TapeOp Issue #60/July, 2007 | by Andy Hong
The first time I used one was several years ago at John Vanderslice’s Tiny Telephone studio in San Francisco. I think it was house engineer Aaron Prellwitz who suggested that I give it a go on the horns. My first thought was, “Am I going to blow out the ribbon by putting it in front of the trumpet?” He assured me it’d be no problem. It worked out great, and the track sounded supersmooth and sat perfectly in the mix; it had just the right kind of midrange presence to stay out of the way of the vocal.
I also tried an M 160 pair on cello and violin as medium-distance mics (in conjunction with some close mics), and the sound was perfectly dreamy — neither scratchy nor squeaky, but not too dark either.
At one point, while tracking a French horn with an M 160, the player’s boyfriend, who was in the live room giving encouragement, put his mouth right up to the mic and pretty much blew up the whole signal chain by popping into it — not a funny joke at all. I told Aaron about it when we were packing up and asked him to tell John to send me a bill for the mic if it proved later to be damaged, but I never got a bill. I later shared this story with a representative from Beyerdynamic, who then pulled out a sheet of paper and proceeded to fold it. That’s when I learned that each of the M 160’s two ribbons has multiple folds across two axes that prevent it from stretching or collapsing like standard ribbons with accordion-like corrugations will do under air pressure. Neat!
Well, long story short, I recently purchased an M 160 for myself, and I’ve fallen in love with it all over again. Compared to my other ribbon mics (Royer R-121, SF-12; SE Electronics R-1), the M 160 has less high-end and exhibits a healthy (or portly, depending on how you hear it) low and lower-midrange boost at close proximity, but that’s part of what makes it special.
The hypercardioid M 160 is really unique in its ability to pick up lots of midrange smoothly while picking up minimal room sound, even when it’s positioned more than a few inches from the source. The mic’s response dips slightly within the most crowded bit of the spectrum between 300 to 800 Hz but rises with upper-mid/low-treble presence between 2 to 6 kHz, which for me, makes for easier mixing.
Because of these traits, I wouldn’t recommend the M 160 as a do-everything mic or as a primary vocal mic; instead, I’d call it the perfect complement to the do-everything and vocal mics that you already own. ($799, beyerdynamic)
Read more about the beyerdynamic M 160 ribbon microphone.