Meeting Topic: History, Technical Aspects, & the Care & Feeding of Ribbon Microphones
Speaker Name: Wes Dooley, Sammy Rothman & Charlene Gibbs of AEA
Meeting Location: Opus 4 Studios, Bothell, WA
The PNW Section May 2015 meeting was held at Opus 4 Studios in Bothell, WA, and featured Wes Dooley, Sammy Rothman & Charlene Gibbs of AEA in Pasadena, CA talking about ribbon microphones.
Opus 4 Studios owner Dr. Mike Matesky welcomed the group, then Wes spoke about his background and gave plaudits for the AES as a long-time supporter. Although many at AEA try their hand at assembling ribbons, Charlene does it regularly as well as duties such as social media and shipping. AEA was servicing the renowned RCA ribbon mics for many years and by 1998, they were manufacturing every part themselves. Thus, they decided they could make a go at making their own, slightly improved version.
Wes and Sammy described how AEA tries to make microphones that sound good, then they can take measurements. Little things like the shape of a grille or change of mesh will change the sound, as can transformers and ribbon pleating. Wes makes a point of trying to get local L.A. area suppliers when possible, so he can talk with them easily. Pure aluminum makes the best ribbons, and New Old Stock is the best of that. Modern metal production can be somewhat variable for their ribbon needs.
Just before the break, a flute recording done with an AEA mic right in the same Opus 4 studio as the meeting was played. Then several door prizes (CDs, AEA T-shirts) were awarded at a break.
Next, some videos (also available on the AEA website or YouTube) were played, including using ribbons for drum kit recording (thought by some to be too dangerous), on trumpet, and a segment from the TV show, "How Its Made" showing how AEA makes the mics. Charlene described using a fresh razor blade each time a ribbon is cut, manipulating the powerful rare-earth magnets, and tensioning the ribbons.