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Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Finally, A Ribbon Mic For Toms?

When I was a young 'un in the recording business, I once tried a couple of Beyer M160 ribbon mics on the toms of a drum kit that I was recording. They sounded glorious - just the sound that I always heard in my head but could never get - until, of course, they didn't. After about a half song, the ribbons blew and the mics had to be sent away to get fixed. It was a difficult lesson to learn that ribbon mics are extremely sensitive to wind blasts, and that while they could be successfully used as overheads, you had to avoid directly miking the rest of the drum kit. But every engineer that has ever tried such foolishness knows just how great a drum kit can sound miked with ribbon mics.

Royer Labs makes an excellent ribbon mic with the R-121 (and other mics in the family), that has a very robust design that can take all sorts of abuse that would normally blow the ribbon in a vintage ribbon mic to shreds, but directly miking toms with it is still out of the question.

Today I lunch with John Jennings of Royer Labs and Dusty Wakeman of the Royer's sister company Mojave Audio (who make some fine condenser mics, if you've not checked them out yet), two great guys who are both excellent musicians and have great ears that I really trust. John introduced me to the new Royer R-101 ribbon mic just beginning to ship, a mic that is so cool in so many ways.

First of all, it's Royer's first entry into the sub-$1,000 category, coming in at a retail price of $895. At that price, John says it sounds very much like the now-standard R-121, only not quite as hi-fi. Certain types of music and certain instruments (like loud guitar amps) don't really require a hi-fi sound, so I don't see that as a limitation.

While I didn't hear it, I can tell you that the manufacturing is very impressive. It feels substantial in the hand as well as a lot more expensive than it really is.

But what excited me the most is that John said that they've yet to blow one up, thanks to a new triple pop filter that the R-101 uses. In fact, he said they even blew a blast of highly compressed air directly into it and it still came away working like a champ.

Could the R-101 be the ribbon tom mic that everyone has longed for all these years? I can't wait to find out. Check out the R-101 page for more info.

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