We tested the new Pinnacle Microphones Fat Top II ribbon microphone in our Noise Machines studio. It has that vintage sound with a vintage design.
Do you feel that your recordings are too harsh? Are you sick of digital cleaning? Have you ever tried a ribbon microphone? Hailing from the state of Washington, USA, Pinnacle Microphones, with their collection of ribbon microphones, have the cure for your recording ailment.
Pinnacle Microphones have picked up where Cascade Microphones left off. A small company with a cult following, we sadly report that Cascade Microphones owner Michael Chiriac passed away in early 2022.
Rumored to have been taken over by the family, Pinnacle microphones have basically the same design, sound, look and feel that tape enthusiasts loved about Cascade.
With only a small selection of ribbon mics at this time from various short and long ribbon types, transformers and internal preamps, they have just released the Fat Top II – an update to their original Fat Top aka Fat Head. of the Cascade days.
Ribbon mics aren’t the usual choice for recording, and using one comes with the need for a bit of education (you can blow some of them up if you feed them 48 volt/phantom power!). However, you will often find experienced engineers. use ribbon mics on various sources for reasons such as null point rejection and smoothing out extreme treble from, say, a guitar amp or the breaths of a saxophonist.
Their original Fat Top is a passive short-ribbon mic and features a bobble head design that really helps lean into that vintage feel that a ribbon mic sound produces. The Fat Top series has a few different variations – upgrade to a Lundahl LL2912 transformer or get the ‘Brown’ version which has a brown body and gold bobblehead, as opposed to the black body and silver grill.
The new Fat Top II, however, is something completely new. Using the same short strap design, all Fat Top IIs come with a Lundahl transformer and you can get a standard case and mic clip, or upgrade to the deluxe one that has a shock mount and solid silver hard case. There’s also a Fat Top II Active/Passive that allows you to boost 20dB of gain, activated by a switch and phantom power.
Fun fact about phantom power, in the Pinnacle Microphones certificate it says “This product is safe for phantom power.” So thank you very much Pinnacle Microphones for that! No more assistants and interns destroying the fragile tapes.
However, Pinnacle Microphones have all of their parts for sale, from the short ribbons inside the Fat Top series, the long ribbons inside their Vinnie microphones, bobbleheads (which can be tailored to fit you), and even Lundahl transformers. So don’t be too hard on yourself or someone if they break one!
We tested the Fat Top II Black with the Lundahl Deluxe, and you can hear how it sounds in our Engineering the Sound video on the Chandler Limited RS600 compressor. Our engineer Owen used it on mono drums, electric bass, and guitar amps.
The choice of a ribbon mic is always stylistic, on drums as a solo overhead mono the Fat Top II provided a fantastic all-around drum kit picture. In the right place, about 80cm above the edge of the bass drum/kick drum in the center of the drums, there was enough bass to give the bass drum/kick some weight without making too much noise with the beater.
The snare was very full and full-bodied, and didn’t ‘crack’ too much, as the natural frequency response (30 Hz to 15 kHz) smoothed out the tops. The hi-hat and ride cymbal were also smoothed out in the same way and really benefited from the high-frequency curve.
The electric bass was surprisingly warm, perhaps the figure 8 polar pattern was taking up some space, and again you didn’t hear those unwanted high frequencies that don’t do much for the overall tone of the bass.
The electric guitar by nature can be a difficult instrument to mike. There are millions of combinations of microphones and techniques that people use, but one thing you always see is that a ribbon microphone on a guitar amp replicates what our ears usually hear. Perhaps because we never have our ear glued to the speaker.
Lowering the high frequencies on an electric guitar usually helps with perceived warmth, and the Fat Top II did just that. Stretching out your thumb and pinky is usually a good distance to start with a moderately loud guitar amp, and this mic, as the sole sound source, provided a full sound without having to EQ brittle highs.
The sound, feel, accessories, construction, and design are all brilliant on the Fat Top II. I would really love to hear about your Active/Passive model and am looking forward to seeing what else you offer.
The Fat Top II that we reviewed is priced at $599 USD. For more information on this microphone and their other products, head over to Pinnaclemicrophones.com