Hands-On Review:Nady Ribbon Microphones
Professional sensitivity and response at a home-studio price
By Carey Green
You're probably aware of Nady's leading role as a creator of wireless microphones, but you may not know that Nady makes phenomenal traditional and specialized microphones as well. The Ribbon Studio Microphone (RSM) Series and the TRM-6 provide the amazing sensitivity and silky warmth of genuine ribbon technology—the type that's been used by the world's greatest studios since the '30s—at prices any serious home recordist can afford.
Ribbon of truth
A ribbon mic (or velocity mic) features a 2" long ribbon of aluminum suspended in the field of a strong permanent magnet. When the ribbon is exposed to sound it vibrates within the magnetic field and a tiny current is induced in the ribbon. This current is amplified to produce sound. What makes ribbon mics so incredibly sensitive and accurate is that the signal comes directly from the material that senses the sound; nothing is lost in translation. The result is the most intimate, warm, and articulate sound produced by any type of microphone.
The Nady RSM-1, RSM-2, RSM-3, RSM-4, RSM-5, and TRM-6 studio microphones are all incontrovertible proof that ribbon mic technology still deserves a prominent place in the modern recording studio. They each feature super-heavy-duty machined metal housings with advanced internal shockmounting to minimize resonance and reduce chances of harm to the delicate ribbon.
The mics all sport the figure-8 pickup pattern inherent in the original ribbon mic design. This allows two people to use the mic from either side at one time. Or you can achieve pinpoint isolation by using a pair of ribbon mics placed with patterns overlapping. All of these mics have a vintage visual vibe (with the exception of the RSM-3) and all can produce the clean, round tones we associate with vintage recordings. To hear a ribbon mic in action, just check out your favorite Beatles record—the best-loved Liverpudlians made extensive use of ribbon mics both live and in the studio.
Test of fire
I'm currently recording a singer-songwriter demo in what used to be my living room, so the six Nady mics couldn't have arrived at a better time. I was able to try out all of them extensively in a real home studio situation with vocals and acoustic guitar.
RSM-1—This mic makes the advantages of ribbon technology immediately apparent. The RSM-1 has an open, airy, free feeling with pronounced upper mids—excellent for cutting through a loud mix. Its crisp tone makes vocals easy to understand; it provides way more detail than any dynamic mic I've used. The guitar sound was very clearly articulated, and with the correct distance and orientation produced a pleasing, warm ambience. The RSM-1 comes with a heavily padded carry bag and, like all the Nady ribbon mics, it ships in a dense foam-rubber mold that can be used for long-term storage.
RSM-2—Full, warm lower mids and an imposing physical presence (7" long by 2-1/2" in diameter) make the RSM-2 a great choice for a centerpiece mic in any studio. On the other hand if, like me, your voice sounds a little hollow through a typical dynamic mic, this would be a great choice as a personal mic to keep with you for live performance and recording. To accommodate such use, it comes with a heavily padded nylon gig bag with a carrying strap. The RSM-2 is smoother than the RSM-1, focusing on the pitch elements of the voice and less on the incidental tones. Consonants are still clear but not spikey. It makes a nice warm guitar tone but still has plenty of treble tones for higher harmonics. With its built-in swivel mount, I found I could even position it to capture guitar and vocals simultaneously.
RSM-3—This mic has a more contemporary look and feel than the others, with elegant lines and a gorgeous satin silver/gold finish. Its fuller upper mids and tight, non-boomy bass make it particularly adept at capturing the acoustic properties of the guitar body. This would be a great choice for a go-to mic for acoustic instruments and vocals. It comes with a beautifully crafted wood storage case, pinch-style isolation mount, and heavily padded carrying case.
RSM-4—This was among my favorite Nady RSM mics. Its extraordinary sensitivity brings out individual vocal nuances to rival mics costing 10 times as much. Sing up close to this one for vocal intimacy that's almost obscene. Likewise for guitar—I've rarely encountered a mic that provided such a warm, silky signal that's also so clearly defined. It's a visual winner as well, with a '40s disk-shaped design. And it comes in a very slick wooden case with a velvet dust bag.
RSM-5—For vocals that just work with no signal processing, the RSM-5 is a wonder. It zeros in on the vocal chord frequencies and produces a thick, creamy, yet supremely articulate sound. For the guitar, it generates an intimate café sound with highs that are clear without being brash and a robust midrange. The RSM-5 comes with a wooden storage case, velvet dust bag, and pinch-style suspension mount.
TRM-6—The first ribbon mic with an internal 12AX7A for natural warmth and higher output, the TRM-6 looks the part as well with a massive 8" x 2-1/4" housing machined out of metal. The TRM-6 combines the best elements of all the other Nady ribbon mics with the added proven advantages of a tube preamp. It's a silky smooth, musical microphone that produces a very detailed and intimate sound with no harsh edges. The full midrange and bass combined with sparkling clarity made my voice sound great (even if I do say so myself). With the guitar a few feet away, it introduced a hint of natural reverb that really filled out the sound.
The TRM-6 is definitely the top dog in an impressive pack of amazingly affordable, fabulous-sounding microphones. I would recommend Nady ribbon mics without hesitation for any serious vocalist or project engineer.