Swapping to Ribbons for Overheads

River19

Senior Member
In the middle of a recording project for what will be a full album and while we are pleased with the tracking and sounds using my condenser overheads the artist/producer is a big fan of running ribbons for overheads.

I picked up a pair of Sterling Audio ST170s that are on their way to me........should be interesting doing an A/B compare in the same positions.

Anyone else have thoughts on Ribbons vs. Condenser for Overheads?

Just curious......
 
I’m a big fan of ribbons especially for overheads. If you need to boost the highs they don’t crap out like condensers do. They are extremely fast so they catch transients better.

Nice !!! We are very pleased with the existing drum sounds I get but that doesn't mean we shouldn't experiment a little so "why not?".....

I have my OHs in basically a Glyn Johns setup in combo with close mics and a Hammer mic over the kick in between the rack and ride.......

Like I said, I would like to do an A/B.....
 
My fatheads and Fostex printed ribbons are my favorite overheads.

They're figure 8 mics though so you can't put them too close to the ceiling.
 
I'd love to have a couple of ribbons out front when I'm playing at home. Some of the best drum mixes I've heard online are just from ribbon mics in front of the kit.
 
Wanted to close the loop on this:

I took delivery of the ribbon mics and was able to do an A/B comparison against my existing condensers. I started with the ribbons on the same pre-amp settings knowing that wouldn't necessarily optimize them but I wanted a real apples to apples then I started tweaking them until I landed on a solid sound.

Here's my quick findings that I confirmed with the artist I am working with as he loves ribbons for overheads hence why I am doing this......

For the record the condensers are Rode M5s and the ribbons are Sterling Audio ST170s........

If I were recording only drums to show off great drum only sound etc. I would stick with my condensers as they provide a great full drum sound and my toms sound thunderous and full bodied. However in a full song mix the condensers can be harsh to work with if we want to boost certain frequencies on the high end.

The ribbons were much more mellow.....I don't want to say "warm" per se but mellow and more of a "vintage" tone and capture of my toms. They went from sounding like 1990s/2000s Harvy Mason-like from his work with Fourplay to something closer to 1970s Ludwig toms on many of the period recordings. With my other 6 mics combined I still get a great drum sound, but in an OH only comparison dry with no EQ etc. that is the audible difference.

Thought at some point someone might find that useful.
 
Last edited:
It's common to eq some brightness back into ribbon mics, they usually take eq very well. The industry standard ribbon mic for drums is the Coles 4038. Ribbon mics are usually fig-8, meaning they pick up some of the space around the mic, as well as the kit piece they are pointed at. Condensers are usually set to cardioid, meaning they are focussed where they are pointing. Cardioid sounds better than fig-8 in my room.
 
It's common to eq some brightness back into ribbon mics, they usually take eq very well. The industry standard ribbon mic for drums is the Coles 4038. Ribbon mics are usually fig-8, meaning they pick up some of the space around the mic, as well as the kit piece they are pointed at. Condensers are usually set to cardioid, meaning they are focussed where they are pointing. Cardioid sounds better than fig-8 in my room.
Exactly on the EQ, that is why we were trying them. The first several songs we have done together came out great but there was some extra work on his part in the mixing as he likes to layer in additional guitar, keys and vocals and he likes to have a clean upper range without having to fight some additional "highs" from the condensers if he wants to boost a given range.

All good, it's nice to have options.
 
Shouldn't the producer have the mic for you? Or is he separate from the recording engineer who hasn't got a ribbon mic?
To my understanding ribbon mics are "accurate" but relatively not "loud" in the top. There are also cardioid-figured ribbon mics, like the Beyerdynamic M160 or Oktava ML-19. They happen to seem to be a bit brighter, too.
 
There are always exceptions. I was just about the ribbon as a general rule:

There are 5 key advantages of a ribbon mic:
  • It's the most natural-sounding mic.
  • Adds ambience to your sound through bi-directional recording.
  • Natural high-frequency roll-off cuts the harsh tones.
  • Retains low-end weight and accuracy.
  • Highly dynamic, high fidelity sound.
 
Shouldn't the producer have the mic for you? Or is he separate from the recording engineer who hasn't got a ribbon mic?
To my understanding ribbon mics are "accurate" but relatively not "loud" in the top. There are also cardioid-figured ribbon mics, like the Beyerdynamic M160 or Oktava ML-19. They happen to seem to be a bit brighter, too.

I record in my own home studio, so if I don't have it, it isn't here.
 
The frequency response curves reveal why.

Rode M5:
View attachment 143064

Sterling ST170:
View attachment 143065

Thanks for the review!

100%.

That is one of the reasons we chose what we chose. If I'm going to have options, might as well ensure there is a legit difference. Appreciate the extra color and effort to post the response charts......good info to drop here.
 
Back
Top