Sterling Audio ST170 Active Ribbon Microphone Review: Something New Of Something Old
Ribbon mics were the most essential audio gear in the early 50s to the late 80s. The sound they produce has been considered the standard or norm way back, but now it’s associated with vintage tone. In today’s post, I’ll review the ST170, an active ribbon microphone from Sterling Audio.
Despite being invented in the 1920s, it’s still one of the most favored types of microphones out there. Having one won’t change your singing career, and it won’t make you a professional. However, I guarantee that you’ll enjoy singing if you have one.
The ST170 is a modern built ribbon mic with the flair and tone of a vintage one. It’s handy to have if you like to cover the Beatles and other performers and bands during the black and white television era. If you record songs and want an unusually mellow and warm coloration of your voice, this mic delivers that without the need to do extensive EQ-ing.
In addition to its performance, it looks rad and gives off a classic and luxurious vibe.
Things I Particularly Want to Emphasize About This Product
Despite being modernly built, it still provides a distinctive vintage tone of old ribbon mics (click this link if you want to know more about this type of microphone). I might have said that line a few times over, but it’s the main reason people buy it. There are things a ribbon mic offers that a condenser and a regular dynamic can’t.
Unlike other ribbon mics, this one is forgiving. You will get a consistent quality sound, and it won’t pick up reflected audio waves easily. Don’t worry about room acoustics with this, but I’d still recommend treating it, though with a foam panel, which could help when it comes to acoustic treatment.
On the other hand, its effect on your voice is predictable, unlike some dynamics and condensers that pick up a lot of echoes and even noise. It keeps treble well and makes low end pristine. This is all thanks to its full and compact frequency response.
This will reproduce your voice like how you actually hear yourself. Because of this characteristic, it works great as a guitar and drums monitor, albeit an expensive way with that purpose in mind. You might want to consider covering some songs together with a guitar.
Some Technical Aspects I Expected From This Product
It handles loud audio signals as well because it has a high SPL. For instance, your voice won’t easily distort or clip even if it’s already high and loud. You might have already experienced that by recording using your old phone. Your voice will rarely become muffled even if you intentionally shout on it.
It also has low output and low load impedance, and because of that, it will work with most preamps and amps. You won’t have problems using long audio cables with it since it won’t pick external noise or signals (e.g., AM radio signals). You plug it in, and you’re all set for some karaoke songs!
And speaking of karaoke, I’m sure that you’ve been in a sing-a-long bar at least once. They often use high-impedance microphones since they are cheaper. Unlike the ST170, those will make you sound like you’re using a megaphone. You would rather have an acoustically treated room, this mic, and a karaoke machine of your own!
The Usual Concerns
The core disadvantage of ribbon mics, whether vintage or modern, is that they are fragile to handle. The material or ribbon that makes it able to pick up sound is a thin membrane suspended in magnets. The membrane is more delicate than your hair, and a rumbling, shaking, and loud noise can even snap it. Modern mics like this are more resilient, but they are still prone to breakage. It’s advisable to only use it inside a studio or room and leave it in one place.
Like condensers, it requires phantom power, which can be provided by a preamp or a direct box. You need any of those two before you can plug it in a computer or regular speakers. Not really a disadvantage, though.
Reminders for Those Who Are New to Ribbon Mics
If it’s your first time singing on a ribbon mic, it will take a while to get used to it. A ribbon mic can capture sound differently depending on the sound source’s distance.
The way it picks up the voice depends on how close your mouth is to the mic. Also, it is bidirectional. It picks up sounds from the front and back. To get a clear recording or audio, make sure that the mic’s back or other side has some sort of noise absorption panel for it not to pick up reflected voice.
And The Conclusion Ladies and Gents!
I’ll tell you straight that this product isn’t crucial to become a professional singer, but it’s a must-have if you plan to sing ballads, jazz, and old pop songs. It lets you have a clear and crisp, dark and thick tone even if you don’t turn some dials in your amplifier or mixer.
Besides, it’s forgiving. Place it in a sweet spot in a room, and you won’t get any unnecessary reflections that make you sound ugly. Go for this mic to get you satisfying singing sessions and emulate the vintage vibe people could only feel and hear from old songs and vinyl records.
Here’s a link to the ST170 product page. Visit and learn the specs and what other people say about this.
If I were to rate this product, I’ll give it an 8 out of 10. I could have been a 9 if it isn’t a bit pricey. And a 10 if it came with freebies and unique features.