A Little Love for the BeyerDynamic M 160

I guess I've always harbored a deep and unreasonable suspicion of Beyer ribbons because a place I worked at long ago had an M500 (maybe two?) that always seemed to be broken. After multiple repairs it never seemed to last more than a month before something fell off or the ribbon gave up. Looking back I'm sure this has more to do with us not treating the thing with some respect, but it was a long time ago. Maybe we stuck it in front of the kick too much.

Flash forward 25 years or so, and while mixing music for the new Arsenio Hall Show I'm getting requests from three separate acts in the last few weeks for an M 160 on something--guitar, kick, whatever. Then I get the advance info for the Wayne Shorter Quartet with Esperanza Spalding, and Wayne lists two mics he likes to see these days. The first is a Soundelux U99, the second, you guessed it, was an M 160. (The U99 is a little huge for TV and besides I don't know anyone who owns one, much less rents one.) This is now a trend, I think, and place a call to Ron Cheney over at RSPE to get an M 160. It arrives the morning of the day Wayne and Esperanza are scheduled, and we literally took it brand new out of the box and put it on Wayne's stand.

Kind of revelatory. Soprano sax is a tricky instrument to reproduce--it can get honky or screechy pretty easily--and when Wayne, who is a master, living legend, sax god of the highest order, started playing it was creamy and warm and still had enough character to stand up in a dense mix with almost no EQ. They're not cheap by any stretch--street price around $700, but it's probably the only ribbon I know of that sounds great and has enough pattern control to make it useable on a noisy stage.

So I hereby admit my prejudice was unfounded and give an unqualified endorsement of the M 160. At some point I'm going to bring the sucker home and try playing some trombone into it. Not that I'm any good, but I am curious how well that character--slightly forward for a ribbon--will translate for brass.

The performance was amazing--very outside and something of a challenge for mainstream television. I loved it. It's really too bad it's not on YouTube. But I got to meet Esperanza!