Review: sE Electronics RNR1 Rupert Neve Ribbon Microphone

Finally, a ribbon microphone with a frequency response that extends to an unprecedented 20 kHz. But is that extra range all you get for your money? Matt Loel T Hepworth finds out.  
When I was writing a tutorial about ribbon microphones , I had hoped to include the sE Electronics RNR1. sE did send their 1XR and Voodoo VR1 mics, but the RNR1 (Rupert Neve Ribbon 1) came a little too late to include in the tutorial. (Demand is high and inventory can get sparse.) Now that I've had some time to record with and listen to the RNR1, it deserves of a full review of its own.

Home, Home on the Range

Ribbon microphones'"for all their gifts'"have always had one shortcoming: frequency range. Granted, whether or not it's a shortcoming really depends on the listener, for producing a truly natural sonic response is what ribbon mics have always done best. For many recordings, you just don't need to reach all the way to 20 kHz. For example, the sE Voodoo VR1 and Audio-Technica AT4080 both have 20 Hz'"18 kHz high frequency response and are both exceptional sounding mics. But while both sound wonderfully natural, that diminished high end'"especially for people who have traditionally recorded with condenser microphones'"can be a little startling.

Enter Rupert Neve: A legend in the audio industry whose name is synonymous with high-quality sound. Mr. Neve partnered with sE to create a ribbon microphone that could reach all the way to 20 kHz and beyond. By combining Neve's custom electronics with an sE 2.5-micron ribbon, the partnership of these two companies has produced the RNR1: the first ribbon mic with 20 Hz'"25 kHz frequency range. But high fidelity alone does not a great sounding transducer make, so let's explore this unique microphone more thoroughly.

First Glance

The RNR1 ships in two cases: a flight case and a hardwood microphone case (the latter fits in the former), and comes with an exotic-looking shock mount. The mic screws into the mount, so there's no mounting angle the RNR1 can't oblige. The microphone itself is an exquisite design with crisp edges and bold cosmetics emboldened with the signatures of the men who designed it. (Siwei Zou of sE Electronics and Rupert Neve.) It kind of resembles an oversized clarinet mouthpiece, each side shielded by a tight metal mesh that protects the figure-of-8 element.

The sE RNR1 with included shock mount.

The sE RNR1 with included shock mount.

When I first inspected the RNR1, I noticed that whoever had it before me had grasped the mic around the mesh too hard and it left a noticeable dent in the center. That's something to keep in mind when you're positioning this microphone in front of the source, for care should be taken not to damage the screen. That's not to say that the RNR1 screens are delicate, but like most microphones (especially ribbons), one should not handle them roughly. (If the performer you're recording is nearby, you may want to instruct him or her that you will be the only one positioning the mic.)
The RNR1 case within a case.

The RNR1 case within a case.

Staying Active

Since the RNR1 is an active ribbon microphone, you'll need to supply it with +48V phantom power. While neither the enclosed literature nor information on the website makes mention of the minimum phantom power voltage, I would presume that the caliber of the electronics in this microphone will demand higher voltage for optimal sonic results. With that in mind, you may want to determine how much phantom power your microphone preamp is able to supply. And if you find that it's lower than 48V, you may want to invest in an external phantom power supply with a more robust voltage.

How It Sounds

Because ribbon mics sound so remarkably natural, many recording engineers (myself included) occasionally add a condenser or dynamic microphone in conjunction with a ribbon to capture the entire high frequency range. Sometimes I'll use that technique simply to appease a performer who's used to the '

Matthew Loel T. Hepworth

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MATTHEW LOEL T. HEPWORTH has been teaching music technology since 1984. The son of educators, he has the ability to thoughtfully instruct people to get the most from complicated music products and software. He authors the Cubase and WaveLab tutorials for and authored several books including WaveLab 7 Power!, The Power i... Read More


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