AEA N22 Ribbon Microphone Review: A One & Done Mic!

AEA N22 Ribbon Microphone Review

Welcome to the website folks, my name’s Shane.  In today’s review, we are checking out a killer-sounding ribbon microphone from the folks over at AEA Microphones in the USA. This is the AEA N22 Near Field Active Ribbon Microphone. The AEA can be used for vocals, acoustic guitar, electric guitar, drum overheads, kick drum, saxophone, and most other instruments.  This video will focus on how it performs on my electric guitar amplifier.

I’ll run you through what makes this microphone special as well as give you plenty of audio samples both in an isolated fashion and in the context of a band mix.  A Huge thanks to AEA for sending this microphone to my YouTube channel for this review, I’ll leave links in this article if you want to check it out.

Build Quality

Not only is this microphone built in the USA, but it’s also lightweight, and comes complete with its carry case.  The build quality is extremely overall is extremely solid.

Get the Best Price on Sweetwater | Walmart |

AEA N22 Ribbon Microphone Experience

Recently, I’ve been mic’ing up my guitar amps again in the studio and for our live sessions. There’s been a lot of positive feedback on the recorded tones and the AEA N22 was the mic I’ve been using.

Why do guitarists like Ribbon Microphones?

Ribbon microphones are a go-to for electric guitarists for a few reasons. Ribbon microphones have a sought-after warmth and roundness to the sound. This warmth is harder to find in something like a Shure SM-57 or Sennheiser e906.  Don’t get me wrong, the SM-57 and Sennheiser are legendary! The character of a good Ribbon microphone will add a different dimension to your recorded tone.  Each microphone has its place, as does this Ribbon Mic.

Ribbon Microphones Trappings

Most Ribbon microphones I’ve tried over the years suffer from one of two issues.  One, they only sound great when you pair them with a secondary microphone due to their inherent high-end frequency attenuation, and two, they usually require a LOT of gain to get a strong signal.

This is an active ribbon microphone so you’ll need to turn phantom power on your desk or interface to power the microphone. Additionally, thanks to the 141dB Maximum Sound Pressure Level, it can handle your favorite amp at gig volume.

The AEA microphone takes care of both of these common Ribbon microphone issues.  The N22 is designed to work as a stand-alone microphone in front of any guitar cab. This is not your typical Ribbon microphone because the N22 has an extended high-frequency response and it’s active which means you don’t need an inline microphone preamp like the SE Dynamite or CloudLifter.

 

Guitar Amplifier Cabinet Test and Results

The AEA N22 Ribbon microphone performs beautifully for electric guitar cabinets. My blues deluxe is loaded with an Eminence Swamp Thang Speaker and it did a great job capturing the big, warm clean tones and the dirty tones. 

Thanks to the reduced proximity effect I can keep the N22 close to the speaker without it being overloaded with low-end frequencies as you might experience with some large diaphragm condenser mics.

As you can hear in the video posted above, the N22 sounds full, rich, and round and while I love the Sennheiser, it’s a bit on the thin side on its own.  While the e906 is an iconic microphone, it shines in combination with other microphones that can fill in the gaps in its frequency response.

AEA N22 Ribbon Microphone for Live or Studio Recording

The ultimate test is to hear how the microphone performs in the context of a mix and to see how it compares against the e906 and then we’ll test the N22’s off-axis rejection.  Here’s a live recording I mixed using the AEA N22 on a guitar cabinet.

Get the Best Price on Sweetwater | Walmart |

AEA N22 Microphone Specifications

Below is a list of the AEA N22 Ribbon Microphone’s official specifications

Operating Principle: Pressure gradient transducer
Directional Pattern: Bidirectional
Frequency Range: <20 Hz to >20 kHz
Maximum SPL: 141 dB SPL (1% third harmonic > 1 kHz)
Sensitivity: 8.3 mV/Pa (at 1 kHz, no load)
Output Impedance: 92 ? broadband
Recommended Load Impedance: 1.0 k? or greater
Phantom Power: P48 phantom power, 7 mA
Polarity: Pin 2 high for positive pressure at the
Polar Response: front of the microphone.
Horizontal: Native bidirectional, figure-of-8 pattern
Vertical: Up to 90 dB rejection at right angles to the
Transducer Element Material: front/back axis.
Thickness: Level changes with angle of incidence, but
Width: frequency response is consistent.
Length: Pure aluminum corrugated ribbon
Microphone Dimensions: 1.8 µm
Height: 0.185 in (4.7 mm)
Width: 2.35 in (59.7 mm)
Depth: 8.83 in (22.5 cm)
Weight: 1.62 in (11.7 cm)
Shipping Weight: 1.62 in (9.5 cm)
Connector: 12 oz (335 g)
Pressure gradient transducer 1 lb 13 oz (810 g)
Bidirectional XLR-3M
<20 Hz to >20 kHz
141 dB SPL (1% third harmonic > 1 kHz)
8.3 mV/Pa (at 1 kHz, no load)
92 ? broadband
1.0 k? or greater
P48 phantom power, 7 mA
Pin 2 high for positive pressure at the
front of the microphone.
Native bidirectional, figure-of-8 pattern
Up to 90 dB rejection at right angles to the
front/back axis.
Level changes with angle of incidence, but
frequency response is consistent.
Pure aluminum corrugated ribbon
1.8 µm
0.185 in (4.7 mm)
2.35 in (59.7 mm)
8.83 in (22.5 cm)
1.62 in (11.7 cm)
1.62 in (9.5 cm)
12 oz (335 g)
1 lb 13 oz (810 g)
XLR-3M

AEA N22 Ribbon Microphone Polar Pattern & Off-Axis Rejection

The N22 has a figure 8 polar pattern that accepts sound evenly from both sides while rejecting audio from the sides.  By positioning your amp correctly in a room, you eliminate most audio spill.  Figure 8 polar patterns are common for ribbon microphones. In a room, with drums and bass, it did a great job isolating the tone of the amp.   Below is the N22’s polar pattern diagram.

AEA N22 Polar Pattern

Overall the AEA microphone has surpassed my expectations.  It’s the only microphone I would use on its own for studio recording where I want to take the complication out of a multiple microphone setup.  You can pair it with another microphone if you need to but thanks to the extended high-end response, you don’t need a secondary microphone. Below is a graph detailing the frequency response of the AEA N22 Ribbon microphone.

AEA N22 Frequency Response
AEA N22 Frequency Response

No Preamp Required

I love that I don’t need an inline microphone preamp to operate this microphone. Any sound card will be enough to power it providing that you have a phantom power switch available on your device.  I was using a Zoom R16 and Focusrite 8i18 for my recording samples showcased within the videos. 

AEA N22 Ribbon Microphone Review
AEA N22 Ribbon Microphone Review

 

Is the AEA N22 Ribbon Microphone Worth it?

The AEA N22 ribbon mic is a microphone that will surpass a lot of expectations. This is true no matter what you are using it for.  Not only will it work great for vocals, brass, drums, and guitar – it’s way more affordable than the Royer 121 and it sounds great.

 

The Best Ribbon Microphone for a Guitar Amp?

The AEA N22 has a great price-to-performance ratio. If you are on a budget check out the affordable ribbon microphone from Artist Guitars. Furthermore, these affordable microphones offer a standard high-end attenuated frequency response but pair great with a secondary microphone.  The benefit of the AEA N22 is that it can be your one-and-done microphone!