Outboard-Gear

Sandhill 6011A Ribbon Microphone

Active, Large-Engine Transducer
The Sandhill 6011A is hand-made in Finland and features a custom-wound Lundahl transformer.
Sound Byte

The Sandhill 6011A microphone sounds fantastic. It worked very well over a drum kit, sounded very good on acoustic guitar, and delivered the goods when put in front of various guitar amps and a kick drum. It is not a Royer, being less forward in the midrange and having more bottom end at close range.

There’s always something to love about a good ribbon microphone. They tend to be “dark” but take EQ very well, sounding natural even when you brighten them up. They’re fragile but can handle a lot of SPL—if you’re careful. And, they work well across a wide range of applications, from screaming guitar amps, to percussion, even vocals.

The Sandhill 6011A is a lovable active ribbon mic from Finland that sits squarely in the middle of the high-end category. Price-wise it sits below the passive AEA KU4, and A440, and well above the active Royer R-122 MKII and Rupert Neve RNR1, all excellent mics with a similar pedigree. As with most high-end products, quality is the first consideration—price comes after. The ribbon is a whopping 2.3 inches by .18 inches. The rectangular body is solid metal construction using a custom mount with a one-way fit—the mic cannot be turned horizontally, just vertically. Inside is a hand-soldered circuit board, through-hole components and a custom wound transformer from Lundahl.

Each mic is tested before shipping, with the results available on the Website. It all comes in a waterproof case that would take superhuman abuse. Inside is a custom foam cradle with a tight fit for the mic. There is a separate slot with two Allen keys for removing the mic from the mount and accessing the backplate where the -6dB pad resides. It takes some doing to get to the switch, so if you think you’ll need it, adjust it before you place the mic.

Into the Studio

I first used a pair of 6011As over a great drum kit featuring a 24-inch blue sparkle Gretsch round-badge kick, two maple toms from Craviotto, and a Craviotto maple snare. I’ve used many different types of ribbons as drum overheads and love how they represent the transient hits, and even the cymbals once they’re properly brightened. The 6011A’s active circuit provided enough output that I didn’t have to gain up the Neve 1073 preamps much at all. I sent the pair through a GML 8200 EQ and boosted the high end on a shelf +6dB starting at 7 kHz. This was a beautiful rendition of the kit. As I learned later, the Sandhills have plenty of bottom end, being more pronounced in that range, unlike some other ribbon mics.

Later, on another session, I used a single 6011A outside a kick drum paired with an AKG D12VR on the inside. The Sandhill worked its proximity effect to fully bloom the booty on the kick with the D12VR providing the attack of the beater and sounding great on its own. Ribbons like an RCA 44, or the new Royer R122 MKII with its integral pad, work great in this application to give the bottom end a boost without having to use EQ.

I used a 6011A as a low-end mic on an acoustic guitar with a Neumann KM84 closer to the 12th fret. Here’s where the 6011A’s bottom end got a little out of hand, needing to be filtered out below 120 Hz. Without the big bottom, the 6011A offered a nice rendition of the low end of the guitar and paired nicely with the KM84, which brought out the twang at the top. I’ve used a number of condenser mics in this position on a guitar, and while the 6011A isn’t my favorite, it worked well.

On another session I paired the 6011A and a Royer 122 MKII on the same Fender Vibrolux guitar amp. I engaged the pads on both mics and A/B’d the results. The Royer has that midrange bump that makes it a Royer, while the Sandhill offers a bit more at the top and bottom. Both sounded great and actually paired very well together, being that they do different things excellently.

What’s the Verdict?

The Sandhill 6011A microphone sounds fantastic. It worked very well over a drum kit, sounded very good on acoustic guitar, and delivered the goods when put in front of various guitar amps and a kick drum. It is not a Royer, being less forward in the midrange and having more bottom end at close range.

Full disclosure: The first pair I had failed over time. It wasn’t one “event” that killed them, but rather they each faded slowly over a week’s use. I’m not sure why they gave out. The ribbons weren’t put into dangerous situations, and yes, phantom power was applied, but that is by design. That said, the second pair I had stood up very well and I had no problems. The mount can be a pain when trying to finesse the placement, but all that aside, I was able to work around the mount and use these mics across a wide range of applications. If you’re a ribbon-ophile, the 6011A will do you proud. Go for it.

Kevin Becka is Mix’s technical editor.

 

Try This

When recording a drum kit, place a ribbon mic right next to the snare body so the plus side faces up toward the top head, and the minus side faces down toward the floor. The null side, or top, points toward the drum shell. The resultant natural phase alignment will give you a nice picture of the snare that you can add to a top snare mic like an SM57.

 

Product Summary

COMPANY: Sandhill Audio

PRODUCT: 6011A

WEBSITE: sandhillaudio.com

PRICE: $3,250 each; $6,150 matched pair

PROS: Great sound. Solid fit and finish. Solid case.

CONS: Mount allows less than full range movement. Tools needed to apply -6dB pad.

 

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