Choosing the Best Ribbon MicrophoneBuying Guide

As any studio musician can attest to, having a reliable, high-quality microphone can make all the difference in the world on a recording. This guide will focus on ribbon mics and help you to understand their nuances, the advantages and disadvantages of using ribbon mics, and highlight some of the best ribbon mic choices for various uses.

While many of you may be able to rattle off the names of popular dynamic and condenser microphones in your sleep, you may be less familiar with the ribbon microphone, which was the first type of microphone ever created, and one which—although still used today—is also associated with vintage recordings.

All About Ribbon Mics

What to Consider Before You Buy

So, what are ribbon microphones?

Well, similar to a dynamic mic, they have moving parts and a magnetic field, and for this reason, many scholars consider ribbon mics to actually be a type of dynamic mic. However, unlike a dynamic mic that uses a moving coil, ribbon mics contain a very thin, lightweight metal “ribbon.”

There are other characteristics that are proprietary to ribbon mics vs. dynamic or condenser mics, too.

To start, ribbon mics have a distinct warm, dark and “vintage” tone that is desired for certain types of recordings and are known for their accuracy. Most ribbon mics also feature a bipolar pickup pattern (also known as a “figure 8” pattern).

On the down side, they are also known to be extremely fragile, and for the traditional models, using phantom power with them or exposing them to extremely high SPLs (sound pressure levels) can result in disaster, so you’ll want to be very aware of your setup and may want to consider using them mainly for controlled studio work vs. the rigors and uncertainties of the road.

Ribbon mics are also on the expensive side, so some folks consider them a “step-up” mic rather than a first purchase.

Voice and Instruments

Ribbon microphones pickup up sound much like the human ear does, which lets them deliver natural, accurate reproduction of instruments and voices. They can even capture room ambience.

Selection

There are a number of options available in both the contemporary and vintage categories, and there’s a variety of models available at “affordable” and “high end” price points. Let’s explore some top choices below.

Vintage-Style Ribbon Mics

Affordable Ribbon Mics

High-End Ribbon Mics

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