Stellar RM3 upgrades

This Stellar RM3 ribbon microphone recently came into the Xaudia workshop for a transformer upgrade and new ribbon, which of course gives us a chance to poke around inside and take some photos.

Stellar RM3 with new Xaudia transformer and ribbon. The old transformer in in the foreground

The design closely follows the Speiden / B&O / Royer style of microphones – possibly a little too closely for comfort! Like the B&O mics, the ribbon frame slides out of the top, along with the transformer and lots of synthetic woolly packing. The body forms part of the magnetic return circuit, so it was good to see that this one was made of a magnetic steel, rather than brass or aluminium.  In my opinion this is one of the better made of the budget ribbon mics.

As is commonly the case with budget microphones, the design is let down a little by the transformer, which measured 47 mΩ (milliohms) on the primary winding, and 90 Ω for the secondary, with a turns ratio of 1:54. Overall the mic gave a measured output impedance of about 650 Ω, of which over 200 ohms is pure DC resistance from the transformer. And in ribbon mics, resistance equals noise.

The new Xaudia 595/40 transformer (in this case a 1:40 ratio) has DC resistances of 0.02 Ω  for the primary and 16 ohms for the secondary – much lower than the stock trannie. Although the lower transformer ratio would be expected drop the output level of -2.6 dB, the thinner, lighter ribbon gives an almost equal but opposite effect, and the output levels before and after are very similar. However, the lower DC resistance of the replacement transformer gives much lower noise, and the larger core allows higher sound pressure levels before the onset of saturation.