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Royer 121 Ribbon microphone

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Royer 121 Ribbon microphone

Postby Glenn Bucci » Fri Sep 26, 2014 3:31 pm

The Royer 121 made a big splash when it came out and it has now become one of the industry microphones for recording guitar cabs as well as other duties. SOS provided a great review of this mic as well which you can read for more info. Since this mic has come out, there have been many less expensive ribbon mic's, some you can buy for a little more than the Royer shockmount for the Royer mic's. Royer responded by coming out with a less expensive ribbon called the 101. You can go to their web site andYoutube to hear a lot of shoot outs between these different mic's. The 101 has a little more top end than the 121 and is slightly less refined, but equally as good.

I had the opportunity to speak to Royer about their mic's and their competition. They acknowledged that many of the less expensive ribbons (many which are made in China) can sound good on different sources. Some studio owners though may want to know where are the transformers made, what are their specs?, what is the thickness of their ribbons and how are they assembled? Royer makes their own transformers and the quality control is very high. They also provide a very good warranty on their ribbon mic's. The bottom line is you pay for whatt you get. Many have a hard time paying so much for a microphone and will find some of the cheaper ribbons to be just fine for your studio. I found listening to many shoot outs that the 121 has a more elegant sound compared to the cheaper ribbons. There is also the assurance that the quality beind every part inside is very good.

I tried the 121 with my Marshall combo, Fender Strat and Langevin (Manley) DVC pre's. The Royer 121 really smoothed out the peaks quite well and provided a nice even sound that you would expect from a ribbon mic. It took EQ very well when I added some gentle high's and rolled off some low end. It sounded great with my Marshall combo amp playing Ryth guitar. I found I obtained the best result with it blended with the Audix I5 which I prefer over the SM 57. The I5 offered punchy mid's and high's that brought more excitement. Blending the ribbon with the dynamic mic added the best of each's strength bringing a complete sound. With lead guitar, I preferred the 121 on its own with the Marshall. It removed the peaks and made it easier on your ears as it also smoothed the distortion.

I next tried it on the clean channel of my Fender Twin with my Carvin Jazz guitar. I recorded the amp also with my Audio Technica 4033 which I used in the past to obtain good results. In this situation, I did not prefer the 121 by itself initially as it lacked the full range the 4033 provided. The best results was by starting with the 121 and then slowly moving the fader on the 4033 up until it's character enchanced the guitar to where I liked it. On its own the 4033 had low mids that were forward and too dominate. I could Eq the mic and reduce it however blending the 121 with 4033 provided better results. After adjusting the mic placement and Eq on the 121, I found it to be equally as good on the Fender amp and jazz guitar. It offered a more balanced sound that sound just right. The 4033 had a more solid sound in comparison. I also tried the 121 on acoustic guitar and again heard a well balanced smooth guitar that was very nice. It may not be the best choice for every guitar or style, but what mic is?

You cannot duplicate what ribbon mic's offer with dynamic or condenser mic's though I tried with my mic's including the Rode K2 and
adjusting the Eq. My favorite ribbon mic's to date are the 121 and AEA R92. The R92 has a richer low end and is not as mid rangy as the 121. If the Royer 121 is in your budget, it is a great option for a ribbon mic that is not as fragile as some of the more traditional ribbon mic's including the R92.
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Re: Royer 121 Ribbon microphone

Postby Tim Gillett » Fri Sep 26, 2014 8:52 pm

Glenn Bucci wrote: I tried the 121 with my Marshall combo, Fender Strat and Langevin (Manley) DVC pre's. The Royer 121 really smoothed out the peaks quite well and provided a nice even sound that you would expect from a ribbon mic.


I'm not sure which peaks you are referring to. Those created by your combo, or those created by another mic?
At what stage are these peaks occurring and why?

Cheers Tim
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Re: Royer 121 Ribbon microphone

Postby Glenn Bucci » Fri Sep 26, 2014 10:26 pm

Tim Gillett wrote:
Glenn Bucci wrote: I tried the 121 with my Marshall combo, Fender Strat and Langevin (Manley) DVC pre's. The Royer 121 really smoothed out the peaks quite well and provided a nice even sound that you would expect from a ribbon mic.


I'm not sure which peaks you are referring to. Those created by your combo, or those created by another mic?
At what stage are these peaks occurring and why?

Cheers Tim


I am referring to the ice pick sound I get from my amp when playing lead guitar. This is heard right out of the speaker. If I add a compressor it tames it but without it it can sounds a little harsh. So the ribbon mic smooths this out without a compressor. :D
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Re: Royer 121 Ribbon microphone

Postby Tim Gillett » Sat Sep 27, 2014 1:23 am

Glenn Bucci wrote:
Tim Gillett wrote:
Glenn Bucci wrote: I tried the 121 with my Marshall combo, Fender Strat and Langevin (Manley) DVC pre's. The Royer 121 really smoothed out the peaks quite well and provided a nice even sound that you would expect from a ribbon mic.

I'm not sure which peaks you are referring to. Those created by your combo, or those created by another mic?
At what stage are these peaks occurring and why?

Cheers Tim

I am referring to the ice pick sound I get from my amp when playing lead guitar. This is heard right out of the speaker. If I add a compressor it tames it but without it it can sounds a little harsh. So the ribbon mic smooths this out without a compressor. :D

Are you saying the ribbon mic acts as a compressor of dynamics?

T
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Re: Royer 121 Ribbon microphone

Postby Glenn Bucci » Sat Sep 27, 2014 3:28 am

Tim Gillett wrote:
Glenn Bucci wrote:
Tim Gillett wrote:
Glenn Bucci wrote: I tried the 121 with my Marshall combo, Fender Strat and Langevin (Manley) DVC pre's. The Royer 121 really smoothed out the peaks quite well and provided a nice even sound that you would expect from a ribbon mic.

I'm not sure which peaks you are referring to. Those created by your combo, or those created by another mic?
At what stage are these peaks occurring and why?

Cheers Tim

I am referring to the ice pick sound I get from my amp when playing lead guitar. This is heard right out of the speaker. If I add a compressor it tames it but without it it can sounds a little harsh. So the ribbon mic smooths this out without a compressor. :D

Are you saying the ribbon mic acts as a compressor of dynamics?

T

No it does not compress the signal, but it smooths it out. Compressors can smooth out a signal by reducing the high's and bringing up the lows for a more even signal. But this affects the dynamics of your signal; a ribbon mic does not.
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Re: Royer 121 Ribbon microphone

Postby Tim Gillett » Sat Sep 27, 2014 4:31 am

Glenn Bucci wrote:
Tim Gillett wrote:
Glenn Bucci wrote:
Tim Gillett wrote:
Glenn Bucci wrote: I tried the 121 with my Marshall combo, Fender Strat and Langevin (Manley) DVC pre's. The Royer 121 really smoothed out the peaks quite well and provided a nice even sound that you would expect from a ribbon mic.

I'm not sure which peaks you are referring to. Those created by your combo, or those created by another mic?
At what stage are these peaks occurring and why?

Cheers Tim

I am referring to the ice pick sound I get from my amp when playing lead guitar. This is heard right out of the speaker. If I add a compressor it tames it but without it it can sounds a little harsh. So the ribbon mic smooths this out without a compressor. :D

Are you saying the ribbon mic acts as a compressor of dynamics?

T

No it does not compress the signal, but it smooths it out. Compressors can smooth out a signal by reducing the high's and bringing up the lows for a more even signal. But this affects the dynamics of your signal; a ribbon mic does not.

Great, that's cleared that one up. I'd never heard of a ribbon mic acting as a compressor.

So by "highs" and "lows" you are referring not to amplitudes but frequencies? You are using the mic to modify the tone (EQ) coming from the cab speaker? But the Royer manufacturers describe the 121 has having a pretty flat response. I dont understand how a mic with a pretty flat response will significantly alter the sound here.
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Re: Royer 121 Ribbon microphone

Postby Mike Stranks » Sat Sep 27, 2014 9:16 am

Tim: Yet again you are homing-in on frequency-response as to what gives a mic its 'sound'.

Others with far more technical expertise than I have explained before that there are multiple things going on with the physics of a mic that contribute to its sound.

All I know is that irrespective of the frequency responses - which are all very similar - most of my mics have subtly different characteristics which make them particularly suited for specific tasks.
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Re: Royer 121 Ribbon microphone

Postby Tim Gillett » Sat Sep 27, 2014 10:39 am

Mike Stranks wrote:Tim: Yet again you are homing-in on frequency-response as to what gives a mic its 'sound'.

Others with far more technical expertise than I have explained before that there are multiple things going on with the physics of a mic that contribute to its sound.

All I know is that irrespective of the frequency responses - which are all very similar - most of my mics have subtly different characteristics which make them particularly suited for specific tasks.

Mike I was trying to encourage the OP to explain in his own words what he sees as the factors contributing to this particular microphone's performance/effect in this particular application.

Hence my questions. Did you notice the question marks Mike?

I did not mention other factors because it was not relevent at that point. I was trying to clarify parts of what he had already said, which I found unclear, before moving on to other possible factors, if applicable.

Tim
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Re: Royer 121 Ribbon microphone

Postby Jack Ruston » Sat Sep 27, 2014 11:38 am

You were trying to get him to explain 'in his own words'...It seemed a lot like you were trying to get get him to retract his own words and explain in your words. I'm sure you were just looking for clarification, Tim, but it came across as if you were needling him for a precise technical description of what he was hearing, rather than accepting his slightly looser, but still valid explanation of the character of the mic. Your posts come across like a teacher's red pen. I'm sure that wasn't your intention.

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Re: Royer 121 Ribbon microphone

Postby Mike Stranks » Sat Sep 27, 2014 12:18 pm

Tim Gillett wrote:But the Royer manufacturers describe the 121 has having a pretty flat response. I dont understand how a mic with a pretty flat response will significantly alter the sound here.

I was referring to this aspect of your comment. No question-marks there...
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Re: Royer 121 Ribbon microphone

Postby Tim Gillett » Sat Sep 27, 2014 1:20 pm

Mike Stranks wrote:
Tim Gillett wrote:But the Royer manufacturers describe the 121 has having a pretty flat response. I dont understand how a mic with a pretty flat response will significantly alter the sound here.

I was referring to this aspect of your comment. No question-marks there...


And what is your point here, Mike?
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Re: Royer 121 Ribbon microphone

Postby Glenn Bucci » Sat Sep 27, 2014 3:00 pm

Guys this is not gearslutz.com where they argue back and forth. We are more dignified here. :angel:

If you read Hugh's excellent review of the Royer 121 he states similar results with a smooth sound, brass not being harsh (same thing I was saying with the Marshall amp) and he goes into great detail about ribbon mics that should answer any questions. Tape Op and other magazine reviews all are saying similar things on the Royer 121 but each with our own slant.

One additional bit of information on Tape Op's review which I found interesting was "the ribbon is not centered within the screening of the magnetic armature, as was standard in older microphones, but is offset to the front to allow the ribbon to move in a larger rear-ward excursion without damage." This is what allows the Royer not to be as fragile as older ribbon mics.

Have a great day!
:bouncy:
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Re: Royer 121 Ribbon microphone

Postby Tim Gillett » Sat Sep 27, 2014 3:52 pm

I agree wholeheatedly with you Glenn that Hugh's article on the 121 (I think this is the link)

http://www.soundonsound.com/SOS/apr00/a ... err121.htm

is excellent, with great detail.

But notice too that Hugh doesnt just mention its suitability for guitar cabs and brass. He also mentions it for vocals, clarinet, violins "all with excellent results." In other words, a whole range of sources, precisely because of its fidelity. The figure 8 pattern of course lends it to certain applications more than other polar pattern mics.


One could look at just the last line of the article:

" Electric guitarists, in particular, could well find that this is the microphone for capturing their sound, as it really does seem to be designed for this application above all others!"

and miss the bigger point that the 121 has:

" Beautifully flattering sound quality with almost any source."
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Re: Royer 121 Ribbon microphone

Postby Mike Stranks » Sat Sep 27, 2014 4:29 pm

I cast myself on the mercy of the jury... ;)

I'm outta here.
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Re: Royer 121 Ribbon microphone

Postby Hugh Robjohns » Sat Sep 27, 2014 6:19 pm

Tim Gillett wrote:But notice too that Hugh doesnt just mention its suitability for guitar cabs and brass. He also mentions it for vocals, clarinet, violins "all with excellent results." In other words, a whole range of sources, precisely because of its fidelity


It's not about fidelity, it's about flattery -- as is the case with most ribbons. The slightly early but gentle HF roll-off and complete absence of HF resonances are fundamental chacteristics of ribbons that lend them the recognisably smooth, natural and flattering sound quality. Natural, perhaps, because the top end response is similar to the way air attenuates hf between instrument and listener. That's why ribbons generally tend to work well on sources which can otherwise sound harsh or strident when close miked.. Like brass, close strings, electric guitars and so on...

H
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Re: Royer 121 Ribbon microphone

Postby Tim Gillett » Sun Sep 28, 2014 12:37 am

Yes the 121's HF rolloff is extremely gentle. How many db's per octave? How difficult is it to achieve that sort of very gentle roffoff, or largely compensate for it, with a touch of very basic desk EQ? In any case isnt complete absence of HF resonance and a good smooth response out to 15khz or so traditionally prized as fidelity in a mic?

When close micing guitar cabs, brass, strings etc what sorts of high frequency boost are we talking about? What would be a typical characteristic? You seem to imply that it is a rough inverse of the 121's very gentle HF rolloff. If so isnt that sort of very smooth and mild boost easy to largely compensate for using any relatively flat mic and a tiny bit of basic desk EQ? For if the HF boost is more complex than that, how will a 121 (or basic desk EQ) deal with it?

Perhaps the question needs to be asked: "compared to what?" I see the 121 favourably compared to an SM57 which is often used in the same application, but the SM57 doesnt pretend to have a smooth response above 1khz.

What specifically about the 121 makes it superior in this application to many good SDC's on the market?

Tim
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Re: Royer 121 Ribbon microphone

Postby Sam Inglis » Mon Sep 29, 2014 12:43 pm

Tim, presuming you have access to a guitar amp and some different kinds of mics, why not try answering your own questions?

On the one occasion I tried miking a guitar amp with a small-diaphragm capacitor mic, it sounded horrible, and I wasn't minded to see whether it could be EQed to make it better -- I just swapped the mic out for a different one.
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Re: Royer 121 Ribbon microphone

Postby Tim Gillett » Mon Sep 29, 2014 3:19 pm

Sam Inglis wrote:On the one occasion I tried miking a guitar amp with a small-diaphragm capacitor mic, it sounded horrible, and I wasn't minded to see whether it could be EQed to make it better -- I just swapped the mic out for a different one.

Sam, I'm sorry to hear of your unfortunate experience with the one SDC you tried on a guitar cab, on the one occasion.

I recently came across this article on micing guitar amps by Mike Senior:

http://www.soundonsound.com/SOS/aug07/a ... ording.htm

He describes how various audio engineers successfully use a range of mics on guitar cabs, including dynamics, LDC and SDC, and ribbon. I'm happy to trust the wide experience of Mike in this area and that of the other international people whose experience he cites. I often warm to Mike's generous, unprickly style and his breadth of practical and musical knowledge.


All the best, Tim
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Re: Royer 121 Ribbon microphone

Postby Sam Inglis » Mon Sep 29, 2014 9:37 pm

Indeed, but to quote Mike's article, "Small-diaphragm condenser mics, on the other hand, tend to have flatter frequency plots and a better-behaved off-axis response, giving a sound sometimes described as more focused, but they seem to be less commonly chosen by the interviewees than large-diaphragm ones."

So although a handful of well known engineers use them, they are much less popular than dynamics or LDCs for this particular job. I don't know if my experience was typical, but the difference was not subtle.
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Re: Royer 121 Ribbon microphone

Postby Urthlupe » Tue Sep 30, 2014 12:21 am

Tim Gillett wrote: I often warm to Mike's generous, unprickly style and his breadth of practical and musical knowledge.


All the best, Tim

..... priceless.....!!! :bouncy:
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