I'm going to record a lot of small metallic stuff in the coming weeks, and thought about which mic would fit the job best. These are all small metal buttons, metal switches, metal clings/clangs.

Would a ribbon mic (which I haven't got) do this nicely, or should I choose another kind of mic?

7 Answers 7


As I side note (quasi-related), if it's of any help, I've found that having some distance between the mic and the source for things like buttons and switches help - it seems that the proximity effect causes it to sound unnatural and hard to 'undo' in Post, but even so much as 1-2 feet of added distance helps it have a natural sound by letting the sounds it generates to 'breathe' within the air.

So on that note, probably a large diaphragm condenser is what you want rather than a shotgun-type mic so that you maintain optimum S/N wile still allowing you some leverage on mic placement/distance. They tend to have a much lower self noisefloor and I've captured some great small sounds with one before (like Blackberry keys), and I was able to boost the recording quite a bit in post to master it hot and there was still virtually no detectable noisefloor. Granted, this also matters what type of preamp you're running the mic into as well - in this case it was an mBox2. Not the best preamp out there, but miles beyond my Zoom H4n in my opinion.

This is only my personal experience though, not a definitive answer - and there's likely many valid solutions too. I've just personally had good luck recording 'small things' using large-diaphragm condensers - things like the C414, U87, NT1A, et al. There's an Octava large diapgrahm too which is quite good from my recollection of using it, I just can't recall which it was, it had a round tubish shape like the C4000.


A ribbon is going to give you a "warmer" more "smeared" sound on metal stuff than a condenser will usually give you. If that's what you're going for, then give it a shot.

I tend to prefer "faster" mics that work well on transient material when I'm recording metal. My Sennheiser mkh800's are my favorite metal mics. I have recorded gun foley, which is very metallic, with a mix of an AEA ribbon and the MKH800. The ribbon gave a nice "warm" color with mixed will with the "sharp" mkh800, the mix of the 2 mics gave a nice fat sound.

It's all preference really, a ribbon should work, it just depends what type of sound you are looking for.

  • Read your post about gun Foley Chuck, and the AEA. Wish I could afford that mic:) Commented Jun 8, 2012 at 7:41
  • Just to clear up, I used the AEA R84, while still a bit costly @ $800 it is a lot cheaper than the AEA R44 at $4,000+! Commented Jun 13, 2012 at 2:39

have you been through this?



get a nice schoeps for the body of the sound, and make yourself up a piezo from maplin as a contact for the real close sounds. Should balance quite nicely :)


Thanks to all of you. Great reading and thinking ahead:)

Best wishes,



For these things a ribbon would, quite frankly, be my last choice. Don't get me wrong, ribbons have a very musical and soft sound excellent for many instruments and voices, but they sound nothing like natural, and in sound for movies and games the illusion of naturality is very important to keep the viewers in the story. And they're also extremely fragile.

For these things I almost always use Sennheiser MKH40's, DPA 4011's, a Shure SM-57, or Sennheiser MKH 416. The sound of a button is often very harsh and with the spring inside way to loud if mike'd too close, as well as we are used to hear these kind of sounds with quite some room, so I recommend recording it right before the border of the proxi-effect for an as natural sound as possible. To be frank, though I do agree with previous speakers about the proxi in these kind of sounds being annoying, it's more to make sure the sound isn't too wide :-)

  • Thanks alot. Ive been experimenting with a Røde NT1000 condenser, and a DPA 4061 at the same time. Not quite there yet, but yes proxi is really important here. I also tried my 416, and thought it was having real trouble with the highs. Thanks again to all of you:) Commented Jun 8, 2012 at 20:20
  • Yup, the 416 is very bright, so one have to pad the top a little in editing! I do however actually like the characteristics of it otherwise! Though quite frankly I do not use it as much in sound design since I got my more cleaner and flatter mics where I know more to begin with what I'll end up getting. I often prefer cardioid mics for this :-) Commented Jun 9, 2012 at 2:38

LDC's are generally more flattering rather than flat. I would prefer to use a small diaphram condensor rather than an LDC for this as they generally tend to have a flatter response. SDC's I have used for this sort of thing include Oktava MK-012, AKG C451EB with CK1 or CK8 capsules, Shure sm81, Rode NT3. All of them have worked fine with perhaps the sm81 being the most neutral sounding of them.


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