David MacLaughlin, executive director of audio, for the New England School of Communications discovers the warmth and deep tone of the Crowley and Tripp Studio Vocalist ribbon microphone.
NESCOM provides its students with access to over 150 microphones, everything from “the sublime to the ridiculous,” in the words of Executive Director of Audio David MacLaughlin. On the sublime side, two Crowley and Tripp ribbon microphones were recently added to the microphone collection, and students are learning that the warmth and texture they impart to otherwise sterile digital recordings is one of the secrets to recreating the classic sounds they so admire.
MacLaughlin and his colleagues first encountered Crowley and Tripp ribbons at an AES show. He recalled, “We visited the Crowley and Tripp booth, and, as hard as it was to really hear something in that environment, we were very impressed by the sound of their ribbon microphones. But beyond that, the individuals who run that company impressed us. They took the time to explain everything intelligently and without hype. They explained how the mics were designed, how they were built, what they would do, and - to their credit - what they wouldn’t do.” Pleased with the interaction, NESCOM purchased a Crowley and Tripp Studio Vocalist ribbon microphone.
How do audio engineering students benefit from having access to such a high-end contemporary ribbon microphone? MacLaughlin explained, “One of the downsides of our current digital technology is that it tends to be very bright. There’s something to be said about the warmth and deep tone of a ribbon mic that you just can’t get with anything else. In many ways, they translate to digital formats more favorably than condensers, whose bright, crisp sound tends to enhance digital edginess.
“What students learn with the Crowley and Tripp is how to get that really warm textured sound that they hear on classic recordings,” he continued. “When the students first hear it, they say, ‘Oh, that’s how it’s done!’ It’s interesting to see that realization after they’ve dogmatically put up the same microphone they always put up for vocals.” The Crowley and Tripp Studio Vocalist has since become a favorite for vocals, especially when paired with a tube preamp like a Tube Tech or a Manley.
Already hooked on the Crowley and Tripp sound and attracted to its unreasonably affordable price, NESCOM purchased a Naked Eye when it became available. Students have since used the Naked Eye on guitar, vocals, horns and drums, taking advantage of its “bright side/dark side” topology to capture the right timbre for a track without resorting to EQ. MacLaughlin also pointed out an often overlooked selling point of the Crowley and Tripp ribbons, “They’re very well built, durable, and classy looking. When people come into the studio there’s a certain image that they expect to see. Crowley and Tripps live up to that image. They see a Crowley and Tripp and say, ‘oooh.’ Instantly, even before they know what it sounds like, they’re impressed by it.”
MacLaughlin and his colleagues continually prod their students to try new things and break the “knee-jerk” habits they might otherwise fall into. “The students have their favorite mics,” MacLaughlin laughed, “and they’re used to the way they sound. When we put a Studio Vocalist up against, say, a Neumann U 87, they instantly hear the difference. They get it. Not to say a U 87 is a bad mic - it’s fabulous - but there’s an obvious difference that will make the Studio Vocalist better in some situations and the U 87 better in other situations.”
Crowley and Tripp ribbon microphones are made in USA by hand, using American parts, at the company’s Ashland, Massachusetts laboratory. They are built 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 Studio Vocalist, Soundstage Image, Proscenium, Naked Eye, Recordist Ensemble Stereo Kit, el Diablo with Roswellite, and SPLx Custom.