The Material That Revolutionized Ribbon Microphones: Roswellite ™
What Is It?
Roswellite ™ is the trademarked name of a nano-enabled ribbon material that is used in Shure KSM313/NE and KSM353/ED ribbon microphones.
Roswellite™ is also known as “acoustic nanofilm.” It’s an extremely strong, low mass, superelastic, paramagnetic composite with high inherent conductivity and shape memory properties. Roswellite™ replaces the “foils” typically used in ribbon microphones.
Roswellite ™ can withstand windblast, plosives, phantom power applications, and high sound pressure levels, even at low frequencies.
Why is it called Roswellite™?
Apparently, the development team considered the new ribbon material “out of this world” and gave it a tongue-in-cheek moniker to match.
Remember Roswell? You probably associate it with the alleged recovery of alien debris from an object that crashed near Roswell, New Mexico, in 1947.
According to the United States military, debris was recovered from an experimental high-altitude surveillance balloon. But steadfast UFO proponents believe that a crashed alien craft and bodies were recovered, and that the military engaged in a cover-up. The incident has turned into an enormous pop culture phenomenon.
By the way, Shure Incorporated has no official (or even unofficial) position on the controversy.
What are its advantages?
It is stronger and more responsive than the “foils” that have been traditionally used in ribbon microphones. For this reason, it’s essentially a permanent ribbon in the same way a capsule or element in any condenser or dynamic microphone is.
Roswellite™ overcomes the strength, fragility or application limitations associated with traditional “foil” ribbon microphones. And it has other advantages in processing: The shape memory feature of the material, and its extreme durability and elasticity, and the manner in which it is manufactured afford far greater piece-to-piece consistency.
What is “shape memory”?
Shape memory is the ability of a material to return to a predetermined shape after distortion. It offers characteristics that favor a specific or multiplicity of shapes and states.
What does it sound like?
There are some slight differences that tend to be subjective. At moderate volume levels, a “foil” ribbon will sound similar to a Roswellite ™ ribbon. At extreme SPLs, the Roswellite ™ ribbon is able to maintain its integrity, so the dynamic range is significantly improved. It’s one reason why a Roswellite™ ribbon placed in or near a kick drum has such a clean, solid sound.
What is the maximum SPL that it can handle?
There is evidence that the material behaves linearly up to very high levels – probably well past 146 dB at any frequency.
Do any competitive ribbon microphones use Roswellite™ ribbon material?
No. The technology was developed and patented by Soundwave Research Laboratories. Shure Incorporated acquired the patent-pending technology and manufacturing processes in 2009.