Cascade FAT HEAD II Blumlein Package

An impressive performer, the FAT HEAD II allows nearly everyone to discover the joys of ribbon microphone recording.
Author:
Updated:
Original:

When I reviewed the Cascade FAT HEAD in 2007, I couldn't believe how much bang for the buck the mic delivered. Cascade has upped its ante with the FAT HEAD II Blumlein Package. This ribbon mic kit includes a pair of FAT HEAD II Ribbon Microphones, a pair of suspension shock mounts, a Blumlein stereo adapter bar, plus a micro-fiber cleaning cloth and a sturdy aluminum carry case at an order-direct price of $375.

I reviewed the FAT HEAD II fit with the Cinemag transformer, a step up from the regular version. The other upgrade option is the Lundahl transformer which incorporates an open-end winding technique with insulation between each layer of copper wire, which improves the transformers' operation. Compared to the stock transformer, the Cinemag and the Lundahl transformers both provide extended bottom and top end frequencies as well as enhanced definition.

Image placeholder title

Features

Before we go deeper, you may be asking yourself, "What's the difference between the FAT HEAD and the FAT HEAD II?" Sonically, there is no difference; it is essentially the same mic in a slightly different casing. The FAT HEAD II's overall length is seven and 3/4 inches, it offers a three-inch diameter polished nickel grill, neck and nut with a larger body, and it includes a heavy-duty premium shock mount. The FAT HEAD II looks a bit better and it has the added shock mount.

The FAT HEAD II incorporates a hand-tuned ribbon element that is based on the classic symmetrical ribbon design. The mic has a sensitivity of -56dB +/- 2dB (0 dB=1V/Pa) and a frequency response of 30 Hz to 18 kHz (+/- 3 dB). The mic's output Impedance is <=200 Ohms and the recommended load impedance is >1000 Ohms. The Maximum SPL (1% THD @1000 Hz) is 165dB.

The mic's corrugated aluminum membrane is positioned exactly in the center from front to back, which produces a true figure-eight polar pattern. This makes the mic ideal for a mid-side or Blumlein recording configuration. The FAT HEAD II can optionally be purchased with either a Lundahl or a Cinemag transformer for additional cost. The FAT HEAD II's backbone is the 99 percent pure aluminum, 2.5 micron, 1-inch (L) X 3/16-inch (W) ribbon.

In Use

My first opportunity to use the FAT HEAD II pair was as stereo drum set ambiance mics while tracking at Omni Sound Studios in Nashville. They have a great sounding tracking room, so it was a perfect place to hear the FAT HEAD IIs. I normally use Coles 4038 ribbons for that application and I found that, while the FAT HEAD II pair didn't sound exactly like Coles, they were extremely close. The Fat Head II's sonic signature is quite impressive, considering they are one-fifth the price. Fast Facts Applications
Applications: Studio, project studio, broadcast

Key Features
99 percent pure aluminum, 2.5 micron, 1-inch (L) X 3/16-inch (W) hand-tuned ribbon element; optional Lundahl or a Cinemag transformer for additional cost.

Price
$219 and $349 each direct (standard and with Lundahl transformers; $375 and $675 stereo pair (standard and with Lundahl transformers).

Contact
Cascade Microphones | 360-867-1799 | www.cascademicrophones.com

On another session, I used a single FAT HEAD II on an electric guitar amp and had good results. Against my reference ribbon for electric guitar — the Royer R-122 — I ultimately preferred the R-122, But for the price, the Fat II was quite impressive.

I used the stereo FAT Head II pair to record an acoustic guitar in MS (using the included stereo bar), which produced a wonderful sounding, nicely separated acoustic track. The stereo bar is one of the Blumlein Package's strong points. The bar can be easily used with other microphones as well, making it a handy addition.

Using the FAT HEAD II pair to record the top of a Hammond B3 Leslie (with a Heil PR-40 dynamic on the bottom), the three microphones produced a particularly pleasing Leslie recording. On piano, the FAT HEAD IIs sounded lush, warm and detailed.

On drum kit overheads, I liked the FAT HEAD II's sound, but not enough to pick over Royer SF-12's. I also used a single FAT HEAD II on tambourine and shaker, and, again, I had good results.

Summary

Although I have a preference for the high-end Royer and Coles microphones when it comes to ribbons, Cascade has proven that its much lower-cost ribbons perform well for many kinds of recording applications. If you don't own a ribbon mic and don't have a lot of money to spend,you owe it to yourself to try a FAT HEAD II; you can hear firsthand what all of the ribbon mic talk is about.