Cascade X-15 Ribbon Mic Mods

Discussion in 'Recording Studio' started by Freddy G, May 29, 2017.

  1. Freddy G

    Freddy G V.I.P. Member

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    Hiya!

    Got me a Cascade X-15 stereo ribbon mic on the bench.

    Cascade_Microphones_104_X_15_Stereo_Ribbon_Microphone_687185.jpg




    Modding the crap out of it ...he he!

    First, I cut out the waffle grills and replaced the very fine mesh with a larger brass mesh, and I soldered the new mesh to the basket head. The old mesh was just superglued in.

    P1060659.JPG

    Next I replaced the stock transformers with Cinemag CM-9887s.

    P1060662.JPG

    And finally, I cut two new ribbons from 1.2 micron foil. It took me about a dozen tries to get two perfect ribbons cut and then placed and tensioned just the way I wanted. A tense afternoon of steady hands!

    P1060661.JPG
    The stock ribbons are advertised as 2.5 micron....no way! I know what 2.5 looks like...these were way heavier....I'll bet 6 microns. Not only that but they had virtually no corrugation!
    Here's a pic of the stock ribbon:

    P1060663.JPG


    Going to do a test recording of an orchestra tomorrow. Stay tuned!

    P1060657.JPG
     
  2. DarrellV

    DarrellV 1 Year old and 8K this month or bust! Premium Member

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    Explain corrugation... Why? What does it do for the mic?

    I'm guessing magnetic field interaction, but i could be way off base...
     
  3. Freddy G

    Freddy G V.I.P. Member

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    A couple of things. The ribbon needs to be held under tension. With only a very small amount of corrugation as in the original ribbon there's not much play between not enough and too much tension before it breaks. It needs to be like a spring that can retain it's shape while being able to take sound pressure. You can imagine that if there was no corrugation at all and the ribbon was under even a little tension it wouldn't take much sound pressure to break it.

    It also has to do with the ability to tune the ribbon via tensioning.
     
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  4. Freddy G

    Freddy G V.I.P. Member

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    I actually had to make a video of the conductor today for understudy purposes. I thought why not record the the orchestra with the stereo ribbon!

    As promised... a recording with the modded X-15 ribbon mic.

     
  5. DarrellV

    DarrellV 1 Year old and 8K this month or bust! Premium Member

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    OK, like, wow! Even on my PC speakers at work (3 pc with sub) that was like I was there!

    I don't know how else to describe it, like I was standing in front of them.
     
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  6. Freddy G

    Freddy G V.I.P. Member

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    hehe! Glad you dig it....this is what my client had to say today and this guy is a well known producer/musician who has worked with Tony Bennett, Nelly Furtado, Bryan Adams, John Legend, Kelly Clarkson, The Barenaked Ladies etc...

    "I am speechless. I can't believe it. It sounds unreal. Actually it sounds totally real-like there's no mic at all.
    Holy f*cking sh*t.....
    Holy sh*t.
    Thank you Freddy."
     
  7. DarrellV

    DarrellV 1 Year old and 8K this month or bust! Premium Member

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    That's it! Like there is no mic there at all.. :thumb:

    Outstanding job that there is, mr Freddy! Hat's are off! :applause:

    It was his mic then?

    He's gonna have to wear depends when he uses that thing to contain the mess! :rofl:
     
  8. DarrellV

    DarrellV 1 Year old and 8K this month or bust! Premium Member

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    Friend of mine just listened to it with me and was similarly astonished.

    He had a good idea, tho, any way you could get a stock one to do an A/B with?
     
  9. Freddy G

    Freddy G V.I.P. Member

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    Not with that one....it's gone. To be honest, I didn't even listen to it before when it was stock! I was that confident that I could improve it. Good thing buddy liked it! Would have been a drag if he said he liked it better before.....I would have had no way to restore it because I irreversibly chopped it and mangled it. But seriously, if that happened, I would have bought him a new one.

    However, just for you Darrell :h5:, I will do the AB with another pair of ribbons I'm doing for the same guy.
     
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  10. DarrellV

    DarrellV 1 Year old and 8K this month or bust! Premium Member

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    Nice! Thank you!:dude:

    Seriously, tho Freddy, no MFG has ever done this before? :eek2:

    No one else has ever thought to put these magical ingredients together into an off the shelf mic? :shock:

    That was amazing, I'm just wondering why you don't patent it or something if no one else has one like it....

    It isn't like you invented a new technology, just took the care and time to put the right ingredients into the mix.

    That's not meant as a dig, I'm just thinking out loud... you did really good!

    I'm just wondering why the big names aren't already doing it is all!! Baffles me... :dunno:

    P.S. How's that book on the life of Freddy coming along....? :rofl:
     
  11. Freddy G

    Freddy G V.I.P. Member

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    The reason is simpler than you would think. Everything I did to that mic (with the exception of changing the transformers) made it much more fragile. No sane manufacturer would do that because they end would up with too many returns of broken mics. The foil I used is 1.2 microns. It's hard to imagine just how thin that is. You look at it the wrong way and it will break!
    I used to use 0.8 micron foil in some of my mics and some I did for friends and they sounded great but they didn't last long....so that was my point of diminishing returns.
    The 1.2 micron foil seems to survive if the owner is very careful. I tell them what they should do to protect the ribbons....obviously never put them in front of anything that delivers blasts of air like a kick drum or a close singer. But even down to handling them....you can't just pick one up and walk with it, swinging it through the air is enough to blow apart the ribbon! So I have a nice lady in the wardrobe department make cotton mic bags for me. My protocol is to always keep the mic in the bag, even as I take it out of the box, set it up on the mic stand and plug it in....that bag is on. I pull the bag off just before use.

    Next....the head basket. Cutting away all that waffling really weakens the physical structure so that it becomes easy to bend or crush. Again the owner just has to be aware of that and be extra careful. In many ribbon mics (like the next two I'm going to do) they have layers upon layers of metal grills, screens and silk. All there to protect the ribbon. Each of those layers is a detriment to the sound...and ultimately makes the mic darker and duller.

    The transformer swap is simple economics....the stock Chinese ones are cheap and they don't sound as good.

    So no....I'm not doing anything that's not known...it's just that no manufacturer wants to be an "Icarus"!
     
    Last edited: Jun 2, 2017
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  12. DarrellV

    DarrellV 1 Year old and 8K this month or bust! Premium Member

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    Ahhh! Makes sense!

    I ran into this situation years ago in the PC field.

    The big boys like HP and Compaq had taken to 'dumbing down' their motherboard BIOS and removed many features from the end user.

    It was done to cut down on support calls. They were slow as hel!, but fairly stable as a trade off.

    The end result was a 'safer' more stable board that ran about half as fast as a board from an independent maker.

    These independent boards were also much more tweak-able.

    That's why I've been building my own for years, and the company I work for is running on them...
     
  13. DarrellV

    DarrellV 1 Year old and 8K this month or bust! Premium Member

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    I take it a thin layer of open celled foam around the inside of the screens wouldn't work?...
     
  14. LeftyF2003

    LeftyF2003 Premium Member

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    Incredible - well done Fred! A before recording would be even more impressive I'm sure, but it sounds fantastic.

    I did a head replacement on my MXL-990 a couple of months ago and I thought that was impressive. That ribbon sounds incredible. You could offer that upgrade as a service.
     
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  15. Freddy G

    Freddy G V.I.P. Member

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    Many of these mics come with foam windsocks that slip over the mic...the X-15 does. It might help to protect the ribbon, but even that does have a sonic impact. Ribbon mics are dark to begin with...that's why I remove everything that can darken it. Really the only reason that I installed the brass mesh is for electrical shielding. If it didn't need the shielding I'd remove the brass mesh and leave the ribbon absolutely exposed....but we can't have everything!
     
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  16. DarrellV

    DarrellV 1 Year old and 8K this month or bust! Premium Member

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    Isn't a windsock a bit dense by nature?

    I was thinking more like this...

    [​IMG]
     
  17. Freddy G

    Freddy G V.I.P. Member

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    Thanks Lefty! I'm a little reluctant to go full public in offering that upgrade.....I have so much on my plate! I did it for this guy because
    1- he's a friend and lives close to me so if and when he blows the ribbon up I can make him a new one without shipping hassles etc
    2- I'm working on a recording project, producing a singer songwriter that I really believe in...I wanted this fellow involved in the production as a musician and co-producer, but I knew I couldn't afford him. So we worked out a trade where I could do something unique for him.

    Ribbons are just great for horns....classic recipe, no doubt about that. But what really gets me in the orchestral recording above is the sound of the strings....that one little phrase at the 1:46 mark....heaven!
     
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  18. Freddy G

    Freddy G V.I.P. Member

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    Yeah....that's very open celled....so prolly not much protection from that. So it's either closed cell enough to offer protection, in which case there's a sonic price, or it's so open celled that there's virtually no sonic price but also no protection....so then what's the point?
     
  19. DarrellV

    DarrellV 1 Year old and 8K this month or bust! Premium Member

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    Esthetics.... :laugh2:
     
  20. DarrellV

    DarrellV 1 Year old and 8K this month or bust! Premium Member

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    So I was listening to the Star Wars opening and closing themes yesterday and all I could think of is what they might have sounded like recorded with your mic!

    To have that same transparent sensation of standing in front of the London Symphony Orchestra going through it's paces with Star Wars blaring on the trumpets, Timbales wailing, cellos humming and violins dancing..... I could die a happy man!
     

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