Crowley and Tripp ribbon microphones wow NESCom students

Although the New England School of Communications (NESCom) offers degrees in video production, multimedia, journalism and photography, audio engineering is its largest program. The audio department at the four-year college in Bangor, ME, boasts six control rooms stocked with real-world gear. Students use the studios through a sequence of 12 classes, culminating in a senior project involving a full-blown album recording project.

NESCom provides its students with access to more than 150 microphones, everything from "the sublime to the ridiculous," in the words of David MacLaughlin, the school’s executive director of audio. After encountering Crowley and Tripp at an AES show, two of the company’s ribbon microphones were recently added to the school’s inventory.

"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,” MacLaughlin said.

"What students learn with the Crowley and Tripp is how to get that really warm textured sound that they hear on classic recordings," he said. "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.

NESCom also purchased a Naked Eye model. Students have used it 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 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 said, "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."

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