Ribbon VS Condenser Mics

Discussion in 'Rockabilly [DB]' started by kevtexbass, Apr 3, 2007.

  1. kevtexbass


    Jan 2, 2007
    Austin ,Texas
    Endorsing Artist:Reunion Blues, DR strings, Fender,Radial,Genz Benz.
    Does anyone have any opinions on mic types for recording? I'd like to find a good mic for home recording.
  2. Bobby King

    Bobby King Supporting Member

    May 3, 2005
    Nashville, TN
    I assume you're talking about a mic for bass?

    Since your post is in the Bluegrass/Rockabilly section, you are likely looking for that sound -- gut string or similar, punchy, deep. For that type of sound I'd recommend either a ribbon or dynamic mic. The classic ribbon mics of yesteryear were the RCA 44 and 77 ribbons. They're hard to find and expensive but are great on bass. There are several new ribbon mics being made, I don't have a specific recommendation. Dynamic mics like the EV RE-20, the Sennheiser 421 or Beyer M88 are all very good for bass and you can use them for a lot of other applications too. They run around $300-$400. IMO, condensers are better suited for a brighter, jazz bass type of sound. Condensers don't always handle a higher pressure signal like punchy bass or kick drum as well. Condensers are great for vocals, guitars, overheads and all sorts of general recording applications. They often are more open and have more high end and detail, but a ribbon or dynamic will give a more focused bass. I'm sure you'll get many other opinions on this though.
  3. Uncletoad


    May 6, 2003
    Columbus Ohio
    Proprietor Fifth Avenue Fret Shop. Technical Editor Bass Gear Magazine
    Have you tried both the 44 and the 77? Do you have an opinion about one vs. the other?

    There have been others on TB that prefer the 44. I've not had the chance to try either.
  4. Bobby King

    Bobby King Supporting Member

    May 3, 2005
    Nashville, TN
    I've never actually recorded with either but I've heard bass tracks that were cut by several Nashville bassists using a 44 and they sounded great. David Hungate has one, Jay Weaver has one and I know that the late Roy Huskey, Jr. had one too. I understand that that was the mic that generally was used on Bob Moore's bass on countless classics.

    I own an EV RE-20 and I'm able to get a pretty good gut string sound using that. I usually aim it between the F-hole and bridge on the treble side, maybe around foot to 18 inches away.

    I have had the experience of engineers putting some nice condenser mic on the bass and I didn't like the sound. It would sound midrangey and have boomy overtones. It seems to me that a more directional mic keeps the focus of the sound.
  5. Uncletoad


    May 6, 2003
    Columbus Ohio
    Proprietor Fifth Avenue Fret Shop. Technical Editor Bass Gear Magazine
    See. This is the stuff that make TB kick ass. I use a Sennheiser 409 that sounds great on recordings and I thought it was better than a pretty high dollar condenser the last time I was recording too.

    That 44 is stupid money these days. Like $2K. Are they problem children like the old tube Neumans?
  6. Bobby King

    Bobby King Supporting Member

    May 3, 2005
    Nashville, TN
    Yes, I think that they use some type of obsolete cable, and if you accidently send it phantom power it frys the ribbon, and the replacement ribbon is hard to find and hard to replace.

    There is a company called Royer that makes different models of ribbon mics. They're supposed to be great but mucho $$.
  7. neal davis

    neal davis

    Dec 29, 2006
    toronto canada
    I just got back from the studio doing a new record and used a 44 and 77 as well as a great old neuman that cbs owned that was like a $50 000 mic. I usually use ribbons on my bass and own a rca 44 but after the initial listening I went with the neuman and did the one mic thing for my bass with no baffling and all of us a jazz sextet in one room and my bass sounded huge and like itself. I know from other recordings that my bass sounded great with a apex ribbon mic that was around $200 so it isn't always the mic on the bass but the room and how good the engineer is, but man those stupidly expensive mics do have something about them.
  8. Well Bobby, I don't know whether Roy used one on the Circle Be Unbroken Volume 2 or not but, man, the "Life's Railway to Heaven" track with Johnny Cash and the "Sittin' On Top of the World" with Jimmy Martin sure sound good. Both Huskeys are my heros and I've rattled my truck windows with bass boost tryin' to figure out how to sound like that :D ! Thanks for the info.
  9. Bobby King

    Bobby King Supporting Member

    May 3, 2005
    Nashville, TN


    There's actually a video of the making of that record. I saw it once but I don't recall what mic was on Roy's bass. The above link is to an Amazon listing for a used VHS copy. They want $59 for it! If you get it, let us know!
  10. superman


    Mar 5, 2007
    Nashville Tenn
  11. larry


    Apr 11, 2004
    I've found that people are afraid to use an omni pattern sometimes. The thing I've found it that using an omni (which has no proximity effect, therefore no boominess) can really help get a great, natural bass sound. Even in so-so rooms, even live with a drummer next to me, I have used omnis with success. Try suspending an Earthworks-type mic in the bridge. Or (if you don't have a lot of bread) one of these MSH-1's, they're cheap and not bad at all:

    I have not had as much success with ribbons on bass, but I only have a Beyer M160 and M130 (great mics, but they're not Royers or RCA's). +1 on the RE20 and especially the M88. I own them both; those can be outstanding bass mics.
  12. Hello Superman

    Thanks for jumpin in with the info about Roy Huskey Jr. Any info or stories about Junior or Roy Jr. are greatly appreciated. They are a couple of my bass super-heroes. Since takin up the upright 9 months ago for bluegrass, country, and old time, I've come down with this hearing problem ..... now I seem to only listen for the bass line :D . On many recordings it's hard to really hear the bass in the mix. I thought the Nitty Gritty crew did a good job of letting the bass stand out on the "Circle Be Unbroken" albums. Volumes 1 and 2 with the Huskeys are great (Volume 3 has some great bass playin' but maybe a tad too "busy" for my liking).

    Woof, it sounds like your ribbon mikes alone are worth more than my whole set of bass gear (2 kays, amp, and pickup) :p ! I'm thinkin that you are an "old school" bass super-hero of some kind .... Old Standards, old tone, gut strings, ribbon mikes ... now that's what I like!

    I don't know your real identity ...... I think the other Superman worked for a newspaper or somethin ;) but I would sure like to hear some of your "old school" bass playin sometime. Can you help me get a handle on some recordings for your playin and also some other recommendations for The Huskeys (or others of your favorite upright players) where I can really hear the bass? Thanks alot.

    P.S. Feel free to send me a private e-mail with recommendations for bass recordings if you don't want Arch-Enemy Lex Luthier to find out your real identity!
  13. mrpc

    mrpc Guest

    Feb 7, 2005
    Glad you like Roy! Did you check out the youtube clips in the Bassists threads? Those are rare and beautiful.

    RCA Ribbons are a rich man's game, IMHO, and probably would never survive long under normal gigging atmospheres anyway. One slip of the phantom power swithch from a sound crew will put the mike at ease forever!
  14. Yeah I like those youtube clips, especially the one with John Hartford, but I wish there was more focus on the most important musician (the bass player):D . Don't get me wrong .... I don't want to own a ribbon mic .... I just want to listen to great recordings that used one (or two, like Superman uses). Shoot, I had to save up for a while to buy a $129 Rev Solo II pick-up :p !
  15. OK S-Man, I think I got a handle on things now .... Google is quite amazing. I'll start with "Down In Caroline" (congrats on the IBMA nomination) and "In The Mountaintops To Roam." I could still use other suggestions for more of your favorite albums and leads for bass playin by the Huskey family. Thanks!
  16. Standalone


    Jan 17, 2005
    New Haven
    Ribbons can be finnicky about having a well treated room, as they are figure eight in their polar response. It's like having an extra mic pointed out away from your bass! So if you have low ceilings, a small room, or expanses of flat surfaces, you're likely to get some mud from the mic. I have treatment on the walls of my studio and still have not had much luck with my ribbon. An old radio shack electret has sounded better
  17. BEEF


    Apr 16, 2007
    Naperville, Illinois
    The figure 8 can be 'cured' a little by putting a baffle behind the mic. The thing about figure 8 mics is that their patterns are pretty tight.

    Putting something directly behind (or positioning the bass in front of) something absorbant (think cough/mattress/open closet full of clothes/wall of boxes with a blanket over it) will 'fix' any room bleed.

    Dynamics & Ribbons are your friend for 'untreated' recording spaces. Condensers are like sound magnets. You'll hear all the crap you DON'T want recorded in these environments.

    Also, I've got just over 50 mics at my disposal for recording at any time. I wished one ALWAYS worked for something. It's more common that what works one day, on one instrument, doesn't work another. I've even had people come in with an identical set-up, and what worked last time, didn't this time.

    I've used the Royer, AEA, Coles, and Beyer ribbons with success. Have heard the RCA 44's, but haven't recorded with one myself. My favorite combo is a ribbon mic with a condenser.

    An omni is also wonderful to get rid of proximity effect, but once again, the room needs to be acceptable. I have the Earthworks mics as well as some Avenson Audio omnis (very reasonable).

    Good luck with your search.
  18. While I tend to use ribbons on my upright (either an AEA R 84 or an RCA 74B) don't discount good condensers. Joey Misculin (from Riders in the Sky) told me that pretty much always wants a U47 on Too Slim's bass. But Joey likes a U 47 for everything.

    A couple of other notes - when you compare an RCA 44DX to the cost of a vintage Neumann U47 ($8K and up), the 44 ain't that much. And the 74B is another RCA ribbon that generally goes for quite a bit less than the 44 or 77, but still sounds great. My 77's don't make me smile as much as the 74B on upright, but they're still fine microphones.

    Phantom power itself does NOT damage ribbon mics - y'all may not know that the on the classic Neve consoles you couldn't turn the phantom off at all. The problem is when you plug the mic in and one leg makes contact before the other (the way that it would when using a TRS or TT patchbay). - that can blow the ribbon. if that happens, just send the thing back to the manufacturer (or with RCA mics, to Clarence Kane at ENAK in New Jersey).
  19. Standalone


    Jan 17, 2005
    New Haven
    Thanks, dave for this explanation-- it's better than what I've gotten from the recording forums. I applied phantom to my cheapie ribbon and have since been worried that I did some subtle damage, but I have been pretty sure that i didn't. Now I can trust the mic more!
  20. No problem - typically, as long as you're plugging the ribbon mic into the pre via an XLR, the positive and negative legs of the phantom power will make contact at the same time. It's only when you're using a microphone patch bay of some sort that issues arise. In the old days, microphone panels were typically wired directly to the console preamps, so this wasn't an issue. it's only with the advent of TT and TRS patchbays that some guys found themselves using them as mic panels (as I do - but I' damn careful to watch what I'm patching and how I'm patching it..).
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