Sound Bites: Coles 4038

Coles 4038 in stock – singles and matched pairs


coles_4038_pair_2I’m a bit of an audio eccentric. Yes, I hold my shaggy head high and admit it.

Numerous examples of my oddities abound, not least with my unfashionable approach to recording. I started Funky Junk by accident in the early 1990s, but let’s not go there for now.

I had various bees in my metaphorical bonnet – I still do – one of which was a love of ribbon mics that were at the time even less fashionable than my haircut. Perceived wisdom was that ribbon mics were noisy, had very low gain output (due to extremely low impedance) and were over-sensitive to loud signals. Hey, ho – wot me worry? I LOVED the rich response, the three dimensional airiness and musicality of ribbons.
What’s more, I’d never had problems with well-designed examples, as long as I used a decent mic preamp (I’ve always preferred class A/B Neve mic pres). And so I actively promoted the virtues of these forgotten beasts, not least when I discovered that Royer had licensed the technology of my beloved stereo mic from Bob Speiden in New York (which was when Funky’s fruitful twenty year relationship with Royer Labs began – serious and honest guys, the lot of them). That was also when I dug into the archives and tracked down Coles, puzzled why no one was singing the virtues of the outstanding 4038. I discovered that Coles still manufactured mics and sold a handful every now and then to broadcasters, but they had fallen seriously out of favour with recordists. Time to change that, I thought, and that’s when I started to stock, recommend and send 4038s out on demo.
I know that at one stage, ten or so years ago, Funky was responsible for well over 50% of UK 4038 sales, although as with a number of other products I’ve actively promoted over the years, other dealers lumbered onto the Funky Bandwagon and now the 4038 is perhaps the best regarded ribbon mic in the business, along with Royer of course. I can’t take all the credit. Indeed, I’m probably blowing my own horn too much taking any credit at all, but whether Funky was partly responsible for the ribbon revival or not, I’m glad they’re back in the mainstream where they belong.
Coles 4038
So what makes ribbon mics so great for brass, woodwind, pianos, ambient and a variety of acoustic instruments? Quite simple, the ribbon (a sliver of aluminium foil suspended between two magnets) moves naturally and freely in three dimensions, generating a subtle variations in current – millivolts which are boosted by a good mic preamp. Modern examples are every bit as quiet as other technologies and output far higher than earlier examples. Moreover, the technology softens edges, making ribbons perfect for any instrument with a tendency to harshness such as sax, trombone, cymbals or comb and paper.

I well remember putting up a 4038 for a great sax player on a session. He wandered into the control room, wide eyes and virtually speechless (if a sax player could ever be speechless). ‘That’s the first time my horn has ever sound the way I hear it in my head and on stage,’ he said. ‘What’s that funny soapdish mic? I gotta get me one.’ That funny Soapdish mic was a Coles 4038. And yes, Andy Sax got one and has still got it. But I’ve got two… Ya boo sucks.

Check one out today. You won’t be disappointed. Oh, I should add that from day one, we’ve always supplied the 4038s with the (optional) 4071B stand mount adaptor (usually £120/pair). As standard, the 4038 comes with a connector but no means to mount on a mic stand. Coles say that this is because clients sometimes want to hang them from the ceiling of a hall. Well, yes – this used to be the case back in days when engineers wore white coats and tucked a pencil behind their ears, but today 99.9% of mics are mounted on stands so to avoid frustration, angst and yards of gaffa tape, we make sure the mics are ready to be used in session. As usual, we know and understand the products we sell so our price includes the necessary extras.


Check out our Coles 4038 currently in stock!

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