Using a ribbon mic for vocals

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Using a ribbon mic for vocals

Post by rggillespie »

I have a reslo rbt ribbon mic with with fethead and its lovely for my guitar amp, and I tried it on vocals recently just to see. It sounded great I felt but by the time I got it up to the required level there was a lot of hiss and noise. I'm wondering if anyone uses ribbons successfully for vocals in a home studio setting and what they use? I've found an AEA kU5a that seems suitable for vocals as it isn't figure of 8 its super cardiod and takes phantom power. Its a pricey though, but it seems to fit the bill I wondered if there is something with similar spec but cheaper? My rooms treated but not large and I tend to sing quietly and close to the mic so I'm thinking proximity will be an issue. Any thoughts and user tips would be very welcome.
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Re: Using a ribbon mic for vocals

Post by blinddrew »

A couple of thoughts.
I do use my ribbon mic on vocals sometimes, I find it can work very nicely on female vocals for example.
Positioning is key for two reasons, 1) avoiding wind blasts on the ribbon, and 2) managing proximity effect.
Mine is a 'normal' passive ribbon and goes straight into the normal mic-pre on my focusrite and it doesn't seem to be unduly noisy but occasionally I do need to do a bit of clean up. A bit of ReaFIR or Izotope Elements generally sorts that out when needed.
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Re: Using a ribbon mic for vocals

Post by forumuser840717 »

I don't have a home studio for recording but I have used ribbon mics sometimes for vocals on location recordings. Off the top of my head, these have included:

AEA A440, A840, KU3A, R88
Beyerdynamic M160, M260, M360, M500
Reslo MR1
Royer SF1
Speiden SF12
Shure 300, 315, 330

Maybe a few others too.
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Re: Using a ribbon mic for vocals

Post by Sam Inglis »

A Beyer M260 or M500 should do the job nicely without breaking the bank. They are in the same ballpark sensitivity-wise as an SM58 so they won't be too noisy as long as you have a decent preamp.
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Re: Using a ribbon mic for vocals

Post by Hugh Robjohns »

rggillespie wrote: Mon Apr 25, 2022 3:20 pm I have a reslo rbt ribbon mic with with fethead and its lovely for my guitar amp, and I tried it on vocals recently just to see. It sounded great I felt but by the time I got it up to the required level there was a lot of hiss and noise.


Like most passive vintage ribbons, the RBT has a fairly low output level, comparable to an insensitive moving coil -- maybe 1mV/Pa or so -- although the output level varies considerably with the operating impedance (higher impedance options generate more level, but don't go above 600 Ohms for use with modern preamps).

Most of the noise will be coming from the fethead/preamp, of course. Better preamps are quieter.

I'm wondering if anyone uses ribbons successfully for vocals in a home studio setting and what they use?

I have... I've used the active version of AEA's R84A once, and my own R92s quite successfully on female vocals. The company's N8/N22 are good for vocals too. As are several of the Royers -- the R10 being a good cost-effective option. And Shure's KSM313 (Roswelite) is pretty much indestructible and works very well... but it's pricey. Not sure about less costly ribbons, but there are plenty to choose from these days. Check out the Sontronics options too.

However, I suspect the ideal option for you would be the classic Beyer M160. Hypercardioid and about £450. Specifically intended for close vocals.
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Re: Using a ribbon mic for vocals

Post by Guest »

I use the AT 4080 for vocals.
Check this out:

https://www.soundonsound.com/reviews/au ... 080-at4081
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Re: Using a ribbon mic for vocals

Post by rggillespie »

Many thanks for the helpful replies, these options are more affordable and it seems a path worth pursuing for me. Doing a bit of digging about last night I was surprised to see the Beyer m160 was apparently used by Bowie for all vocals on 'young americans' according to wiki. A big feather in its cap as 'win' is my favourite song of his ever. Just personally I think I might well favour the smoother softer sound of a ribbon mic to something more clean and revealing. I suppose its a case of try it and see. A bit more online listening then, though I'm never quite sure of the value of listening to different mics with different singers in different settings, a few too many variables...... :roll:
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Re: Using a ribbon mic for vocals

Post by ore_terra »

I love M160 with treble-ish voices (mine being the 1st one!)
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Re: Using a ribbon mic for vocals

Post by Gus784 »

I'm reading Phil Ramone's book in which he describes tracking Billy Joel's vocals using a ribbon mic because Billy wanted to play the piano at the same time and the ribbon's off-axis rejection was excellent, minimizing bleed. Although bleed while tracking bands live was a big part of Phil Ramone's sound at A&R.
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Re: Using a ribbon mic for vocals

Post by WWjmp »

I use my Shure KSM313 ribbon often for vocals, particularly female vocals, alone or in combination with an LDC, and an AEA R92 also on occasion. Never had a problem with noise or level, although as stated previously, the preamp choice is important. I use either the AEA TRP or the Grace M103 channel strip. Both give plenty of good clean gain. I really like the mics themselves, the KSM in particular.

I'll use the LDC as the main mic, but the KSM will be set up and recorded simultaneously. That way I have choices, and sometimes the combination of the two, mixed to taste, is sweet on female vocals. The KSM adds some nice body, the LDC has that trademark clarity you get from a good LDC. There are times when the mix of the two changes, particularly when the vocalist goes into her upper range and the LDC is just a bit too much, so in the mix the KSM comes up and takes the predominant role on those phrases (LDC is still in there, just less so). This gives her top end a nice robust rounding off that just sounds sweet.

Other times it's just the KSM313 that is used alone. It takes EQ very well.
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Re: Using a ribbon mic for vocals

Post by rggillespie »

That's very interesting idea I was thinking of trying mid and side on vocals but I've not heard it mentioned on the forum so thought it was maybe an iffy idea. Mid and side worked a treat with my acoustic so I maybe I'll try it with vocals now, a blend of my reslo and my ldc cardioid. No harm trying that out and I've just found out its bank holiday weekend, so that's me sorted then :thumbup:
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Re: Using a ribbon mic for vocals

Post by Hugh Robjohns »

No harm trying it, but:

1. Most of the useful vocal sound comes from the mouth/nose which is almost a point source. Yes, there's the chest boom as well, but its a vertical separation rather than a stereo width to capture -- unlike an acoustic guitar, so a stereo array like MS isn't likely to offer much real benefit.

2. Capturing in stereo inherently means capturing lots of room sound, which is fine if the room sounds great... but not helpful if it doesn't!
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