Royer Labs R-10 Ribbon Microphone

by George Petersen • in
  • May 2018
  • Road Tests
• Created: May 15, 2018

Okay, I’ll admit it, I’m one of those diehard ribbon mic fans. In fact, I published the first review of Royer’s — still remarkable — R-121 model some 20 years ago, and have been hooked on the company’s ribbon mics ever since. Although originally a common tool used for sound reinforcement applications (beginning with George’s Olson’s landmark 1931 design for the classic RCA 44) ribbon mics lost much of their appeal over the years as dynamic mics evolved and condenser microphones became more affordable. Of course, much of this falloff was due to the cumbersome size and relative fragility of the RCA models.

So with the Royer R-121’s compact body, great sound and more rugged design, it is little wonder that they appealed to the engineering community. At least mainly to studio users — although R-121’s did show up with some regularity on Broadway show orchestras and some of the larger tours. The main drawback to mass acceptance in the live community was due to cost (the R-121 retails at $1,295) and the susceptibility of the ribbon element to damage from wind blasts. Mindful of this, Royer addressed both of these concerns with the R-121L (a “live” version of the R-121, but with a slightly thicker ribbon that was more wind resistant, and the $799 R-101 model, which was targeted directly at the live market.

‡‡         Hello, R-10

Last fall, Royer took another step forward; this time with the R-10, which — like the other Royer R-series models — used the patented (U.S. #6,434,252) proprietary offset ribbon technology based on a pure 2.5-micron aluminum ribbon and neodymium magnet structure. The affordable $499 pricing ($1,048 in matched pairs) of the R-10 caused a run on demand, leading to backorders and long waits; while at the same time marking the end of the R-101.

Although priced $300 less than the R-101, no corners were cut on the R-10. The mic is assembled in the Royer’s Burbank, CA plant, and shares the 2.5-micron ribbon element (the same used in the R-121) and employs a custom David Royer-designed transformer for high overload threshold — up to 160 dB @ 1 kHz. The transducer’s flux-frame design and rare earth neodymium magnets create a powerful magnetic field that increases sensitivity and reduces stray magnetic radiation.

The mic element lies beneath a multi-layered windscreen and the ribbon transducer is internally shock-mounted. The layered windscreen provides protection from air blasts and plosives, and also reduces proximity effect, so guitar cabinets and acoustic instruments can be close-miked with less bass build-up. The R-10 is also covered by a five-year warranty, which includes one free re-ribbon in the first year. As another plus, the R-10’s ribbon transducer’s humbucking wiring rejects electromagnetically induced noise.

‡‡         Checking It Out

The R-10 is more compact than Royer’s other mics, being 5-7/8 inches long, and has a nice heft, weighing in at 13 ounces. It ships with a swivel mount, carry case and protective mic sock (matched pairs have a double-mic case). The included mic mount is solid, easy to use, holds the mic securely in place and provides just over 180 degrees of swivel adjustment. Unlike the R-121, the R-10’s cylindrical mic body makes it prone to rolling when it is laid down. Also, the mic is assembled with eight round-head screws, which have a somewhat less polished feel than flat-heads.

Like all other Royer microphones, the R-10 has a figure-8 directivity pattern and is suitable for electric and acoustic guitars, acoustic bass, drum overheads, percussion, brass/horns/strings (individual and sections), acoustic piano and vocals.

With the R-10’s triple-layer windscreen, the Royer manual suggests that the mic can be used (carefully) as a kick mic. This requires placing the mic 18 to 24 inches in front of the kick, or if turned 10-15 degrees off-axis (either horizontally or tilted downward), it can be used about a foot in front of the sound hole. While both of these techniques can work in certain studio applications, these are hard to employ in a loud live stage setting.

Much more useful is using the R-10 as a mono or stereo pair as drum overheads — with a few caveats. This won’t fly on a death metal gig with 12 floor wedges blasting, but at a reasonable stage level, when used in a coincident Blumlein configuration or as a spaced pair, the effect can be really nice — particularly if you have a lot of open space above the kit. Results with low ceilings tend not to be pretty and can result in all kinds of unpleasant phase anomalies. Just saying…

The R-10’s patented offset-ribbon design positions the ribbon element towards the front of the transducer, which allows for the higher SPL handling of the front (logo) side and the option of a brighter response when capturing lower-SPL sound sources on the back side. This extra flexibility is nice, although be aware that the rear side of the R-10 (or any fig-8 mic) is 180-degrees out of phase with the front, so keep that in mind in multi-miking situations.

Compared to the R-10, the flagship R-121 has tighter bass and more HF response, although the R-10 still exhibits a respectable 30 Hz to 15,000 Hz (± 3 dB) frequency response. The differences are a function of the R-10’s transformer and body style.

The R-10’s custom-designed transformer yields -5 dB less output than the R-121, while providing the R-10 with more headroom on high-SPL sound sources. This lower sensitivity could be a minus in certain recording situations — say, using an R-10 as a distant room ambience mic. However, in most sound reinforcement applications — like close-miking a guitar amp or a brass instrument — 5 dB of lowered gain is hardly an issue.

Royer ribbons take equalization extremely well. Using EQ to dial in more highs, such as opening up 10k to 12k Hz on acoustic instruments or to add more sizzle on a trumpet gives great results. EQ’ing an R-10 can be particularly useful on live electric guitars to provide more bite in the highs, an advantage when single-miking an amp cabinet.

‡‡         The Envelope, Please…

Royer has a real hit with the R-10, offering a combination of sweet sound and durability — which should appeal to the live sound user, especially at a price tag of only $499.

At a Glance

Roadworthy Ribbon Mic

Royer Labs’ R-10 offers high-end ribbon mic performance in a tough, roadworthy package that’s suited for many live applications, yet with an affordable street price.

Royer R-10

PROS

  • Solid construction
  • High SPL handling
  • Great sound
  • Affordable pricing

CONS

  • Extreme wind conditions can deform ribbon
  • Figure-8 pattern not suitable in high feedback situations

STATS

  • Design: Electrodynamic pressure gradient ribbon
  • Element: 5-micron R-series ribbon
  • Polar Pattern: Figure-8
  • Frequency Response: 30 Hz to 15,000 Hz (±3 dB)
  • Sensitivity: -54 dB, 1 V/Pa
  • Max SPL: 160 dB @ 1 kHz
  • Impedance: 100 Ohms
  • Price: $499; (matched pairs are $1,048)
  • Manufacturer: Royer Labs

Visit www.royerlabs.com for more info.

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