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The Best Ribbon Mic


Your Ultimate Guide to the Best Ribbon Mic

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 about picking from their many ribbon mics on the market, here are some excellent ribbon mic options for you to choose from for every need.

Which is the Top Ribbon Mic?

Editor's Choice

The Best Ribbon Mic
Best Overall
The Best Ribbon Mic
Most Versatile Ribbon Microphone
The Best Ribbon Mic
Best Balanced Sound
Golden Age Project R1 MK2

The Golden Age Project R1 MK2 is dubbed as the golden standard of ribbon mics because of its overall excellence, design, and features that professionals and amateurs can get by with.

Cloud Microphones 44-A

The Cloud 44-A is one of the few ribbon mics left that brings vintage design and sound together while retaining versatility in functionality and features.

Røde NTR

The Røde NTR can produce a warm and opulent sound regardless of the recording application and environment you use it in.

Sound Quality: Design: Features:
Sound Quality: Design: Features:
Sound Quality: Design: Features:

Let’s Go Over Each Top Ribbon Microphone

The Best Ribbon Mic

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While the Golden Age Project was only founded in 2005, the R1 MK2 has been able to pave its way to the top. Passive ribbon mics like the R1 MK2 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. Vocal recordings, instrumental recordings, speech recordings, live recordings, and what have you, the R1 MK2 is the golden microphone of all ribbon mics.

With a frequency response of 30Hz-18kHz, a maximum SPL of 160db, and a sensitivity of -52dB at 1kHz, the R1 Mk2 can definitely take on any recording of your choice despite the environment. However, this microphone cannot tolerate 48V phantom power so make sure that you are able to use a fethead or phantom power blocker if you’re unsure of the power source. It also pays for you to take care of the R1 MK2 properly as with any type of microphone.

Contributing to the great audio quality and pickup of the R1 MK2 is its figure-8 polar pattern. Paired with its superior materials, this microphone is able to capture opulent sound while retaining the warmth and vintage tone that one may expect from a velocity mic.

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 for you. Best of all, unlike most ribbons favored by the music industry right now, the R1 MK2 comes at a very affordable cost while retaining its superior sound and vintage appeal.

Pros and Cons of the Golden Age Project R1 MK2

✔️ Versatile for vocals and various instruments
✔️ Quality sound production
✔️ Affordable ribbon microphone
✔️ Has an active version
✔️ Not fussy about the preamp
✖️ Best to use a phantom power blocker for safety
✖️ Requires a microphone preamplifier impedance of at least 3kOhms
✖️ May sound dark at times

The Best Ribbon Mic

Sound Quality:  ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐
Design:  ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐
Features:  ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ 

The Cloud 44-A is the only active ribbon mic with switchable Voice/Music response curves for controlling proximity. 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.

With that said, the Cloud 44-A is favored for professional voice and music recording.

For Voice Setting, the 44-A will be able to impressively reduce the proximity of the bass when one stands too close to the microphone. Not only does this help highlight the vocals or speech of a person, but it helps reduce the rumble and vibration that can be picked up during the studio recording session.

However, if you want to retain the bass of your recording, then you can turn on the Music Setting. This setting will trigger the 44-A to have a full bass response at close proximity while still retaining that special velocity-type sound — meaning the warm and vintage tone that’s highly detailed.

Aside from this element that separates it from other active mics on the market, it also offers a classic ribbon sound and design inspired by the industry standards of the 1930s. One can definitely feel the vintage experience both in sound and design with the Cloud Microphones 44-A.

Pros and Cons of the Cloud Microphones 44-A

✔️ Eye-catching design
✔️ Unique responsive curve
✔️ Comes with a shock mount
✔️ New mount offers 180 degree range of motion
✔️ Excellent side null rejection
✖️ Expensive price point

The Best Ribbon Mic

Sound Quality:  ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐
Design:  ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐
Features:  ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐

The NTR is an active ribbon that has an extended high-frequency response and sensitivity that not most active ribbon mics can match. With a highly sensitive 1.8-micron ribbon element, a bi-directional polar pattern, and even a customer design transformer and active electronics, the Rode NTR is superior to other mics of the same type.

Due to the features and parts used in the Rode NTR, it’s ideal for vocal and instrumental recording applications. It’s versatile and superior enough to record an orchestra ensemble to a single person playing the drums. Ultimately, you are assured that you will achieve a balanced recording with the Rode NTR.

While the ribbon of the Rode NTR is one of the thinnest among ribbon mics, Rode has made use of a proprietary laser technology and process to make sure that the ribbon element stays sturdy while optimized for enhanced performances. It also helps that the Rode NTR has an internal shock mount system so you can appease your worries regarding durability and breakage. This also means you need not to purchase an external shock mount so you get to save more money — a definite plus as the NTR is on the pricier side.

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

Pros and Cons of the Røde NTR

✔️ Internal shock mounting system
✔️ Wide frequency range and high frequency response
✔️ Elegant design
✔️ Bi-directional polar pattern
✔️ Compatible with consumer-grade USB audio interface preamps
✔️ Has one free ribbon replacement during the warranty period
✖️ Expensive price point

The Best Ribbon Mic

Sound Quality:  ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐
Design:  ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ 
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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 — the Royer R-10

Passive ribbon microphones like this are hard to come by at such a cost, and the Royer R-10 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 kit, the Royer R-10 is one of the best for the job.

The Royer R-10 is a studio/live mic designed for said application in stages. Due to its compact size and mounting system, the R-10 also allows for plenty of movement for the user because it will stay flexible while remaining unobtrusive.

As with most worries of people when it comes to ribbon mics, the Royer R-10 has made it to a point to make their aluminum ribbon element strong and sturdy. Using a patented direct-corrugation process that will allow said element to be protected by a 3-layer windscreen system pairs with the internal shock-mounter ribbon transducer, the Royer R-10 allows you to record voices and loud instruments without a problem. This system also helps with rejecting electromagnetically induced noise so feel free to place this microphone on top of amplifiers!

Speaking of loud sounds, the Royer R-10 makes use of a custom-design transform so it can withstand high overload threshold. This means even at extreme high sound pressure levels and environments, the Royer R-10 can minimize saturation, standing waves, and even churn out comb-filtering effects. This makes the R-10 perfect for digital studio recording and live applications.

For best results, you can use an audio interface for the Royer R-10. It’s compatible with EQ units and plugins so you can further elevate your recorded track or audio. It’s no wonder why the R-10 is favored by plenty of recording artists both in the studio and for live applications.

Pros and Cons of the Royer R-10

✔️ Fantastic value
✔️ Compact and high portable
✔️ 5-year warranty
✖️ Quieter sounds may require preamps and preamp gain

The Best Ribbon Mic

Sound Quality:  ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐
Design:  ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐
Features:  ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ 

The Audio-Technica At4081 is considered as one of the most trusted in the business. Unlike most velocity mics, the Audio-Technica AT4081 can be used for a very wide range of recordings thanks to its high FR, from drum overheads to close vocals and even from the studio to live applications.

This phantom-powered ribbon microphone with a bidirectional polar pattern promises mellow 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.

When it comes to design, the minimalist and sleek look of the Audio-Technica is a silent head-turner without coming off as unobtrusive. The stick shape also helps make it versatile in placement options and positions. While it’s low-profile in design, Audio-Technica made sure to put a high priority on security and safety when it comes to protecting the ribbon element. For this reason, it has superfine mesh guards to protect the ribbon from possible damage.

Pros and Cons of the Audio-Technica AT4081

✔️ Versatile use
✔️ High frequency response
✔️ Phantom powered
✖️ Less suitable for beginners

The Best Ribbon Mic

Sound Quality:  ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐
Design:  ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐
Features:  ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ 

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

Few ribbon mics have such a solid build as this one, and it offers excellent audio with full-body detail and classic natural character. This is why the Royer Labs R-121 is considered by many as the best ribbon for brass instruments and electric guitars. Its reverse side also provides a brighter sound. The R-121 can handle high SPLs easily, making this all-rounder microphone perfect for guitar amps as well as other sources like voices, strings, and drum overheads. It also has less proximity effect compared to other ribbons, allowing it to be suitable for close miking.

Pros and Cons of the Royer Labs R-121

✔️ Lifetime warranty
✔️ Durable
✔️ Lightweight build compared to most ribbons
✔️ Popular to use on guitar amps and brass applications
✔️ Impressive SPL handling
✔️ Impressive maximum sound pressure level
✔️ Flat frequency response
✖️ Expensive price point

What is a Ribbon Mic Good For?

Also known as velocity microphones, ribbon microphones have moving parts and a magnetic field. They have a wide array of applications and uses. Most ribbons have a figure-8 polar pattern, bi-directional, and side-address, this makes them great at recording vocals, instruments, overheads, and even the room ambiance. 

While it can capture any type of sound source, it’s best to use this sensitive microphone under partially controlled environments and locations as the ribbon element can get easily damaged if not well taken care of. Some ribbons are suited to use at greater distances, while others excel in capturing quiet sources.

One of the biggest advantages of using a ribbon microphone is the ability to capture highly dynamic and high-fidelity sound. If you want to capture accurate details while maintaining extremely low residual noise, then a ribbon microphone is your best bet! For this reason, a velocity microphone is a favorite for vocal recording and a great addition to any mic locker.

What Is the Weakness of a Ribbon Mic?

These mics are delicate as the ribbons are susceptible to damage from excessive air pressure,  rough handling, or exposure to high SPLs. One should also take care when it comes to positioning and transporting them as the ribbons could get potentially damaged. 

Velocity mics on the cheaper end can also have high-frequency resonances. This may not be ideal for those to want to capture sounds with precision. Sometimes, the bottom end can also seem uncontrolled.

Are Ribbon Mics Better?

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 source.

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

Are Ribbon Mics Still Used?

While ribbon microphones 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 studio recording thanks to the clear and warm sound they produce. They’re still widely used in plenty of professional recording settings.

Are Ribbon Microphones Expensive?

Velocity microphones usually command a very high price point, but this is due to their fragility yet unparalleled sound quality. They also 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 mics.

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

Are Ribbon Mics Worth It?

Only ribbon mics can give you the best vintage design and sound, which makes them a great investment and worth purchasing. They are also known for their accuracy, which is why they’re incredibly popular despite their price. To understand further how great these mics are, let’s compare them to condenser microphones and dynamic microphones.

While a condenser microphone can deliver crisp audio, it can sometimes sound too enhanced and brittle due to its high FR. On the other hand, a dynamic microphone will give you a rounder and fuller sound, but due to this feature, the captured sound can sometimes lack the rich detail you would have wanted to be picked up from your audio.

Enter ribbon velocity mics. With the ability to bring warmth and detail despite a “vintage tone”, this is the ribbon element that is unique to ribbon mics. For a number of factors such as the figure-8 polar pattern, self-noise level, ribbon element (or the use of an aluminum ribbon), and frequency response of these mics, one can produce more colors in recordings thanks to these devices.

Although other ribbon mics will need to use phantom power, the output impedance of these mics is still great and can still carry a sound that has a lot of character despite the added signal and gain.

Due to the figure-8 polar pattern, flat frequency response, and self-noise level of ribbon mics, they also make great recording devices for taming harsh noises. Especially with the ribbon models today where most of them have a high or maximum SPL rating, these mics can easily be placed as a spaced pair on drums and guitar cabinets. Said Maximum SPL rating also answers the concern of many regarding the sensitivity and breakage of the aluminum ribbon.

It’s always good to remember though that the most expensive ribbon isn’t necessarily the best one either. There are options on the more affordable end that can give you the kind of sound you’re looking for.

What Is the Best Ribbon Mic?

The best one on our list is the Golden Age Projects R1 Mk2. Suited for many applications, this one is a great addition to any mic locker as it’s robust and musical. It’s also a good choice for those who don’t have a budget for an expensive preamp. 

Another velocity mic that’s good but didn’t make the list is the Beyerdynamic M160. This dual-ribbon microphone has a hypercardioid polar pattern, offering a tighter sound with less room compared to other mics. The hypercardioid pattern is also helpful in minimizing room sound when capturing drums, brass, or even a guitar amp. 

Are Ribbon Mics Good for Voice Over?

One of the top choices for voice-overs is the Golden Age Project R1 MK2 as it allows you hear voices clearly. Another good choice is the Cloud 44-A as it can reduce the bass proximity when someone stands too close to it, reducing rumbles and vibration and allowing anyone to hear voices distinctly. 

While not on the list, the Groove Tubes Velo 8 is also good for voices as it offers a leveled, dark, and rolled-off top end.

Final Note

Although the best velocity-type mics will vary from one person to another, we can all generally agree that the best ribbon mics in the market should be able to work for a range of recording scenarios. For this reason, it pays to browse through and research well on the best ribbon mics so you will be sure that you are purchasing the right microphone for you. After all, a high-quality velocity 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 audio, then a ribbon is definitely for you.

The Best Ribbon Mic

Editor’s Choice

The R1 MK2 is a vintage-style passive mic with a bidirectional polar pattern. This passive mic has low sensitivity and high SPL capability meaning it can deliver a smooth and mellow sound that’s perfect for singing and instrumentals. 

This is considered one of the best ribbon mics on the market that 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 making a record of a single voice or an orchestra, this Golden Age Project R1 MK2 is the best velocity-type microphone that has you covered on all bases.

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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