Companies like Cascade Microphones are making it easier for project studio owners on a budget to be able to purchase high-quality condenser microphones at low prices. Even commercial facilities will find Cascade microphones useful. Cascade microphones are unique and not re-badged. They are developed exclusively for Cascade by Cascade Microphones and imported from China. Cascade has a line of various condenser and tube microphones all priced under $500. The Cascade M37 is a small diaphragm condenser starting at just $129. Cascade has recently added a new, affordable tube microphone to its collection: the V55 (Valve 55).
Product PointsApplications: Studio
Features: Cardioid polar pattern; 10 dB pad; low-frequency rolloff; ships with shockmount, flight case
Contact: Cascade Microphones at 360-867-1799, Web Site.
The V55, priced at $499, is a rather large microphone that houses a 1.38-inch (35 mm) gold-sputtered diaphragm, and uses a specially selected Mullard 12AT7WA/CV4024 tube. It ships with its own power supply (switchable 115V to 220V), cable, and shockmount in an aluminum flight case.
The V55 has a cardioid polar response pattern, and offers a 10 dB pad, and low-frequency rolloff switch. The maximum SPL is about 130 dB (at 0.5% THD), and the factory rated frequency response is rather smooth across its 20 Hz-20 kHz curve.
When I first opened up the V55 case, I was taken aback by the size and weight of the microphone. It is a large and heavy microphone, but honestly, it was quite fun to see the artist’s reactions to the size when setting up the mic. The only downfall of the size is that you must make sure you have a nice heavy-duty mic stand. I would not recommend trying to boom this mic out very far. I even used some sandbags on the bottom of the stand to make sure it would not topple over. Cascade offers a large high-quality microphone stand that handles the V55 very nicely.
The microphone is very easy to set up, screwing into the shockmount easily. By the way, the shockmount was quality built; I wish more mics came with such a sturdy shockmount.
I really liked that the seven-pin cable snaps into the mic, instead of screwing on to it. I can’t count the number of times I have struggled with a cable that screws on to a mic, and have even seen a few people damage the cable because they were not connecting it correctly. The mic cable was also of good quality.
I had the opportunity to try this mic in several different recording situations. The first thing I tried it on was tenor saxophone. I also set up an Audio-Technica AT4050 next to it. When I soloed up each microphone, the sound was good, but not the perfect sax sound I was looking for. But when I combined the AT4050 and the Cascade V55, both the sax player and I agreed that we heard one of the best sounds we had ever recorded for his instrument!
Next, I set up the V55 as a mono overhead mic, about three or four feet above the drummer’s head, tilted down towards the set. I have been on a kick lately of setting up a spaced pair of AKG C451s and adding a mono mic behind and above the drummer.
I have been experimenting with several mics to use with the 451s, but I think I may have found the combination I like with the V55 in the center. I slightly compressed the V55 and added it into the mix with the rest of the drum mics, and it made the set sound much more punchy.
I also tried the V55 placed about two feet in front of the kick drum, about as high as the center of the drum. This was in a session where I was comparing many mics on the drum set (22 to be exact) and although I would probably not use it as my only kick drum mic, when I listened to just my spaced pair of overheads, along with the V55 placed in front of the kick drum, I decided that the C451s and the Cascade V55 were the only three mics I would use for the session.
The next application was a mid-range male pop vocal. In this scenario, the V55 was not my choice for the session. It has a very warm bottom end, and a nice smooth top end, but lacked somewhat in the middle range of frequencies for this vocalist.
I next tried the V55 on a bassier, male hip-hop vocal, and it was very fitting for the style and the artist’s voice. Definitely my mic of choice for the hip-hop vocal. Maybe the bigger mic size helps enhance those frequencies inherent in the style.
Lastly, on acoustic guitar, the mic again had a nice round bottom end, so I had to be careful as to not place it too close, and get too much proximity effect. But the V55 really brought out a nice presence from the guitar.
Although not perfect for every application (what mic is?), the V55 offers great value and performance in a tube condenser microphone. I would highly recommend it to anyone looking to add a quality mic to their collection. The V55 is also a microphone that works well in combination with other condensers and dynamics.