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UGA Special Collections Library Online Exhibitions

The Ribbon Microphone

The Ribbon Microphone, also called the velocity, or pressure gradient microphone, is the second-most prevalent microphone type in the Steele Collection. The collection contains 58 Ribbon Microphones with varying polar responses.

Ribbon Diagram

At right is a diagram of a typical ribbon microphone; these microphones typically have a ribbon, made of aluminum foil or another light-weight metal, suspended between two pole magnets. Sound is produced when the ribbon vibrates. Though these microphones were once well-known for being fragile (loud sounds such as gunshots could blow the ribbon out of its magnetic hold), more recent models have been developed that are more resilient and longer lasting. The models contained in the Steele Collection generally are of the more fragile nature.

RCA SK46

Far right: RCA SK46 (c. 1954)

Second from left: RCA SK35 (c. 1955)

Cardioid Polar Response

Less common in Mr. Steele's collection are the Cardioid Ribbon Microphones. These microphones pick up sound from primarily one direction. The six microphones in the gallery below are a few of the Cardioid Ribbon Microphones held in the Steele Collection.

Super Cardioid Polar Response

Microphones with a Super Cardoid polar response have similar sound pick-up patterns to Cardioid Microphones, but do pick up some sound from behind the main pick-up source as well. There are only a few of the Super Cardioid Ribbon Microphones held in the Steele Collection, three of which can be seen in the gallery below.

Omni-Directional

Like the Super Cardioid Ribbon Microphones, there are very few Omni-Directional Ribbon microphones in the Steele Collection. Below are three such microphones.

Brush R34 (cable)

Brush R34

(date unknown)

RCA SK39

Middle: RCA SK39 (c. 1951)

Second from right: RCA SK45B (c. 1957)

Multi-Pattern

Multi-Pattern Microphones are those that can change between several specific polar patterns. These are more versatile than microphones with a single, set polar pattern, and are often useful in more than one kind of recording environment.

Gallery of Ribbon Microphones with  Unknown Polar Responses

Page Sources

  • Eargle, John. The Microphone Book. Focal Press, 2001.