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Royer Labs first came on the scene in 1998 with the R-121 passive ribbon mic. At the time, there were few manufacturers still making ribbons, and vintage models were fragile and bulky. Royer’s mic was a game-changer; with the ability to combine the warm, natural tone of vintage ribbons with better durability and a higher output, it quickly became a standard. Today, you can find them in countless studios around the world, from Abbey Road to Blackbird. The R-121 ushered in a revival of the ribbon microphone, and to many it represents the pinnacle of the genre. The new Royer R-101 ($799.99 street) provides an option for studios with tighter budgets to purchase a high-end ribbon mic that has similar specs without sacrificing quality or performance.

The R-101 incorporates many of the same features that made the flagship R-121 so innovative. A mono passive ribbon mic with a figure-8 polar pattern, it promises to have the same warm, natural tone that made it’s predecessor such a popular choice for electric guitars, horns and brass. Royer’s patented offset-ribbon transducer places the ribbon element closer to the front of the mic’s body, allowing for full frequency response even at high SPL’s (max. 135dB), and resulting in a brighter response from the rear of the mic when used within 3 feet of the source. Since the R101 is part of  the new breed of ribbons, it will also have a higher output, similar to a dynamic mic like an SM57. Finally, with an internally shock mounted transducer, it also displays less proximity effect so you can close-mic your instruments without excessive bass buildup.

While it’s not cheap, the R-101 is reasonably priced for ribbon mics of its class and pedigree (not to mention it includes a shock mount and hard carrying case). With a high max SPL level that allows you to close-mic guitar cabinets as well as record drums and percussion – and a frequency response and tone comparable to the R-121 – Royer is likely to have produced another very popular microphone. The company also has an interesting collection of mixes by accomplished engineers featuring Royer mics here.  –Mike Bauer