Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Ribbon Candy: The Royer Mic and Great Guitar Tone

Over the last decade, Royer Lab's R121 Velocity Ribbon microphone has changed the lives of guitar-recordists like me. I've always quested for great guitar tone, both live and in the studio. Even in the '80's people asked how I was getting my studio guitar sounds, and my secret weapon then was the Beyer M500 large ribbon. So, I had already discovered ribbons at a time when I literally knew of NO other engineer that was using them for electric guitar. For my lead solos I was using typically a Fender 1966 Super Reverb or a Mesa Boogie MKII through a 2 X 12 Fender Bassman cab (old cream colored one), with an M500 on each 12", through API 512B mic pre-amps, through Urei LA-3A compressors direct to tape. This was usually with my '61 Strat, so as you can imagine, the tone was pretty freakin' good.

The problem with ribbons is they can't handle loud levels, so of course, I ended up blowing out the ribbons in the Beyers. Then in 1998, along comes David Royer with the R121 mic, and bang! A ribbon mic that can handle high SPL. I bought one immediately. Mine is from the first 150 ever made, and I still have it. Changed my life and everyone else's because by then people had started talking about using ribbons for guitar. Producer Steve Albini, who was working with the biggest bands in alternative and Grunge was a vocal proponent of ribbons. The Beyer M160 and the Coles 4038 (both of which I had) were old designs that were getting popular again. The Royer gave me a tone that was dark, velvety and downright chocolatey. I got a Bogner Shiva amp in Y2K that was already really "brown" sounding, so that coupled with the Royer was as thick and syrupy as it gets! I had also started a resurgent love-affair with Gibson guitars, and was revelling in the fat humbucker tone that I had loved as a kid. Woman-tone ala early Clapton, Peter Green, The Allmans and Santana. Oh and lest I forget Billy Gibbons of ZZ Top, was my Numero Uno Guitar-God (or should I say Diablo?) when I was a kid. Needless to say, my guitar tones of the past half-decade, using a couple different LPs and a screamin' SG have been, um, high-calorie. Greasy. Buttery. Cream-filled. Gumbo-esque.

I'm getting hungry...

Here's a taste: Listen to the song "She's The Devil" which, as I recall, is mostly my SG Standard through either my Bogner or my Top Hat Emplexador. Pretty sure it's the Bogner with it's own 12 double-mic'd. Mics are Royer R121 and Shure SM7 (that's right, SM7, not 57) pres are API 512C (hey, don't fix what ain't broke!) and there was no compression while printing. I'm especially fond of the dual harmony lead guitar solos. Notice how both main guitars go to lead, leaving just the rolling bass and drums beneath (no extra rhythm gtr).

The Wonderful 121

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It's All About The Tone, Baby!