Top 12 Best Passive Ribbon Microphones On The Market In 2020


Ribbon microphones have been continuously rising in popularity since the advent of digital recording. Their natural accurate sound is greatly valued in the exactness and “sterility” of digital recording.

Ribbon mics work on the passive principle of electromagnetic induction and are, by nature, passive devices. Like any mic type, some passive ribbon microphones are better than others and in this article, we’ll have a look at the top 12 best passive ribbon mics on the market today.

The top 12 best passive ribbon microphones on the market are:

Before we get into each individual microphone to discuss their position on the list, we’ll go over the definition of a passive ribbon mic and the factors that have influenced this list.

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What Is A Passive Ribbon Microphone?

Ribbon microphone transducers convert sound waves (mechanical wave energy) into audio (electrical energy) via an electrically conductive ribbon-like diaphragm; a permanent magnetic structure, and the process of electromagnetic induction.

Electromagnetic induction (which is the same working principle of dynamic microphones) is passive. It does not require any power to work. Therefore, ribbon microphones are naturally passive. It is only the ribbon mics with added amplifiers and active circuits that are active.

Ribbon microphones have been passive since their introduction in 1931 (RCA PB-31). It was only in 2002 that the first active ribbon microphone was introduced to the marketplace (Royer R-122).

So what is a ribbon microphone exactly and how do ribbon microphones work?

To begin our explanation of the ribbon microphone, let’s have a look at a simplified diagram of the defining component. This defining transducer element is referred to as the ribbon element/baffle:

There are essentially two key parts to the transducer element: the ribbon and the magnetic structure. Of course, electrical leads are required to use the signal of the element and the element must be housed within the microphone body.

The diaphragm is made of an electrically conductive material (often aluminum) and its form factor is a thin, corrugated, ribbon-like shape, hence the name “ribbon microphone.”

This ribbon is suspended within a magnetic structure, held at either end of its length. The magnetic structure is nearly flush against its perimeter. Sound waves must not be able to pass between the ribbon and the magnet but the ribbon must be able to move within the structure.

The ribbon diaphragm moves according to the sound pressure difference between its front and rear sides. In this way, the ribbon effectively mimics the sound waves from the front and back while rejecting sound waves from the side. Ribbon mics naturally have a bidirectional (figure-8) polar pattern for this reason.

As the diaphragm moves back and forth about its resting position within the permanent magnetic field, an AC voltage (mic signal) is induced across it via electromagnetic induction. The electrical leads allow this voltage to be connected to a circuit and allow us to use the ribbon mic’s transduced audio signal.

A key component for passive ribbon mics is an output transformer. This transformer is also a passive device and works via electromagnetic coupling.

The transformer steps-up the voltage of the low-level ribbon signal while also providing the ribbon diaphragm with protection from electromagnetic interference and DC voltage that could potentially damage the diaphragm.

For everything you need to know about ribbon microphones, check out My New Microphone’s Complete Guide To Ribbon Microphones (With Mic Examples)


What Are The Characteristics Of A Top-Performing Ribbon Microphone?

Each ribbon microphone model will have its own character and sound. However, there are some key characteristics we should be on the lookout for when choosing the best passive ribbon microphone. These characteristics have played a significant role in determining the mics on this list. They are:

  • Natural frequency response
  • Accurate transient response
  • Low output impedance
  • Sensitivity
  • Versatility
  • Durability

Natural Frequency Response

Ribbon microphones are greatly appreciated for their natural-sounding frequency responses. This naturality comes from a gentle gradual decrease in sensitivity in the higher frequencies of the mic’s response.

Though many ribbon mics have this characteristic innately, it is a factor worth listening for and looking for on the microphone specification sheet.

We should also be looking and listening for a wide frequency response that spans the range (or close to the range) or human hearing which is 20 Hz – 20,000 Hz.

For a detailed description of microphone frequency response, check out my articles titled The Complete Guide To Microphone Frequency Response (With Mic Examples) and What Are Coloured And Flat Microphone Frequency Responses?

Accurate Transient Response

The thinness of the ribbon diaphragm gives the ribbon microphone the potential to be incredibly accurate in terms of transient response.

The transients of a sound (the initial larger and faster variations in sound pressure) are paramount in the sound’s character. Having a ribbon microphone that will respond with precision to these transients is important if we want as accurate a mic signal as possible. It is, therefore, a factor worth considering in determining which ribbon mics are best.

To learn more about transients and microphone transient response, check out my article What Is Microphone Transient Response & Why Is It Important?

Low Output Impedance

Ribbon microphones are notorious for having frequency-specific peaks in their output impedances. These peaks in impedance often exist in the low-end of the ribbon microphone. A peak in the low-end can have a major effect on the mic’s sound. The ribbon mic’s sound becomes dependent on the load impedance (the input impedance of the microphone preamplifier). The ribbon’s low-end could sound wildly different from preamp to preamp.

Choosing a ribbon mic with a low nominal impedance helps to mitigate these effects. Better yet would be to find a passive ribbon microphone that has a more consistent output impedance throughout its frequency response.

Note that active ribbon mics have impedance converters that largely deal with this issue.

For in-depth posts of microphone impedances, please read My New Microphone’s Microphone Impedance: What Is It And Why Is It Important? and What Is A Good Microphone Output Impedance Rating?

Sensitivity

The thin conductive ribbon diaphragm does not natively induce much voltage as the mic produces its signal. A step-up output transformer does help to bring this voltage level up slightly but the output sensitivity of passive ribbon microphones is still relatively low compared to dynamic and condenser microphones.

So we shouldn’t expect a high sensitivity rating in a passive ribbon microphone. However, the stronger the output the better as it makes the microphone less dependent on the microphone preamp to achieve its true sound.

To learn more about microphone sensitivity, check out my articles What Is Microphone Sensitivity? An In-Depth Description and What Is A Good Microphone Sensitivity Rating?

Versatility

Some microphones excel in very specific applications. Though these mics may very well be the best mics for these distinct uses, it’s often considered better to have a microphone that can deliver great results on a multitude of sound sources and applications.

Durability

Ribbon diaphragms are infamously fragile. That being said, some ribbon mics are tougher than others and some are even designed for on-stage applications. Though it’s not a deal-breaker in the typical studio, if we believe we’ll be using a ribbon mic in tougher situations, we should strive for a mic is built to last.


A Few Extra Notes

Before we get started, I’d like to share a few notes.

First, I’ve based this list, and the microphones within, on the following:

  • Personal experience.
  • Outreach to mentors and their opinions.
  • Forum research.
  • Product descriptions, sales pages and datasheets.

Remember that this list is simply my opinion and is certainly not an end-all-be-all. I would fully expect the next person to have a different list than me and, in that spirit, I anticipate you may disagree with some of the items on this list.

That being said, I believe the following microphones are the best of the best passive ribbon microphones on the market and I hope you enjoy reading through this article!

I have excluded stereo ribbon microphones from the list to keep the playing field more even.


The Top 12 Best Passive Ribbon Microphones On The Market

Once again, My New Microphone’s top 12 best passive ribbon microphones on the market are:


Royer R-121

The Royer R-121 (link to compare prices on Amazon and B&H Photo/Video) is one of the most well-known ribbon microphones in the world and is the flagship microphone of the ribbon mic manufacturer Royer Labs.

Royer R-121
  • Frequency response: 30 Hz – 15,000 Hz +/- 3dB
  • Polar pattern: bidirectional/figure-8
  • Sensitivity: 4.5 mV/Pa (-47 dBV/Pa)
  • Output impedance: 300 Ω @ 1K (nominal)
  • Load impedance: >1500 Ω @ 300 Ω

Royer is featured in My New Microphone’s Top 11 Best Microphone Brands You Should Know And Use.

In 1998, Royer reintroduced the ribbon microphone to the world in a compact, lightweight and durable package. The R-121 strayed away from the typical large, heavy and fragile design of ribbon microphones without compromising the warm natural character ribbon microphones are known and loved for.

Since its release, the Royer R-121 has become somewhat of a classic and is an industry classic on electrical guitar cabinets and brass instruments.

The R-121, like all of Royer’s R series microphones, utilizes the company’s proprietary offset ribbon transducer. This system (the ribbon and magnetic structure) positions the ribbon diaphragm closer to the front of the microphone and accomplishes a few things:

  • More room to move within the primary magnetic field.
  • Higher maximum sound pressure level before distortion.
  • A slightly brighter response to the rear of the microphone.
  • Eliminates high-frequency phase distortion.
  • Maintains the natural bidirectional polar pattern.

Durability is a key factor is the construction of the R-121 and in terms of longevity, this ribbon mic is incredibly tough.

The R-121 ribbon is 1.75 inches (44.5mm) long by 3/16ths (4.7mm) wide. The Rare Earth Neodymium magnets are 1.5 inches long.

The sound of the R-121 combines full-body will well-defined detail offering excellent audio quality for a wide variety of sources and the classic natural-character of a ribbon transducer.

Though it’s a famous go-to on electric guitar cabs and brass instruments, the R-121 also excels as on drum overheads, vocals, strings, and numerous other sound sources inside and outside the recording studio.

In 2008, Royer Labs introduced a “Live” version of the R-121 called the R-121 Live (link to compare the prices on B&H Photo/Video and Amazon). The live model utilizes a thicker, more durable 4-micron ribbon and a red logo badge.

With a low sensitivity rating of 4.5 mV/Pa, the Royer R-121 will work with quite a few high-end preamps, though I’d recommend using a high-gain preamplifier.

In addition to the limited lifetime warranty on the microphone and 1 free re-ribboning, the Royer R-121 comes with the following accessories:

  • Protective wood box
  • Microphone sock
  • Documentation

Royer is featured in My New Microphone’s Top 11 Best Microphone Brands You Should Know And Use.

The Royer R-121 is one of My New Microphone’s 50 Best Microphones Of All Time (With Alternate Versions & Clones).

The Royer R-122 MKII and R-122V are two active ribbon mics in Royer’s R series and are both featured in My New Microphone’s Top 11 Best Active Ribbon Microphones On The Market.


AEA R44C

The AEA R44C (link to check the price at Sweetwater) is a museum-quality replica of the legendary RCA 44-BX.

AEA R44C
  • Frequency response: 30 Hz – 20,000 Hz
  • Polar pattern: bidirectional/figure-8
  • Sensitivity: 2.25 mV/Pa (-53 dBV/Pa)
  • Output impedance: 270 Ω broadband
  • Load impedance: >1200 Ω

AEA’s passive R44’s are available in two exteriors:

  • R44C: original museum-quality replica
  • R44CE: aesthetically different but cost-effective

AEA is featured in My New Microphone’s Top 11 Best Microphone Brands You’ve Likely Never Heard Of.

Note that both mics are identical in sound and internal design. It is only the outer aesthetic and price point that are different.

The components of the AEA R44C are completely interchangeable with those of the original RCA 44-BX (1932). The biggest difference between the two mics is that AEA’s R44 line uses Neodymium magnets rather than the original Alcino magnets of the RCA mic. This yields a higher output sensitivity in the clones.

The ribbon is made of NOS (New Old Stock) RCA ribbon material and is cut and corrugated to the original RCA specifications.

The reminiscent sound of the AEA R44C is smooth, warm and full of character. It offers natural rolled-off highs, detailed mids and generous lows. The bidirectional pressure-gradient polar pattern gives tremendous proximity effect that can be used to great advantage in bringing up the gravitas of vocals or the low-end of weaker instruments.

For soft vocals to full orchestras, the R44C is an excellent choice. Whether close or distance miking in the studio or on the stage, the R44C is a top-performer.

The yoke mount offers flexible positioning and mechanical noise isolation. AEA’s R44C comes with a hard-wired 2m XLR cable.

AEA offers an upgraded modified transducer element for its R44 models. This X-Motor upgrade includes two additional magnets to boost the output by 6 dB without affecting the sound of the microphone. X-Motor mods are noted by a red AEA badge on the outside of the mic rather than the standard black AEA badge.

With a low sensitivity rating of 2.25 mV/Pa, I’d recommend using the AEA R44C with a high-quality high-gain preamplifier.

In addition to the 2-year warranty, the AEA R44C comes with the following accessories:

  • Custom storage/shipping case
  • Stand adapter
  • Manual
  • Attached two-meter microphone cable

AEA is featured in My New Microphone’s Top 11 Best Microphone Brands You’ve Likely Never Heard Of.

The original RCA 44-BX, which the AEA R44C is cloned after, is featured in My New Microphone’s 50 Best Microphones Of All Time (With Alternate Versions & Clones) and Top 12 Best Vintage Microphones (And Their Best Clones).

The active version of the AEA R44C, known as the AEA A440 is featured in My New Microphone’s Top 11 Best Active Ribbon Microphones On The Market.


AEA R84

AEA is known for its relationship to vintage RCA ribbon microphones. The AEA R84 (link to check the price on Amazon) is another microphone based on the legendary RCA 44-BX.

AEA R84
  • Frequency response: 20 Hz – 20,000 Hz
  • Polar pattern: bidirectional/figure-8
  • Sensitivity: 2.5 mV/Pa (-52 dBV/Pa)
  • Output impedance: 270 Ω nominal
  • Load impedance: 1.2 KΩ or greater

This is the passive microphone in AEA’s R84 line of mics.

The AEA R84 has the same natural tonality and classic character as the company’s more historically accurate R44. However, it is designed with a more modern sound in mind. The high-end frequency response is extended for improved clarity and the proximity effect is reduced to enhance the results during close-miking applications.

Combine vintage character with detailed high-end and close-miking clarity and you have a superb tool in any recording engineer’s locker. The R84 captures the room and high-end with brilliant detail and represents the low-end with great power.

The carefully altered proximity effect is more easily managed for increasing the bottom-end of vocals, bass and drums.

To recreate the magic of the 1930s 44 ribbon mics, the AEA R84 is designed with the same big ribbon element and output transformer. To modernize the magic of the old-school 44, AEA built its R84 with some newer components to improve the sensitivity, durability and versatility of the mic.

The yoke mount acts as a shock mount to help mitigate mechanically induced noise in the mic signal. It also allows to flexible positioning of the rather lightweight R84 (3 pounds versus the 8 pounds of the original RCA 44).

With a low sensitivity rating of 2.5 mV/Pa, I’d recommend using the AEA R84 with a high-quality high-gain preamplifier.

In addition to the 2-year warranty, the AEA R84 comes with the following accessory:

  • Custom storage/shipping case

The active version of the AEA R84, known as the AEA R84A is featured in My New Microphone’s Top 11 Best Active Ribbon Microphones On The Market.


AEA KU4

The AEA KU4 (links to check the price on Amazon and Sweetwater) is the first non-bidirectional ribbon microphone on this list. Rather than the typical polar response, the KU4 exhibits a supercardioid pattern.

AEA KU4
  • Frequency response: 20 Hz – 20,000 Hz
  • Polar pattern: supercardioid
  • Sensitivity: 6.3 mV/Pa (-44 dBV/Pa)
  • Output impedance: 92 Ω nominal
  • Load impedance: 1.0 KΩ or greater

Like the AEA mics mentioned above, the KU4 is a redesign of an RCA ribbon mic. This time of the least-known and most expensive RCA mic: the unidirectional KU-3A. AEA reverse-engineered the KU-3A and with a few modern improvements in efficiency, created the most consistent and readily-available KU4.

The supercardioid polar pattern is achieved by coupling the rear of the KU4’s ribbon to an acoustic labyrinth. This labyrinth delays and dampens the sound waves from hitting the read of the diaphragm in such a way that it creates a unidirectional polar pattern to the front.

This polar pattern gives us the classic ribbon tonality without the room tone that would naturally be picked up by a bidirectional mic. By rejecting bleed and ambient room reflections, we can capture a much cleaner and isolated sound that can be better introduced into a dense audio mic.

Whether close-miking or miking from a distance, the directionality of the KU4 will capture more of the intended source and less of everything else. This change in polar pattern is also accompanied by a reduction in proximity effect, which allows for closer miking without the risk of an overly muddy audio capture.

The KU4 is described as a near-field mic (it is designed to perform at its best within 18 inches from its intended sound source). It excels on close-miked vocals, strings, woodwinds and percussion. Its extended high-end response makes it the brightest AEA microphone in production and allows it to excel on a variety of sources.

In addition to all these great stats, the KU4 can handle more than 140 dB SPL at 1 kHz. Unless we’re placing the microphone inside a heavy kick drum, it is very unlikely to overload.

A sensitivity rating of 6.3 mV/Pa allows the AEA KU4 to be used with a wider variety of microphone preamps, though I’d still recommend a high-quality high-gain preamp.

In addition to the 2-year warranty, the AEA KU4 comes with the following accessories:

  • Stand adapter
  • Custom storage/shipping case

Coles 4038

The Coles 4038 (link to check the price at B&H Photo/Video) is a classic passive ribbon microphone that has been in production since the 1950s.

Coles 4038
  • Frequency response: 30 Hz – 15,000 Hz
  • Polar pattern: bidirectional/figure-8
  • Sensitivity: 0.6 mV/Pa
  • Output impedance: 300 Ω nominal
  • Load impedance: Not specified

Coles Electroacoustic is also featured in My New Microphone’s Top 11 Best Microphone Brands You’ve Likely Never Heard Of.

The ribbon diaphragm of the Coles 4038 is one of the thinnest of any commercial ribbon mic. It is an impressive 0.6-microns thin. It is 1 inch (25.4mm) long, 0.23 inches (5.8mm) wide and is tuned/tensioned to 45Hz.

Though many advancements have pushed microphone technology forward since the inception of the 4038, this microphone remains true to its original design specifications from the 1950s. The result of staying true has kept 4038s in production for over 6 decades.

The result of the 4038 design is a beautiful flat frequency response from 30 Hz – 15,000 Hz and a consistent bidirectional pattern throughout the frequency response. With a 0.6 micron diaphragm, the 4038 is ultra-responsive to transients at the expense of being relatively fragile.

With a punchy yet warm character, the Coles 4038 is ideal for drum overheads, vocals, and horns.

Unlike many of the modern ribbon microphones, the 4038 has a largely outdated Western Electric 4069 output connector. Fortunately, the mic can be ordered with a 4069-to-XLR adapter.

With a sensitivity rating of only 0.6 mV/Pa, I would recommend using the Coles 4038 with a high-quality high-gain preamp.

In addition to the limited 1-year warranty, the Coles 4038 comes with the following accessories:

  • XLR cable
  • Soft cloth protective bag
  • Lined rigid plastic carrying case

Coles is featured in My New Microphone’s Top 11 Best Microphone Brands You’ve Likely Never Heard Of.

The Coles 4038 is also featured in the following My New Microphone articles:

50 Best Microphones Of All Time (With Alternate Versions & Clones)
Top 12 Best Vintage Microphones (And Their Best Clones)
Top 11 Best Microphones For Recording Vocals


Shure KSM353/ED

The Shure KSM353/ED (link to compare prices on Amazon and B&H Photo/Video) is a slight revision of the KSM353, which was originally the Crowley and Tripp El Diablo. Shure had acquired Crowley and Tripp Ribbon Microphone in 2009 from its parent company Soundwave Research Laboratories.

Shure KSM353/ED
  • Frequency response: 30 Hz – 15,000 Hz
  • Polar pattern: bidirectional/figure-8
  • Sensitivity: -53.5 dBV/Pa (2.11 mV/Pa)
  • Output impedance: 330 Ω
  • Load impedance: Not specified

Shure is also featured in My New Microphone’s Top 11 Best Microphone Brands You Should Know And Use.

This microphone was originally designed to mimic the sound of the Neumann U47FET condenser microphone using ribbon technology. This may be an impossibility but it did not stop Crowley and Tripp from attempting the challenge. In the process, they came up with their innovative Roswellite ribbon material.

Roswellite is a paramagnetic acoustic nanofilm with incredible properties. It is incredibly strong and durable; lightweight; super-elastic, and has high inherent conductivity and shape memory. It can withstand wind blasts, plosives, miswired phantom power, and very high sound pressure levels.

The above attributes make Roswellite much less prone to stretching, snapping and general damage when compared to typical aluminum ribbons.

Due to its excellent durability, the KSM353/ED is perfect for the road. Its pristine audio enhances its value on stage and also in the studio and broadcast applications as well. Regardless of where the Shure KSM353/ED is used (and the sound source it’s put in front of), it sounds awesome.

The dual-sided output transformer helps improve the signal strength of the KSM353/ED while also protecting it from electromagnetic interference and noise.

The trademarked ShureLock shock mount of the 353/ED is designed with wire rope rather than the typical elastic bands. It is designed so that the microphone screws directly into the mount, allowing it to be tipped forward and backward; rotated, or inverted without the sagging that is common to elastic band mounts.

With a sensitivity rating of only 2.11 mV/Pa, I would recommend using the Shure KSM353/ED with a high-quality high-gain preamp.

In addition to the limited 2-year warranty, the Shure KSM353/ED comes with the following accessories:

  • Aluminum flight case
  • A300SM ShureLock wire rope shock mount
  • A353VB velveteen pouch
  • Shure polishing cloth

Shure is featured in My New Microphone’s Top 11 Best Microphone Brands You Should Know And Use.


sE Electronics Voodoo VR1

The sE Electronics Voodoo VR 1 (link to compare prices on Amazon and B&H Photo/Video) is passive ribbon microphone that sE has marketed as being the first ribbon mic to produce the full 20 Hz – 20,000 Hz range of human hearing.

sE Electronics Voodoo VR1
  • Frequency response: 20 Hz – 18,000 Hz
  • Polar pattern: bidirectional/figure-8
  • Sensitivity: 1.78 mV/Pa (-55 dB)
  • Output impedance: 300 Ω
  • Load impedance: Not specified

It is commonly assumed that a ribbon microphone will exhibit a roll-off of high-end sensitivity in its frequency response. This characteristic is often a selling point due to its “natural” sound in digital recording. However, sometimes it leaves something to be had from a ribbon mic.

sE Electronics have produced several ribbon mics that break this ribbon stereotype. The Voodoo VR1 is one of them.

This extended high-end, which is very well defined, is achieved mechanically. An outer perforated diffuser is built into the microphone chassis and an inner diffuser membrane surrounds the ribbon. These diffusers act together to increase the high-end sound frequencies around the diaphragm and yield the surprisingly flat high-end response of the VR1

This response makes the VR1 an excellent choice when other ribbon mics leave the high-end muddy.

The 1.8-micron aluminum ribbon measures 4.5mm in width and 45mm in length. It is suspended within a high-grade Neodymium magnetic structure. This is the same as in the active version of the microphone known as the Voodoo VR2.

The wide frequency response; accurate transient response; consistent bidirectional polar pattern, and ribbon character of the VR1 make it an excellent choice on brass, vocals, guitar cabs, drum overheads and more.

With a low sensitivity rating of 1.78 mV/Pa, I’d recommend using the sE Electronics Voodoo VR1 with a high-quality high-gain preamplifier.

The sE Electronics Voodoo VR1 comes with a limited 3-year warranty.

The sE Electronics Voodoo VR1 is also featured in My New Microphone’s Top 10 Best Microphones Under $500 for Recording Vocals.

The active version of the sE Electronics VR1, aptly named the VR2 is featured in My New Microphone’s Top 11 Best Active Ribbon Microphones On The Market.


Beyerdynamic M 160

The Beyerdynamic M 160 (link to check the price on Amazon) is the second non-bidirectional ribbon mic on this list and the only top-addressed mic we’ll be covering in this article.

Beyerdynamic M 160
  • Frequency response: 40 Hz – 18,000 Hz
  • Polar pattern: hypercardioid
  • Sensitivity: 1.0 mV/Pa (-60 dBV/Pa)
  • Output impedance: 200 Ω
  • Load impedance: ≥1000 Ω

Like the Coles 4038, the Beyerdynamic M 160 is a classic that is still in production today, making its debut on the market in 1957. To this day, it remains a marvel of ribbon microphone engineering and maintains its remarkability as a top-address hypercardioid ribbon microphone.

The element of the M 160 features 2 overlaying, paper-thin ribbons 0.5mm apart and wired in series to produce a higher output level. Even still, the output sensitivity is a low 1.0 mV/Pa. These ribbons measure 0.056″ in width and 0.6″ in length. They are fairly stiff since they’re corrugated width-wise as well as length-wise.

The hypercardioid polar pattern is achieved by means of an intricate acoustic labyrinth with rear ports behind the rear of the diaphragms.

Compared to other ribbon mics, the M 160 may sound a bit overly dark and quiet. However, when positioned close to a source, its natural character comes out and allows the mic to shine. Its hypercardioid pattern does a great job of isolating intended sound sources when close-miking and the accuracy of the dual-ribbon element yields a lush yet transparent result.

The M 160 is ideal for miking acoustic string instruments like violins, violas, cellos and guitars. It also excels on electric guitar amps and on drums.

With a low sensitivity rating of 1.0 mV/Pa, the Beyerdynamic M 160 needs a high-quality high-gain preamplifier.

In addition to the limited 2-year warranty, the Beyerdynamic M 160 comes with the following accessories:

  • Carrying case
  • Mic clip

The Beyerdynamic M 160 is also featured in My New Microphone’s 50 Best Microphones Of All Time (With Alternate Versions & Clones).


Cloud Microphone JRS-34-P

The Cloud Microphone JRS-34-P (link to check the price at B&H Photo/Video) is a bidirectional ribbon microphone inspired by the favourite features of the classic RCA 44 and the RCA BK-11.

Cloud Microphone JRS-34-P
  • Frequency response: 20 Hz – 20,000 Hz
  • Polar pattern: bidirectional/figure-8
  • Sensitivity: 3.5 mV/Pa (-49 dBV/Pa)
  • Output impedance: 150 Ω
  • Load impedance: ≥1000 Ω

Like the legends it is based on, the Cloud JRS-34-P ribbon is hand-crafted. From the cutting and corrugation down to the installation and tensioning.

The Neodymium magnets are rounded to the interior to reduce high-end reflections and comb-filtering in the mic signal. The output transformer is a custom-wound Cinemag with a 1:35 turns ratio.

In terms of sound quality, the JRS-34 is everything we could want in a passive ribbon mic: a natural-sounding frequency response with an accurate transient response, excellent proximity effect and consistent bidirectional polar pattern, and a low noise floor.

Speaking of reducing noise, the JRS-34 features Cloud’s patented spring-loaded shock-mounting system that suspends and mechanically isolates the entire ribbon motor from vibrational noise.

With a low sensitivity rating of 3.5 mV/Pa, I’d recommend using the Cloud JRS-34-P with a high-quality high-gain preamplifier.

In addition to the limited 2-year warranty, the Cloud Microphones JRS-34-P comes with the following accessories:

  • Handcrafted wooden storage box
  • Microfiber mic cover

The Cloud JRS-34-A is the active version of the JRS-34-P and is featured in My New Microphone’s Top 11 Best Active Ribbon Microphones On The Market.


Royer R-10

The Royer R-10 (link to compare prices on Amazon and B&H Photo/Video) is Royer’s budget-friendly ribbon microphone on their product line.

Royer R-10
  • Frequency response: 30 Hz – 15,000 Hz +/- 3dB
  • Polar pattern: bidirectional/figure-8
  • Sensitivity: 2.0 mV/Pa (-54dBV/Pa)
  • Output impedance: 100 Ω
  • Load impedance: ≥700 Ω

This microphone, like its big brother the R-121, is designed with durability in mind. It excels in the studio and on live stages.

Just like in the R-121, Royer utilizes its offset ribbon design in the R-10. Moving the ribbon closer to the front of the mic boosts the maximum sound pressure level of the mic (160 dB) while also giving the rear of the microphone a brighter character than the front.

The bidirectional polar pattern is still true and consistent in terms of overall level, though the rear will provide a slightly brighter character. This is almost like having two microphones in one.

The ribbon transducer is internally shock-mounted for improved mechanical isolation and durability.

A multi-layered windscreen provides further protection to the ribbon from plosives and gusts of wind. These screens also mitigate some proximity effect, allowing closer mic positions with less bass response buildup.

A humbucker helps bring down interference and lower the noise level in the mic signal.

The R-10’s delivers a booming low-end and warm midrange with the classic dark ribbon high-end.

Compared to the larger models in Royer’s R series, the R-10 is quite compact. The smaller size and nifty mounting system allow for flexible, unobtrusive positioning.

Royer lists the following as recommended applications for its R-10:

  • Electric guitar cabinets
  • Acoustic guitar
  • Drum overheads
  • Kick drum
  • Room miking
  • Percussion instruments
  • Brass
  • Strings
  • Piano
  • Vocals

With a low sensitivity rating of 2.0 mV/Pa, I’d recommend using the Royer R-10 with a high-quality high-gain preamplifier.

In addition to the limited 5-year warranty, the Royer R-10 comes with the following accessories:

  • Microphone holder
  • Microphone sock
  • Carrying case

Golden Age Project R1 MK2

You may be questioning why the Golden Age Project R1 MK2 (link to compare prices on Amazon and B&H Photo/Video) has made it on this list.

Golden Age Project R1 MK2
  • Frequency response: 30 Hz – 18,000 Hz +/- 3 dB
  • Polar pattern: bidirectional/figure-8
  • Sensitivity: 2.5 mV/Pa (-52 dBV/Pa)
  • Output impedance: 600 Ω
  • Load impedance: ≥3,000 Ω

I realize there are plenty of better ribbon mics on the market than this budget ribbon. But that’s just it. For its price point, the R1 MK2 is incredible. The above-listed microphones are a firm top 10 in my opinion and these next two mics are go-to’s when on a budget (I mean, who isn’t?).

So with that, let’s get into the GAP R1 MK2.

The R1 MK2 exudes the character of a high-quality ribbon microphone at a very low price point. It costs but a small fraction of what the best-of-the-best ribbon mic’s sell for.

The GAP R1 MK2 is manufactured in China. Though Chinese mics generally get a bad rap, they are very cheap to produce and to sell. This mic is no different, though its sound is much better than one would expect.

This microphone sounds like a pro ribbon mic. It has a well-defined low-end, particularly when close-miking with the proximity effect. Its midrange is warm yet clear and its high-end is rather dark.

The bidirectional polar pattern of this mic is consistent and offers the same benefits (and drawbacks) of any other bidirectional mic on this list.

The R1 Mk2 is well-suited for vocals, acoustic instruments, strings, horns, orchestras, choral groups, and many live sound applications.

With a low sensitivity rating of 2.5 mV/Pa, I’d recommend using the GAP R1 MK2 with a high-quality high-gain preamplifier.

In addition to the limited 1-year warranty, the Golden Age Project R1 MK2 comes with the following accessories:

  • Soft transport case
  • XLR microphone cable

Cascade Microphones Fat Head II

The Cascade Microphones Fat Head II (link to compare prices on Amazon and B&H Photo/Video) is another “budget-friendly” ribbon microphone I should mention as number 12 in this “top 10.”

Cascade Microphones Fat Head II
  • Frequency response: 25 Hz – 16,000 Hz
  • Polar pattern: bidirectional/figure-8
  • Sensitivity: -56 dBV/Pa +/- 2 dB
  • Output impedance: 200 Ω
  • Load impedance: ≥1,000 Ω

First off, the Fat Head II is simply a different aesthetic from the original with a Lundahl transformer upgrade rather than a Cinemage transformer upgrade.

Speaking of upgrades, the Fat Head II is actually pretty customizable at the purchase stage. The different options include:

  • Stock transformer or Lundahl LL2912 transformer.
  • Brown body with gold grille; silver body with nickel grille, or black body with nickel grille.
  • Single or stereo pair.

The Fat Head II has a warm ribbon character but is quite dark. Its high-end roll-off starts around 8 kHz with mic’s the frequency range ending around 16 kHz.

So, in other words, the Fat Head II delivers a fat sound with excellent bottom end and smooth midrange but with little in the high-end.

The bottom-end can be further defined by upgrading the Lundahl output transformer. One thing to watch out for is the proximity effect that will increase the bass response even more when close-miking with the FHII.

At the very affordable price, the Fat Head II will get you that big ribbon character you’re after but may fall short when high-end detail is required.

I would recommend the Cascade Fat Head II as a firth ribbon microphone for someone getting into audio and mics. It contrasts very nicely with cheaper condenser microphones in a small budget mic locker.

With a low sensitivity rating of 1.6 mV/Pa, I’d recommend using the Cascade Fat Head II with a high-quality high-gain preamplifier.

In addition to the limited 5-year warranty on the microphone and limited 1-year warranty on the ribbon, the Cascade Fat Head II comes with the following accessories:

  • Microfiber cleaning cloth
  • Drawcord cloth storage pouch

Cascade produces an active/passive switchable version of the Fat Head II. This microphone is featured in My New Microphone’s Top 11 Best Active Ribbon Microphones On The Market.


This article has been approved in accordance with the My New Microphone Editorial Policy.


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