Ribbon microphones are known to be quite luxurious instruments, not accessible to the typical home recording studio. However, I’ve been doing some research and was pleased to find the best budget ribbon mic on the market.
The Avantone Pro CR-14 is one of the most affordable ribbon microphones. It’s also one of the most stylish in my opinion, but there’s more than meets the eye. This microphone actually has some pretty interesting features that you won’t find in every ribbon microphone. Let’s dive in!
- Introducing the dual-ribbon mic design
- The Avantone CR-14 is the best budget ribbon mic
- High-performance ribbon mic on a budget
- Is the Avantone CR-14 worth the price?
- The best budget ribbon mic for your home recording studio
Introducing the dual-ribbon mic design
In case you aren’t familiar with ribbon microphones, you’ll need to know that they aren’t the most sensitive. In fact, their sensitivity normally lies between that of condenser and dynamic (moving-coil) microphones.
However, the Avantone Pro CR-14 is quite sensitive for a passive ribbon microphone.
Instead of using ONE ribbon element, this microphone uses TWO aluminum ribbon elements side by side. It’s quite a unique feature, so I would seriously consider checking this microphone out! It’ll provide 3.2 mV/Pa sensitivity which is quite high for a ribbon microphone.
But you’ll notice that the ribbon elements themselves are relatively short (5mm x 35mm). In this case, a shorter ribbon element does result in a more significant “high-frequency roll-off”. All ribbon microphones inherently produce this phenomenon, but it’s more pronounced in the CR-14.
That being said, it’s got a rather specific application. I wouldn’t consider this microphone an “all-purpose solution”. It’s great for taming those high-frequencies and will certainly provide more dynamic range than a similar ribbon microphone.
You’ll also be surprised by this microphone’s robustness. It’s evident that Avantone had durability in mind by observing the CR-14’s external grille. Your microphone will be much more resistant to wind and impact.
For the price, you’re certainly getting more value than you paid for. Especially with that luxurious brass body!
The Avantone CR-14 is the best budget ribbon mic
We haven’t even considered how we’ll be setting up the CR-14 on a microphone stand. Simple microphone clips won’t do the trick for this type of “electric shaver” design.
And what about storage? Ribbon microphones are still delicate instruments.
What really impressed me was how much value Avantone included with this budget ribbon mic. Here’s what you can expect to find upon unboxing your new microphone…
- Suspension Cradle
- Wooden Box
- Aluminum Case
What’s even more shocking is that certain pricier ribbon microphones don’t even include these accessories. They’re absolutely essential!
The suspension cradle is very useful when it comes to dampening any sympathetic vibrations. You’ll notice much less low-frequency rumble on your tracks because this microphone is very sensitive to low frequencies. And you’ll obviously be capable of mounting the CR-14 on a microphone stand now!
The wooden box is a nice touch, but you’ll be using it to simply store your CR-14’s. What’s really important is the aluminum case Avantone included in the package.
Although this ribbon microphone is relatively durable, you’ll need to keep in mind that the ribbon elements aren’t. Providing a protective case to store your microphone is essential to avoid any damage in the long run.
And personally, I would store it in an upright position. This is important because gravity can gradually warp ribbon elements over time if they are stored horizontally. Just a quick tip!
High-performance ribbon mic on a budget
Probably one of the most notable features of the CR-14 is its tolerance for high sound-pressure levels (SPL). Capable of handling up to 145 dB SPL, this ribbon microphone can handle a variety of applications.
You’ll be able to record vocals, drum kits, speaker cabinets and especially brass instruments!
However, you’ll need to keep in mind that ribbon microphones aren’t the quietest microphones. This is especially true with vintage ribbon microphones and a bit less with contemporary passive ribbon microphones.
To be specific, the CR-14 has a signal-to-noise-ratio of 72 dB. And like most ribbon microphones, it’s output impedance is rather low (600 ohms).
If you’ve never owned a ribbon microphone in the past, you may not have the appropriate tools to accommodate one. In the past, high-quality preamps designed to boost a ribbon microphone’s output without introducing too much noise were essential, BUT…
We now have access to a revolutionary tool known as an inline microphone preamp. The most popular device on the market is known as the FetHead, manufactured by TritonAudio. I seriously suggest pairing your CR-14 with this device. It’ll make it virtually noiseless!
And as I mentioned earlier, you won’t have the benefit of an extended frequency-range. You’ll be operating at a range of 30 Hz to 15,000 Hz which isn’t too bad for a ribbon microphone. The CR-14 takes EQ very well, so it shouldn’t become a problem if you know how to handle one of these.
But let me tell you, the CR-14 has one of the best transient-responses I’ve heard so far. It’s an extremely precise microphone!
Is the Avantone CR-14 worth the price?
If you’re looking for an excellent ribbon microphone for home recording, you’ve found it! I haven’t found anything that provides as much value as the CR-14.
It’s got everything you need to start recording right out of the box.
- Brass Body
- High SPL (145 dB)
- Dual-Ribbon Design
- Each microphone is quality-tested in the US
- Includes: Suspension Cradle, Wooden Box and Aluminum Case
- Made in China
- Front/Rear of the microphone aren’t balanced
- Will most likely require an inline microphone preamp
- Less high-frequency response than most ribbon microphones
The best budget ribbon mic for your home recording studio
If you’ve been meaning to add a ribbon microphone to your home recording projects, you won’t be disappointed. The problem with most ribbon microphones is that they’re too expensive which makes you fearful of taking it out.
I’m against owning expensive gear because of this fear, it really makes it more of a burden than anything.
So you’ll be happy to take your CR-14 out of its protective case! It’s one of the most affordable ribbon microphones and it’s definitely got the best “bang for your buck”.
It sounds really nice behind a speaker cabinet paired with a dynamic (moving-coil) microphone on the speaker cone. Experiment with different combinations and you’ll see how much value this microphone will add to your recordings. I rarely use a ribbon microphone on its own.
However, I’ve heard some great things from musicians using this on their brass instruments. It really tames those high-frequencies and provides much clarity in the bottom end. You could probably use the CR-14 to mic a drum kit with nothing else. It sounds great on overheads and has a terrific transient response due to its aluminum ribbon elements.
I hope you’ve found this review insightful and I hope you’ll give the CR-14 a try!
What do you think is the best budget ribbon mic for home recording? Let us know in the comments and don’t forget to share this product review with your music producer friends. Thanks!
P.S.: Don’t forget to read my review on the FetHead by TritonAudio, it’ll make your microphone sound incredible!