Stereo Matchmaking: Blumlein R88mk2 or Paired N8s?

The choice between two seductive, honest-sounding far-field options

AEA offers two of the most beloved far-field ribbons in the world. Both have the ability to deliver astonishing stereo results.

AEA’s R88mk2 is one of the most widely lauded stereo ribbon microphones in use today. It has appeared on countless Grammy Award-winning albums and is a mainstay in some of the world’s best recording studios.

Upon gauging the excitement and popularity garnered by the R88 among so many musicians and engineers, we developed a mono version of the R88 and called it the N8. The active N8 is the most open, natural sounding ribbon mic ever made, and its modern design lends convenience and flexibility in any recording environment.

Far-Field Comrades

Two ribbon elements fixed in Blumlein configuration are the components responsible for the vast, open stereo sound of the R88. It’s that wide open stereo sound that makes the R88 capable of recording entire bands and ensembles by itself.

Based on the same design concepts as the R88, the low-profile N8 achieves that vast, open sound in a variety of environments and configurations.


Both microphones have a far-field design with open, honest tonality. Both excel as drum overheads or as room mics for classical ensembles and orchestras. Both boast AEA’s signature Big Ribbon sound.

Hear the N8s on overheads and R88 on room in this AEA Session.


Compare the R88 and spaced N8 on overheads.

The Differences

The R88

The relatively large R88 is a single stereo microphone that functions as either fixed Blumlein or Mid-Side (M-S) and the ribbon elements inside are always in phase. An included 5-pin cable conveniently connects to the R88 and terminates at two separate xlr channels. With little effort and virtually no chance for error, any user can achieve a vast, rich stereo image with the R88. It’s a common practice among engineers to find the sweet spot in a room, where the sound is optimal, and position an R88 there permanently. The R88 is the perfect choice for those that want quick and effortless Blumlein stereo sound.

As it is a passive ribbon microphone, we suggest pairing the R88 with a designated ribbon preamp like the RPQ3, TRP3, or RPQ500 for optimal performance.

The N8

The smaller, lighter N8 is a more maneuverable option for capturing the same open sound as the R88 and in any environment. Distinct from the R88, the N8 is phantom-powered and uses a custom Lehle transformer. The transformer offers greater output and the active electronics allow greater flexibility with any modern preamp.

Many engineers and artists use the N8s live and on the road. Adam Granduciel, of War On Drugs, said “As a Mono or stereo drum overhead, the N8 has become a no-brainer. I solo’d a mono N8 last week and it sounded like ‘Us and Them.’ Not bad!!”

If desired, a Blumlein stereo sound with N8s is easily achievable with the AEA NUVO Stereo Kit. For users who want the option to either separate the ribbons or affix them in Blumlein as they see fit, the N8 Stereo Kit is a perfect choice.

Stereo Recording with N8s

When two N8s are mounted in Blumlein stereo configuration on a single mic stand, they approximate the sound of the R88. Additionally, the N8s can be positioned separately for a wider stereo image. Many live engineers use spaced N8s as drum overheads or underheads on the road.

N8-Blumlein-Overhead-Stereo-KitTwo N8s mounted in Blumlein in the Nuvo Stereo Kit

The slim profile of the N8 makes it maneuverable in crowded rooms or on crowded stages where space is limited. The N8’s high-gain active electronics prove advantageous and flexible on tour, where each new venue has a different mic preamp. AEA offers custom Windtech windscreens that slipover the N8 for outdoor use.

While not as easy to wield in live settings as the N8, the R88 can still capture outstanding live stereo when paired with the right preamp.

This AEA Session featuring double bassist, Dave Robaire, features spaced N8s to capture the spaciousness and live essence of the room.

More Stereo Configurations with N8s

In addition to Blumlein, the NUVO Stereo Kit can affix two microphones in a variety of other stereo arrays such as ORTF and XY.

Recording engineer, John Kurlander, takes the standard ORTF configuration even further by adding a center channel. With this array, Kurlander captures lush, textured orchestral tracks with only three N8s capturing a left, right and center image.

One Or The Other, The Choice Is Yours

Ultimately the choice between the two mics is contingent on the needs of the user and their regular application in a given environment. Both the N8 and R88 provide honest, natural tonality and can deliver vast, open stereo images.

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