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|Saturday, May 25th, 2013 |
|Samson VR-88 Mics: New Technology (Educational)||Sep 12th, 2012|
|Wow, new cutting edge construction designed ribbon mics are now here. Although the wave of quality, large plate condenser mics has saturated the market and for many recordists who have an open mind, great benefits of cost to performance are welcome. Ribbon mics however will not be easy to make inexpensively and correctly. This is because the design criteria for ribbons are ironically more archaic and tough to build with consistency. It requires more hand assembly and more QC testing. |
Ribbon mic designs are mostly specially prepared, very thin aluminum strips carefully positioned between powerful magnets. When the ribbon vibrates, it has a small electromagnetic current induced into it, providing a little varying voltage at it’s terminals for a preamp to amplify. Normally, an aluminum foil diaphragm is very heavy relative to other diaphragm designs. By its nature, aluminum generates little varying magnetic flux out of the magnet/foil structure. Now Samson uses large foils which can be designed to pick up more of the sound field which, in turn, will raise the signal level output. In Samson’s VR-88 design, aluminum ribbons are lighter in weight (new technology preparations of materials), larger than many older designs, and the magnet structures are super strong (new improved technology as well) and create a more powerful flux field. Aside of creating a high output and wider bandwidth, the magnet structures, when properly designed, can help to damp the ribbon movement, making a smoother frequency response with less electromechanical resonances (there are ribbon foil resonances created when air particles strike the surface). Indeed, many new ribbons are “folded foil” designs whereby the foil is dampened by the already “accordion” shaped ribbon creating more surface area to pick up audio as well as to dampen mechanical resonances. Wow! Add this to new, but improved, inexpensive audio transformers which must be used to convert very low level ribbon-generated signals into larger voltages to overcome cable and preamp noise. Here is the other crucial design point where correct matching of a good quality mic transformer can allow a mic to “load” into a preamp without affecting the frequency response of the ribbon element itself. Indeed, the Samson VR-88 also incorporates an optimized little active circuit (discreet transistor) preamp at the transformer to improve another stage of gain and the ability of the mic to put out maximum signal and bandwidth into recordists preferred mic preamp of virtually any design with extremely low noise. (Usually the dominating factor of noise in ribbon mics is hum pickup and noise in the mic preamp itself due to the need to amplify the very low level signals from the ribbon transducer.)
Now, the piece de resistance – this advanced design also uses sophisticated shock mounting of the ribbon assembly to further reduce mechanical resonances, such as the high volume level audio vibrations actually hitting the mic housing itself. This certainly reduces false coloration of the natural sound. VR-88 is a ribbon assembly with four shock mounts on all corners of the ribbon magnet assembly. Excellent! Finally, the use of nickel plated anti-hum screen and multi-layered windscreen and again doubled up with another steel shield for exceptional rejection of 120V AC hum fields (even in today’s very noisy small studio), while also providing a barrier against wind noise, (puffs), which could damage the delicate ribbon element.
Now, the cherry on top. The Samson VR-88 mic uses a magnet assembly in such away that the structure has finely polished inner surfaces where the ribbon element sits virtually snug, cradled on both sides by this powerful magnet. This makes the ribbon even more stable and, more importantly, improves (widens) frequency response to 14KHz (double the bandwidth of many vintage microphones), making it a truly tight figure eight pattern without “leaks” around the ribbon edges where air and high frequencies can travel in uncontrolled ways. Usually the air gaps around the ribbon designs allow “out of phase” high frequency waves to create severe interference artifacts and consequent attenuation of frequencies above 6KHz. Not so in the VR-88 design.
New Technology and manufacturing processes are advancing “old school” thinking for the benefit of better fidelity performance, reliability, and at far less retail cost to the recording musician. Such great improvements go against prevailing opinions that only “old school” designs are competent. Sorry! I’ll accept a vintage concept ribbon but with advanced inexpensive design.
Of course we all want to know “how it sounds” and for many maybe this is the final analysis. I will give a preemptive warning though… These modern redesigns have more sensitive signal pickup, wider bandwidth, and have less tonal resonances (sometimes preferred, often cursed but accepted as a part of the vintage sound) than older version mics (which indeed also have certain character flaws/attributes due to aging, moisture and loosening ribbon assemblies). The Samson VR-88 has the “clean” ribbon sound with a very natural, very flat response through about 7 octaves of low bass to upper presence. The bass response has a little thickness to it and the highs are as most ribbons are “warmed out”, but only a little so in this mic, as opposed to most older ribbon designs whereby high frequency response is limited to 6KHz or severely rolled off over 10 KHz. The Samson mic almost doubles that top end bandwidth (as noted in the spec sheet) and it’s sonic audible clarity of upper harmonics to 14KHz is evident in use tests. Most importantly it sounds like a great ribbon mic which does the trick of seemingly not emphasizing the anharmonic partials of strident instruments. Especially voice, guitars, and pianos. Ribbons by nature appear to be less sensitive to 3rd and 5th harmonic partials and this makes more evident the pleasant 2nd and 4th harmonics in music. A kind of electro-acoustic mechanical filter in operation. Excellent for near field piano recording (Verve recording label often used ribbon mics here) and now a very realistic vocal mic at a foot distance.
Indeed my VR-88 used on my cheap Ibanez 12 string which is a little “clanging” sounding, now mellows out. My Kawai grand which is a little zingy sounding in the midrange now is mellower and bell like on complex chords. My voice (God forgive me) is now enhanced nicely with a rich and deep ribbon sound to prove I’ve passed puberty! Sometimes I feel it gets a little Frank “Sonatra” quality. Wow! Talent can be purchased. If your looking for a good choice on a ribbon, consider this favorite. By the way, go to the Samson web site, take a look at this beautiful packaging. It has a unique, art deco look to it, but I personally guarantee it’s more than just a pretty face. If you can support me on product sales, I will continue to research and pull the ripe peaches from the tree for all of us.
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Full Article Details
|Saturday, May 25th, 2013 |