Students enrolled in the Audio Production program at Webster University, St. Louis and I had the great experience of evaluating the new Telefunken USA ribbon microphone, the RM-5C. The students participated as engineers, listeners and musicians. The setup was quick and not at all scientific, but informative anyway. We used only two microphones, a classic Coles 4038 and the RM-5C. As I suspected, these mics are pretty much polar opposites. The sound sources were male voice, female voice, acoustic guitar, tenor saxophone, and a pair of congas. The signal path was simple-microphone to Gordon Instruments Model 5 preamp to RADAR 24 running at 24 bits, 96 kHz.
Listening to male and female voice, the RM-5C gave a good sound right off. With a student speaking 4" away from the microphone, the bass was full. Proximity effect was well controlled even at that distance. The bass was tight-never muffled or muddy. Characteristic of the microphone is a rise in the mid and high frequencies. Speech sibilance was highlighted but not out of balance. The bass bump at 200 Hz creates some bottom, preventing the mic from being too bright overall. I think it's important for me to stress that in no circumstance did the RM-5C ever sound harsh, strident, or unpleasant. It maintains its appeal with a smooth sound even though its frequency response is "tipped up". The Coles offered it classic warmth and smoothness, but was dull without some equalization. The 4038's proximity effect also made it sound tubby. The RM-5C has a very tight cardioid pattern with some tonal change at 90 and 270 degrees. The rejection at 180 degrees was excellent. What was heard from that angle still sounded quite good.
For the instruments, we placed the RM-5C for "best sound". The mic's 200 Hz bump is large enough to add some sense of bass for voice. However, it didn't give the necessary bottom to the tenor sax (as a jazz instrument) that the Coles did. The RM-5C was certainly a good choice for guitar. As I listened to the guitar in the control room and then again in the studio, the RM-5C was giving us the guitar pretty much as it sounded in the studio. The Telefunken was an instant winner for congas. The skin and "thunk" of the drums were wonderfully captured by the mic. Transient response was very good. The 4038 simply couldn't match that character.
The RM-5C is well-made, handsome, and stylish. It is a microphone worth owning. I would like to see a wooden box for the mic; I think that is necessary. I would like to see a better shockmount, if only as an option, but the current one is acceptable. The Audio Production students and I were quite impressed with this new microphone. ($TBA; www.telefunkenusa.com)
Tape Op is a bi-monthly magazine devoted to the art of record making.