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The Best Ribbon Mic

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Your Ultimate Guide to the Best Ribbon Mics

A ribbon microphone is a studio microphone that captures the warmest and most natural sound that a dynamic microphone or condenser microphone can’t quite get. Both amateurs and professionals in the recording world love ribbon mics thanks to the smooth sound quality that can’t be replicated.

Ribbon mics are definitely quite the investment, and dynamic mics and condenser mics may suit certain occasions and environments better. But if you’ve made sure that it’s the right purchase for you and you’re currently on the fence picking from the many ribbon mics on the market, here are some excellent ribbon mic options for you to choose from for every need.


In a Hurry? This is the Best Ribbon Mic

This ribbon microphone is a vintage-style passive ribbon mic with a bidirectional polar pattern. Its low sensitivity and high SPL capability mean it can deliver a smooth and natural sound that’s perfect for vocals and instrumentals. 

This is considered one of the best ribbon mics on the market than can be used by both beginners and professionals thanks to its versatility and capability to capture both loud and softer noises. So whether you’re recording a single voice or an orchestra, this ribbon mic has you covered on all bases.


At a Glance: Our Top Picks for the Best Ribbon Mics

THE BEST OVERALL
Golden Age Project R1 MK2

Passive ribbon mics like this one are capable of handling both larger-than-life sound sources as well as more muted and nuanced noise, making it a fantastic choice…

BEST VALUE
Royer R-10

Royer is a brand known for making some of the best ribbon mics, and we’re glad they have one that comes at a fantastic price without skimping on quality…

MOST VERSATILE
Cloud Microphones 44-A

The Cloud 44-A is the only active ribbon mic with switchable Voice/Music response curves for controlling proximity effect. This technology includes a switchable…

BEST PREMIUM
Royer Labs R-121

Royer Labs has been producing ribbon mics that are by now considered industry standard, and the R-121 model is perhaps the best example. It features a compact and lightweight…

BEST PROFESSIONAL
Beyerdynamic M160

This ribbon mic with a hypercardioid polar pattern uses the typical aluminum ribbons of its time, but it’s an industry favorite for a reason. The mic is perfect for recording…

BEST FOR INSTRUMENTS
Avantone Pro CR-14

This figure 8 polar pattern ribbon mic shines on vocals, guitar amps, and brass but works perfectly well for other instruments like an acoustic guitar…

BEST FREQUENCY RESPONSE
SE Electronics Voodoo VR2

If you’re looking for an active ribbon mic that has that classic ribbon microphone sound but with a sleeker and more modern design, this is the one for you…

MOST CLASSIC
Audio-Technica AT4081

This low-profile ribbon mic is another ribbon microphone to be considered one of the most trusted in the business. Unlike most ribbon mics, this can be used for a very wide…

BEST BALANCED SOUND
Rode NTR

This ribbon mic with a bidirectional polar pattern has a wide frequency response and is a fantastic choice for horns, guitars and vocals. With a high frequency response…

BEST FOR LIVE USE
CAD Audio CADLive D82

This ribbon microphone with a figure 8 polar pattern is an incredible all-purpose mic that works well with nearly all sound sources. With a rugged body and thicker ribbon elements…


Are Ribbon Mics Still Used?

While ribbon mics were definitely at their peak when they were introduced in the 1930s and were widely used in broadcasting until around the 1970s, they’ve found a renewed popularity in the age of digital recording thanks to the warm and clear sound they produce. They’re still widely used in plenty of professional recording settings.

Are Ribbon Mics Expensive?

Ribbon microphones usually command a very high price point, but this is due to their fragility yet unparalleled sound quality. Ribbon mics add a certain smoothness to a track, and they are highly preferred by musicians for taming harsh-sounding instruments that sound a bit off on condenser microphones.

While some of the best ribbon microphones out there definitely come at an expensive price, thanks to today’s technology, other ribbon mics are much more affordable while still retaining that classic aluminum ribbon mic sound.

What is the Best Use for a Ribbon Microphone?

Is a Ribbon Mic Good for Vocals?

You may be wondering, “how does a ribbon microphone work, and is it the best choice for vocals?”

Ribbon microphones follow a similar principle as dynamic microphones, in that they convert acoustic energy into electrical energy. When sound waves contact the thin metal strip, known as the ribbon, it vibrates and creates an electrical charge similar to the incoming sound source.

 
The ribbon microphone most closely recreates how the human ear interprets sound, which is why they’re such a favorite when it comes to recording both vocals and instruments.


Top 10 Best Ribbon Microphones

ImageProductDetailsCheck Price
Golden Age Project R1 MK2Golden Age Project R1 MK2• Versatile for vocals and various instruments
• Quality sound production
• Affordable price point
Check Prices on Amazon
Royer R-10Royer R-10• Fantastic value
• Compact and highly portable
• 5-year warranty
Check Prices on Amazon
Cloud Microphones 44-ACloud Microphones 44-A• Eye-catching design
• Unique response curve
• Comes with shock mount
Check Prices on Amazon
Royer Labs R-121Royer Labs R-121• Lifetime warranty
• Durable and lightweight build
• Eliminates high-frequency phase distortion
Check Prices on Amazon
Beyerdynamic M160Beyerdynamic M160• Compact and durable design
• Lightweight
• Unique design compared to most ribbon
Check Prices on Amazon
Avantone Pro CR-14Avantone Pro CR-14• Pure aluminum ribbon
• 5-year warranty
• Comes with shock mount
Check Prices on Amazon
SE Electronics Voodoo VR2SE Electronics Voodoo VR2• Active electronics
• Modern design
• Comes with shock mount
Check Prices on Amazon
Audio-Technica AT4081Audio-Technica AT4081• Versatile use
• High frequency response
• 48V phantom power
Check Prices on Amazon
Rode NTRRode NTR• Internal shock mount system
• Wide frequency range and high frequency response
• Elegant design
Check Prices on Amazon
CAD Audio CADLive D82CAD Audio CADLive D82• Wide frequency range
• Affordable price point
• Durable design
Check Prices on Amazon

Let’s Go Over Each Ribbon Mic

Passive ribbon mics like this one are capable of handling both larger-than-life sound sources as well as more muted and nuanced noise, making them a fantastic choice for all-around recordings.

Best of all, unlike most ribbon mics favored by the music industry right now, this particular ribbon mic comes at a very affordable cost while retaining its superior sound and vintage appeal.

If you’re looking for something durable, affordable, and that can record anything while retaining a warm, clear, and crisp tone, this is the perfect ribbon mic for you.

Pros and Cons of the Golden Age Project R1 MK2

ProsCons
✔ Versatile for vocals and various instruments
✔ Quality sound production
✔ Affordable price point
✘ Requires a microphone preamplifier impedance of at least 3kOhms

Royer is a brand known for making some of the best ribbon mics, and we’re glad they have one that comes at a fantastic price without skimping on quality. 

Passive ribbon microphones like this are hard to come by at such a cost, and this particular ribbon mic features a multi-layered windscreen that is fantastic for handling vocal plosives and even gusts of wind. If you’re recording an electric guitar or drum kits, this is one of the best ribbon mics for the job.

Pros and Cons of the Royer R-10

ProsCons
✔ Fantastic value
✔ Compact and highly portable
✔ 5-year warranty
✘ Quieter sounds may require mic preamps

The Cloud 44-A is the only active ribbon mic with switchable Voice/Music response curves for controlling proximity effect. This technology includes a switchable interface that gives you two frequency responses that are very useful across a wide range of recording situations, with built-in Cloudlifter active electronics for a more robust output level and low-noise performance.

Aside from this element that separates it from other active ribbon mics on the market, it also offers a classic ribbon sound and design inspired by the industry standards of the 1930s.

Pros and Cons of the Cloud Microphones 44-A

ProsCons
✔ Eye-catching design
✔ Unique response curve
✔ Comes with shock mount
✘ Expensive price point

Royer Labs has been producing ribbon mics that are by now considered industry standard, and the R-121 model is perhaps the best example. It features a compact and lightweight yet durable body that strays away from the standard large, heavy, and fragile ribbon mics.

Few ribbon mics or passive ribbon mics have such a solid build as this one, and it offers excellent audio quality with full-body detail and classic natural character. This is why it is highly preferred for brass instruments and electric guitars, as well as other sound sources like vocals, strings, and drum overheads.

Pros and Cons of the Royer Labs R-121

ProsCons
✔ Lifetime warranty
✔ Durable and lightweight build
✔ Eliminates high-frequency phase distortion
✔ Impressive maximum sound pressure level
✘ Expensive price point

This ribbon mic with a hypercardioid polar pattern uses the typical aluminum ribbons of its time, but it’s an industry favorite for a reason. The mic is perfect for recording stringed instruments like violins and guitars as well as pianos and drums thanks to its fantastic transmission quality. 

When combined with a dynamic microphone, this becomes the ultimate all-around option for a stereo recording environment. Whether you’re recording vocals or an array of instruments, this professionally-favored mic will take you a long way.

Pros and Cons of the Beyerdynamic M160

ProsCons
✔ Compact and durable design
✔ Lightweight
✔ Unique design compared to most ribbon microphones
✘ Low sensitivity in mic signal

This figure 8 polar pattern ribbon mic shines on vocals, guitar amps, and brass but works perfectly well for other instruments like an acoustic guitar. The mic sets itself apart with an incredible SPL handling of up to 145dB. 

This makes it a perfect fit for nearly all the instruments you might find yourself recording. Its design is also very classic thanks to the brass body, and it also comes with a shock mount, metal case, and wooden box at a very affordable price point.

Pros and Cons of the Avantone Pro CR-14

ProsCons
✔ Pure aluminum ribbon
✔ 5-year warranty
✔ Comes with shock mount
✔ Affordable price point
✘ Susceptible to plosives

If you’re looking for an active ribbon mic that has that classic ribbon microphone sound but with a sleeker and more modern design, this is the one for you. This phantom power active ribbon microphone works well on a variety of acoustic instruments and guitar amps thanks to its high output impedance and extended frequency response.

Active ribbon microphones with such a sleek design are hard to come by, and its frequency range allows for a better recording of more muted and nuanced sound sources.

Pros and Cons of the SE Electronics Voodoo VR2

ProsCons
✔ Active electronics
✔ Modern design
✔ Comes with shock mount
✔ Consistent output impedance
✔ 48V phantom power
✘ Expensive price point

This low-profile ribbon mic is another ribbon microphone to be considered one of the most trusted in the business. Unlike most ribbon mics, this can be used for a very wide range of sound recordings thanks to its frequency response, from drum overheads to close vocals and even from the studio to live recordings. 

This phantom power ribbon microphone with a bidirectional polar pattern promises warm and natural sound as well as longevity, so you can definitely trust it whether you’re staying in the studio or heading out to the stage.

Pros and Cons of the Audio-Technica AT4081

ProsCons
✔ Versatile use
✔ High frequency response
✔ 48V phantom power
✘ Less suitable for beginners

This ribbon mic with a bidirectional polar pattern has a wide frequency response and is a fantastic choice for horns, guitars and vocals. With a high frequency response, this is one of the best ribbon mics you can get if you want detail and accuracy in your recordings without lifting a finger. 

Made with quality mesh and featuring a very sleek body, this mic’s design isn’t purely for style. The screw-on top prevents ribbon and shock mount movement, making travel much safer.

Pros and Cons of the Rode NTR

ProsCons
✔ Internal shock mount system
✔ Wide frequency range and high frequency response
✔ Elegant design
✘ Expensive price point

This ribbon microphone with a figure 8 polar pattern is an incredible all-purpose mic that works well with nearly all sound sources. With a rugged body and thicker ribbon elements, this mic was created for on-the-go professionals. 

This mic’s frequency response handles low and high frequencies very well, so it’s versatile enough to even be used in the studio.

Pros and Cons of the CAD Audio CADLive D82

ProsCons
✔ Wide frequency range
✔ Affordable price point
✔ Durable design
✘ Limited warranty

Best Ribbon Mic Comparison

ImageModel NameSound QualityDesignFeaturesPriceTotal RatingCheck Price
Golden Age Project R1 MK2Golden Age Project R1 MK29.599.599.3Check Prices on Amazon
Royer R-10Royer R-109.599.599.3Check Prices on Amazon
Cloud Microphones 44-ACloud Microphones 44-A99.59.599.3Check Prices on Amazon
Royer Labs R-121Royer Labs R-1219.58.599.59Check Prices on Amazon
Beyerdynamic M160Beyerdynamic M1609.599.589Check Prices on Amazon
Avantone Pro CR-14Avantone Pro CR-1499988.8Check Prices on Amazon
SE Electronics Voodoo VR2SE Electronics Voodoo VR28.5988.58.4Check Prices on Amazon
Audio-Technica AT4081Audio-Technica AT40818888.58.2Check Prices on Amazon
Rode NTRRode NTR88888Check Prices on Amazon
CAD Audio CADLive D82CAD Audio CADLive D827888.57.9Check Prices on Amazon

Final Note

The best ribbon microphones in the market work for a range of recording scenarios and can even be used in place of condenser mics and dynamic mics. A high-quality ribbon mic can take you a long way when you know what you need it for, and you can definitely get the best sounds you’ve ever recorded. 

If you’re looking for something that can capture the most natural sounding recordings, then a ribbon mic is definitely for you.


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Ash Burnett

Hailing from Chicago, IL - Ash made his break into journalism at the age of 23 writing music reviews for a local website. Now in his late 30's and after being pulled closer towards the technical side of the music and live gig industry, he founded Shout4Music to write thorough microphone reviews.

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