Wednesday, January 12, 2022

REVIEW sE X1R RIBBON MICROPHONE

 

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I’ve owned a dozen ribbon microphones over the last 20 years and I never really cared for any of them. Even the famed Royer 121 sounded dark to me (and yes I tried both sides, even the bright side sounded dark and uneven). In my last Reverb sales event I sold off all my ribbon mic’s and pretty much gave up on the genre.

I was reviewing microphone frequency response curves last month and I accidentally came across the SE X1R. Here is a microphone with extremely smooth and flat high-frequency response out to 16kHz before significant roll off occurs. On paper this looks great for electric guitar amplifier applications. I immediately ordered one which arrived four days later. 


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When you unbox this microphone and feel the weight you’ll know you’ve got something special in your hand, it feels solid and the workmanship is beautiful. A standard 3-pin XLR connects the X1R output to your preamp input. This is a passive ribbon microphone and like all ribbon mics it has relatively low-output level which means you’ll need a high quality microphone preamplifier with 60 dB or more of gain available to capture good tone. 


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Initially I used the X1R with a Soundcraft GB-4 microphone preamp. The total mic cable length used in the connection was 55 feet and the source was a Marshall 4x12 loaded with Celestion speakers in the amp room. The console preamps had plenty of gain to comfortably elevate the output from the X1R to -3 dB Full-Scale-Digital when recording in Apple Logic. Overall noise was very minimal with the guitar amp turned off, when I turned ON the guitar amp the noise floor was all amplifier, not noise from the ribbon mic. So far the X1R was very impressive.


My test amplifiers were the Mesa Mini Rectifier, EVH 5150 III EL34 and the Marshall DSL-1HR. Test guitars included the Fender American Standard Stratocaster, a Line6 Variax Standard and a Gibson Les Paul Special outfitted with full size Seymour Duncan humbucking pickups. All of these guitars sound wonderful in person through the Marshall speaker cabinets. The sound picked up by the sE X1R did not disappoint, as I brought up the gain I got a big smile on my face. This is the moment most ribbon mics sound very dull to me but not the sE X1R. I had to go check to be sure the door to the iso-room was closed because it sounded so natural over the control room monitors.  


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I have a couple dozen LDC microphones and I love using certain models on guitar amps. The best compliment I could pay to the X1R is, it sounds like a condenser mic but with a more natural character. No high frequency roll-off here, this mic sounds absolutely bright compared to other ribbon mics I’ve used and I don’t mean that in a bad way at all. 


The X1R sounds natural and realistic which is what I want for picking up my recorded guitar sound. I work hard to create crunchy distorted guitar tones and all I want is for the microphone to pick it up in a good way and convey that to my DAW recorder. The X1R does not disappoint, it is smooth sounding with excellent 3D character and conveys realistically what it is like standing in front of one of my Marshall stacks.


I have two complete stacks of Marshall 4x12 cabinets and often record in stereo so I really had no other choice but to order a second sE X1R microphone for full stereo situations. I now have two of these amazing budget ribbon microphones. The second X1R I received (two weeks after the first one) is a perfect match sonically which tells me their quality control is excellent.


Unlike some other manufacturers who buy products with their name on them for resale, sE actually makes the products they sell. They make the capsules and everything else on the microphone. As I mentioned earlier the workmanship is excellent and the finish on each microphone is flawless. 


The X1R opens up and sounds even more amazing with a “Cloudlifter™” style inline booster preamp but that is another story.


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EPILOGUE

As you might be able to tell, I’m crazy about the sE X1R ribbon microphone. It’s got it all, tone, beautiful construction and an amazing price. If $280 is too rich for you then you better start saving your money because there is nothing that comes close tonewise for anywhere near this price.


My success with the X1R led me to the model 2200 condenser by sE which I ordered based on reviews of the 2200 and my experience with the X1R. I’ll be doing my own review after I get some hours of experience with the 2200.


Grab yourself an X1R and start recording some great guitar amp sounds.


Good Music to You!


©JAN, 2022 by Mark King, all rights reserved, it’s not ok to copy or quote without written permsission. Thanks for reading High on Technology.


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SPECIFICATIONS, sE ELECTRONICS, X1R RIBBON MICROPHONE


MICROPHONE MODEL: X1R

MICROPHONE TYPE: Ribbon

POLAR PATTERN: Figure-8

FREQUENCY RESPONSE: 20-16kHz

MAXIMUM SOUND PRESSURE: 135 dB

OUTPUT IMPEDANCE: 200 Ω

OUTPUT CONNECTOR: XLR 3-pin

WEIGHT: 1.1 pounds

sE PART NUMBER: X1-R-U