Best Cheap Ribbon Mic Choices in 2019

Buying a decent ribbon mic used to be a very expensive endeavor, but in the age of bedroom recording, the number of cheap options available to you is growing every day. In this buying guide, we’ll learn a bit about ribbon mics, and then we’ll go over the best cheap ribbon mics around. Check out our top picks, and don’t forget to listen to some audio samples to get an idea of how each one sounds!

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Top Pick: Golden Age Project R1 MK2

The Golden Age Project R1 MK2 stands out among other ribbon microphones for its aesthetics and great sound when recording all sorts of strummed and amped guitars. The R1 MK2 is a versatile piece of gear – it provides very clean vocal reproduction and can be used with any kind of sound source. Additionally, it will not require much space, as many other ribbon mics do, and it can be used for recording both hot and quiet signals without losing fidelity.

The R1 MK2 captures frequencies ranging from 30 to 18,000 Hz, and while this may negatively affect your sub bass and low-end, it’s also part of what makes it sound so warm. It’s highly sensitive, capturing sound as low as -52 dB. To make the best out of the R1 MK2, experiment with recording harmonically-rich sounds in a dry environment, preferably within the jazz/soul realm.

Runner up: MXL R144

The MXL R144 is not the best sounding ribbon microphone out there, but it’s one of the best deals you can get. The MXL R144 is our #2 pick because it offers decent sound quality and because it’s a highly functional home studio choice for the cost. But if you’re working as a professional music engineer, rather than a broadcaster on YouTube or someone recording podcasts, you should consider some of the R144s limitations before buying.

The MXL R144 has somewhat of a weak sound character since it misses a lot of high-end definition. And by capturing frequencies as low as 20 Hz, it also adds some muddiness in your bass that just shouldn’t be there. Negatives aside, it’s a very good value mic that will do well for hobbyists and those just starting out.

Also Great: Cascade Fathead BE

The Cascade Fathead is arguably the most famous cheap ribbon mic there is. Ribbon mics are usually used on vocals and guitars, but the Cascade Fathead will sound great on drums too, and its flexible format makes it the perfect tool to record on-the-spot (i.e., outside the music studio). If you’re on a budget and looking for a ribbon microphone to use in all sorts of field recordings, the Cascade Fathead is by far your best choice.

Naturally, the Cascade Fathead will not allow you to have the best sound quality in your recordings, but it sounds good enough to pull the trick. With some proper signal processing, it can be used for professional audio recordings. We are especially convinced by the low-end definition the Fathead is capable of producing. This is usually a problematic frequency range for ribbon mics.

Want to learn more and look at some other choices? Keep reading! Up next, we’ll talk about how ribbon mics work, what they’re used for, and how to pick the best cheap ribbon mic.


How do Ribbon Mics Work?

The ribbon mic was popularized in the broadcasting and television industry ever since it was invented by an RCA engineer in the 1920s, but it’s still used today by audio professionals and musicians. In comparison to condenser mics and dynamic mics, ribbon mics work a bit differently.

A ribbon microphone uses a normally thin electric conductor (the ribbon), placed between the two poles of a magnet. The ribbon is sensitive to air velocity.

Ribbon microphone

As the ribbon moves, it induces a current in the ribbon and in the wires. This current is what gets fed into an amplifier and eventually your speakers. Keep in mind that the electrical signal generated by the ribbon is an analog signal that needs to be converted to digital by an audio interface or a converter for your computer to be able to understand.

Why Use a Ribbon Mic?

By being bidirectional and providing a stereo-like sound (bidirectional patterns have a figure-8 shaped sensitivity pattern, meaning they capture sound from both the front and the back), a ribbon mic will add to your recordings by providing a natural feel while simultaneously offering 360 degrees of sound to your stereo image.

How To Pick The Best Cheap Ribbon Mic

Treat Your Room First!

Before jumping in to a purchase, make sure your room is properly treated. Some believe that ribbon mics are the type that most accurately represent sound as perceived by the human ear. By being able to record the back and front of the stereo field, you’re reproducing the spatial environment in which sound is located. That’s why it’s so important when it comes to ribbon mics to make sure that your recording room is well-treated.

Pay Attention to Character

Ribbon microphones being produced today are generally built to provide a vintage sound, to reproduce the harmonics and spatial nuances that existed in the first mics of the genre. That’s why they don’t usually focus on frequency response, but rather on character. When you’re choosing the ribbon mic that’s best suited for your goals, make sure you´re focusing on the mic’s personality, and the way it records the sounds, rather than it’s general fidelity. Unlike dynamic mics, the ribbon mic is sometimes used to color your sound, and that’s why it’s so prominent in dynamically-rich music genres like jazz.

Search for Sounds

Listening to samples, and preferably dry ones (sometimes recording gear companies share processed sound samples, please ignore those) is in our opinion the best way to choose your next ribbon microphone. We advise that you look for samples that are related to your goal; if you’re an electric guitar player, make sure you’re listening to amped-guitar samples. If you’re looking for a ribbon mic to record your vocals, start by trying to find a sample that’s close to your vocal range and register. Remember: every sound is different in the way it behaves within the frequency spectrum, and this affects heavily the way your gear works.

Now that we know some of the ins and outs of ribbon mics and what to look out for, let’s look at a few more of the best cheap ribbon mic around.


4 More of the Best Cheap Ribbon Mic Choices in 2019

Superlux R102

Superlux R102
Superlux R102 Ribbon Microphone With Mount
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Product prices and availability are accurate as of the date/time indicated and are subject to change. Any price and availability information displayed on https://www.amazon.com/ at the time of purchase will apply to the purchase of this product.

This microphone is specially designed to be unaffected by the surrounding temperature and humidity. Since many ribbon mics can deteriorate with time, this is an important factor when considering a purchase of a new ribbon mic. It comes with a mount and includes a volume knob. Below are some more specifications.

Features

♦ Frequency range: 25 to 15,000 Hz
♦ Sensitivity: -39 dB
♦ Impedance: 200 Ohm
♦ Maximum SPL: 140 dB
♦ Weight: 500g
♦ Requires phantom power (48V)
♦ Figure 8 pattern
♦ warm sound that’s designed to reproduce a natural response

View & Check Price on Amazon!

sE Electronics X1R

sE Electronics X1R
sE Electronics X1R Passive Ribbon Microphone
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Product prices and availability are accurate as of the date/time indicated and are subject to change. Any price and availability information displayed on https://www.amazon.com/ at the time of purchase will apply to the purchase of this product.

Guitar-oriented gear is hardly rare, and sE Electronics X1R is specially designed as a ribbon mic suited for picking up guitar amps. This one features a classic aluminum ribbon capsule, and it’s usually sold in a bundle with accompanying shock mount and pop filter (two essential pieces for the ribbon mic owner). X1Rs main weakness is a lack of definition in the mid-range frequencies. It just doesn’t sound as open and bright as a more sophisticated mic. This mic is passive and will not need phantom power.

Features

♦ Frequency response: 20 Hz – 16,000 Hz
♦ Sensitivity: 1.78 mV/Pa (-55 dB)
♦ Impedance: 200 Ohm
♦ Maximum SPL: 135 dB
♦ Weight: 510g

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Nady RSM-5

Nady RSM-5
Nady RSM-5 Ribbon Microphone - Unique compact shape perfect for close miking, includes microphone clip and soft cloth pouch
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Product prices and availability are accurate as of the date/time indicated and are subject to change. Any price and availability information displayed on https://www.amazon.com/ at the time of purchase will apply to the purchase of this product.

For a lesser-known option, consider the Nady RSM-5, whose design is very similar to our third best pick, the Cascade Fathead. This means this is a highly portable ribbon mic with an emphasis on versatility. To get the best out of the Nady RSM-5, try to record drums and brass sounds, because the RSM-5 is great with dynamics. The materials and internals are somewhat disappointing, but please keep in mind that this very complete ribbon mic for the cost.

Features

♦ Frequency response: 30 to 18,000 Hz
♦ Sensitivity: -55 dB
♦ Impedance: 200 Ohm
♦ Maximum SPL: 165 dB

View & Check Price on Amazon!

Avantone Pro-CR14

Avantone Pro-CR14
Avantone Pro CR-14
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Product prices and availability are accurate as of the date/time indicated and are subject to change. Any price and availability information displayed on https://www.amazon.com/ at the time of purchase will apply to the purchase of this product.

Ribbon microphones are can be one of the most prized and expensive types of gear in the sound engineer’s catalog. To get a professional-grade ribbon mic, be ready for some spending. Even some of our selected best cheap ribbon mics can have an impact on your bank account. If you’re looking to spend a little more, check out Avantone’s Pro-CR14. Besides looking great, this mic offers sound quality with a recognizable character that will fit especially well with acoustic string instruments like the guitar, the mandolin, or the banjo.

Features

♦ Frequency response: 30 to 15000 Hz
♦ Sensitivity: -52 dB
♦ Maximum SPL: 145 dB
♦ Dual aluminum band

View & Check Price on Amazon!

Best Cheap Ribbon Mic: Wrap Up

In case you’re a musician looking to add something special to your recorded sounds, a brand-new ribbon mic can be just what you need. These microphones look great, add a special character to your voice or instrument, and are nowadays available for accessible prices.

Don’t forget to keep in mind the following before pulling the trigger on a purchase:

  • Character – what does the frequency response curve look like? Listen to some sampled audio to get an idea of your mics sonic personality
  • Application – will you be recording guitar? Drums? Vocals? Again, sampled audio of the instrument or sound you want to record will help.
  • Room treatment – before getting a mic, it’s really important to make sure you have a dry recording environment!

That’s it! We hope this guide helps you make the best choice for your cheap ribbon mic purchase. Leave a comment below and let us know which one you’ll get.

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