Cascade X-15 Stereo Ribbon Microphone

I liked the sound because it was pretty smooth in the critically sensitive high-mid/low treble hearing frequencies without that hyped stridency you can get from a condenser with the broader treble rise.
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Ribbon element microphones are all the rage these days with a range of products from companies such as Royer and AEA to the more economical models from sE Electronics and Cascade Microphones brands. Case in point is the Cascade X-15 stereo ribbon, selling for $399!

Features

The X-15 stereo ribbon microphone contains separate factory-matched 2.5 micron ribbon elements, offset at 90 degrees in a Blumlein arrangement. Typical of ribbons, its coverage comes via a Figure 8 pattern. According to Cascade, the ribbon’s aluminum membranes produce a ”balanced” sound from sources on either side of the ribbon.

The X-15 comes with a nice shock mount, a splitter box with two separate XLR outputs, a 12 ft. connector cable and an aluminum case. The microphone is also available with Lundahl transformers that are installed in the Cascade Microphone shop in Olympia, WA for an additional $300.

The factory specs claim a 30 Hz to 18 kHz, +/-3 dB with just a hint of rise from 2 kHz to about 10 kHz. (The provided measurement plot shows a roll-off after 10 kHz). The maximum SPL is rated at 165 dB maximum SPL at 1% distortion, and self-noise is said to 17 dB.

Fast FactsApplications
Recording, project studio

Key Features
Two separate aluminum ribbons, set at 90 degrees, Figure 8 pattern, suspension shock mount, splitter box, 12 ft. mic-to-splitter box cable, carrying case

Price
$399

Contact
Cascade Microphones | 360-867-1799 | www.cascademicrophones.comIn Use

Stereo microphones are suited for many applications including acoustic guitar, electric guitar amps, drum overheads, brass, piano. When adding ambiance, I used it on a variety of acoustic and electric guitars/amps from dark sounding dreadnoughts to small body finger pickers to Telecaster and Gibson hollow body jazz guitar.

I first mounted the X-15 on an adjustable arm stand and recorded a Guild D-55 dreadnaught. I had to play around with the positioning to find the sweet spot, finally settling on about a foot from the guitar and positioning it so the upper element paralleled the upper frets and the other paralleled the body.

I recorded the audio 24-bit 96 kHz via a TASCAM HD-P2 connected to a Benchmark ADC1. The sound of the Guild is big with a lot of midrange/low treble and a tight bass for a dreadnaught.

Ribbon microphones lack the upper treble that my stereo pair high-end condensers produce, but I liked the sound because it was pretty smooth in the critically sensitive high-mid/low treble hearing frequencies without that hyped stridency you can get from a condenser with the broader treble rise. But sometimes you get an acoustic “sheen” from that treble tilt that many condensers impart. If you want that sheen with the Cascade, you may want to tweak the EQ — especially with a really dark instrument.

With the separate elements, proper mic placement and a good-sounding room, the stereo spread was excellent, as was the mic’s ability to pick up the room sound. I tried the X-15 with my custom Martin 00-28 with silk/steel strings and it really sounded good with a tight bass and warm midrange. The resulting recording really filled out the width and depth of stereo recording.

Product PointsPlus

  • Price
  • Smooth sound
  • Quality construction
  • Stereo recording in one package

Minus

  • None

Score
A good sounding stereo ribbon at a great priceWith most of the stringed instruments that I used the sound was pretty consistent. With its mostly flat response to 10 kHz, the mic just does not have any hyped character.

The Figure 8 pattern allows you to experiment to find the optimum position for getting the best stereo image, plus picking up a bit more of the room. Although I did not test it on drum overheads, I would expect its smooth character and two-in-to-one placement to work well in such an application.

I did not have another stereo ribbon for direct comparison, but the X-15 has the essence of a ribbon microphone with a smooth warm response. Other ribbons that I have used may have more richness in their low treble character, but there is nothing wrong with the sound of this mic. I also recorded a hard-to-record Guild and it sounded quite good as did the Gibson hollow-body and Fender Twin Reverb amp.

Summary

The Cascade X-15 stereo ribbon is a very good sounding stereo microphone with a smooth character that can work on a lot of different instruments and applications. And it is quite a deal at $399 retail; this class of Chinese made-ribbons seems to improve with every generation. With the fit and finish, the cable, and carrying case — it is quite a nice package. Did I mention it is under $400?