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.
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.
The Ribbon Microphone was most successful from the 1930s to 1950s. The RCA played a key role in developing this type of microphone, and two of their early Ribbon Microphones can be seen in the gallery to the left.
The RCA Model 44A is the oldest non-lavalier Ribbon Microphone in Mr. Steele's, having been manufactured around 1933. The RCA Type 50A was manufactured in 1934, and the RCA Model MI4010, featured in the gallery below, in 1935.
The most basic sound pick-up pattern for ribbon microphones is the bi-directional pattern. This sound pick-up pattern has a "figure-eight" shape, and picks up sound from two directions.
Being the earliest sound pick-up pattern, it is the most common type of Ribbon microphone in the Steele Collection. The following galleries contain a selection of Bi-Directional Ribbon Microphones which demonstrate the wide variety of this type held in the Collection.
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.
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.
Like the Super Cardioid Ribbon Microphones, there are very few Omni-Directional Ribbon microphones in the Steele Collection. Below are three such microphones.
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
- Eargle, John. The Microphone Book. Focal Press, 2001.