Cascade''s Gomez Michael Joly Edition is a versatile ribbon mic with a figure-8 polar pattern and a relatively open top end.
For the better part of a year, I've been using Cascade's inexpensive Fat Head II ribbon microphones with good results. But because the Fat Head sounds pretty dark, I was intrigued when I heard that Cascade had a new ribbon purported to offer a more open sound. The Gomez Michael Joly Edition ($499) is the result of a collaboration between the manufacturer and Michael Joly, who is known for his aftermarket mic modifications. The Joly edition is the only version of the Gomez in production. I tested a pair of these mics, and here's what I found.
HEY, GOOD LOOKIN'
For starters, the Gomez is a rather flashy-looking microphone. The ribbon element is housed behind a shiny gold grille that's a bit larger than a golf ball. This screen, which is flatter at the front and rounder at the rear, is a single layer with a relatively coarse weave. It is visually transparent; you can clearly see the outline of the ribbon element suspended in the magnet assembly. Though the grille basket is asymmetrical, the mic's pickup pattern is a symmetrical figure-8.
The grille is mounted on a chunky, short cylinder, which houses a Lundahl LL2912 output transformer and a male XLR output connector. A large threaded nut rings the output connector and secures the mic to the included elastic-banded shockmount. Each mic comes in its own lunch-box-size, foam-lined metal case. The mics are hand-assembled and tested in Olympia, Washington.
The measured frequency response of the Gomez is relatively flat up to about 5 kHz, after which it drops at about 5 dB per octave. Although the low-end response measures flat, you can get an exaggerated bump in the low end when miking closely, as figure-8 mics exhibit even more proximity effect than a typical cardioid mic.
This mic responds well to changes in EQ, without the EQ-resistant high-bass cloudiness I've noted in the Fat Head II. You can add plenty of top without making things edgy.
ON TO THE TESTS
First up was my old tweed Fender Deluxe guitar amp during a recent tracking session for my band, the Sippy Cups, at Decibelle Studios in San Francisco. We put up a Royer ribbon slightly off to one side and the Gomez closer to the speaker cone's center; the Gomez had a clear-sounding low mid and the Royer more growl. The Gomez had more top, as expected with it positioned closer to the cone's center. Both mics sounded good, and either would have been usable on its own. But why choose? We ended up using a blend of both for the final track.
Next, I put up a Gomez and a Schoeps figure-8 on an acoustic guitar. The mics were arranged as an XY coincident pair to allow mixing the mics to mono without phase cancellation. For contrast, I pointed the brighter Schoeps at the guitar's lower body and the Gomez between the neck and body. Again, the Gomez provided a welcome color, sweetening the sometimes-clinical Schoeps. The figure-8 patterns picked up a nice sense of space in a bright-sounding hallway.
A trumpet and glockenspiel were both well recorded using the Gomez at a medium distance (4 to 8 feet). For a live acoustic guitar and vocal recording, I went with a pair of Gomez mics straight to 2-track (my Sony PCM-D1 with an XLR-1 adapter). I set the mics in a crossed figure-8 pattern again, but with a horizontal orientation rather than the traditional vertical axis — one microphone pointing up at my face and the other pointing down toward the guitar. This way, each figure-8's null was oriented for maximum rejection, yielding good isolation between vocal and guitar. A pop filter is especially important with the Gomez, as the single-layer grille offers relatively little protection for the delicate ribbon.
HOW SWEET IT IS
The microphone's sound was a sweet combination of warmth and detail. With a session recorded to 2-track fresh in my mind's ear, I felt like the ribbons and the PCM-D1 provided a really musical, analog-sounding combination. (You can hear the track, “Lady Bug Beat,” at thesippycups.com. We used other mics for backgrounds, with lots of signal processing in the final mix.)
With the Gomez Michael Joly Edition, Cascade is stepping up, both in price and sound quality. The company first got my attention with interesting-looking products at impulse-buy price points. Now Cascade looks ready to move up to the next segment of the ribbon mic marketplace.
Value (1 through 5): 4