Ribbon Mic for Recording?

Discussion in 'Amps, Mics & Pickups [DB]' started by BassiklyAC, Jul 11, 2020.

  1. Been doing a fair amount of recording at home since the pandemic has arrived. While the electric is fairly straightforward; plug in, get a sound, go...the upright has some interesting components to address in the recording process.

    Thus far, I’ve had a great deal of success blending signals from a large diaphragm condenser mic and the pickup on the bass. I’ve found about a 70/30 ratio of mic/PU gives me a very pleasing sound. While the mic provides a great deal of detail, the pickup can fill in the cracks just a little while providing a strong fundamental.

    Recently, while doing some research on the matter, I came across this fantastic article on the internet from Sweetwater addressing the subject of mic choices for upright bass.

    Choosing the Best Mic for Upright Bass - with Sound Samples | Sweetwater

    One of the audio samples was with a ribbon mic. I really liked the creamy tone it got and was my favorite among the other samples they posted. I’m wondering if anyone here on TB has used a ribbon mic for recording and what their experience with it was like. Any pointers on placement, EQ, maintenance/care for the mic?

    As always, thanks for your input.
    equill and Ric Vice like this.
  2. Ric Vice

    Ric Vice Supporting Member

    Jul 2, 2005
    Olivette, Missouri
    I've listened to those recordings of the three Ribbon's they demonstrate I think I'd prefer the Shure KSM 353 as to my ears it has better detail than either of the AEA's. The Neumann U47 is the clear winner of this group, but it costs a small fortune and

    when I've used one with my bass all that beautiful low end evaporates if you mix it with drums. Once we used an Oktava ML52 and it sounded great in the playback. For my money there's nothing beats the Line Audio CM3's and CM4's for warmth and

    definition. Just my take however. One las thing to note on those recordings is it appears to be a laminate plywood bass, which will sound very different than a carved instrument.
    BassiklyAC likes this.
  3. Jay Corwin

    Jay Corwin Supporting Member

    Jan 29, 2008
    Sanborn, NY
    I've gotten into to home recording and remote demo'ing pretty hard over the last couple of years. Seriously hard over over the Covid break. I've been slowly upgrading gear and testing mics. The ribbon has really been my go to.

    Right now I've been using a cheap MXL, because it's what I could afford to try (musicians friend deal of the day). I also use a cloudlifter with mine, which provides a ton of clean gain. You will need something like a cloudlifter if you don't have a decent mic preamp. My experience has been that you need a serious amount of clean gain to make the most out of it.

    For placement I've been experimenting with it angled between the bridge and treble side F-hole, or directly out in front of the bridge. What I really like about it is that for me it splits the difference between an LDC and a dynamic. I can get the oomph and a nice punch, without all the unwanted (for my tastes) detail that I get from an LDC. On the flip-side, it's not as placement dependent as a dynamic so long as you have the gain mentioned earlier. It works well for me as I'm really aiming for more of an old school, gut tone.

    Also there is the notion out there that if you breath to heavy on a ribbon they will disintegrate. While that might be true for vintage stuff (I wouldn't know), the modern makes are more robust. I haven't done anything special to care for mine. I just store in it's case when I'm not using it.

    Somewhere down the line I plan on getting a nicer one. If you get a chance to get one on a budget, go for it.
  4. Tom Lane

    Tom Lane Gold Supporting Member

    I recently bought the AEA R84. I bought the unpowered version because I wanted to be able to use a tube pre-amp with variable impedance to "warm up" the tone. Unfortunately, I haven't yet resolved the issues I've been having recording with my laptop - pops and static, drop-outs, etc - but the little bit of recording I've managed the mic was brilliant. My comparison is a Sennheiser e935 vocal mic. I like the e935 for vocals, but the R84 is much better for the bass, in my limited experience, because it's much more sensitive and provides a lot more detail of the DB. Based on AEA's documentation, I tried placing the mic about 30 inches from my bass, with the mic parallel to the top. That was a bit boomy in the low-end, as they warned, and I moved the mic another 6 inches back. The result, using the tube pre-amp, and rolling off frequencies below 40 Hz and above 2 kHz sounds very pleasing to my ear.

    According to AEAs documentation, the mic is still comparatively fragile, for indoor use only because a gust of wind or a nearby bass drum could break the ribbon; or dropping it for that matter. The other two vulnerabilities are phantom power, which can again destroy the mic if there's a momentary short, and interestingly, over time iron dust in the air can build up and also damage the mic, so they recommend storing it in a plastic bag, in its case when not in use.

    I haven't got a recording good enough to try to mix with drums yet, so I can't verify Ric's comments above, but I'll certainly be on the look-out for that issue. I would expect that some compression and reverb might be appropriate in the mix-down.

    BassiklyAC and Chris Fitzgerald like this.
  5. AGCurry

    AGCurry Supporting Member

    Jun 29, 2005
    St. Louis
    When I want to record my double bass, I bring out the AEA R84, with Cloudlifter, and put it on a boom stand about 3 feet from the top of the bass. Since its pattern is figure-of-eight, it captures not only the bass but some of the room, so there is a spatial sense to it that you don't get from a cardioid or supercardioid. Obviously, results might not be good if your room isn't good.

    I have to say that I only record bass as an accompanying instrument - not solos. Moreover, I am a fan of recordings from the 1950s, when the studios were likely to use an RCA 77 for the bass... so it works for me.

    If I want a really-big spatial presence, I will use my AEA R44 (based on the RCA 44). That's a hell of a mic, probably better suited to recording the whole ensemble.
    bcamp, Wasnex and Ric Vice like this.
  6. AGCurry

    AGCurry Supporting Member

    Jun 29, 2005
    St. Louis
    Ribbons are fine for high-SPL, but don't let anyone blow into it! They should also be kept away from dust, as any metallic particles will be attracted to the magnet and may in time foul the ribbon gap.
    bcamp and Guild B301 like this.
  7. bcamp

    bcamp Supporting Member

    Jul 9, 2013
    Check out Samar Audio, a boutique mic manufacturer in Salt Lake City owned by an Ex-Pat Russian concert pianist and audio engineering genius. They might just be making the best ribbons ever conceived. I've used their VL37 model for many years now and have never been disappointed. I much prefer it on Double Bass over my Royer 121. The VL37 is also amazing on violin, cello and brass. Price is extremely reasonable. Their ribbons are also much more robust than others and come with a ribbon replacement guarantee last time I checked. Also keep in mind that your choice of preamp can have as much an influence on tone as the choice of mic when it comes to ribbons.
  8. Thanks everyone for your input. Very helpful. As an experiment I’m going to pick up one of the MXL R144 ribbon mics. At just under $100 it’s an easy decision made even easier by the many enthusiastic reviews I’ve been reading. I’ll keep you posted and share some audio samples when I’ve got them.

    Stay well.
    bcamp and Tom Lane like this.
  9. UPDATE:

    Had two projects come my way which gave me the opportunity to put my new ribbon mic to the test. Once I get a mix I’ll post it here along with some notes about gear used, EQ, mic placement, etc.

    This is the mic I purchased:
    MXL® Microphones - MXL R144 Ribbon Microphone
    bcamp and Tom Lane like this.
  10. Ric Vice

    Ric Vice Supporting Member

    Jul 2, 2005
    Olivette, Missouri
    I'm definitely a fan of Double Bass Recorded in the 1950's and 60's, before folks decided that you should DI a pickup and everything went to &*%% in a hand basket. Not sure I'd ever be able to afford the AEA R84, (yikes) :^) nor would it

    work for the type of music I generally play, but it's a heck of a microphone. I like my CM4's from Line Audio but I'd love to be afforded the opportunity to record with a AEA R44. Most of the studios I've recorded here in St. Louis had Neumann's

    or something similar which are also way out of my price range.
    AGCurry likes this.
  11. AGCurry

    AGCurry Supporting Member

    Jun 29, 2005
    St. Louis
    Ric, I'm in Creve Coeur. If you want to borrow the R84 or R44 for a session, let me know.
    210superair likes this.
  12. bcamp

    bcamp Supporting Member

    Jul 9, 2013
    Nice! Look forward to hearing how you like it.
  13. rickwolff

    rickwolff Supporting Member


    Here is the mic I use. I have included two clips. The video clip with audio form everyone: Vocalist, Piano, and Bass.

    I have also attached an audio track of the bass only. The singer was being amplified by my bass amp (sitting directly behind me, the piano was amplified through its own speakers loud enough for stage monitoring.

    Notice how little bleed there is from the bass mic on the bass only audio clip.


    Attached Files:

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  14. Ric Vice

    Ric Vice Supporting Member

    Jul 2, 2005
    Olivette, Missouri
    That's very kind of you, we must live pretty close to one another, I live in Olivette, right off Stacy Park. If I ever have a session ( who knows when that will be) I'll P.M. you.

    Ric Vice
    210superair and AGCurry like this.
  15. Nice sound! So what microphone were you using? I couldn’t see it in the clip and you didn’t mention what it was in your post.
  16. Wasnex


    Dec 25, 2011
    Although I have not tried them personally, Cascade makes some fairly affordable ribbons that are well regarded.

    Cascade Microphones
    BassiklyAC likes this.
  17. Just checked out their website and inquired about which models they would recommend for recording double bass.

    Thanks for sharing this!
    Wasnex likes this.
  18. Wasnex


    Dec 25, 2011
  19. rickwolff

    rickwolff Supporting Member

    Wasnex is correct. It is the Xlson Chuck Israel's mic. Xlson has also reduced the price on this microphone by about 30%.

    Last edited: Sep 1, 2020
    Wasnex likes this.
  20. Jared Houseman

    Jared Houseman

    Jul 5, 2018
    When i did my album I had a fathead ribbon out infront of the f-hole 12-18in away and a sdc pointed at the fingerboard
    Wasnex and BassiklyAC like this.
  21. Primary

    Primary TB Assistant

    Here are some related products that TB members are talking about. Clicking on a product will take you to TB’s partner, Primary, where you can find links to TB discussions about these products.

    Aug 5, 2021

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