Meeting Topic: The Ribbon Microphone Resurgence and London Bridge Studios Tour
Speaker Name: Ken Levy, Cascade Mircophones; Geoff Ott, London Bridge Studios
Meeting Location: London Bridge Studios, Shoreline, WA
The PNW Section April meeting gathered at London Bridge Studios in Shoreline, WA. for a studio tour and presentation on ribbon microphones by Ken Levy of Cascade Microphones. About 56 attended (20+ AES members). PNW Chair Dave Tosti-Lane made opening remarks and Section business notes, then meeting coordinator and PNW Committeeperson Rich Williams introduced studio co-owner Geoff Ott and general manager Carson Lehman. Ott described the studio and its history, which includes recordings by Pearl Jam, Soundgarden, Alice in Chains, and Blind Melon as well as many recent artists like Cat Power, Fleet Foxes, and Death Cab for Cutie. The tour was first, so the group split in two, one group in the control room while another saw the main room, where Geoff took questions about the studio and its operations. Carson hosted groups in the control room, describing the vintage Neve console.
Next, Ken Levy, GM of Cascade Microphones in Olympia WA talked about ribbon microphones. Ken said that ribbon characteristics, such as smooth high end, a little compression effect, and clean polar pattern, make them desirable for many uses but that cost and physical delicacy had been a deterrent to widespread use. This is no longer so much the case; neodymium magnets, good design and carefully QC-ed Chinese manufacturing is Cascade's forte. He passed around some samples of ribbon motor assemblies in good and damaged condition.
He explained the physics of the mic's operation, frequency response rolloff (top end limits vs ribbon thinness), directional pattern (figure 8), and offset vs. symmetrical ribbon placement between the magnets. Certainly there are some cautions - strong gusts of air do damage ribbons, as well as misplaced P48. However, they can be used even in tours (such as Steely Dan's), without unmanageable failures.
Ken also described how the modest signal output from ribbons requires a clean high-gain preamp, and he recommends ones with higher input impedance. Also, P48 powered preamps can be incorporated, so a ribbon can be switched between traditional passive mode, or turned into a P48 powered "active" mic. He also talked about M-S stereo techniques and dual element stereo ribbon mics. He played several video excerpts of endorsers playing.
An intermission was held, and after the cookie break, door prizes were awarded:
Courtesy Cascade Microphones:
-Cascade Fathead BE mic: David Jenkins
-Cascade pop screens: Steve Turnidge, Bob Smith
-Cascade tech bags: Andrew Meares, Zachary Heim, Jeremy Anderson, Xavier Reyes
Courtesy Rene Jaeger:
-book on Faraday: Lawrence Schwedler
-Pat Metheny DVD: Steve Malott
Courtesy Mackie/Rene Jaeger:
-Mackie spares bags: Mark Rogers, Dan Charette
Courtesy Fluke/Rick Rodriguez:
-Meterman thermometer: Ed Gruse
-Meterman DMM: Greg Mauser
-Fluke Voltlight: Danielle Miller
Courtesy the AES:
-135th convention preprints CDROM: John Kasprick
Following the prizes, musicians performed in the studio iso booth with Cascade mics, while attendees could listen in the main room, or hang out in the studio control room or lounge.