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Thomann's Cool Online Guides: Ribbon Microphones

5. Typical Applications

Sound

Ribbon
MicrophoneA device which converts airborne sound into an electrical signal.
microphones
sound full, rich, and smooth. They’re more detailed than moving
CoilA length of wire wound around a core to create an inductor or electromagnet. Used in electric guitar pickups where fine enamelled copper wire is wound a few thousand times around a magnetic core. Vibrating strings induce an alternating current in the coil as they modulate the magnetic flux.
coil
dynamic mics, yet less harsh in the treble range than condensers. Do your recordings sound cold, scooped or somehow “digital”? Try a ribbon microphone! Many leading engineers such as Bruce Swedien are certified ribbon enthusiasts.

Typical Applications

Ribbons have always been popular for vocal and spoken word recordings. Ribbon mics produce that certain “larger than life” sound. They make voices sound smooth, big and elegant. A ribbon
MicrophoneA device which converts airborne sound into an electrical signal.
mic
is an excellent choice for slightly harsh voices. Moreover, most ribbons are pleasantly unproblematic regarding sibilants (S-sounds).

Another typical ribbon domain is strings and brass; woodwinds, too. Ribbons lend a certain gloss and lushness to these instruments. Think of Hollywood soundtracks from the 40s and 50s – those were recorded with ribbon
MicrophoneA device which converts airborne sound into an electrical signal.
microphones
almost exclusively. Many engineers still prefer ribbons over condenser mics when it comes to capturing a full, slightly “romanticised” orchestral sound.

Ribbons are also great for drums and percussion. Their
Harmonic1) Adjective describing the aspects of music associated with harmony (several differently pitched notes sounding together). 2) A clear, pure tone produced on the guitar by lightly placing a finger of the fretting hand directly above a mathematically determined position on the string. The easiest harmonics are found at the twelfth and (approximately) seventh and fifth frets.
harmonic
sound image lends a certain colour to these instruments and unites them to a homogeneous instrument
GroupThe combination of a number of audio channels in hardware or software so that they may be controlled together.
group
. If you have a problem with harsh, loud and too-prominent cymbals, try ribbons as overheads!

More recently ribbons have been discovered as the ultimate guitar
AmpereUnit of current; the amount of electricity flowing through a conductor. One Ampere is equal to the flow of 6.25x10^18 electrons through a conductor in one second.
amp
microphones
. Ribbons typically have a very even midrange. Electric guitars are actually nothing but midrange. The frequency range of a guitar speaker is usually 100-7000 Hz. That’s it! But that limited frequency range happens to be the preferred area for the human ear, so it’s easy for us to discern even miniscule variations or colorations in that range. Ribbons are able to capture even the finest nuances of guitar sounds. Your guitars and amps will sound as expensive as they actually are. Well, maybe even more expensive!

What’s true for all
MicrophoneA device which converts airborne sound into an electrical signal.
microphones
is even more true for ribbons: experiment! Let your ear be your guide; there are many more applications to be discovered for ribbon microphones!

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