AEA is a really well-known high-end manufacturer of ribbon mics. So what is a ribbon mic, and how does it differ from conventional dynamic microphone?
Well, inside a ribbon mic you quite literally have a strip of ribbon metal, usually aluminum, which works with the magnetic field to produce an alternating current or signal. This is in contrast to a dynamic mic which works using a moving coil connected to a diaphragm. Ribbon mics are usually more expensive than many dynamic mics and require more care when using and transporting.
A few of AEA’s mic designs, such as the R84, tend to be based around more classic, vintage ribbon mics such as the RCA 44. However, this ribbon mic, has a more basic and stripped-back, cylindrical design.
Plus, it’s active too, which is not a very common feature with ribbon mics, especially vintage ones. This is because the phantom power can actually damage the internal ribbon.
AEA have designed a pretty cool shock mount which attaches to the N8 to help keep down any unwanted noise in the off chance of movement.
AEA describes this mic as being very open, natural sounding and with a lot of detail. It has been designed for what AEA refer to as ‘far-field’ applications, as opposed to up close and personal miking.
Also, this ribbon mic has a figure of 8 polar pattern, which naturally means it will capture more of the room than a typical cardioid mic. This makes it ideal for larger-scale recordings, full drum sets, string quartets, choirs, and pretty much any setup encompassing a larger than normal sound scope.
AEA tell us that this mic has an extended top-end as well as an extended low end which makes it sound like an upgrade from your standard ribbon mic. So presumably you’ll get the same low velvety sounds of a ribbon mic but with the added benefit of crisp enhanced high ends – sounds great!
When miking a drum set with the AEA N8 it works well as an overhead microphone. Positioning it overhead the snare by about 3 to 4 feet means it will capture all the drums and cymbals with clarity.
For other instruments, such as an upright bass, you can position it just at the bottom of the fret board so that you capture both finger attack, string clarity and the deep low-end of the bass itself.
The AEA N8 is great to work with and produces quality sound. That said, when it comes to the enhanced top-end sound reproduction that this mic promises – that’s not really the case. Yes, it captures well, but does it sound very different from a typical ribbon mic? Not really. It sounds a lot like a classic ribbon mic with a little boost in the top end.
This mic has a lot of character and has many applications. It’s great for replicating that old-school soul sound or if you’re looking to make a few hip-hop loops. You may want to work with them in pairs, or alternatively AEA offer this mic in a stereo version, which is convenient for the likes of drum set overhead miking.
Overall this mic is a little darker than expected yet still performs well. There are some really nice deep lows but the enhanced top-end is not as prominent as we expected. It will work great on certain instruments, especially those which don’t rely heavily on a lot of high end crispness. All in all, a great quality ribbon mic but ultimately not as revolutionary as we were hoping for.
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