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RCA 77D? Are there other options?
Old 15th November 2015
  #1
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🎧 5 years
RCA 77D? Are there other options?

My dream:
To own the same microphone that Bing Crosby, Nat King Cole, Hank Williams, Mel Torme, Ella Fitzgerald, Billie Holiday, The Mills Bros, Lefty Frizzell, Elvis, etc. all sang into - the RCA 77D. Virtually all the music I listen to and play is old-school - honkytonk country, swing jazz, blues, etc.. I want that beautiful, warm, silky sound for my recordings. I'm aware that these mics have super low output, and I'm prepared to shell out for a decent preamp (I've got my eye on the AEA TRP)

My fear:
That I'll buy one, and it will just be a beautiful looking POS that doesn't get any use because it's old, the magnets have lost their strength, and the transformer has become noisy. I know I can have the ribbon replaced, and if that's all it takes to bring it up to speed, I'll send it to ENAK or Talking Dog. My concern is that other costly and time-consuming maintenance will be necessary before it's actually useable. It may be beyond my budget if that's the case.

Why I don't want a modern ribbon mic:
The recordings that take place in my home studio are often done live with little or no overdubbing - the vocalists are usually in the same room with the band with little or no isolation. As far as I'm aware, NOBODY makes a RCA 77 or 44 type mic that is directional. Therefore, I would have a very difficult time orienting the other lobe of that figure-eight polar pattern in such a way so that it doesn't pick up an egregious amount of leakage form the other instruments.

That leaves me with the option of either buying a vintage RCA that is directional, or using another directional ribbon microphone for the task. I've got several Beyerdynamic ribbons: M160 , M260, M500, and while I feel that they are all very capable vocal mics with excellent rejection, they don't quite have that RCA vibe that I'm looking for.

I'm just looking for some sage advice from some of you who have had experience with RCA mics (the 77 in particular). Are my concerns valid? Would the magnets have significantly lost their charge over the last sixty or seventy years? Is there a lifespan for the transformers that were put in these mics?

Am I barking up the right tree? Is an RCA 77D's rejection (in "unidirectional" mode) adequate for the recording scenario described above? Is there a directional ribbon mic that I'm overlooking? Would the "RCA mod" turn one of my Beyer mics into the mic I'm looking for (one of my M260s is in need of a new ribbon, so now's my chance).

Any input would be greatly appreciated!

Update: I wound up getting a 77D in great condition! Love it! See post #52 and #67 for clips of this mic in action.

Last edited by Hot Vibrato; 12th December 2015 at 07:15 PM..
Old 15th November 2015
  #2
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🎧 15 years
I've got a 77 and have worked with lots of them (and all the RCA's) and no, the "unidirectional" setting isn't all that directional. The null of the figure 8 is far better, but for the scenario you describe you'd have to have the singer facing sideways. No fun.

That said, I've used mine quite a few times in live-in-studio situations, either as a drum overhead (the null being oriented horizontally) or on a guitar amp where the null ignores the amps on either side. But it doesn't sound ideal for your situation.

When I had mine serviced -- it was a fixer-upper and still looks it -- it needed a ribbon and a general cleaning, and I seem to recall Wes Dooley saying something about "aligning the motor assembly" or some such thing. And I had him replace the long, ratty brown cable with a new, much shorter brown cable. It was under $300 all in and it sounds fantastic.
Old 15th November 2015 | Show parent
  #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Brent Hahn ➑️
I've got a 77 and have worked with lots of them (and all the RCA's) and no, the "unidirectional" setting isn't all that directional. The null of the figure 8 is far better, but for the scenario you describe you'd have to have the singer facing sideways. No fun.

That said, I've used mine quite a few times in live-in-studio situations, either as a drum overhead (the null being oriented horizontally) or on a guitar amp where the null ignores the amps on either side. But it doesn't sound ideal for your situation.

When I had mine serviced -- it was a fixer-upper and still looks it -- it needed a ribbon and a general cleaning, and I seem to recall Wes Dooley saying something about "aligning the motor assembly" or some such thing. And I had him replace the long, ratty brown cable with a new, much shorter brown cable. It was under $300 all in and it sounds fantastic.
Lots of great records were made with the vocalist standing in front of a 77 in the middle of great band. Do you reckon those old records were done with the mic in figure-eight, or unidirectional mode? History indicates that if it's done properly, an RCA 77 can make great vocal recordings with the vocalist in the same room with the instrumentalists. I've got a record with a pic of Bing Crosby's mic two or three feet from the trumpet. It's oriented at a 45 degree angle to Bing, and the other end is pointing right at the trumpet player. Maybe they were sharing the same mic, but the bell of the trumpet was not pointed at the mic... I wish I could ask those RCA engineers a few questions about that session.
Old 15th November 2015
  #4
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My only first hand experience with something like that was a long time ago, doing pre-recorded music for a Miss America pageant, 60 or so piece orchestra with Ethel Merman singing into an RCA 44. She and the mic were out front and faced sideways relative to the band -- in the middle wouldn't have made any sense. The rejection wasn't perfect, but in a situation like that it never is. Everything's leaking into everything. You're just trying to have enough control to get a good balance.

As for the Bing Crosby pic, without seeing it my guess is that they moved stuff around to get it all in the photo and they didn't actually cut the record that way.
Old 15th November 2015
  #5
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L M Watts Technology and Samar Audio both have directional ribbons in the works, both variable pattern I believe. 77's have a very specific sound, if that's what you want it's what you need. Then you deal with the rest. The sound through a proper old tube pre is another specific aspect that you won't get from a modern transformerless pre.
Old 15th November 2015 | Show parent
  #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Brent Hahn ➑️
My only first hand experience with something like that was a long time ago, doing pre-recorded music for a Miss America pageant, 60 or so piece orchestra with Ethel Merman singing into an RCA 44. She and the mic were out front and faced sideways relative to the band -- in the middle wouldn't have made any sense. The rejection wasn't perfect, but in a situation like that it never is. Everything's leaking into everything. You're just trying to have enough control to get a good balance.

As for the Bing Crosby pic, without seeing it my guess is that they moved stuff around to get it all in the photo and they didn't actually cut the record that way.
Maybe it's staged, but I think the photo was genuinely a candid shot of the studio session. Looks like the mic is oriented diagonally, presumably to minimize plosives, but the mic is also pointed right at the trumpet player. As I study the photo a bit more closely, I'm thinking that Bing's standing further in front of Bob Scobey (the trumpet player) than it initially appears, which might support the premise that they were sharing the mic. Bob Scobey's name was also on the record ("Bing with a Beat - with Bob Scobey's Frisco Jazz Band"), so it makes sense that since they shared billing, they may have also shared a mic. I have no experience recording brass. Is it normal for a trumpet to not be pointing directly at the mic?

It seems silly to analyze a sixty year old record sleeve like that, but that's about the only way I know of to learn about how it was done in the old days. But then again, like you said, there's no way to know the photo wasn't staged...
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Old 15th November 2015 | Show parent
  #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by emrr ➑️
The sound through a proper old tube pre is another specific aspect that you won't get from a modern transformerless pre.
Which brings me to my next question: What's available these days that approximates that sound? In my case, budget is a concern, so I'm assuming that a quality vintage tube pre would be out of my league. Is there anything modern that has similar design and components, or at least sounds similar?
Old 15th November 2015
  #8
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🎧 10 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by Hot Vibrato ➑️
My dream:
To own the same microphone that Bing Crosby, Nat King Cole, Hank Williams, Mel Torme, Ella Fitzgerald, Billie Holiday, The Mills Bros, Lefty Frizzell, Elvis, etc. all sang into - the RCA 77D. Virtually all the music I listen to and play is old-school - honkytonk country, swing jazz, blues, etc.. I want that beautiful, warm, silky sound for my recordings. I'm aware that these mics have super low output, and I'm prepared to shell out for a decent preamp (I've got my eye on the AEA TRP)

My fear:
That I'll buy one, and it will just be a beautiful looking POS that doesn't get any use because it's old, the magnets have lost their strength, and the transformer has become noisy. I know I can have the ribbon replaced, and if that's all it takes to bring it up to speed, I'll send it to ENAK or Talking Dog. My concern is that other costly and time-consuming maintenance will be necessary before it's actually useable. It may be beyond my budget if that's the case.

Why I don't want a modern ribbon mic:
The recordings that take place in my home studio are often done live with little or no overdubbing - the vocalists are usually in the same room with the band with little or no isolation. As far as I'm aware, NOBODY makes a RCA 77 or 44 type mic that is directional. Therefore, I would have a very difficult time orienting the other lobe of that figure-eight polar pattern in such a way so that it doesn't pick up an egregious amount of leakage form the other instruments.

That leaves me with the option of either buying a vintage RCA that is directional, or using another directional ribbon microphone for the task. I've got several Beyerdynamic ribbons: M160, M260, and M500, and while I feel that they are all very capable vocal mics with excellent rejection, they don't quite have that RCA vibe that I'm looking for.

I'm just looking for some sage advice from some of you who have had experience with RCA mics (the 77 in particular). Are my concerns valid? Would the magnets have significantly lost their charge over the last sixty or seventy years? Is there a lifespan for the transformers that were put in these mics?

Am I barking up the right tree? Is an RCA 77D's rejection (in "unidirectional" mode) adequate for the recording scenario described above? Is there a directional ribbon mic that I'm overlooking? Would the "RCA mod" turn one of my Beyer mics into the mic I'm looking for (one of my M260s is in need of a new ribbon, so now's my chance).

Any input would be greatly appreciated!
I've used the 77 quite a bit, and we recently added a 44 to our collection. The 77 got accidentally damaged (not by me!)... we sent it to Wes Dooley/AEA and it came back beautiful, shiny and perfectly repaired... like the other guy said it's about $300 and not a huge deal. So as far as fear of getting a dud... if I was buying one of these mics today I'd probably send it out to get refurbished when I bought it. Maintenance after that is non-existent if you don't f*** the mic up by mistake.

I love those RCA ribbons, but they do have a very particular and colored sound. When it's right it's so goddamn right, and when it's wrong it sounds bad... I use it mostly on horns, not a huge fan on drums but I get why people like it there. Vocals it gives an instant retro sound, but honestly it's rarely right for my projects (even though I do a lot of organic/retro-influenced stuff). Coles 4038's are damn amazing and quite a bit cheaper. Also very specific colored sound, I actually prefer it to the 77 a lot of the time. The Royers are a little more neutral... dark like the others but without that specific midrange thing. Beyer makes some excellent mics too, though it seems you've already figured that out.

As far as directionality... the best advice I can give is to make bleed work for you rather than against you. That said, the rejection of fig-8 mics in their nulls can be *surprisingly* good, better than hyper/super if you're aiming it correctly.
Old 15th November 2015
  #9
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blueflag's Avatar
 
2 Reviews written
🎧 5 years
I have some vintage ribbon mics(Rca44,Rca 74-b),and modern as well.
Would love to own a 77,something about the mids on that mic,love it.

Go for the vintage if that is the sound want,
you will not get it in a modern mic.
There are a number of qualified techs to service it.

Make sure the hardware,yoke etc. are in tact.
It gets expensive to replace any metal work.

The null is surprisingly effective,and the bleed is part of the sound.
Go for it!
Old 15th November 2015
  #10
Les
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🎧 10 years
There are many models of the 77...some with two ribbons and some with one.
The most common one was the 77DX.

You can get one restored and in excellent shape if you look around.

The sound? They certainly weren't flat nor were the polar patterns perfect. In particular in the more omni settings they had a very large midrange peak. They were also highly variable from unit to unit.

Response extended to only about 10KHz. But that was on purpose...It was a 10kHz world at best when they were designed, and there's a fundamental tradeoff between output level and and response span. Better to give it more
output (especially considering the noise level of the preamps of the day) rather than HF response the rest of the chain didn't have.

Yes we do make a multipattern ribbon, but it's a modern one with 20kHz bandwidth and much smoother response, so it won't have the sound of a 77 really. It does have the sound of a ribbon though. We can talk about what that is in general.

I'll have to say it was tough to make a multipattern ribbon significantly better than the RCAs, even though I have computer network analysis and finite element models...and RCA had slide rules! It took some years.

But i'll have to say...if you want the exact sound of a 77 you need to get one.

Les
Old 15th November 2015 | Show parent
  #11
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🎧 5 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by Hot Vibrato ➑️
Which brings me to my next question: What's available these days that approximates that sound? In my case, budget is a concern, so I'm assuming that a quality vintage tube pre would be out of my league. Is there anything modern that has similar design and components, or at least sounds similar?
The older designs without negative feedback do it in spades. I'm not sure if anyone is recreating those and if they did it would likely cost more than an original. The transformers would be expensive, and you would want THOSE transformers.
Old 16th November 2015
  #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by rcb4t2 ➑️
...the rejection of fig-8 mics in their nulls can be *surprisingly* good, better than hyper/super if you're aiming it correctly.
Quote:
Originally Posted by blueflag ➑️
The null is surprisingly effective,and the bleed is part of the sound.
Go for it!
It's interesting to hear that the figure eight pattern may actually be more manageable than the 77D's unidirectional pattern in a live recording scenario. If that is indeed the case, then other options have opened up for me in regards to my ribbon mic choices.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Les ➑️
Yes we do make a multipattern ribbon, but it's a modern one with 20kHz bandwidth and much smoother response, so it won't have the sound of a 77 really. It does have the sound of a ribbon though. We can talk about what that is in general.

I'll have to say it was tough to make a multipattern ribbon significantly better than the RCAs, even though I have computer network analysis and finite element models...and RCA had slide rules! It took some years.

But i'll have to say...if you want the exact sound of a 77 you need to get one.

Les
The reason I had my heart set on the 77D is because it has the option of a unidirectional pattern, but the consensus here seems to be that it's not as useful in that mode as I had assumed.

Because of the styles of music I play, I am indeed after the "vintage" vibe when it comes to choosing a mic. The RCA's appeal to me in particular, simply because they were used on so many records that I love. However, I would love to know more about your multipattern ribbon mic. I did a cursory internet search, but I didn't find any product information. Please fill me in! Thanks.
Old 16th November 2015
  #13
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blueflag's Avatar
 
2 Reviews written
🎧 5 years
A 77 in front of a drum kit is a thing of beauty.
Maybe not for modern rock,but it gives you a whole kit sound.
Knocks the cymbals down,big low end.

The 74-b is a sleeper mic in my book.
Mine came from Big D,he has some info on youtube.

This thread is giving me 77-FEVER!
A pre with variable impedance is your best friend.
Old 16th November 2015
  #14
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Santiago's Avatar
 
🎧 15 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by Hot Vibrato ➑️
My dream:
To own the same microphone that Bing Crosby, Nat King Cole, Hank Williams, Mel Torme, Ella Fitzgerald, Billie Holiday, The Mills Bros, Lefty Frizzell, Elvis, etc. all sang into - the RCA 77D. Virtually all the music I listen to and play is old-school - honkytonk country, swing jazz, blues, etc.. I want that beautiful, warm, silky sound for my recordings. I'm aware that these mics have super low output, and I'm prepared to shell out for a decent preamp (I've got my eye on the AEA TRP)

My fear:
That I'll buy one, and it will just be a beautiful looking POS that doesn't get any use because it's old, the magnets have lost their strength, and the transformer has become noisy. I know I can have the ribbon replaced, and if that's all it takes to bring it up to speed, I'll send it to ENAK or Talking Dog. My concern is that other costly and time-consuming maintenance will be necessary before it's actually useable. It may be beyond my budget if that's the case.

Why I don't want a modern ribbon mic:
The recordings that take place in my home studio are often done live with little or no overdubbing - the vocalists are usually in the same room with the band with little or no isolation. As far as I'm aware, NOBODY makes a RCA 77 or 44 type mic that is directional. Therefore, I would have a very difficult time orienting the other lobe of that figure-eight polar pattern in such a way so that it doesn't pick up an egregious amount of leakage form the other instruments.

That leaves me with the option of either buying a vintage RCA that is directional, or using another directional ribbon microphone for the task. I've got several Beyerdynamic ribbons: M160, M260, and M500, and while I feel that they are all very capable vocal mics with excellent rejection, they don't quite have that RCA vibe that I'm looking for.

I'm just looking for some sage advice from some of you who have had experience with RCA mics (the 77 in particular). Are my concerns valid? Would the magnets have significantly lost their charge over the last sixty or seventy years? Is there a lifespan for the transformers that were put in these mics?

Am I barking up the right tree? Is an RCA 77D's rejection (in "unidirectional" mode) adequate for the recording scenario described above? Is there a directional ribbon mic that I'm overlooking? Would the "RCA mod" turn one of my Beyer mics into the mic I'm looking for (one of my M260s is in need of a new ribbon, so now's my chance).

Any input would be greatly appreciated!
On the directional settings, I agree with everybody else, I think figure-8 can actually be quite good excluding other instruments as the nulls are much deeper than in the other directional settings. Plus the figure 8 tends to have the smooth frequency response you expect from a ribbon microphone (the other settings are nice for experimentation and it's nice to have other directional options).

On the lack of availability of RCA 77D, I would recommend an RCA Varacoustic or SK50, they have the same ribbon motor of the RCA 77 in different casings and tend to be much cheaper.

I bet the different casing does have some impact on the sound (although the frequency response quoted in promotional rca material is the same), but I have a Varacoustic and it is indeed a great-sounding microphone.

RCA MI-6203 and Type SK-50

RCA Type 77-D

RCA Type 77-DX
Old 16th November 2015
  #15
Les
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🎧 10 years
Quote:
Because of the styles of music I play, I am indeed after the "vintage" vibe when it comes to choosing a mic. The RCA's appeal to me in particular, simply because they were used on so many records that I love. However, I would love to know more about your multipattern ribbon mic. I did a cursory internet search, but I didn't find any product information. Please fill me in! Thanks.
There is some rather technical information here:
https://www.facebook.com/LMWattsTechnology/

In this post i'll talk a little about advantages ribbons vs other microphones.

By the 1960s it seemed ribbon mics were doomed to obsolescence...they were large, heavy, and fragile for the most part. The development of the junction FET made small very high quality condenser mics possible.

But as audio technology got better (both analog and digital) the unique sound of ribbons began to be noticed again.
What are those qualities?

1.The response can be much smoother and peak free than many condensers and dynamics, so they take EQ very well.
2. The bass response can be very very good.
3. The distortion can be much lower than many condensers, which are inherently non linear due to "static capacitance" and other factors.
4. The dynamic range can be HUGE...in some cases handling gun shots at one meter with no overload.
5. The side nulls are very deep

Ok, those things are pretty well known...but then there was the figure 8 pattern. It's hugely useful for many things, but undesirable for many others.
And since it's output is proportional to particle velocity rather than pressure
it can sound very different from what your ears hear. For example pressure peaks from room standing waves will be picked up as NULLS in a figure 8 mic.
And nulls will be picked up as peaks. This happens with any figure 8 mic,
but with condensers and dynamics you can commonly get cardioid and omni
patterns where the effect described happens less or not at all.

That was long known too...so multipattern ribbons like the RCA 77 C, D, DX,
Varicoustic and combination ribbon/dynamics Like the Western Electric 639 were made.

There were also fixed cardioid or similar ribbon mics made like The KU2, KU3,
Shure 330 and Beyer. I think the KU3 was the best of the old school non figure eights. Rare as hen's teeth. AEA makes a beautiful improved replica though.

I love all those mics...but of the combination ones I always had one big issue:
they were all basically LOWFI. This always relegated them to "sound color"
duties like horns and certain vocals.

Today with modern magnetic materials and analysis tools one can make a ribbon mic with much wider response and higher output.
There are plenty of examples. Royer, AEA,Samar,Mesonavic, AT. These rival condensers but don't sound like condensers. They still have the ribbon sonic attributes.

But there are no high performance multi pattern ribbons being made. In fact none at all. That's where we came in. Being from Shure and Electrovoice research engineering I decided I might have the skills to take it on. But i'd be up against my hero Harry Olson himself!

I will say it's the most complicated microphone I have ever developed. All the issues that made the old combination mics lowfi had to be identified and addressed, using modern tools the early designers didn't have.
But it took years. The performance issues from the compromises were so severe that even RCA gave up after the DX and worked on fixed pattern
ribbons like the BK5B and KU3A , which are MUCH easier to design.

One regret: the microphone is difficult and expensive to manufacture.
Well, so were the RCAs. I know some of the people that did it.

I should mention that our microphone is new and not for sale yet, but we are in production.

I hope this post gives some useful ribbon technology background. Not trying to sell.

Les
Old 16th November 2015
  #16
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My friend has two 77DXs. They sound like two different mics even though they are supposed to be identical. I may get flamed for this but I don't particularly like the sound of the 77D or DX. Pretty flat and boxy sounding to my ears.
Old 16th November 2015
  #17
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🎧 5 years
Heres my worthless thoughts......My 77dx is the most sensitive (tone wise) to the preamp as compared to a collection of 44a, Varacoustic, and a 639a in the vintage stuff. Or should I say, this mic sounds the most "different" when varying the pre. The tone in the unidirection mode has never been preferred to the fig 8. I love it as a single drum mic, grand piano, and certain vocals. I too use it in a room with full band. The bleed gives dimension. Not to mention the feel you get pulling it out of the case and setting it up --- instant happy : )

To answer you orig question - I second the recommendation of the Varacoustic as another option.
Old 16th November 2015
  #18
Les
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The Varicoustic...love the looks of that mic. Somewhat different response from the 77D and DX due to the different shutter mechanism and labyrinth. In the same ball park though. Same 5-7.5dB giant midrange peak in cardioid and omni
due to an acoustic impedance mismatch in the labyrinth.

Rob, there's a reason your friend's DXs sounded very different. As you may know
the labyrinths were stuffed with a felt like material, and it was crucial to the performance of the mic. The only way they could control that was to weigh individual tufts of the felt fiber as they stuffed it in. But the weight of the material really has little to do with it's acoustic impedance. They knew that,
but it was the best they could do. It caused huge unit to unit variation.

It's a problem we had to solve. When we apply the stuffing we quickly and easily
measure the actual complex impedance with a computer based rig. They probably
could have made some kind of impedance head with the existing technology of the day, but it would have been cumbersome and crazy expensive. And even back the the microphone was very expensive already.
They did develop and patent a method using hundreds of stacked perforated metal disks rather than felt, figuring it would be more repeatable. They never used it in production though. It didn't work out.
Old 17th November 2015 | Show parent
  #19
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🎧 5 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by Rob Coates ➑️
...I may get flamed for this but I don't particularly like the sound of the 77D or DX. .
How dare you??!!!

Quote:
Originally Posted by kcswingmaster ➑️
To answer you orig question - I second the recommendation of the Varacoustic as another option.
I'll be on the lookout for a used one. Despite the fact that it's not quite as aesthetically impressive as a 77 or a 44, it would fit my budget a little better. There's one on ebay for an arm and a leg, but no appealing offers at the moment.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Les ➑️
In this post i'll talk a little about advantages ribbons vs other microphones...
Thanks for that! It's interesting to hear an engineer's perspective. You seem very passionate about your craft.

Something I'm wondering about: What if one were to record with a more frequency-extended modern ribbon, and then EQ the signal to mimic the frequency response of a vintage mic? (I suppose this would also require adding to the equation the frequency response of the mic that the track was recorded with) Could one approximate the tone of a particular vintage mic this way? Or am I just dreaming?

Another thing I'm wondering about: The 77 is decidedly a "lo-fi" sounding mic, but I'm recording digitally. Could its "lo-fi-ness" come across as too stark in a digital recording? I do my best to make it sound old-school, but there's no vinyl, acetate discs, or magnetic tape involved in the process (or high-end tube preamplification for that matter). It occurs to me that the digital medium might not be as forgiving as analog when it comes to revealing the "character" of the mic. Is this a valid concern? Would a 44 sound less lo-fi?
Old 17th November 2015
  #20
Les
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🎧 10 years
Quote:
Something I'm wondering about: What if one were to record with a more frequency-extended modern ribbon, and then EQ the signal to mimic the frequency response of a vintage mic?
Only to a certain extent. A lot of the mic character is a result of off axis response, which EQ can never duplicate since it doesn't know direction.
Also, many of the mic resonances are sharper that a typical EQ can do.
A better way would be to convolve a vintage mic impulse response. But even that
can't duplicate actually using the mic.

Quote:
Another thing I'm wondering about: The 77 is decidedly a "lo-fi" sounding mic, but I'm recording digitally. Could its "lo-fi-ness" come across as too stark in a digital recording? I do my best to make it sound old-school, but there's no vinyl, acetate discs, or magnetic tape involved in the process (or high-end tube
Well, a lot of vintage sound is the recording chain. Up until about the 1960s phono,radio, and TV had appallingly poor sound as far as the consumer was concerned. The only quality sound reproduction people heard was movie sound in theaters.
After the post war use of magnetic tape the sound in a studio could be very good, even 60+ years ago. The consumer never got to hear that though.

Quote:
It occurs to me that the digital medium might not be as forgiving as analog when it comes to revealing the "character" of the mic. Is this a valid concern? Would a 44 sound less lo-fi?
The 44 has significantly better fidelity.

Digital can be unforgiving, but those of us that do signal processing math know that a properly executed digital medium
is totally neutral...a noiseless distortionless medium for all practical purposes.
So variations in sound quality have to come from somewhere else. Like vintage gear or models of them.

We wondered if applying large doses of 21st century technology to things like ribbon mics would essentially engineer out the unique character of them. I find
that's not the case. They still have the ribbon sound, even though the performance has been greatly extended. I don't use them for everything...in the studio i'm as likely to grab a condenser or dynamic. We make condenser mics and even MEMS devices as well, so it's often one of them.
Old 17th November 2015
  #21
Gear Nut
 
kcswingmaster's Avatar
 
🎧 5 years
So...you are on that lonesome highway to find that old sound. I feel your pain and here is some bad advise.... For 5 years I only listened to pre 1963 music on a mp3 player so i have that sound branded in my brain. Have spent the last 3 years chasing it. I have period correct mics/pres, instruments, amps, musician mindset and playablilty.... I have determined that it must have been 1. Engineering 2. The ampex recorders 3. Something in the electricity

#1 - IMOP - we can eliminate #1 because every recording good or bad from the big studio down to someones living room had something that pigeon holes that sound to that period
#2 - IMOP - I hear recordings from these ampex recorders from present-studios-trying-to-be-vintage only sounding modern.
#3 Since it must have been all the above or none of the above or just plain ole WTF - I go with #3 and move on with my life.

This is all tongue and cheek (not really) from one that has been drivin crazy chasing sound
Old 17th November 2015 | Show parent
  #22
Lives for gear
 
Hot Vibrato's Avatar
 
🎧 5 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by kcswingmaster ➑️
So...you are on that lonesome highway to find that old sound. I feel your pain and here is some bad advise.... For 5 years I only listened to pre 1963 music on a mp3 player so i have that sound branded in my brain. Have spent the last 3 years chasing it. I have period correct mics/pres, instruments, amps, musician mindset and playablilty.... I have determined that it must have been 1. Engineering 2. The ampex recorders 3. Something in the electricity

#1 - IMOP - we can eliminate #1 because every recording good or bad from the big studio down to someones living room had something that pigeon holes that sound to that period
#2 - IMOP - I hear recordings from these ampex recorders from present-studios-trying-to-be-vintage only sounding modern.
#3 Since it must have been all the above or none of the above or just plain ole WTF - I go with #3 and move on with my life.

This is all tongue and cheek (not really) from one that has been drivin crazy chasing sound
It can be hard keeping it all in perspective. Looking for just the right mic, preamp, compressor, etc. can easily become an obsession. Just try not to let that obsession overtake the original obsession that got you into this in the first place - music. I've been guilty of wasting hours on ebay (or Gearslutz) when I might have been better off practicing guitar and singing, writing songs, etc. It's important to maintain a proper balance, and to not get too distracted by the gear.

I think above all else, it's the playing and singing that makes older music sound "vintage". If you can find players who can sound like that, you're 90% there. I've been gigging with this dude from New Orleans - a younger guy (maybe 30), and man, the way he sings sends me back in time. He sounds like Jimmy Rodgers or Robert Johnson, and he chomps out rhythm chords on the guitar just like they did it in the old days. He gave me a CD of his New Orleans band (they're called Tuba Skinny - check them out on the web), and it sounds like a Louis Amstrong Hot Seven record, and they recorded it in their living room without any vintage recording gear.

Anyways, I think you have the right idea. If you want to sound like authentic vintage music, you have to immerse yourself in it completely, and play with musicians who are as obsessed with it as you are.

BTW I don't think vintage music sounds vintage simply because they had "better electricity" back then. It's probably something else.
Old 17th November 2015
  #23
Lives for gear
 
Hot Vibrato's Avatar
 
🎧 5 years
UPDATE!!!

I did it! I finally pulled the trigger and purchased a 77D in great condition (just ordered it today, so it'll be a few days berfore it arrives). The ribbon, chord, and screen mesh have been replaced. Otherwise, it's all original and in fabulous shape. The metal parts are still shiny, and there's hardly any rust on it. I bought it from Darren at Big D Broadcast Exchange. He really knows his stuff. Here's a youtube video where he rebuilds an old 77D and essentially turns it into a new one. He fabricates all the exterior parts from scratch: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VPmt--5Ubcc.

I thought about getting a "fixer-upper", but by the time I paid for it and paid an expert to fix it up, I don't think I'd be saving much money. My other option would be to fix one up myself. I'm good at soldering and I'm currently learning about ribbon replacement, but I'm probably better off spending my time making music, rather than tinkering with a piece of gear that I don't know much about. I'm better off buying one that's been gone through buy an expert.

Thanks for all the opinions and information. Please stay tuned, and I'll post some audio clips once the mic arrives.
Old 17th November 2015
  #24
Lives for gear
 
mbvoxx's Avatar
 
2 Reviews written
🎧 10 years
The DX is a nice sounding mic. I've had one for about 30 years and use it often on acoustic instruments. It is surprisingly competitive in sound quality to several other more modern mics I have.
Old 17th November 2015 | Show parent
  #25
Gear Guru
 
Brent Hahn's Avatar
 
1 Review written
🎧 15 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by Hot Vibrato ➑️
UPDATE!!!

I did it! I finally pulled the trigger and purchased a 77D in great condition...
Congrats!
Old 17th November 2015 | Show parent
  #26
Lives for gear
 
Santiago's Avatar
 
🎧 15 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by Hot Vibrato ➑️
UPDATE!!!

I did it! I finally pulled the trigger and purchased a 77D in great condition (just ordered it today, so it'll be a few days berfore it arrives). The ribbon, chord, and screen mesh have been replaced. Otherwise, it's all original and in fabulous shape. The metal parts are still shiny, and there's hardly any rust on it. I bought it from Darren at Big D Broadcast Exchange. He really knows his stuff. Here's a youtube video where he rebuilds an old 77D and essentially turns it into a new one. He fabricates all the exterior parts from scratch: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VPmt--5Ubcc.

I thought about getting a "fixer-upper", but by the time I paid for it and paid an expert to fix it up, I don't think I'd be saving much money. My other option would be to fix one up myself. I'm good at soldering and I'm currently learning about ribbon replacement, but I'm probably better off spending my time making music, rather than tinkering with a piece of gear that I don't know much about. I'm better off buying one that's been gone through buy an expert.

Thanks for all the opinions and information. Please stay tuned, and I'll post some audio clips once the mic arrives.
Excellent, hope you like it and look forward to the clips!
Old 18th November 2015
  #27
Les
Lives for gear
 
Les's Avatar
 
🎧 10 years
I know Darren. He does good work.I'm sure you'll be happy with the mic.

Les
Old 18th November 2015 | Show parent
  #28
Lives for gear
 
Hot Vibrato's Avatar
 
🎧 5 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by mbvoxx ➑️
The DX is a nice sounding mic. I've had one for about 30 years and use it often on acoustic instruments. It is surprisingly competitive in sound quality to several other more modern mics I have.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Brent Hahn ➑️
Congrats!
Quote:
Originally Posted by Santiago ➑️
Excellent, hope you like it and look forward to the clips!
Quote:
Originally Posted by Les ➑️
I know Darren. He does good work.I'm sure you'll be happy with the mic.
Thanks guys. Quick question - would a preamp with variable impedance be beneficial? I recall Santiago saying something about that in a previous post, but Darren said the impedance on my mic was set to 250 ohms and that should match up really well with most modern preamps. Any thoughts on this matter? Could anything be gained by changing the impedance on the mic? (it can also be set to 150 or 600 ohms)

In my OP, I said I was prepared to shell out for an appropriate preamp, but I honestly wasn't expecting to actually buy a 77 this soon (it was sort of an impulse purchase). So I hereby retract this statement - I'm actually NOT prepared to shell out for a new preamp at this time, but hopefully soon.

Among my mic preamps, I have a UA 4-710d, Oram Octasonic (this one has around 70db of clean output, and a Yamaha HA8 (surprisingly clean and quiet with tons of gain). Would y'all reckon one of these will do in the meantime? I've also got the Cloudlifter CL-2 (not the one with variable impedance)

Last edited by Hot Vibrato; 18th November 2015 at 09:35 AM..
Old 18th November 2015
  #29
Les
Lives for gear
 
Les's Avatar
 
🎧 10 years
Sounds like you're pretty well set with preamps.

A 2K input pre will have minimal loading (and bass loss) on the microphone...even less if it's set to 150.

RCA always recommended open circuit operation ( a high impedance) but that was just to keep people back in the day from plugging the mic into 600 ohm pres...which will have some loading.

Les
Old 18th November 2015
  #30
Gear Nut
 
kcswingmaster's Avatar
 
🎧 5 years
Congrats. Darrin ribboned' my varacoustic. thumbs up.
Variable impedance yes. The Cloudlifter will be your friend. I have the variable Z version and use it on the vocal ribbon mic. The dial does change the tone of a ribbon.

Of my collection of pres (with the 77) i like an old Raytheon broadcast tube mixer (that 40s sound), then a Berlant Concertone tube (that 50s sound). Then to the cleaner more modern sound of things, the pres on a DDA board (75db) or least prefereed, a GApre73. Ooh I also like the old green face Altec mixers- i'm talking the solid state ones with transformers - can dial in clean thru dirty. These go pretty cheap.

Heres a vocal test from a few years ago. The difference between a JDK 8mx2 and a GAPpre73 with a 77dx. The 8mx2 is the Bobby Darin tune....

https://soundcloud.com/phantomsofthe...mx2-vs-gapre73
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