AEA R88 mk2 Passive Stereo Ribbon Mic
Being There in Stereo
In the 1930s, EMI engineer Alan Blumlein invented stereo recording by demonstrating the natural reproduction of the soundstage at one of the Abbey Road studios in London, UK. Still today, his coincident recording technique using two figure-of-8 ribbons is the benchmark for producing an authentic representation of a performance in a room. The R88 mk2 stereo microphone is a true Blumlein recording system optimized for recording instruments and ensembles in stereo. It utilizes two of AEA’s signature Big Ribbon elements angled at 90 degrees and mounted in close proximity to each other along the vertical axis of the microphone. The natural soundstage and character of the R88’s Blumlein stereo make it a great main mic. As an alternative to the Blumlein (XY) technique, the microphone can also be used for MS stereo, providing excellent mono compatibility and full control over the width of the stereo image. An excellent orchestral and choral recording microphone, it also shines on applications such as horn sections and drum overheads, thanks to the pure sound of two undamped long ribbons and the passive circuit without the headroom limitations of active electronics. The R88 accurately records complex tones such as woodwinds, strings, and cymbals. Whether it’s at Abbey Road or in your home studio, the R88 mk2 puts the listener right there with the performers in the recording room.
The Grammy-Winning Package
The list of Grammy and Academy Award winning projects recorded with the help of the R88 mk2 microphone is long and keeps growing: Turtle Island String Quartet, Los Tigres Del Norte, Juanes MTV Unplugged, Life Of Pi soundtrack to name but a few. The matched Blumlein pair of ribbons packaged in a sleek black shell designed for quick setup delivers a great sound right off the bat, making it an excellent choice for remote recording setups. As a drum overhead or room pick-up microphone, it instantly captures a punchy, “larger than life” image that is particularly well suited for rock, roots, Americana, and jazz genres. Seasoned engineers like Joe Chiccarelli, Chuck Ainlay or Vance Powell trust the AEA R88 mk2 so much that Nashville’s world-class Blackbird Studios now has an R88 available for every single room in their facility.
A Big Ribbon for a Big Sound
At the heart of the AEA R88 are two big, 2.35″ by 0.185″ by 2 micron pure aluminum low-tension ribbon elements just like the one used in the classic R44. Many ribbon mic manufacturers choose shorter ribbons that are easier to install, but AEA’s Large Ribbon Geometry design offers important advantages. Ribbon microphones operate linearly above their resonant frequency, unlike condenser or moving-coil transducers, so the resonant frequency of a good ribbon microphone design should be as low as possible. The longer the ribbon, the lower the resonant frequency will be. The ribbon has to move twice as far for every drop in octave as it vibrates within the magnetic gap, thus a longer ribbon will allow for further movement back and forth. This results in the ribbon handling louder sound sources and more sound pressure level (SPL). Most AEA ribbons are tuned to just 16.5 Hz, and because the R88 shares the same Big Ribbon as the rest of AEA’s product line, you will achieve a sound that is smooth, natural and free from any of the uncomfortable resonances that shorter ribbons and condensers can exhibit. The result is a sound that many engineers say is astonishingly close to what their ears hear when they are actually standing in the studio.
The Minimalist Design Ribbons: R88mk2 Stereo Mic & NUVO N8
The minimalist designed R88mk2 Stereo Mic, and NUVO N8 capture the natural tonality of an instrument faithfully. Interposed with as little as possible between the source and the ribbon, the R88mk2 and N8 achieve an astonishingly open and natural sound that lets AEA’s famed Big Ribbon truly shine.By employing similar design materials, transducer model, and philosophy as used on the popular R88 Stereo Mic, the phantom-powered NUVO N8 features the same Big Ribbon technology that has earned AEA its reputation. The N8’s unobtrusive size makes it easy to position in tight situations or in venues where discreet placement is necessary. Its phantom-powered JFET electronics have made the N8 a mainstay on scoring stages and in project studios. With AEA’s SMS Stereo Bar and NUVO Microphone Coupler, it is easy to arrange N8s in a precise and accurate Blumlein array.
The R88 and NUVO N8 minimal internal blast protection facilitate a more open sound. Up-close use may result in substantial proximity effect so, for a natural bass to treble balance, sound sources should be feet rather than inches away. This also means you should be extra careful to avoid sudden blasts of wind. We recommend using a pop filter when using the R88 or AEA’s NUVO windscreens when placing the N8 or R88 closer than 6 inches away from a loud amp.
The R88mk2 is not a stereo version of the R84. While the R84 and R88mk2 share the same ribbon and transformer, they were designed to have different tonalities.
– Big Ribbon Blumlein (XY) and MS stereo ribbon mic
– Pure Ribbon design with open and natural sound
– Used in many Grammy Award winning projects
– Great foundation for main or sectional pickup
Applications & Audio
The heart of the R88 are two matched native pressure-gradient ribbon transducers tuned to 16.5Hz with one mounted on top of the other in a Blumlein configuration. The Blumlein Stereo “sweet spot” is the 90 degree angle between the principal axis of channels 1 and 2. Instruments in this front region are in-phase and in-polarity. The white line on the front of the R88 is the center point of the 90 degree angle. When placing the R88, try to position it so that instruments in front are + or – 45 degrees from the white centerline.
Drum Overheads, Rooms, and Percussion
When recording drums, there are many techniques to capturing the sound of the kit with the R88. A good starting point is to position the R88 about 1 foot above the drummer with the white line pointing directly down at their head so that one channel is pointing towards the ride, and the other channel is pointing towards the hi-hat. Depending on the amount of room tone you are looking for, try changing the angle of the R88. For more room tone, angle the top of the R88 up towards the ceiling. The higher the angle of the mic, the more room tone from the front of the kit is captured. For less room tone, try positioning the mic parallel to the floor. This gives you a very wide image of the drums that sounds like you are in sitting center stage.
Another popular technique used with the R88 is to position it directly in front of the kit. Try moving the mic to the height of the drummer and perpendicular to the ground, with the white line pointing right at the drummer’s head. Many engineers use the R88 in this position as the foundation of their drum sound.
For a more ambient sound, try moving the R88 back as far away from the drums as you can while still positioning the white line in the direction of the drummer. This will capture mostly room tone but can add a very nice and natural sound to the kit. The closer that the R88 is positioned to the drummer, the more direct sound and less reverb will be captured by the mics.
Strings, Brass, and Reed Instruments
Because the R88 has equal treble and bass response from a far distance, it can be placed almost anywhere without sounding thin. Feel free to position the mic both closer and further away than you normally would with a condenser.
When recording acoustic instruments, a good starting point is to walk around the room while the musician is playing. When you find a spot where you like the sound, try positioning the R88 there and move to taste.
For solo instruments, try placing the R88 a few feet away. This will give a very up-close and personal sound. Set the microphone above or in front of the instrument. The height of the mic in relation to the height of the room can have a large impact on the sound.
When positioning the R88, try aiming the backside towards a complex wall intersection. This can capture the reverberation of the room in an interesting way.
For bass string instruments that are bowed and plucked, placing the R88 about a foot away will give you a very nice and defined low end. The proximity effect of the R88 can be used to your advantage. If you want a mono image, either use both channels center, or only use one channel.
For instrument sections, a good starting point is to place the R88 a few meters away where the musicians have a nice and balanced sound. Blumlein configuration positioned at a distance of 4 – 6 meters from a section can capture the sound with a lot depth.
The R88 can also be used with great results to capture an entire orchestra. Try positioning the mic in the same way that you would for sections, but from a much further distance. An R88 can give you a realistic spatial image that will sound like you are standing in front of the orchestra.
The R88 delivers a great sound as a close-up and distant mic on both upright and grand pianos. On a grand piano the R88 positioned on the side of the piano facing the player: one channel pointing towards the treble side of the piano, and the other channel facing towards the bass side that can result in a larger than life recording.
Electric Guitar and Bass
The R88 can handle very high sound pressure levels allowing you to place it close to amplifiers. Watch out for wind blasts, percussive players, and very loud bass cabinets that push air. The R88 has the least amount of protection in it for a more open sound which means you should be extra careful to avoid sudden blasts of wind.
Identify where the center of the speaker cone is located and place the R88 a few inches away from the speaker pointing right at its center for a very direct, “in-your-face” sound. This is the spot where you will get the most high-frequency content. If it sounds too harsh, try moving the microphone to the side parallel to the speaker. You will find that small differences in positioning can make huge differences in the sound, so experiment until you find the spot you like. Try this in both mono and stereo for different results.
If you have a 2×12 or 4×12 guitar cabinet, try pulling the R88 back about a foot with the white line pointed in between the two sets of speakers. One channel of the R88 can pick up one side of the cabinet while the other channel of the R88 will pick up the other side of the cabinet. This can capture a nice and natural stereo image of the cabinet. Another interesting way of doing this is with two different sounding cabinets (such as a distorted channel and clean channel). This can give you a very interesting and unique guitar tone.