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"It is without question the best mic I have ever used. The best sound I've ever achieved without tweaking a single knob apart from mic gain."
- Pete Townshend, The Who
The Cost Effective Original
Whether it be the smooth brass section of a Hollywood soundtrack, the velvety lushness of a jazz vocal, or the larger-than-life drum sound of a classic rock record - chances are that you will find a 44 ribbon mic used on most of your favorite albums. In studio use for more than 80 years, the 44 ribbon design by RCA is as rich in history as it is in sound and character. When the company’s microphone division was closed down in 1976, we at AEA began servicing ribbon microphones, and by 1998 we were manufacturing 100% of the parts for the 44, resulting in the release of our very own version of this classic mic. Its recognizable sound produces thunderous lows due to the strong proximity effect, full and rich mids, and a unique top end to take the edge off of harsh instruments. This beautiful, natural-sounding microphone provides an unmatched authenticity of sonic reproduction, particularly when placed at a distance in a well-tuned room. The CE (cost effective) version delivers exactly the same sound as the R44C with absolutely no exceptions. By simplifying the exterior trim of the microphone and reducing manual labor for assembly, we are able to offer a more affordable 44 model for those of us who don’t require the polish and museum-grade finish of the 44C version.
Forty years of servicing ribbon microphones has given AEA a lot of insight into why RCA 44s are still in daily use at world-class studios. Designed in the 1930s, the 44 was a groundbreaking revolution in recording technology. At a time when engineers had only one, maybe two microphones to record anything from a solo artist to an entire orchestra, studio mics had to deliver a great sound in every application. With its extended reach, reliability, and high fidelity sound, the 44 set a new quality standard for broadcast, recording, motion pictures, and sound reinforcement work.
Even though ribbon mics fell out of fashion in the days of tape recording, many studios like Capitol Records or Warner kept their revered 44s in service. Since the advent of the digital revolution, the 44 is now back in demand more than ever. Reborn as the AEA R44, this mic is a permanent fixture in the studios of esteemed engineers and producers such as Bruce Swedien, Kevin Bacon, Shawn Murphy, and John Kurlander, and half the movies scored in Los Angeles now have an AEA 44 somewhere on the scoring stage.
The R44 Microphone Family
The AEA R44-series microphones all share the authentic sound, feel and look of the 1936-38 RCA 44BX. The R44 series microphones are all detailed, hand-crafted replicas, using parts that are made to be interchangeable with an original RCA 44. They even feature ribbon material originally manufactured for RCA. The original 44 microphones were constantly updated during their twenty years of production, and after carefully looking at some of the technical modifications, we at AEA decided to adopt the British engineering from RCA that reduces the mic's weight and hum sensitivity. The R44C was designed to meet or exceed the output of a brand-new RCA 44. It is a museum-quality replica, featuring a bronze investment cast yoke, superior to the original zinc yokes by RCA (which tend to corrode over time), a hand-polished cushion mount and a cloth-covered Accusound Silver Studio Pro cable. The R44CX is a high-output, red-badge version of the R44C, specially designed for scoring and other applications demanding a wide dynamic range with the "classic 44" sound. The cost-effective R44CE features the exact same ribbon, transformer, and luscious sound as the R44C, but with a simpler, economical exterior trim. This version features a one-piece cushion mount, a formed steel yoke with satin nickel finish, and a star-quad XLR output cable. Finally, the R44CXE is the high output version of the R44CE combining the economical finish with the higher output of the R44CX.
The R44 series microphones are passive, like the RCA 44, and are more forgiving in a wider range of situations than active microphones can be in terms of headroom. For the active version of the R44, check out the AEA A440 page. The A440 has the hottest signal, and can therefore boast, through highest signal to noise ratio, to be the quietest of any ribbon mic on the planet.