You may now use a ribbon microphone on the stage. Condensers and dynamics…you’re still going to need those but the ribbon microphone is now an option.
Ribbon microphones are the most sensitive of the three types of microphones; condenser, dynamic, and ribbon. This means they will pick up more nuances in the sounds.
How Ribbons Mic’s Work
Ribbon microphones work by;
- Using a thin corrugated strip of metal suspended between two poles of a strong magnet, thus serving as the diaphragm and voice coil.
- The ribbon reacts to the velocity of air particles and as it moves within the magnetic flux field, it generates a small AC voltage proportional to this velocity.
- The signal moves to a step-up transformer, which then raises the output voltage and boosts the output impedance to a usable level for a preamp.
Traditionally, the problem with using ribbon microphones in the live environment has been the fragility of the inner ribbon. One wrong move and it’s “goodbye microphone.”
Two companies have modified the existing technology in ribbon mic’s and you get…
Ribbon microphones for the live stage environment
Two microphone companies have now engineered ribbon microphones that can withstand the live stage environment.
Shure has introduced the KSM313. I wish microphone names were like guitar pedal name. Blue Microphones has fun with their microphone names (Woodpecker, Snowball, Yeti, etc), but I digress.
The KSM313 can be used on vocals and amps. It works in the live arena because of a “proprietary ribbon technology.” This is likely their way of saying “we made the ribbon stronger.”
The frequency response is 30 Hz to 15,000 Hz and the frequency response is fairly flat, except for the drop in the higher frequencies, as you can see in the frequency chart below.
Royer has introduced the R-121 Live ribbon microphone. Royer uses a thicker ribbon element. This instrument-style microphone works on everything “from guitar amps and percussion to woodwind and acoustic instruments” according to promotional material. From a small survey of other techs, I found they use it primarily for guitar amps.
The R121 Live is much like the KSM313 in that it has a frequency response of 30 Hz to 15,000 Hz and a fairly flat response as you can see below.
Ribbon Microphone Pricing
Wonderful, you can now get a great sound from a ribbon microphone on your live stage! And the best part is the microphones are only $1300 each!
That was meant to be sarcasm. However, I’m guessing at least one of you read that and thought “cool, that’s in my budget.” More power to you!
Here is where microphone prices, functionality, and stewardship come into play. These two microphones can get you a great sound. You might have instances where they would be ideal, especially when it comes to amp mic’ing. However, it’s a hefty price. I would feel ok using these mic’s on a live stage if I knew a little kid from the audience would never run up and start playing with it. I would feel ok if I knew any person who touched the microphone knew what they were doing.
The live church environment can be vastly different from one church to the next. One church might have paid professional techs and the other uses untrained volunteers – you might be the only trained person on the team. One church doesn’t allow anyone on the stage without permission. Another might allow anyone.
The KSM313 and the R-121 Live are an investment. They need to be treated with care. The price alone should cause you to carefully consider such a purchase. If you can afford it, ask yourself the next question, “is it wise to purchase it?” This is a question we should ask with all our equipment purchases.
You can check out the microphones here;
- Shure KSM313 for technical information
- Royer R-121 Live Ribbon Microphone Nickel and here for R-121 technical information.
Question: Are you using a ribbon microphone on the stage? How has it worked for you? What advice would you give to people considering one?