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Record With Absolute Clarity and Accuracy Using a Ribbon Microphone

Ribbon microphones are very specialized but indispensable for certain types of audio recording. Dynamic input ability allows you to focus on the source of the sound, cutting out the mechanical noise and retaining natural clarity. Many options are available on eBay.

What is a ribbon microphone?

Most microphones are comprised of an outer casing covering an inner, magnetic coil, and while they are easy to use, they pick up every noise around them. Ribbon mics are comprised of an eight-sided outer casing covering a single, incredibly thin and extremely delicate magnetic ribbon. This makes audio extremely clear and natural, and allows you to face the microphone in a way that blocks out unwanted interference and sound, or utilize a transformer to conduct the current and manipulate output more accurately.

Difference between condenser and dynamic microphones

These are two of the most commonly used mics in the music industry, and they each have their specific niche.

  • Venue: Condenser microphones pick up large sounds and can cloud out what you actually want to record, so they're the standard for studio recordings. Dynamic mics are great in open space AND studios.
  • Quality: Dynamic mics offer more durability but record lower quality sound, offering a more \"natural\" sound.
  • Instruments: Dynamic mics favor louder, more robust sounds; string instruments, electric guitar, and drum kits all sound clearest recorded on a dynamic mic. Acoustic guitar and wispy wood instruments favor condensers.
How do ribbon mics work?

A thin slip of aluminum or nanofilm is stretched between two magnetic poles within the housing. This creates two broad sites of input, and the thin sides of the filament don't record anything. This means you can focus directly on two to eight specific points of audio input and filter out any ambient noise to the left and right of the microphone in general. This makes them perfect for podcasts, talk shows, or radio programs where you record on opposite sides of the equipment.

When to choose a ribbon microphone

The types of audio you're working on will greatly influence the types of devices you need to use. These types of microphones are optimal for the following types of recording:

  • Outdoor and stage live performances
  • Studio works of electric guitar, cello and other concert strings, overhead input from drum kits, and sax, clarinet, and strong woodwinds
  • Two-part conversations, like radio productions, captured on a single mic instead of multiples
  • Spoken-word, monologue, or single-person records in an audio booth or acoustically pleasing, small room
Should you buy new or vintage equipment?

Ribbon microphones have been in use since the 1950s, and they haven't changed considerably in the last 60 years. The very fact that you can still purchase and use vintage mics to record quality audio is a testament to their remarkable design and durability. While new microphones might have some features that are appealing, most will be cosmetic like color, lacquer, or shape. Ultimately the reliability will be the same for a new mic versus a vintage one, and the vintage charm is appealing for many people.