2 of the Best Budget Ribbon Microphones | Decibel Peak

2 of the best budget ribbon microphones - decibel peak

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To make your life easier, we’re simply going to be focusing on 2 of the best budget ribbon microphones on the market.

More specifically, we’ll be looking at the Avantone CR-14 and sE Electronics X1R.

You’ll be relieved to hear that both of these ribbon microphones cost less than 300$, but they sound just as good as some of the higher-end ribbon microphones.

If you’ve already read some of my other articles, you know that I NEVER make compromises.

So, let’s start talking about these microphones…

Avantone CR-14 Ribbon Microphone

We’re starting with my personal favourite, the Avantone CR-14.

2 of the best budget ribbon microphones - Avantone Pro CR-14

Here are the specifications:

  • Bi-Directional (Figure of Eight) Polar Pattern
  • 2 Micron DUAL Ribbon Element (Aluminum)
  • 145 dB SPL
  • 17 dB of Self-Noise

Here’s what’s in the box:

  • Shock-Mount
  • Wooden Case
  • Metal Road Case

So, let’s start with the fact that the Avantone CR-14 features a DUAL ribbon design.

What does that even mean?

In this case, it translates into the microphone being more sensitive than traditional ribbon microphones. By nature, ribbon microphones aren’t very sensitive.

However, the Avantone CR-14 is DARKER than most ribbon microphones.

That’s because of the smaller 5mm x 35mm ribbon elements.

That being said, you can expect a more pronounced high-frequency roll-off, but that might be exactly what you’re looking for if you need to tame some high-frequencies.

Another thing that impressed me about the CR-14 is the noise-floor.

It only produces a self-noise of 17 dB which is pretty low for a ribbon microphone, especially one in this price range. It can easily be improved with an inline microphone preamp though.

Lastly, I wanted to mention how WELL-EQUIPPED this microphone is.

You get the shock-mount, an awesome wooden case AND a military-grade metal case for the entire bundle (HINT: the sE Electronics X1R doesn’t include nearly as much).

AND of course, the aesthetic appeal of the Avantone CR-14 is undeniable!

sE Electronics X1R Ribbon Microphone

Next up, we’ve got the impressive sE Electronics X1R.

2 of the best budget ribbon microphones - sE Electronics X1R Passive Ribbon Microphone

Here’s what it’s got under the hood:

  • Bi-Directional (Figure of Eight) Polar Pattern
  • 2.5 Micron Ribbon Element (Aluminum)
  • 135 dB SPL
  • 23 dB of Self-Noise

Here’s what’s included with the package:

  • Microphone Clip

Alright, so the sE Electronics X1R doesn’t include as much as the Avantone CR-14 so you’ll most likely want to purchase a shock-mount at some point.

However, the X1R is brighter than the CR-14.

If you’re looking for an all-purpose ribbon microphone, I think you’ll be better off with the X1R.

The sE Electronics X1R is also less sensitive than the Avantone CR-14 which makes it better for close-micing situations.

The high SPL guarantees that you can get up close without damaging the ribbon element.

One thing you’ll want to take note of is the slightly higher noise-floor at 23 dB.

I definitely recommend an inline microphone preamp for the sE Electronics X1R.

In essence though, the X1R is basically a combination of vintage and modern elements that result in an incredibly unique formula.

It’s also AMAZINGLY rugged for a ribbon microphone.

Avantone CR-14 vs sE Electronics X1R

If you’d like to visualize the differences between the Avantone CR-14 and the sE Electronics X1R, you’ll definitely want to consult this table…

Avantone CR-14sE Electronics X1R
Polar PatternBi-DirectionalBi-Directional
Ribbon ElementDUAL 2 Micron Aluminum2.5 Micron Aluminum
Maximum SPL145 dB135 dB
Self-Noise17 dB23 dB
Included AccessoriesShock-Mount, Wooden Case, Metal Road CaseMicrophone Clip

I personally prefer the Avantone CR-14 because of its vintage appeal (both in appearance and in sound), but especially because of the dual-ribbon element.

It’s the one contemporary feature that ribbon microphones could benefit from most.

However, the sE Electronics X1R is much more versatile if you’re looking for an all-arounder.

The only thing that bothers me about the X1R is the lack of accessories. You’ll definitely need something to store your ribbon microphone because they ARE delicate.

Even the more rugged ribbon microphone can easily be damaged.

That being said, these accessories shouldn’t cost you too much, but let’s just say that it doesn’t make the sE Electronics X1R as budget friendly as the Avantone CR-14.

If you like the retro-look though, the CR-14 is definitely your best bet!

More on the modern-side? Go with the X1R and you won’t regret it!

The problem with most budget ribbon microphones

Before closing, I simply wanted to give you some tips when shopping for budget ribbon microphones.

I’ve already done most of the heavy-lifting for you, but maybe you want to keep searching.

If that’s the case, then you’ll need to be mindful of the common flaws with “budget” ribbons.

Even some of the most expensive ribbon microphones still have the same issues, but the #1 problem with budget ribbon microphones is the noise-floor.

As I mentioned earlier, this problem can easily be corrected with an inline microphone preamp (which I recommend regardless) or some high-quality preamps.

That being said, the Avantone CR-14 and the sE Electronics X1R are pretty quiet.

I’m telling you, some of the most expensive ribbon microphones are SUPER noisy.

Another thing to keep in mind when shopping for budget ribbon microphones is the bass-response. That’s the MAIN reason we use ribbon microphones.

For example, some of the GoldenAge microphones (like the R1 MKIII) are lacking in the bottom-end. They actually end up sounding like weaker condensers.

Just because it’s a ribbon microphone, doesn’t mean it’ll sound like one.

Now you know why I selected the Avantone CR-14 and sE Electronics X1R.

Summary: 2 of the Best Budget Ribbon Microphones

The Avantone CR-14 and the sE Electronics X1R…

I know which one of these microphones I want in my collection!

However, I’d like to know which one of these budget ribbon microphones you prefer. Maybe there’s another microphone you believe should’ve made the cut!

Either way, let us know in the comment section down below and feel free to ask any of your burning questions there as well.

On that note, I’ll let you get back to your shopping.

I appreciate your time, thanks for taking the time to read. Until next time!

Avantone CR-14:

sE Electronics X1R:

Sources:

http://www.avantonepro.com/cr-14.php

https://www.seelectronics.com/se-x1r-ribbon-mic

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