Ribbon microphones continue to be popular in the studio because of their smooth response in the highs and lows, offering what we generally think of as a warm sound. Inaddition, however, they typically come with a premium price tag. With the RSM-2 ribbon microphone ($249.95), Nady has changed that.
The RSM-2 resembles the classic RCA 77A ribbon mic, with a flat-bottomed tube and grill-covered, pill-shaped top (available in a platinum or gold finish), which is held by an integrated yokemount. Inside is housed a 2-inch-long, 2-micron-thick aluminum ribbon. The mic has an attached 9-foot XLR cable, which can be a bit short for some applications. (Personally, I don't like fixed cables, because they're difficult to change out if they get damaged.) The yokemount appears strong, but the cable length from the clip on the mount to the mic itself is short, so that to keep the mic upright — as a ribbon mic must be kept — the stand must hold it at a greater-than 70-degree angle.
Like all ribbon mics, the RSM-2 has a figure-8 polar pattern, which makes it good for capturing room ambience and useful in a Blumlein stereo setup, in which two figure-8 mics are placed at a 90-degree angle. The pair of mics I tested, however, while two serial numbers different, were wired out of phase with one another, even though they both passed Nady's quality control.
Ribbon to Ribbon
I compared the RSM-2 to its Royer and AEA counterparts (which cost three to ten times more), and the results were generally good. But the results were spectacular when I recorded my Gretsch electric guitar running through a Fender Princeton amp. The mic yielded a full, beautiful response across all of the amp's tone settings, and the highs sounded clear without poking out or pinching.
The figure-8 pattern captures the sound of the room behind it, including string noise if you're playing in the same space. Mic placement is critical with the RSM-2: put it too close to your subject, and you'll get bass overloads.
In a side-by-side comparison with an AEA R84, the RSM-2's response was slightly curtailed at both ends, sounding a bit midrangey and slightly less expansive, though with similar output levels. Strangely, the RSM-2 that was wired out of phase sounded slightly brighter than its mate.
The RSM-2 is very useful for vocals. Because its response is even and warm, it works better in quieter contexts than loud rock mixes, unless you plan to use it in conjunction with another mic, such as a condenser (the condenser's upper midrange could add the bite needed for a louder mix). For a song that demands the exhibition of vocal beauty, the sound of the RSM-2 can be perfect.
The RSM-2's frequency response works well when recording instrumental backing tracks, such as brass and strings. It captures the tone of acoustic instruments well, without expressing too much of the high frequency attacks of the lip or bow.
Using an FMR Audio Really Nice Preamp, I set up the mics about ten feet in front of the stage in the Blumlein pattern, to record a live performance of improvising acoustic musicians. The sound was clear and full, with a wide image and nearly perfect stereo placement. The coincident figure-8 patterns also added a beautiful ambience to the recording, placing the subjects within their environment but not overwhelming them by it.
The biggest problem with the RSM-2 in this setup is that when there was significant bass production in the environment, it easily overloaded the preamps on my portable DAT recorder, despite metered -12 dB levels. In a more controlled environment, the mics would yield great results for live, acoustic ensemble recording. If you intend to do stereo recording with a pair of RSM-2 mics, be sure to check out how well the pair is matched before you buy.
Blue Ribbon Performance
Overall, the Nady RSM-2 ribbon microphone would make a great addition to any mic collection. And at around $500 a pair, they are a great investment that will diversify your studio's sound palette.
Overall Rating (1 through 5): 3.5