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Bil VornDick Discovers Crowley And Tripp Ribbon Microphones

Acoustic instrument recording authority Bil VornDick adds to impressive microphone locker (December 20, 2005)

Bil VornDick, the recording engineer and sonic architect behind many superb-sounding acoustic instrument-based releases, is one tough customer when it comes to microphones. His job regularly involves the recording of a performing musician or vocalist, who intimately knows the sound of his own instrument, rather than the sound of a subsequent sound-altering transducer such as an external amplifier and speaker cabinet. Because of this, matching high-quality, accurate, and aurally-pleasing microphones with complimentary microphone pre-amps can be a challenge, which many engineers don't face in such a unique manner.

"If you can make a musician happy, that's half the battle," insists VornDick. This philosophy has greatly influenced his choices in equipment, especially in the realm of microphones. VornDick's two front-end elements - and often the only two front-end elements you find on many VornDick recordings - are a great microphone and a great microphone pre-amp. Now, three of the latest creations by American microphone manufacturer Crowley and Tripp - the Studio Vocalist, Soundstage Image, and Proscenium ribbon transducers - have earned a spot in VornDick's impressive microphone locker. Matter of fact, they've rarely been in the locker at all.

"I saw them at the AES Convention in New York City, and they intrigued me," he recalls. "Any new mic intrigues me, but especially one that is built extremely well, where the sonic curves and frequency responses well match the instruments I record a lot."

After getting them back to his Nashville private recording facility, Mountainside Recording Studio, and inside his frequent Music City studio digs such as Quad, Ocean Way, and Masterlink, VornDick became hooked. "Their warmth impressed me," he explains. "They were nice, fat, and warm and sounded good on both acoustic instruments as well as amplified instruments. I've used them on vocals, saxophones, trombones, horns, as well as Marshall and Fender cabinets, and even overheads for drums. The Soundstage Image was used as a single overhead drum image on a psychedelic rock album I'm working on."

The quality of warmth, says VornDick, is something increasingly lacking in the world of modern microphone technology. This alone, he says, makes Crowley and Tripp ribbon microphones worth a try. "A lot of the microphones made overseas, not necessarily in Europe, but in China, are so bright and brittle," he says. "These were always warm and fat. I used them with my favorites - Neve 8068, API, Great River, and Focusrite mic pre-amps - with great results."

In turn, clients have noticed the sonic difference that recording via Crowley and Tripp can provide. "The microphones really shined on dobro," remembers VornDick. "The player I was working with has always been sold on another ribbon mic. I set one of these mics up in front of him and he was floored!"

Each Crowley and Tripp microphone is built in America and features a stainless steel body and a hearty construction. "It really seems like they're more concerned with the quality of what they're making," reasons VornDick. "The tooling is incredible, and they're definitely worth the price."

Of the three Crowley and Tripp microphones embraced by VornDick, the Studio Vocalist is the brightest and is tailored for vocal applications. Its frequency response exhibits the presence of a large diaphragm condenser with the smoothness of a ribbon. Similar to the Studio Vocalist but not as bright, the Soundstage Image is crafted to record sources without any added coloration to the signal, while the Proscenium provides users with a vintage-style ribbon sound with efficient performance and high output power.

VornDick's preference to capture performances without the use of equalization essentially requires the best in transducer and pre-amp technology. And according to him, this makes his trio of Crowley and Tripp microphones a perfect addition to his microphone collection. "If I EQ anything, I use a high-pass filter," he explains. "That's pretty much it. And depending on what key the song is in, if there's any overlapping in what I call 'resident dominant frequencies' between acoustic instruments, I'd rather duck frequencies than increase them. For this, the microphones I use are important, and the differences offered by each Crowley and Tripp microphone allow you to really be creative in their application."

Crowley and Tripp Microphones are now available directly from the manufacturer and through numerous pro audio dealers. For information about Crowley and Tripp's ten-day trial program, go to

Crowley and Tripp ribbon microphones are hand-built in the company's Ashland, Massachusetts USA laboratory by people who know the art and science of acoustics, and who have years of experience with high output, low noise instruments used in medical and professional audio applications. Models include the Studio Vocalist, Soundstage Image, Proscenium and SPLx Custom.

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Related Keywords:Crowley And Tripp, Ribbon Microphones, Bil VornDick, microphone, recording engineer, Studio Vocalist, Soundstage Image, Proscenium, Mountainside Recording Studio,


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