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5 Best Ribbon Mics for Natural and Warm Sound in 2023

Are you tired of the cold, clinical sound of modern condenser microphones? Do you crave that vintage warmth and smoothness that only ribbon mics can provide? Look no further! In this blog post, we will introduce you to the 5 best ribbon microphones on the market today.

We’ve put our ears through hours of listening before narrowing it down to these 5 best ribbon mics that will make your every penny worthwhile. From the most famous ribbon mic to the ribbon mic with the best sound quality, we’ve got you covered.

And don’t worry about breaking the bank, because we’ve also included the most value-for-money ribbon mic and the most affordable ribbon mic that still delivers that lifelike, natural sound.

So sit back and get ready to unravel the silky smooth sounds of the ‘ribbon mic’ as we take a deep dive into our list of the 5 best ribbon mics out there.

What are the 5 Best Ribbon Mics in 2023?

Here is the list of the 5 best ribbon microphones out there today:

1. Royer R-121 – Most Famous Ribbon Microphone of All Time

Why would you want this ribbon mic?

You have too much money and don’t know what to spend it on (just kidding). You want a timeless and iconic ribbon microphone that can last for ages.

Royer R-121


We often associate icons with certain roles or products, like Michael Jordan with basketball, Michael Jackson with singing, the Fender Stratocaster with electric guitars, and Steinway with pianos. And for ribbon microphones, there’s no name more iconic than the Royer R-121

When ribbon microphones started to lose popularity over the years to modern condenser mics and dynamic microphones, the Royer R-121 came to shake up the game in 1998. Famous artists and bands, such as Blink-182, Diana Krall, Slash, and Mark Knopfler, have used the Royer R-121.

With its hefty price tag of around $1500, you are paying for both its sound quality and name.

Sound Quality

The R-121 is Royer Lab’s flagship microphone and the most famous ribbon microphone for a good reason. It has a velvety and vintage tone that sings to almost any instrument you pair it with. 

Whether you’re playing an electric guitar clean, crunch, or in distortion, it will sound authentic, not drowned or flattened out. It’s the perfect mic for drum overheads, electric guitar distortion, acoustic guitars, singing, brass instruments, and even kick drums.

However, if you’re looking for a brighter sound, combine the R-121 with a Shure SM57 to add some crispness to the trebles.

If you’re an audio engineer spending endless hours editing a track to get the most realistic sound, you will definitely want the R-121. It has extremely low residual noise and boasts an evenly-balanced tone and relatively flat frequency response that can capture every nuance in great detail, only the best ribbon microphones out there exhibit this sort of quality. And it sounds phenomenal, even without any EQs, compression, or de-essing. 

It’s often described as having a natural, lifelike sound comparable to real-life acoustics, almost like listening to the amplifiers and instruments in a room. You can even use a pair of R-121s to record a band, choir, or orchestra in stereo to create a realistic soundstage that will transport your listeners to the performance scene.

Design & Build

The Royer R-121 is proudly made in the USA and has a sleek, compact, all-metal tube body with a satin nickel finish. It is sturdy and is built to last you a lifetime; that is why Royer is confident enough to give a lifetime warranty. The R-121 is so iconic that many microphone manufacturers have copied the same look and design.

It comes in a vintage well-lacquered wooden case with a velvet interior pad that can be a keepsake for you to pass on for generations.

The Royer R-121 is more than just a microphone. It’s a true icon, a timeless classic that has withstood the test of time since its debut in 1998. While its price tag may be steep at around $1500, its value extends beyond its exceptional sound quality. It represents a piece of audio history and serves as a precious keepsake that can be passed down for generations.

If you’re keen to learn more, check out our full review of the Royer R-121!

Product Info

  • Polar pattern: Figure-8
  • Circuit Type: Passive ribbon
  • Power requirements: N/A
  • Frequency Response: 30 Hz to 15,000 Hz
  • Sensitivity: -47 dBV/Pa (4.47 mV/Pa) @1kHz
  • Max SPL: 135 dB
  • Output Connection: XLR, 3-pin, male
  • Weight: 8.6oz (244g)
  • Accessories: Protective wooden case, mic sock


  • Authentic, realistic sound with great clarity
  • Flat frequency response
  • Warm, vintage, velvety tone
  • Made in the USA
  • Most iconic ribbon mic
  • Sturdy and compact
  • Lifetime warranty
  • Resistant to accidental phantom power


  • Very expensive
  • There are other less expensive mics in this list with similar sound quality

2. Beyerdynamic M 160 – Best Ribbon Mic for a Full, Rich Sound

Why would you want this ribbon mic?

You want a ribbon microphone with strong, dark low tones as well as bright and detailed high ends, giving you a rich sound.

Beyerdynamic M 160


The Beyerdynamic M 160 dual-ribbon microphone might not be as recognizable as the RCA 44 or Royer R-121, but it certainly has its name up there as one of the all-time classic ribbon microphones. 

The M 160 was introduced in 1957 by Beyerdynamic and is still being made in Germany. It was used by famous people like Bill Bottrell, who played the main guitar riff for Michael Jackson’s ‘Black or White’ in 1989. So, if this mic is good enough for the King of Pop, it’s certainly good enough for the rest of us.

Sound Quality

Although the Beyerdynamic M 160 was made in 1957, it is not inferior to modern ribbon microphones. In fact, of the list of ribbon microphones in this article, the M 160 is, in our opinion, one of the best ribbon mics in terms of its sound quality, even when compared to the Royer R-121.

The M 160 has a hypercardioid polar pattern, unlike most ribbon microphones with a bi-directional polar pattern. It is one of the best ribbon mics for isolating sounds from the front while rejecting ambient sound and noise from the back, making this a great stage mic

In terms of sound quality, the M 160 has a warmer and darker tone compared to other ribbon mics and a strong bass sound. However, what surprised me was its wide treble extension and crystal clear clarity and smoothness in the higher notes, instead of the expected high-end roll-offs for most ribbon mics.

The warmth of its lower tones coupled with the softness and clarity of its trebles allows the Beyerdynamic M 160 to have a full and rich sound, more so compared to the Royer R-121.

If you are speaking into the M 160, you will immediately notice a very strong proximity effect, you might want to add a high-pass filter if there’s too much bass for your liking. 

Be sure to use a pop filter when recording vocals to protect the mic from plosive sounds. Also, use a shock mount because the M 160 is sensitive to bumps and knocks.

The Beyerdynamic M 160 sounds absolutely phenomenal on acoustic guitar, electric guitar amplifier with high distortion, and as a drum overhead mic. Recordings produced by the M 160 will sound nearly as identical to the amplifiers in the room.

Most musicians would often combine a ribbon mic with a dynamic mic like the Shure SM57 when miking a guitar amp in order to get the warm vintage ribbon sound plus the clarity and treble boost from the dynamic mic. However, the M 160 gives the best of both worlds in just one microphone.

Since the M 160 is a passive mic, it is on the quiet end. You will need a good preamp with a high output impedance and even a Cloudlifter to boost the gain to an audible level. 

Design & Build

The Beyerdynamic M 160 certainly looks like the famous Shure SM58 dynamic microphone. 

However, just because the M160 looks almost like the Shure SM58 does not mean you should start belting into it because the delicate ribbon element might be blown from loud sounds and plosives.

It has an all-metal body, a robust metal grill that does not collapse easily when compressed, and weighing 156g, it is the lightest microphone on this list. 

Product Info

  • Polar pattern: Hypercardioid
  • Circuit Type: Passive double ribbon
  • Power requirements: N/A
  • Frequency Response: 40 Hz to 18,000 Hz
  • Sensitivity: -60 dBV/Pa (1 mV/Pa) @1kHz
  • Output Connection: XLR, 3-pin, male
  • Weight: 156g
  • Accessories: Mic clamp with 5/8 to 3/8 inch adapter, storage pouch


  • Warm and vintage ribbon sound, authoritative low ends
  • Smooth at high ends and able to capture details clearly
  • Good treble extension and smooth frequency response
  • Strong proximity effect
  • Sturdy and well-built
  • Made in Germany
  • Not as expensive as other ribbon mics but sound better
  • Very lightweight


  • Looks like a cheap karaoke mic (when it’s not)
  • Quiet passive mic. Needs additional gain from a good preamp

Beyerdynamic M 160

Beyerdynamic M 160

3. sE Electronics Voodoo VR2 – Best Ribbon Mic for capturing Upper Frequencies

Why would you want this ribbon mic?

You want a ribbon microphone with a vintage sound that can also capture high tones clearly, almost like condenser mics but not overly bright.

sE Electronics Voodoo VR2
Voodoo VR2 shock mount


The sE Electronics Voodoo VR2 is a witchy little microphone that’s sure to cast a spell on you. 

The Voodoo VR2 not only looks great but also sounds incredible. It is a microphone that Goldilocks would be proud of, not too dark, not too bright, but just right.

The best ribbon microphones don’t always have to be the most expensive. For $500, it’s a steal compared to other ribbon microphones that cost well above a thousand dollars.

Sound Quality

The Voodoo VR2 boasts a rare feat that few ribbon mics have – a smooth frequency response that includes impressive treble extension and is one of the best ribbon mics for capturing detailed sound at high-frequencies.

Most ribbon microphones tend to produce a muffled sound in the higher frequencies. The Voodoo VR2, however, offers a unique combination of the warm, vintage tone typical of a ribbon microphone, along with a subtle mid and high-frequency boost that provides a brighter sound like that of condenser microphones – without being overpowering. This is an excellent ribbon mic for brass instruments, drum overheads, cymbals, violins, electric guitars, or lead vocals.

The smoothness and clarity of the Voodoo VR2 allow captured recordings to sound incredibly natural, almost like the actual instruments and amps in the room without any EQ added to the mix.

Being an active ribbon mic, Voodoo VR2 requires +48V phantom power to work its magic. This gives it greater sensitivity than the older VR1 passive mic model and plenty of gain on tap; hence you don’t have to turn up the gain on your preamp to get a good sound level from this mic.  

Design & Build

The sleek and contemporary all-metal design of the Voodoo VR2 aligns with sE Electronics’ vision of pioneering a new era in ribbon microphone technology. 

The microphone feels sturdy and well-built, and it comes in a neat, vintage wooden box. It also comes with a neat-looking custom shock mount. The mic can be positioned at the center of the mount for added protection or flipped outside for ease of use under a snare or against a speaker grille cloth.

Product Info

  • Polar pattern: Figure-8
  • Circuit Type: Active ribbon
  • Power requirements: +48V phantom power
  • Frequency Response: 20 Hz to 18,000 Hz
  • Sensitivity: -37 dBV/Pa (14.1 mV/Pa) @1kHz
  • Max SPL: 135 dB (0.5% THD @ 1kHz)
  • Output Connection: XLR, 3-pin, male
  • Weight: 360g
  • Accessories: Wooden case, shock mount, dust cover, mic stand clip with 5/8 to 3/8 inch adapter


  • Warm vintage tone for lows and mid. Smooth and clear at trebles but not overly bright
  • Good treble extension, flat frequency response
  • Good output levels
  • Modern design
  • Value for money
  • Neat-looking custom shock mount


  • Nothing much to complain about

4. Sterling ST170 – Best Bang-for-Your-Buck Ribbon Mic

Why would you want this ribbon mic?

You don’t want to splurge but want the most value out of every dollar you are paying for a ribbon mic. And you also want a ribbon mic that is great for on-the-go kind of work.

Sterling ST170
Sterling ST170 with shock mount
Sterling ST170 accessories


Are you a semi-professional musician searching for a versatile and reliable ribbon microphone with a warm and vintage sound that will transport you back to the glory days of rock ‘n’ roll? Do you want a mic that is neither cheap nor expensive, but one that provides a bang for every buck you pay?

Look no further than the Sterling ST170, it is a steal at just $229. It’s the perfect combination of vintage warmth and modern reliability, all wrapped up in a package that won’t break the bank.

Sound Quality

The Sterling ST170 is a sleek and modern active ribbon mic that packs a punch. With a high output level from its phantom-powered active circuitry, this mic is ready to bring the noise. You don’t need an expensive preamp to get a good amount of gain from this mic.

If you’re always on the go and can’t bring your heavy mic preamp, you can pack your Sterling ST170 with a portable audio interface with built-in preamps like the Focusrite Scarlett 2i2.

The ST170 has a high-frequency roll-off that keeps the sound from getting too bright, but don’t worry – it’s not all dark and brooding. The low-end is rich and full, making it the perfect choice for capturing the thump of a kick drum or the resonance of an acoustic guitar, it delivers a smooth sound and captures the dynamics of a performance with ease.

When it comes to electric guitars, the Sterling ST170 can handle high SPLs with precision and clarity. The mic also has a pleasing bump in the low and mid ranges, allowing your electric guitar to sing like a Jedi wielding a lightsaber.

Design & Build

Speaking of Jedi, this mic looks like it was plucked straight from the hands of Luke Skywalker himself. Its sleek navy-blue all-metal construction and rugged aluminum carry case with a padded interior make it a force to be reckoned with, giving your microphone portability and protection on the go.

It also comes with a sturdy aluminum/zinc SM5 shock mount that reduces unwanted ambient noise and vibrations. It has the ideal size to fit wider “pencil-type” microphones and elastic bands to secure the mic in any position.

All of this quality and versatility are available for a mere $229. The ST170 is one of the best ribbon microphones in terms of value and a no-brainer for any musician or audio engineer in need of a reliable, all-purpose microphone.

Product Info

  • Polar pattern: Figure-8
  • Circuit Type: Active ribbon
  • Power requirements: +48V phantom power
  • Frequency Response: 20 Hz to 20,000 Hz
  • Sensitivity: -35.9 dBV/Pa (16 mV/Pa) @1kHz
  • Max SPL: 132 dB
  • Output Connection: XLR, 3-pin, male
  • Weight: 11.4oz (320g)
  • Accessories: Aluminum carry case, aluminum/zinc shock mount


  • Warm and rich tone for lows and mids
  • High output levels
  • Modern and sleek design
  • Sturdy and portable carry case
  • Best value for money


  • Loses some clarity in the upper frequencies

5. MXL R144 – Most Affordable Ribbon Mic

Why would you want this ribbon mic?

You want to get your hands and feet wet in the world of ribbon mics and want to get an affordable one to try out.

MXL R144
MXL R144 with shock mount
MXL R144 accessories


The MXL R144 is an incredibly budget-friendly passive mic. At just around $100, it’s the most affordable ribbon microphone on this list. It would be a choice if you want your first ribbon microphone since most ribbon mics are considerably expensive.

Despite the price, it can still deliver the warm and vintage ribbon sound you crave when recording guitar amps, drums, vocals, and other instruments.

Sound Quality

The MXL R144 has a rather colored frequency response curve, with a substantial bump in the low and higher frequencies. This gives the MXL R144 a very dark and warm tone as if it’s been heavily EQed, which is really tasteful for guitar distortions.

One downside to the R144 is its high-frequency roll-off, making it sound dull at higher frequencies, which is common for most ribbon mics. However, to compensate for this lack of clarity at the trebles, you can combine the MXL R144 with a Shure SM57 when miking a guitar amp to add brightness to the sound. This will produce a well-rounded sound with clearer details at the higher ends while giving the sound a dark, bassy feel. 

Also, being a passive mic, the MXL R144 has a pretty low output level which can be a problem if you need to capture distant or quiet sources. You would need a decent preamp or Cloudlifter to boost its gain to a decent line level for it to be heard audibly. 

Design & Build

The MXL R144 has an all-metal body and a stylish purple and chrome metal finish that gives it a classy look, similar to the Audio Technica AT2020. The microphone is sturdy and well-built, except for the grills, which do compress slightly when pressed against.

The MXL R144 comes with a microfiber cleaning cloth, which helps to keep the mic clean and dust-free, and a hard plastic case that provides a good level of protection when transporting or storing the mic. 

Unfortunately, the included shock mount feels like a cheap $10 piece found online, which is disappointing considering the MXL R144’s sensitivity to bumps and knocks.

In summary, the MXL R144 is an affordable passive ribbon mic that provides a warm and vintage sound, perfect for bringing out low-end and mid-range frequencies. While it might not be among the best ribbon mics, lacking some clarity and having a low output level, the MXL R144 can still be a great choice for those on a budget who want to get their first ribbon mic without breaking the bank.

Product Info

  • Polar pattern: Figure-8
  • Circuit Type: Passive ribbon
  • Power requirements: N/A
  • Frequency Response: 20 Hz to 17,000 Hz
  • Sensitivity: -56 dBV/Pa (1 mV/Pa) @1kHz
  • Max SPL: 130 dB
  • Output Connection: XLR, 3-pin, male
  • Weight: 0.85 lbs (400g)
  • Accessories: Hard plastic case, shock mount


  • Colored frequency response, making it sound EQed
  • Very warm, bassy sound
  • Very affordable price for a ribbon mic


  • Lacks clarity at higher frequencies
  • Low output levels

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Audio interface phantom power

Most ribbon microphones don’t typically require phantom power to operate, they are known as passive ribbon mics. In fact, applying phantom power to a passive ribbon mic can potentially damage or blow the delicate ribbon element.

However, some newer models, known as active ribbon microphones, require phantom power.

Phantom power is usually required for condenser microphones, including XLR shotgun mics. Dynamic mics do not require phantom power. A microphone does not need phantom power, even a condenser microphone, if powered by a USB interface or battery.

It’s always best to consult the manufacturer’s instructions before applying any kind of external power to a ribbon mic. If in doubt, it’s best to err on the side of caution and avoid using phantom power with your ribbon microphone.

Miking guitar amp

Yes, ribbon mics can handle high sound pressure levels (SPL) with ease, usually 130 dB and above, making them great for recording loud sources like drums and guitar amps.

However, it’s important to note that different ribbon microphones have different maximum SPL levels, so it’s best to check the specifications of the specific model you’re considering before using it with extremely loud sources.

Additionally, use a pop filter if you are using a ribbon mic for vocals as plosives can potentially damage the ribbon element.

Ribbon Microphone explanation

A ribbon microphone is a type of dynamic microphone that uses a thin corrugated aluminum ribbon, usually around 2.5 microns thick, as the transducer element. The ribbon is suspended between two magnet poles, and when sound waves hit the ribbon, it vibrates and sends an electrical current to an input device like a recorder or mixer.

Most ribbon mics have a figure-eight polar pattern and are known for their warm, natural sound. They are amazing for recording vocals, acoustic instruments, drum overheads, brass instruments, and electric guitar amps. Just imagine making a cover of your favorite songs with a sultry ribbon mic; your viewers will be absolutely blown away!

There are also other microphones great for vocals and instruments like condenser mics, dynamic mics, and tube mics.

Read our article to learn more about other different types of microphones!

Mic preamp

Yes, a ribbon mic, especially a passive ribbon mic, needs a preamp because its low output level requires additional amplification to bring the signal to a usable level.

Additionally, a high-quality preamp will help to preserve the natural and warm sound characteristics of the ribbon mic. Choosing a preamp with a suitable gain and high enough output impedance that matches the ribbon mic’s requirements is important to achieve the best sound quality.

However, an active ribbon mic is more flexible and can be paired with any preamp as long as there is +48V phantom power. Modern audio interfaces also have built-in preamps with phantom power, so you can plug your active ribbon mics into them.

Active ribbon mics have a higher output level than passive ribbon mics; hence they do not require as much gain.

Man tearing paper near mic

Yes, you can use ribbon mics for ASMR because of their warm, natural sound and good proximity effect. It will certainly send warm tingles down a listener’s spine.

However, getting a ribbon mic for ASMR is like getting a fancy sports car to drive around a small town with a slow speed limit. It would be better to use affordable mics for ASMR like dynamic microphones or condenser microphones.

Can a ribbon microphone be used for live streaming?

Yes, you can certainly use a ribbon microphone for live streaming, especially if you want your viewers to think you are streaming from an old radio station.

However, live streaming is not the best application for a ribbon microphone, it’s like using a golf club to play snooker. It would be best to use microphones meant for streaming like USB microphones.

Dynamic microphones are also a great choice for live streaming as they can isolate your voice and are very good at rejecting unwanted background noise.

Ribbon microphones are definitely a great choice for a home studio! They add warmth and richness to vocals, acoustic guitars, electric guitars, and drum kits.

Check out this article if you need useful tips on recording acoustic guitars.

However, they might not be the ideal first-choice microphone because they are expensive and delicate.

If you need more information on how to set up your home studio and the essential studio equipment required, check out our article on Home Studio Setup!

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  1. This is a great and well-researched article! I liked that you gave options for high-quality ribbon mics as well as more budget friendly options. Yea…I really love the sound of ribbon microphones but they’re just so dang expensive like that Royer mic! But I think the Sterling ST170 sounds like a really good value for money option that I might consider in the future!

    1. Really appreciate your kind words! True that ribbon mics are pretty expensives, many cost $500 and above, so I thought I’d share some more budget options that sound great too and the Sterling ST170 is definitely a great choice to get your feet wet on ribbon mics!

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