Fast FactsApplications: Studio
Key Features: Figure 8 pattern; ribbon element; ships with wooden box
Contact: Electro-Harmonix at 718-937-8300, www.ehx.com.
(click thumbnail)Electro-Harmonix, best known for their Russian vacuum tubes and effects pedals, has added something new to their already long list of products. The EH-R1 ($399) is a Russian-built ribbon microphone that will quickly hold its own among ribbon microphone users. Now you might think that buying such a ribbon microphone that was not made in China could very well cost a fortune, but with a street price of about $330 and up you might be surprised.
The ribbon microphone technology that is behind the EH-R1 has been a work in progress for over 50 years. With current advances in magnetics and engineering, ribbon mics, such as the EH-R1, can now handle greater SPL while producing a much more articulate response minus the noise/hum. Ribbon microphones have always been one of tough and rugged construction to protect the delicate inner workings, but with the overall durability of the EH-R1, it makes for a much more versatile mic in the studio.
At first glance, the EH-R1 comes in a nicely constructed wooden case that complements the quality and feel of the mic itself. With a heavy-duty metal casing, there is no doubt that a lot of time and effort went into the construction of this microphone. The mic standmount is not what I would consider the best choice for the EH-R1 and should be substituted for a shockmount. This is because of the mics sensitive nature towards stand vibration. I also noticed that the standmount immediately needed to be tightened in order to support the weight of the mic. At approximately 7 inches tall and 1.1 pounds, the EH-R1 is still capable of being placed in tight proximity to your source.
The EH-R1 response is extremely flat and one of very few characteristics, but that's what makes this mic so useful in certain situations. No, this is not like a one trick pony, but when it comes to tracking brass, certain acoustic instruments and vocals, the high-end rolloff and thick textured sound can really make a difference. Also proximity is the key factor to working with the EH-R1 - the closer the better.
My initial session with the EH-R1 was tracking a solo acoustic guitar/vocal that proved to utilize the mic's characteristics to my advantage. First off, because of the mic's tight figure 8 polar pattern, the vocal bleed into the guitar mic (EH-R1) was noticeably less than normal. This allows for a much better signal-to-noise ratio. In this situation I would prefer to have two EH-R1s, one for the guitar and another for the vocals. Something to keep in mind however if you're not use to working with ribbon microphones is that there is a dramatic roll off of high end so applying HF EQ could be necessary depending on what you are recording. In the case of the acoustic guitar, it was.
After completing the initial guitar and vocal tracks, I decided to layer in some female background vocals. The EH-R1 achieved a warm and rich tone that I wasn't expecting and as I mentioned earlier, it wasn't until I positioned the EH-R1 as close as I could to the singer that I achieved the sound that I wanted.
In the second session I used the mic to track a sax, electric guitar, and another female vocalist. The end result was intended to be a more straight-ahead jazz sound. When working with the sax I found that the EH-R1 helped control the usual harsh high end characteristics associated with a horn. The same characteristics held true with the guitar, capturing the thickness while keeping the tonality nice a mellow on the high end. For a second time, the EH-R1 seemed to work really well with tracking the female vocals, especially when the singer can really belt. Even in close proximity there was still headroom without an overload on the mic.
The EH-R1 has proven to be everything that I would expect from a ribbon microphone. You can currently buy this mic for around $330 and that is a steal for a big sound with a little price. There are a couple of things that however you need to consider - a mic pre that will output a considerable amount of gain with a low noise floor is necessary and the frequency response of this mic may be a little unusual to some. Once you get a handle on the EH-R1, you will want a stereo pair.
Fast FactsApplications: Studio