You shouldn’t get much argument
that a dynamic mic placed right
up against an amp’s speaker grille delivers
that classic, articulate, and slammin’
guitar sound heard on gazillions of beloved
albums. Perhaps only a fool would grumble
over success, but do you always want
to play it safe and dial in the same guitar
sound that everyone else does? Not me.
Experimenting with different microphone
types (condensers, dynamics, boundaries,
ribbons), polar patterns, and mic positions
opens more possibilities for crafting
unique and individual sounds.
My personal go-to ribbon is the rugged Royer R-121. it’s pricey
($1,295 street), but it can handle almost any audio source, and
capture organic and natural sounds.
So when I want an unhyped, natural,
warm, and sweetly dimensional guitar
tone that still has balls, I usually reach for
a ribbon mic. Then, I try not to mess up
a good thing! Here are four tips for optimizing
what ribbon mics do best.
Don’t Futz with Frequencies
BEYERDYNAMIC M 260
If you record instruments live, the hypercardioid Beyerdynamic M 260
($499 street) can avoid massive signal bleed from other source sounds.
Using a ribbon to capture an organic sound,
and then boosting midrange and treble
frequencies in an attempt to simulate a
dynamic mic’s snappy mids, or a condenser’s
shimmering highs, makes little sense.
Use mic positioning to seek subtle timbral
colors, and keep your hands off the EQ.
Ribbon mics—especially those with bidirectional polar patterns—are perfect for capturing natural room sounds without bright and edgy reflections. Your guitar will sound simultaneously impactful and dimensional if you let the mic “hear” the room. So don’t close-mic your amp and choke off all that lovely ambience. Start at a distance of three feet, and move a tad closer or further away to taste.
It’s hard to beat the $79 (street) Nady RSM-5 for ribbon sound
on a tight budget.
Kiss the Grille for Lows
Want two tones in one mic? the shure KSM313 Dual-Voice ($1,295 street) ribbon offers bright and warm sides.
However, if you want more low-end content
in your guitar sound, then by all means
move that mic closer to the speaker. The
“proximity effect” produced by bidirectional
and cardioid polar patterns (omnidirectional
mics exhibit virtually zero
proximity effect) adds bass, muscle, and
heft to the tone.
For a wide stereo perspective with both
edginess and warmth, “partner” a ribbon
with your favorite dynamic or condenser
mic, position the two mics a reasonable
distance away from each other, and pan
the signals hard left and hard right.
A smooth operator at a mid price, the $999 (street) Audio-Technica AT4080 comes with a shockmount.