Warm Audio’s WA-44 expertly revives a vocal microphone design from the 1930s

Classic delicate ribbon technology is updated and strengthened to modern-day standards, but can the WA-44 reach the quality of the original that inspired it?

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Warm Audio WA-44

Warm Audio WA-44

Review Overview

Our rating


Our verdict

Lush, full-bodied sound
Warm low-end character
Smooth midrange and treble
Adjustable angle
Excellent build and finish

No onboard filters

£999, warmaudio.com

With a portfolio of over 40 products, mostly recreations of classic microphones, analogue preamps and processors from the 1950s, 60s and 70s, we wondered where Warm Audio chief Bryce Young would go next. The answer is, of course, even further back in time…to the 1930s!

The WA-44 is an authentic replica of a classic figure-8 ribbon mic from the mid-30s, once (and still) used by professionals in the recording, broadcasting and film industries.

The original RCA 44 BX can be seen in iconic photos of a young Elvis Presley, who used the mic to record many of his classic early rock ‘n’ roll recordings, regarded as the foundation on which modern pop music is built. There’s no denying this is one seriously cool-looking microphone.

As usual, Warm Audio has cut no corners recreating this ancient design, with the WA-44 weighing almost 3 kg. It’s a large beast for sure yet, by nature, ribbon mics are extremely delicate so the sturdy, foam-lined case the company has designed for it should be used for protection when not in use.

Inside the hefty metal casing is the ribbon itself, a ‘true-to-length’ 60 mm design manufactured in Japan from 99.1% pure aluminium. This ribbon is bigger than those found in most other designs and is crucial to the lush, larger-than-life sound it delivers.

WA-44 with case
WA-44 with case

While this new 44-style microphone is authentic to the vintage design in most ways, it embraces modern technology with the choice of magnet in which the ribbon is suspended. Original RCA 44s used AlNiCo (aluminium, nickel and cobalt), however, the WA-44 employs a Neodymium magnet, which is more efficient, stronger and durable than the ancient type.

A custom, American-made CineMag output transformer is used (these transformers are premium designs as found in several Warm Audio products), which helps the WA-44 partner with modern mic preamps as well as providing a degree of protection against the accidental use of phantom power. Usually, the application of phantom power will destroy or badly damage a ribbon instantaneously, however, this circuit design offers protection for the delicate ribbon. Even so, the use of phantom power is best avoided.

The fragile nature of the ribbon should also be considered when subjecting it to large gusts of moving air. A thick, protective ‘sock’ is provided for transportation yet it’s also advisable to use a windshield or pop filter (not provided) when using the mic to record, say, close-mic’d horns or kick drum.

Like all ribbon mics, the WA-44 is relatively insensitive in comparison with other types of dynamic microphone and condenser designs, which means it requires a liberal amount – at least 65 dB – of amplification. Most decent outboard mic preamps will deliver adequate gain, however plugging directly into an interface will not provide enough juice to enable the mic’s true tonal quality to be appreciated. With that in mind, Warm Audio has created the WarmLifter, an inline active preamp that can be inserted between mic and interface to provide an additional 26 dB of gain. This is sold separately for £159, which could be a cost-effective way of providing gain without the expense of buying an outboard mic preamp.


Also common to ribbon mics is the figure-8 polar pattern, meaning the back of the microphone captures audio as much as the front. This means care has to be taken when positioning the mic in a room. If it’s placed close to a boundary with a reflective surface, with a vocalist addressing the front for example, the mic will pick up reflections from the rear surface; this may even cause problems with phase cancellations. Placing the mic more towards the centre of your recording room will eliminate these problems but, if space is tight, some absorbent material (such as portable vocal booths) can help.

The figure-8 pattern is excellent at rejecting sound from the sides, though, so judicious positioning can eliminate unwanted spillage better than cardioid designs.

The sonic signature of the WA-44 is unmistakably vintage in character. Acoustic guitar is captured with plenty of mid-focused resonance and weighty low-end heft albeit without the top-end sparkle you get with many condenser designs. The mic has no onboard filters of any kind so a high-pass filter on a mic preamp (or the WarmLifter) would be useful for this and many other applications.

Many potential customers will want to use the mic for lead vocals and, here, a certain amount of mic technique comes into play. More than most, the WA-44 has a pronounced proximity effect, so the closer the sound source, the more low end will be captured. This can work particularly well when all the warmth and smoothness of an intimate, close-mic’d performance is desired, however for punchy rock and pop vocals, a little more distance than usual between performer and mic will give a brighter balance.

WA-44 in use
WA-44 in use

While the WA-44 lacks the super-top response characteristics of many condenser vocal mics, the ribbon provides a degree of midrange detail and transparency few others can attain. What’s more, it responds extremely well to a liberal boost of high-end EQ; a 16kHz boost from a Pultec-style equaliser sounds sublime, adding a halo of air to a full-bodied recording.

Despite the delicate nature of its ribbon, the WA-44 is capable of handling SPLs of up to 140 dB, so louder sources such as drums and amplified instruments can be recorded without fear of damage.

Amplified electric bass cabinets benefit from the inherently fulsome bottom-end response, while the WA-44’s use on double bass is a no-brainer. Smaller stringed instruments such as violins, which can often sound shrill and sharp, benefit from the smoother, slightly muted top-end response to bring out the body and phrasing of notes without the scratchiness of leading edges.

Warm Audio’s WA-44 is a world-class ribbon microphone offering warmth, detail and dynamic expression few can equal. Driven with sufficient good-quality gain, it delivers clarity and mid-range transparency as good as, or better than many more costly, boutique designs. While it doesn’t boast anything in the way of cutting-edge DAW-friendly technology, it expresses a rich, vintage vibe in a truly sumptuous package.

Key features

  • 99.1% aluminium, 2.5 micron-thick ribbon
  • Custom CineMag USA transformers
  • Powerful Neodymium magnet
  • Pigtail XLR Gotham cable with Star Quad shielding
  • Polar pattern: figure-8
  • Frequency response 20 Hz – 20k Hz (+/- 12dB)
  • Max SPL: 140dB

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