Ribbons and EQ

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While good ribbon mics deliver natural sound, sometimes you want to shape your tracks to cut through a mix. For example, a vocal take on a ribbon mic might be perfect for jazz or classical recordings, but in a rock or pop track engineers often want to hear more high end "sizzle" to help the vocal stand out. This is an application where a quality condenser mic can shine: But some vocalists sound sibilant no matter what condenser mic you put in front of them, so a highly EQ'ed ribbon mic can be the perfect option: push 12K by 4-6 dB and your ribbon will cut more like a condenser, but without harshness or sibilance. For a great example of a highly EQ'ed ribbon on a singer who was sibilant on condenser mics, listen to this recording of "There She Goes Again" by Sixpence None the Richer, sung on a highly EQ'ed Coles 4038 ribbon. The guitars and cellos were recorded with Royer R-121s. The EQ-ability of ribbons is equally helpful on drums: Royer R-122s are great overhead mics, but the natural sound of cymbals is often not bright enough for rock. Opening up the high end with EQ helps the cymbals cut through the mix and sound more exciting, without affecting the power and tone of the snare drum and tom-toms. This EQ-ability is useful on a wide variety of instruments. Equalization is probably the least understood and most overused form of signal processing in the audio engineer's "toolbox" and the results are often disastrous. Many engineers take the approach that they can "fix" problems in a track by using EQ at mixdown. The reality is that the misapplication of EQ causes more problems than it could ever fix, and the real problem is that the track was never "right" from the beginning. A number of factors will influence the overall quality of the track: the musician's technique, the condition and tuning of his instrument, the instrument's interaction with the room and the mic, and, of course, the microphone itself. You'll probably agree that classical music recording is the "purest" expression of the art. The goal of most classical music recording engineers is to make a recording with no equalization at all. They must be on to something! They spend a great deal of time before the performance listening, moving mics around, and making sure that when they are ready to roll, they essentially have a high-fidelity master coming through the speakers. Make sure everything is right at the source, and the quality of your recordings will improve dramatically. Our advice is to take a step back and really listen to what's coming out of your speakers before you ever press record. Chances are, if you're using a Royer ribbon, things will already sound smooth and natural and you'll be ready to capture that amazing take. We're not saying you'll never have touch the EQ if you use ribbons, but the good news is that if you do need to EQ your tracks, no other kind of microphone stands up as well to EQ as a ribbon. They take EQ so well because of their natural frequency response and lack of distortion artifacts: there's no "junk" to bring up with the signal- just the music!

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