Affordable, reliable and unexpectedly small, Beyer’s ribbon mics have been studio staples since the mid‑’60s.
There are few manufacturers who make all three of the main microphone types: ribbons, moving‑coil dynamics and capacitor mics. Beyerdynamic, however, have produced classics in each of these fields, and many of their mics have been continuously available since the 1960s. In this article, we’ll look at the various different ribbon models that Beyer made, and consider what makes them distinctive.
The operating principle of a ribbon mic is simple. A very thin, lightweight strip of metal is suspended between the poles of a magnet. When vibration in the air is transferred to the strip, electromagnetic induction generates a tiny current. The ends of the strip are connected to a transformer which acts as an impedance converter and voltage amplifier, allowing this signal to be passed down a cable to the mic preamp.
In classic ‘long ribbon’ mics such as the RCA 44, the magnet assembly is huge, which in turn makes the mic itself bulky and heavy. Even the early designs that used a shorter ribbon, such as the Coles 4038, were hardly small. Beyer’s innovation was to create a ribbon motor that was much more compact and lightweight. This made it possible to fit a ribbon element in the sort of ‘lollipop’ or ‘ice‑cream cone’ housing typically used for stage mics. It also became feasible to design ribbon mics where the rear side of the ribbon motor was not open to free air, but coupled to an acoustic labyrinth, thus modifying its native...