like Earthworks M50, why not?
Antelope, Slate Digital and Townsend Labs follow this model of virtualization through software.

Choosing a very accurate microphone can therefore be an advantage of structural flexibility. On the other side a microphone with a lot of character (for example SE Electronics Gemini II, Lauten Audio LT-381 Oceanus, Neumann M149 ) may be nicer to listen to but it may not fit well to all the sounds you want to record and it would perhaps be harder to model the sound character. In short, the answer also depends on present and future intentions.

Having made this long introductory digression, it does not seem to me that we have ever spoken about ribbon microphones. Generally they are used when you are tired of feeling the analytical precision of the condenser and you want to have a more natural, more organic, more vibrant sound.
Recently the ribbon microphones have been the subject of a new rebirth and, thanks also to the better mid / high frequencies coverage, we can think of using a ribbon microphone instead of a condenser microphone.

Starting from the cheapest models up to the most important builders:

sE Electronics Voodoo VR2 Active Ribbon Microphone
Royer SF-2 Active Ribbon Microphone
Royer R-122 MKll Active Ribbon Microphone

every contribution is welcome ...
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Re: A ribbon microphone instead of a condenser microphone?

PostSat Nov 03, 2018 3:54 pm

About 50 Years ago, I had the opportunity to record a few Organs with, RCA 77D, Ribbon Microphones, and the sound was both good and smooth, as many pro singer's used them years ago, for vocal recording ! The recorded sound was good until we recorded the Pedals, then the VU meters would Pin, and the recordings were distorted, ( AMPEX, Pro. Recorders ) The ribbons would flap when trying to capture the low bass notes ! :roll:

Later we purchased a pair of Neumann U-47's (Telefunken's), and, WoW, they picked up my walking on the Soft carpeted floor, otherwise they were most realistic . Only problem they had was very common, when recording the Glockenspiel bells, the Mike's exaggerated "the hammer clunks", Destroying the recordings ! Later we placed Moving Quilts over the Glockenspiel, and then cut some decent recordings. Followed by me building a pair of H- Pads, to be inserted in the cables between the U-47's and our Mixer, the recordings then,were much improved ! Mel, Best wishes !
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Re: A ribbon microphone instead of a condenser microphone?

PostMon Nov 05, 2018 9:21 pm

Here is an excellent discussion of the qualities and characteristics of ribbon mics:

I own and use successfully on a variety of sources an original Royer R122. However, I would never consider using it to record organ because 1) it is not omnidirectional and therefore does not capture the bass frequencies of a pipe organ in proper proportion, 2) it has a decided proximity effect which again effects the bass frequencies of a pipe organ in an unnatural way, and 3) it does not have the low-end extension needed to record the full range of bass frequencies accurately.

EDIT: One other thing to be aware of that Mel alluded to is that ribbon mics are VERY susceptible to wind damage which could be a significant problem if close-micing bass pipes or high-pressure ranks.

My lower-cost microphone of choice for recording organ is a Jim Williams-modified AKG C460B with an omni capsule. I run two of those through a Lunatec V3 preamp with the digital signal then saved directly into a Marantz digital recorder. This setup produces a very clean signal that represents the full frequency range of a pipe organ quite accurately. I typically record at 88.2 khz, 24 bit with the end product usually being at 44.1 khz, 16 bit for CD. I also use the Waves Z-Noise plugin as needed to suppress blower noise.
Stan Kartchner, Tucson, AZ USA

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