Ribbon Microphone Do's and Don'ts
Do treat your microphone with the respect due a fine instrument
Good microphones are precision instruments. They are the "ear" that hears sounds and translates them to electrical signals - the first and most critical part of the entire recording chain. Take care of them, respect them, and they'll work for you for a lifetime. Click here for Bruce Swedien's eloquent thoughts on microphones.
Do cover or place a mic sock over your ribbon microphone when you are handling it
In the days when engineers all wore white shirts and black ties, ribbon microphones had protective covers placed over them every time they were moved. This ensured that the mics would not be damaged and that the ribbon elements would last for many years.
When you're walking around with a Royer, put your hand around the ribbon end of the mic or use the mic sock to keep wind from blowing through the top of the mic. This may seem like an insignificant detail, but it could mean the difference between your mic coming in for a re-ribbon in five years, or in ten years.
Do place a mic sock over your microphone when set up but not in use
When you leave the studio and your Royer is on its stand, it's good practice to cover it with the supplied mic sock. Again, this will buy you more time in between re-ribbons.
Whenever you set your Royer down, remember that it contains very strong magnets that will attract even the smallest of metal particles into it. This "tramp iron" can work its way into the ribbon area and create distortion, requiring a re-ribbon. Putting the mic into its mic sock will help keep metal particles away from the powerful magnetic structure.
Do place your microphone back in its box when you are finished with it
Do you see U-47's or C-12's laying around outside of their boxes when they're not being used? Not a chance! The good ones lasted because they were well cared for. Give your Royer the same respect and it will remain a pristine recording instrument for generations.
Do use a pop-screen when you are close-miking loud plosive sound sources
There's nothing more annoying than a big "Pop" in the middle of an otherwise great track. That pop is nothing but a concentrated blast of air hitting the mic element. A quality pop screen will keep wind blasts from getting to the microphone, saving your tracks and protecting the ribbon element from potentially damaging wind movements.
Do position the microphone slightly off-axis when close miking high energy sources
You can minimize stressing the ribbon element by placing the microphone slightly off axis to loud or plosive sound sources. Since ribbon microphones have a fairly even pick-up pattern, a slightly off axis position will not alter the source signal, but will certainly do much in the way of protecting the ribbon from unnecessary strain.
Do use high-quality microphone cables and verify that they are in good order
Ribbon microphones, especially passive varieties, require high quality cables to minimize signal loss. High resistance or high capacitance "economy" cables greatly degrade the performance of ribbon microphones. Shorted cables or poorly wired connectors can cause even worse problems because they can place phantom supply voltages where they don't belong, sending current to the ribbon element and possibly resulting in total ribbon failure.
Sonically, every good engineer relies on quality cables. Using a poor quality cable between two good pieces of gear is like putting bad gas in an excellent car - the weak link always lowers overall performance and reliability.
Do keep the microphone clean and free of foreign particles
The powerful magnetic motor assemblies concentrate enormous magnetic fields around the narrow gap where the ribbon is suspended. These fields are so powerful that they will attract even the smallest of particles. Even non-ferrous materials have been known to be drawn into these gaps. Don't underestimate the strength of the magnetic force within the microphone. The smallest particle can render a ribbon microphone unusable.