Best Ribbon Mics:
The Definitive List  [2021]

 by 

Jay Von K   -  


Updated: January 21, 2021

Are you looking to buy a versatile and good-looking mic?

Then you will find ten great recommendations in this article!

Here, I will guide you step-by-step to the top ribbon mics currently on the market, along with explaining their pros and cons.

Best Ribbon Microphones
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But first of all, let’s discuss why should one buy a ribbon mic in the first place…

Ribbon mics are not as well-known as dynamic or condenser mics, but they manage to record certain sound sources with great accuracy. They are particularly good with loud sound sources, and thus they are recommended for drums, brass, and vocal recordings!

Moreover, they usually come with a bi-directional polar pattern, which means that they can capture equally well the sound from both sides of the microphone. That feature has made them quite popular with radio presenters and broadcasters!

So, if you also want to experiment with these magnificent and good-looking mics, we have here for you the top ten!

Let’s check them out!

The 9 Best Ribbon Mics of 2020 include:

1. Royer Labs R-121

Royer Labs - R-121 Ribbon Mic
General

The first choice on this list is a really high-quality mic…

The Royer Labs R-121 comes with a figure 8 polar pattern that lets it capture sound from both sides of the microphone.

It captures them very accurately, and it is really good at recording loud sources. As a result, you can place it in front of a guitar amp at full blast, without worries.

Another great thing about this mic is that it can be used for different instruments such as guitars, wind instruments, percussion, and string instruments.

R-121 Ribbon Microphone

Do you still have doubts about its quality?

Well, you should at least take a look at its design! It is really stylish and vintage-looking!

Moreover, the package includes a beautiful wooden box, a soft storage case as well as a shock mount.

The only drawback is the price: this mic is pretty expensive, but its quality deserves the money.

PROS
  • It can handle loud sound sources
  • Excellent audio quality
  • Good-looking design
  • It can be used for different instruments
CONS
  • Very expensive
Compare Prices

All in all, the  Royer Labs R-121 is highly recommended to anyone looking for a top-quality ribbon mic that is versatile enough to be used in different applications.

Royer Labs R-121:

2. Golden Age Project R1 mk2

Golden Age Project R1 MK2 Ribbon Mic
General

Do you want a ribbon mic that won’t break the bank?

We have it! The Golden Age Project R1 mk2 is an affordable, high-quality ribbon mic that performs impressively for its price…

It comes with a figure-8 pattern, that lets you place two speakers opposite to each other and record them easily!

In addition to that, the small size of the ribbon makes the horizontal pickup pattern impressively wide, compared to most other microphones.

R1 MK2 Ribbon Microphone by Golden Age Project

The sound quality you get is crystal clear, musical, and rich, and you can use it for various applications: from vocals to strings, and from wind instruments to acoustic guitars and even orchestras!

And guess what: it is also very good-looking with a nice vintage touch!

Are you trying to understand if this mic has any drawbacks at all?

Well, just a small one! The shock mount is not included in the package, so you need to get it separately!

PROS
  • Value for money
  • Rich and detailed sound performance
  • Vintage look
  • Versatile: you can use it for many instruments
CONS
  • Shockmount not included in the package
Compare Prices

On the whole, the  Golden Age Project R1 mk2 is highly recommended to those on a low budget.

Golden Age Project R1 mk2:

3. MXL R144


MXL - R144 Ribbon Mic
General

Here comes a popular ribbon mic for under $100!

The MXL R144 has been around since 2001, and it is a favorite mic among both amateurs and professionals!

The greatest thing about this mic (besides the price) is its compact design, which doesn’t take too much space and allows you to carry it around!

Regarding sound performance, it comes with a bi-directional polar pattern and delivers detailed and rich sound performance!

R144 Ribbon Mic by MXL

It also has a high SPL capacity, which means that you can use it when you want to capture some really loud sounds such as horns, or if you want to place it in front of a guitar amp.

Of course, it is quite versatile to be used with other instruments as well as vocals!

But consider this: if you want to record more “quiet” sound sources, you will need a good preamp for this mic to perform its best

PROS
  • Bang for the buck
  • Compact and portable
  • Good for loud instruments
  • Rich sound performance
CONS
  • You’ll need a good preamp
Compare Prices

In short, buying a quality ribbon mic without spending a fortune is doable, and the MXL R144 is the proof of this statement!

MXL R144

:

4. Beyerdynamic M160

Beyerdynamic - M160 Ribbon Microphone
General

Are you looking for a ribbon mic that is not only for recording but can also be used for live playing?

You are in the right place!

The Beyerdynamic M160 is a pretty famous ribbon mic with a hyper-cardioid polar pattern. It has been used by industry professionals for years now, as it is very good both at recording and at a live transmission.

Moreover, it is versatile: you can use it to record stringed instruments, piano, drums, saxophone, and even guitar amps!

M160 Ribbon Mic by Beyerdynamics

Its design is pretty unique, as it doesn’t follow the vintage trend of most ribbon mics, but it is still sleek and modern-looking.        

It is also very compact, which makes it highly portable.

However, beware!

This microphone is quite fragile, so you should probably get a hard case or a heavily padded one, as the one included won’t really protect it if you want to move it around.

PROS
  • Useful for live sound
  • Sleek design
  • Versatile with instruments
  • Compact and portable
CONS
  • It could benefit from a hard case
Compare Prices

To sum up, the Beyerdynamic M160 is a great ribbon mic that can be used both for live sound and recording sessions, while also being compact enough to carry it around easily!

Beyerdynamic M160:

5. AEA R84

AEA - R84 Ribbon Mic
General

Would you like to have a ribbon mic that would be almost as good as a condenser mic?

Take a look at the AEA R84!

This high-end mic comes with a big transducer that allows for natural sound capturing.

Actually, this model is based on the legendary R44 ribbon microphone, but as it features newer technology, it has a lot of improvements.

These include a much less proximity effect that allows you to place it closer to the source, more effective vibration isolation as well as better high-frequency response.

R84 Ribbon Microphone by AEA

But that’s not all!

Besides sounding good, it also looks good! Its design is very sleek and it will be a beautiful addition to your studio.

Another great thing about the R84 is the fact that it ships with a foam-padded carrying case (great for moving it around safely) as well as an audio cable.

Of course, all those features make this mic a bit pricey/

PROS
  • Natural sound
  • Sleek design
  • Included carrying case
  • You can place it close to the source
CONS
  • Pricey
Compare Prices

All in all, the  AEA R84 is a great-quality ribbon mic for mic placement close to the source, and I would highly recommend it to anyone who can afford it.

AEA R84:

6. MXL R77L

MXL - R77L Ribbon Microphone
General

Do gold-colored mics excite you?

Then you will love the design of the MXL R77L!

This ribbon mic comes with a gold and chrome metal finish, with a very sleek look that catches your eye instantly.

It is a little bit fragile though, so take care of it...

If you are wondering what the L stands for in this microphone’s name, you should know that this mic is based on the very popular MXL R77 ribbon mic, but it comes with a twist…

The “L” stands for the Lundahl Transformer, which allows it to deliver a smooth and warm sound.

R77L Ribbon Mic by MXL

The 1.8-micron aluminum ribbon also helps in delivering realistic sound.

Additionally, if you want to record loud instruments, you should look no further…

The R77L comes with high SPL capability that makes it suitable for these applications.

Another great thing about this mic is that it comes with lots of accessories, including a wooden case, a desktop stand, a cleaning cloth, and a 25' Mogami XLR cable, adding even more to its value.

PROS
  • Eye-catching design
  • Smooth sound performance
  • Useful accessories included
  • Suitable for recording loud sounds
CONS
  • Fragile
Compare Prices

In short, the MXL R77L is a ribbon mic that looks good and sounds equally good.

MXL R77L:

7. sE Electronics X1R

sE Electronics - X1R Ribbon Mic
General

Let’s move to an affordable option now…

The sE Electronics X1R is a low-priced ribbon mic that delivers great sound performance for the money.

Its design is quite compact and lightweight, allowing you to carry it around if need be.

It is suitable for recording almost anything: from vocals to brass, and from guitars to percussion. Many people profit from the low price to get a couple of them and use them for stereo recordings.

X1R Ribbon Microphone by sE Electronics

Moreover, it is really good at high frequencies, and its proximity effect is not that strong so that you can place the mic closer to the sound source.

However, even in that case, note that you’ll need a powerful preamp to drive this mic, as it is not very good with quiet signals.

PROS
  • Inexpensive
  • Good for loud sound sources
  • Flexible - it can be used for anything
  • Can be placed close to the source
CONS
  • You need a good preamp
Compare Prices

On the whole, the low price and good performance of the sE Electronics X1R make it easier for most people to buy a pair of them, in order to experiment with stereo micing.

sE Electronics X1R:

8. Royer Labs R-10

Royer Labs - R-10 Ribbon Mic
General

The second mic of Royer Labs on this list comes at almost half the price compared to the previous one…

The Royer Labs R-10 is a mic that was first presented in 2017, and t is well-known for its crisp and smooth sound performance, especially when you place it close to the sound source.

It is really good for recording instruments such as acoustic and electric guitars, as well as using it to record drum overheads.

R-10 Ribbon Mic by Royer Labs

What I love the most about this mic is the fact that it ships with a hard case. That makes it really easy to carry around without fearing any damage.

Plus, the sturdy build quality is enhanced by the resistance of the ribbon to both heat and moisture.

Note that if you need a shockmount, you’ll need to get it separately as it is not included in the package.

PROS
  • The ribbon is resistant to heat and moisture
  • Smooth and natural sound performance
  • Hard case included
  • Suitable for every instrument
CONS
  • No shockmount
Compare Prices

Summing up, the Royer Labs R-10 is a great all-around ribbon mic with exceptional build quality and durability at a reasonable price.

Royer Labs R-10:

9. Audio Technica AT4081

Audio Technica AT4081 Ribbon Mic
General

Last but not least, this mic comes from a well-reputed brand in the audio niche….

As you have probably guessed, the Audio Technica AT4081 is a premium-quality ribbon mic that is somewhat on the expensive side…

Don’t get me wrong! It is worth every penny!

Audio Technica has produced two similar ribbon models: the AT4080 is more suitable for vocals, while the AT4081 we are reviewing here is better used for instruments such as guitars, string, and wind instruments.

It delivers very accurate sound reproduction that will please any audiophile

AT4081 Ribbon Microphone by Audio Technica

Another great thing about this mic is that it has been designed to prevent the dual ribbons from excessive flexing, so it is a durable mic.

The overall build quality also adds to the durability.

Note that this is an active microphone, and as per other models we have already seen. It needs a phantom power supply.

PROS
  • Accurate sound performance
  • Durable design
  • Versatile for different instruments
  • Great build quality
CONS
  • It needs phantom power
Compare Prices

All in all, if you can afford the Audio Technica AT4081, you will make a good investment that you surely won’t regret in the future.

Audio Technica AT4081:
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Final Thoughts

As you have realized, there is a great variety of ribbon mics out there…

All the previous 9 models are of high-quality: they provide you with that warm ribbon sound, in addition to being really good-looking…

So, go and get one!

What are you waiting for?

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