OUR STORY

the aea story

The AEA R44C, a faithful recreation of the iconic RCA 44 microphone
In 1976, we began servicing ribbon microphones, and by 1998 we were manufacturing 100% of the parts for the RCA 44. We decided to release our version of the 44 and thus was born AEA Ribbon Mics.

Owning an AEA product means that you are serious about what you do, and that you want to use gear made with the same love and dedication as your music. An AEA microphone or preamps reflects the amount of work you have put into honing your art as a musician. It stands for the traditional craftsmanship that has gone into your Les Paul guitar. And it mirrors the meticulous attention to detail you put into your sessions. All AEA products reflect pride and an eye for detail, and are designed for serious musicians and engineers.

AEA is a family-owned and operated business in beautiful Pasadena, California. Wes and his colleague, Bob Gerbracht, founded the company in 1964. Since then, AEA’s mission has always been to build professional tools that faithfully capture the essential aspects of exceptional recordings: true musicianship and a passion for performance. In 1976, when General Electric bought RCA and closed down its microphone division, AEA began servicing these legendary ribbon mics that Wes had learned so much about from friends like Wally Heider and Dick Knoppow. We reissued our favorite microphone, the iconic 44 ribbon mic, and have continued to make ribbon microphones in the RCA tradition to this day. We at AEA take sonic integrity seriously, and have even created preamps that have specially designed to meet the particular challenges of ribbon mics and bring out their full potential. Proudly independent, we manufacture all our products by hand right here in the USA.

The Ribbon Guy
The man, the legend. Learn more about Wes’ passion for audio, music, and top hats.
At any AES or NAMM show, chances are you will spot Wes Dooley in a top hat, surrounded by a group of people listening to his stories. With a career in audio that spans more than fifty years, ranging from his early radio days at Pomona College, to loading the remote truck for Wally Heider and Frank DeMedio, to sharing a hot tub with Joni Mitchell at the Big Sur Folk Festival, Wes is full of anecdotes, and is never shy to share them. Despite his background in location recording, audio forensics, and as a pro audio dealer, his lifelong passion has always been ribbon microphones. Under the mentorship of Wally Heider and Frank DeMedio, the RCA 44 microphone became Wes’ favorite recording tool. When RCA’s mic division was closed down in 1976, Wes found a niche in servicing the large number of RCA microphones still in use. After learning how to replace the ribbon on the 44 microphone from RCA engineer Jon R. Sank, Wes and his company, AEA Ribbon Mics, set out to continue the RCA legacy by servicing these vintage ribbon mics, selling and servicing Coles ribbons, and producing their own microphone designs that would hold up to the values that RCA stood for: “This was where I started to understand that it's not about measurement. Unless it sounds good on music, and unless we can make it consistently, there's no point. But we're in the business of doing this, and we have this incredibly difficult tradition of RCA mics to uphold. At the 50th anniversary of the AES in '98 we were showing what we were doing in this direction for the R44. I had a couple of engineers from RCA who came up and said, "We're here for the 50th anniversary, and we heard that you were doing this. We decided to come and tell you that you're ripping off RCA. But what you've done here is so true to the work that we did that this is not even an homage to it - it is the work we did!" I said, "Well, thank you," because people asked if we were going to improve on the RCA mic. I thought we'd be lucky if we could make it sound as good as the original.”

In 2003, Wes received the Audio Engineering Society (AES) Silver Medal award for his contributions to recording technology. As AEA celebrates its fiftieth year in business, Wes is still the driving force behind every new product design, and is constantly on the road at trade shows or away giving lectures. His neverending passion for audio and his relentless quest for continued improvement in recording technology make him an inspiration to his peers and a perpetual innovator in this fascinating world of sonics.

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