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Ribbon Microphone

Passive Ribbon Microphone That can handle a wide range of sources including Japanese instruments


By Takayoshi Yamauchi "Dr." (gogomix@)

DIRECT SOUND, based in Missouri, is a manufacturer that has been in business for over 20 years and manufactures high-quality studio headphones using a unique technology called "passive noise isolation." This time we would like to introduce the DS-R5, a ribbon microphone from the newly established brand "DIREXOUND", which DIRECT SOUND aims to expand into the global market. So, let's check it out in the studio.

Suspension with anti-vibration function Semi-hard case for easy carrying

Microphone in the suspension
DS-R5 Dynamic Ribbon Mic with Shock Mount

The DS-R5 has a convenient size of 160mm in length and 25mm in diameter and weighs 215g. It has a very elegant design with a bright champagne silver exterior. The manufacturer's logo, a red circle, is proudly printed on the microphone itself, showing the confidence of the new brand. The diaphragm uses high-purity aluminum foil with a length of 62 mm and a thickness of 0.002 mm and is said to have high transient characteristics. The directivity is figure-directional, and the frequency response is relatively wide for a ribbon microphone, 20Hz to 18kHz. The sensitivity is -52dB (0dB=1V/Pa) @1kHz, the SN ratio is 77dB, and the maximum input SPL is 148dB. It also comes with a suspension with an anti-vibration function that firmly holds the DS-R5.

This is a strong clip type, so you can hold it securely without worrying about it tipping over. Therefore, a certain amount of grip strength is required when fixing. A durable resin semi-hard case (with zipper closure) that can store these items is also included. With this, there seems to be less damage to the microphone even in difficult situations such as moving around the studio every day.

close up of the shock mount
Suspension Shock Mount

Let's listen to the sound right away. The mic preamp used in conjunction with this is the KZ-902U, a prototype version of the Over Quality series made by Sound In Studio, which has an ultra-flat frequency response with no coloration in the sound.

First, the electric guitar. It has a really powerful sound with a strong midrange and fits well in an orchestra. Even when applying distortion, you won't feel any unnecessary low-frequency components. Clean cuts and solos are very smooth and comfortable. The mid-high range, which is stimulating to the ears, is rolled off naturally and the sound comes to the front, making it a really easy-to-handle sound.

Next is the acoustic piano. It's very smooth from high to low range, and no particular sound range jumps out. There are some parts that feel a little crispy, but the overall overtones are picked up fairly well. I felt it was perfect for recording pianos with light backing.

Next, we were able to record a really bright sound with the trumpet/trombone. The start of the sound is natural and the response is good throughout the range. Even the strong, crunchy sound of a trombone does not sound distorted. When playing with mute, there was no muffled sound, and the low-frequency resonance was clearly captured.

Next is the strings in a 4-4-2-2 formation. I set it up at a height of about 3.5m above the conductor's head and tried it with the off-mic. I get the impression that the overall balance is very good and the sound can be picked up very well. Even when played in the high range of the 1st violin, it does not jump out, and the low range of the cello is also well suppressed. I was able to record each instrument with the impression that they were neatly organized. Fortunately, the bidirectional nature allows the rich sound that diffuses into the studio from the back to come naturally. I definitely wanted to try using it as a stereo pair.

Naturally eliminates the harsh attack feel of the shamisen/biwa, allowing you to express the “tasty parts” of various instruments


Passive or Dynamic mic do not require external power
Dynamic Ribbon Microphone

Furthermore, we tested it with Tsugaru Shamisen and Biwa. It requires a great deal of know-how to record the delicate nuances of these instruments, which have a powerful attack and a small lingering sound, but this was a masterpiece! Thanks to its excellent response, it not only collects the sound of the moment the drumstick hits the string but also accurately captures the lingering sound. The Tsugaru shamisen's unique ``tataki'' and ``suri'' also have a good balance. When played in an orchestra, the Tsugaru shamisen tends to have a lot of attack, but the sound recorded with the DS-R5 expressed the characteristics of the instrument very well while eliminating the harsh attack. This was the same with the biwa, and I was able to record it with the same impression as I heard it. In the future, it will definitely be my first choice for recordings of shamisen, biwa, koto, etc. I also tried it with a shakuhachi/shinobue, and the high frequencies that are stimulating to the ears were spoiled just enough, making it easy to listen to and record.

Banish the hissing and lisping with pop filter
PF-1 Pop Filter

Finally, we tested it with a female vocalist. Although her vocal range was wide and her voice was quite loud, I was able to capture the sound very smoothly. As with the piano, it has a slightly crisp impression, but the thickness can be complemented by the combined mic preamp. Although it cannot be denied that she lacks the ability to express the overtones of her voice, her responsiveness stands out, and each word comes out clearly. Since it is a ribbon mic, you have to be careful about blowing, but the pop filter PF-1 (6,780 yen) is available as an option, which can prevent pop noise quite effectively. This was compact and really easy to use. They are inexpensive, so if you are planning to use them for vocals, we recommend purchasing them at the same time.

I tested it with a variety of other instruments, but the one thing I can say in common is that each instrument's ``delicious parts'' can be clearly expressed, and the sound can be recorded in a way that makes it easy to find a position within the orchestra. What surprised me was the price of 118,000 yen. Considering the online price in the home country is $819.00, I think the Japanese distributor is doing a pretty good job. For reference, the ribbon mic I use is exactly twice the price. I think the DS-R5, which has a design, ease of use, and specs that exceed its price, is the perfect microphone for beginners to ribbon microphones to pick up for the first time. Additionally, as Japanese musical instruments such as the shamisen and koto are becoming more common these days, this microphone is recommended for those who have the opportunity to record such instruments.

Gold Case with handle and fitted slots to safely  carry the microphone
Functional Carry Case


  • Format: Ribbon

  • Sensitivity: -52db (0db=1V/Pa@1kHz)

  • Directivity: Bidirectional

  • Frequency response: 20Hz to 18kHz

  • Output impedance: 350Ω

  • Maximum SPL: 148dB ▪External dimensions: 25 (φ) × 160 (H) mm (actual value)

  • Weight: 215g (actual value)

Review & text: Takayoshi "Dr." Yamauchi (gogomix@) Photography: Yoichi Kawamura (main image and attached suspension)

Takayoshi Yamauchi "Dr." (gogomix@)

[Profile] Veteran engineer who has worked with Mariya Takeuchi, Masayuki Suzuki, Tomoyasu Hotei, Masaharu Fukuyama, the Yoshida Brothers, Zainichi funk, Ai Furihata, etc. The “city pop” that has become popular in recent years is the sound that they are best at.


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