Recording - September 2015 - 28

B Y PA U L V N U K J R .

In 1998, the then-new Royer Labs produced a microphone that reawakened the
recording world to the sonic virtues found
in ribbon microphones. This, of course, was
the Royer R-121, and if you do any guitar
amp recording at all, you have probably
heard of it or have hopefully used one. In
2015, the R-121 has become as ubiquitous
as the Shure SM57 when it comes to capturing great guitar amp tone.
As legend has it, David Royer created the
R-121 after hearing and becoming
obsessed with the sound of Bob Speiden's
1980s ribbon mic designs (of which only
about 120 were made). David tweaked
and tinkered in his garage in Fullerton, CA,
until he was happy with his new design,
and the R-121 was born. The R-121 borrows heavily in look and design from
1955's BeoMic BM3 mic from Bang &
Olufsen, down to its characteristic "ears".
David also decided to resurrect and
update Bob Speiden's original designs.
Nowadays, Royer Labs offers two distinct
ribbon lines: David Royer's R Series, which
is a bit more mid-weighted and modern,
and the Speiden-inspired / Royer-designed
SF Series, some of the most transparent and
natural-sounding ribbon mics on the market.
R we ready for a history lesson?
Like most classic ribbon mics, the R-121
is a passive microphone with a figure-8 or
bi-directional (front/back) polar pattern.
Internally its transducer, called a motor,
makes use of a corrugated, offset design
(patented by Royer) with a 2.5-micron aluminum ribbon that is 0.1875" x 1.75" long
and is suspended between two rare earth

in October of 2007. Most recently for the R
series, in December 2010 I took the R-101,
an entry-level mic with its own sonic signature, out for a spin. Now it's time to look at
the R-122 MKII.
Unlike many updates and revisions where
a company tries to make a mic "better" (and
doesn't always succeed!), everything that
made the R-122 sound great remains the
same. Along with the pair of R-122 MKII
mics I was sent, Royer also provided an original R-122 for comparison, and I can verify
that the two designs are identical in sound.
So what's new in MKII?
The new model now offers two new
features: a -15 dB pad and a low cut
(highpass) filter, accessed by a pair of
rear-mounted, recessed switches. From
the front, the R-122 MKII looks identical to
the original, aside from the new MKII designation etched into the body.
The R-122 MKII starts with the same offset 2.5-micron aluminum ribbon assembly
mentioned above. Offset refers to the fact
that the ribbon is slightly closer to the front
grille of the mic than the back. Since the
mic is bidirectional, you can use either side
to pick up sound. Offsetting the ribbon
imposes distance and gives the rear lobe a
touch less proximity effect (the bass buildup
as you move closer to a mic's capsule) and
makes the rear side seem a touch brighter.
This offset design also gives the element
more room to move. By giving it some
extra space, it is able to withstand higher
SPL; that's a primary reason for the microphone's success on guitar cabinets,
among other things!

Royer R-122 MKII Active Ribbon Microphone
A modern classic becomes even more useful, if such a thing is possible
Neodymium magnets. In fact, the "ears" on
the sides of an R Series mic are the outside
edges of the large motor frame that contains the magnets. The motor assembly
slides into the low-carbon steel body, giving
the mic its slightly Cyberman appearance.
We reviewed the original R-121 shortly
after its release, in 1999. In 2002 the line
evolved to include the R-122, the groundbreaking phantom powered ribbon design
that's spawned dozens of imitators on the
market. Next came a tube-amplified variation, dubbed the R-122V, that we looked at
28

RECORDING September 2015

Like the original, the R-122 MKII measures 8.11" long and 2" in diameter. It is
available in either a nickel or black finish,
and comes in one of Royer's classic
wooden boxes with a felt sleeve that you
should put on the mic if you intend to
leave it out after a session. This protects
the mic against blasts and puffs of air-
every ribbon's greatest enemy. The mic
includes a standard mic mount; Royer
also offers the RSM-SS1 Sling-Shock,
reviewed in our December 2013 Gift
Guide, for an additional $275.

Specs and performance
The R-122 MKII has a stated frequency
response of 30 Hz-15 kHz, a maximum
SPL of 135 dB, a self noise of less than
18 dBA, and an output impedance of
200 ohms.
Looking at its frequency graph, there is a
slight low-end rise around 60 Hz followed
by a gently scooped (1 to 1.5 dB) mid section from 80 Hz to 1300 Hz. Its upper mids
are gently forward around 1.5 to 2 kHz,
and it is otherwise flat and smooth, rolling
off around 12 kHz, 3 dB down at 16 kHz.



Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Recording - September 2015

Contents
Recording - September 2015 - Intro
Recording - September 2015 - Cover1
Recording - September 2015 - Cover2
Recording - September 2015 - 1
Recording - September 2015 - 2
Recording - September 2015 - 3
Recording - September 2015 - 4
Recording - September 2015 - 5
Recording - September 2015 - Contents
Recording - September 2015 - 7
Recording - September 2015 - 8
Recording - September 2015 - 9
Recording - September 2015 - 10
Recording - September 2015 - 11
Recording - September 2015 - 12
Recording - September 2015 - 13
Recording - September 2015 - 14
Recording - September 2015 - 15
Recording - September 2015 - 16
Recording - September 2015 - 17
Recording - September 2015 - 18
Recording - September 2015 - 19
Recording - September 2015 - 20
Recording - September 2015 - 21
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Recording - September 2015 - 25
Recording - September 2015 - 26
Recording - September 2015 - 27
Recording - September 2015 - 28
Recording - September 2015 - 29
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Recording - September 2015 - Cover3
Recording - September 2015 - Cover4
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