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Genius!2: David Royer and the R-121 ribbon mic #20

Designed to deliver warmth and musicality for both studio and live applications, the mic has enduring popularity

Royer Labs founder David Royer built his first professional microphone in 1986 – the same year that he also used a borrowed SPEIDEN SF-12 for the first time. Speaking to Genius! 2, he confirms that he then became determined “to pursue microphone manufacturing and sound recording”.

A little over ten years later, Royer would develop his first ribbon mic, the R-121. Designed to deliver warmth and musicality for both studio and live applications, the R-121’s likely impact first became clear when early prototypes were loaned to two groups: Earthlings? and Queens of the Stone Age.

“The mics were used for guitars and the engineers were blown away by how faithfully they captured the guitar tones,” recalls Royer. “Additionally, our patented off-set ribbon enabled the mics to take on the loud amplifiers without destroying the ribbons. The second clue was more eye-opening. We loaned microphones to numerous prominent engineers that were working with digital recording. Every engineer reported that the R-121 sounded more natural and realistic than other mics when recorded digitally, even without any EQ enhancement. That was a real eureka moment; just how well they worked within the digital domain.”

Reflecting more generally on the achievements of Royer Labs – which will celebrate its 20th anniversary in 2018 – Royer highlights the enduring popularity of the ACTIVE ribbon mics: “The design challenge with active microphones was to get the sensitivity to a value that would be comparable to that of a good professional capacitor microphone while maintaining the distortion and noise performance of the microphone at least as good as that of good capacitor microphone. We took a unique approach with designing a highly specialised broad-band toroidal transformer to achieve the gain we desired and followed that with an active impedance converter that added very little noise. Recently, we have included a pad and roll-off filter to that basic design – to great effect.”

Published earlier this year and sponsored by QSC Audio, Genius!2 is the second edition of Genius!, celebrating those clever people whose inventions have transformed the world of professional audio. The 30-page supplement is also available to read in a handy digital-edition form