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Old July 11th, 2005, 11:31 PM   #1
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Marshall MXL 990 - as good as they say?

I ran accross the following reivew of the Marshall MXL 990
http://www.eham.net/reviews/detail/2950

The long reviewer [KC8YXH] claims, "The MXL 990 outperformed all tested microphones, with the exception of 2 of them. The $600 Shure was equal in sound quality. The Nuemann was better, but just by a very small amount."

Has anyone here tried this mic? If Ty or Spot has tested one of these, I'd really like to know your opinion. Note that the reviewer above was not impressed with the more expensive Marshall MXL 2001, but the MXL 990 really seemed to be a hit.

Thanks, Shawn
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Old July 12th, 2005, 06:18 AM   #2
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Shawn Redford
I ran accross the following reivew of the Marshall MXL 990
http://www.eham.net/reviews/detail/2950

The long reviewer [KC8YXH] claims, "The MXL 990 outperformed all tested microphones, with the exception of 2 of them. The $600 Shure was equal in sound quality. The Nuemann was better, but just by a very small amount."

Has anyone here tried this mic? If Ty or Spot has tested one of these, I'd really like to know your opinion. Note that the reviewer above was not impressed with the more expensive Marshall MXL 2001, but the MXL 990 really seemed to be a hit.

Thanks, Shawn
As in the above, most Marshall users can't even spell Neumann, much less tell the difference. You're looking for a new mic. What do you want to do with it?

Regards,

Ty Ford
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Old July 12th, 2005, 07:27 AM   #3
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ty Ford
As in the above, most Marshall users can't even spell Neumann, much less tell the difference. You're looking for a new mic. What do you want to do with it?
ROTFLAO!!!

Amen to that. I've not tried the Marshall, and unless they send me one for review, I'll likely not try one. That "review" that you post the link to is hilarious though... A "sound professional" liked it vs the (1000.00)Neumann (which one?) for ham radio/close mic use? I was unaware anyone in the last 50 years would use a Neumann for ham radio use, but maybe Neumann is still making ham radio mics and I'm just in the dark. (I don't do ham radio)
Next to that is a guy mic'ing his Marshall stack and claiming it's the best thing he's ever heard. He's likely never heard a high end mic, or he'd not say such a thing.
"Made for amateur recording enthusiasts and ham radio operators" sorta says it all for me.

Ty's question is the one you really need to answer for yourself. What is the mic for? Mic's are like shoes....no such thing as one-size-fits-all, and no one one shoe is good for all activities.

I haven't laughed this hard for a while, you owe me a new laptop keyboard, Ty. I spit my evening wine all over this one. :-)
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Old July 12th, 2005, 01:17 PM   #4
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It's not such a bad mic. I've started using it as a room mic when recording drums or guitars. I've also used it on "screamo" vocals, where it seems to work nicely on double-tracked vocals without getting muddied up. It has a pretty noticeable high-mid boost which can sound good on some things and not so good on others. The low end also seems pretty weak, so it's probably not going to be great for voice overs.

I think the mic, including a nice shockmount and a decent case, costs $70 from Musicians Friend. Considering that it's useful for at least a few applications in my studio, I'd say it's worth the money.

What I don't understand is why people feel the need to compare these cheapo Chinese mics with high-end classics like Neumanns. Comparing them is just inviting disappointment and ridicule. They're good for the price, and that's that. There are some low-priced gems out there that sound great on pretty much everything (the Oktava MC012s come to mind), but for the most part, these cheapo mics are going to have limited use. They might sound brilliant on one person's voice, maybe even better than a particular model of Neumann sounds on that person, but usually they'll sound okay or just plain bad on everything else. Whereas the Neumann is probably going to sound pretty great on everything.

Ryan
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Old July 12th, 2005, 01:23 PM   #5
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You guys are hilarious. So how do you really feel about Marshall mics? :) Im really not looking for this type of mic right now, but I was curious about it when I saw the review (and the price). The only strange thing about this particular Marshall mic is that it is carried only by MusiciansFriend.com however, if you look at the site,
http://www.musiciansfriend.com/srs7/...se_pid/273156/
this mic has a number of positive reviews as well, but Im guessing that Tys 'Marshall Users' stigma would extend all 369 of these 'Marshall Buyers' even though they thought pretty highly of this mic. Thanks for responding Spot and Ty I was just curious if Marshall might have pulled a rabbit out of their hat.
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Old July 12th, 2005, 01:58 PM   #6
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Again, it depends on what you want to do and what you want to pay. "Not so bad" is not a ringing endorsement.

You can buy a lot of cheap mics "because you can't aford the good ones", but if you add it all up over time, you probably will spend more on allof them than you will one or two really good ones. And every stinkin' piece of audio you record with those mics won't sound as good.

"A man's got to know his limitations. Are you ready for a real mic? Well are you punk?"

::apologies to Clint Eastwood.::

Regards,

TyFord
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Old July 12th, 2005, 06:02 PM   #7
 
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Like I said earlier, I've not heard one. But for 70.00, one can't manufacture anything with consistency and precision, and have humans subject it to a battery of tests to be sure it meets tolerances. Further, the shock mount alone for most any mike is 4 times the price of this whole thing without a case and shockmount.
It might sound very good for it's price range, I'd accept that. Just like the Rode VideoMic sounds surprisingly good in it's price range, but it's no AT897 which is just slightly less than double the price, and certainly not a Sanken CS-1 at 4 times the cost of that.
No, it doesn't all boil down to price, but it does boil down to nuances.
I always thought my AT 4033's were the best, because I loved the way they sound. Then I got to hear a pair of BK 4011's on my instrument, maybe 18 years ago. I also thought my really nice Summit Pre was great. Then I heard a John Hardy. Took me a while to buy the Hardy and the BK's, but I've never, ever looked back.
Once you've heard the "good stuff" you never really want anything else. So be careful...:-)
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Old July 12th, 2005, 07:05 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ty Ford
Again, it depends on what you want to do and what you want to pay. "Not so bad" is not a ringing endorsement.

You can buy a lot of cheap mics "because you can't aford the good ones", but if you add it all up over time, you probably will spend more on allof them than you will one or two really good ones. And every stinkin' piece of audio you record with those mics won't sound as good.

"A man's got to know his limitations. Are you ready for a real mic? Well are you punk?"

::apologies to Clint Eastwood.::

Regards,

TyFord
That's my philosophy. I always buy the best tool I can afford. Maybe even stretch a little beyond what I can afford. Why? Because 'cheap tools are false economy'. Examples exist everywhere, for example, you'll wear out 5 Murray lawn tractors while your John Deere or Cub Cadet will still be kicking along nicely. Hand tools that are made in China tend to have inferior metal alloys and they break or their teeth (nose pliers, vice grips) will strip out before they move whatever you're trying to loosen with them.

That being said, I'm not a purist who looks down his nose at anything less than the best, most expensive, most recognized brand names. I bought my Harley after comparing the feel and handling compared to my former bikes. There really was a difference. So like DSE says, be careful about 'test driving' the really good stuff cause you really won't want anything else.

There are those occasional times, however, that someone comes along and finds a more efficient means of quality manufacturing on the same component which allows them to offer a lower price. Not a ridiculously lower price, just a little better price. That's where you must keep an open mind about progress in technology.

regards,

-gb-
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Old July 12th, 2005, 07:23 PM   #9
 
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[QUOTE=Greg Boston] I bought my Harley after comparing the feel and handling compared to my former bikes. There really was a difference. So like DSE says, be careful about 'test driving' the really good stuff cause you really won't want anything else.
QUOTE]

:-) Ooohh....Ouch! As a former owner of both a Road King and a Sportster...I'm the very happy, proud owner of a Lady Diana (Valkyrie) 15K miles, never been in the shop. 6 cyl's, 6 carbs, gas mileage worse than my Chevy Avalanche. But so much smoother, more reliable, and quieter than my Harley's. C'mon Greg, you got great vid gear, let's get you on a REAL bike. ;-)
Nobody has to follow me a round with a trailer when it's time to ride to Sturgis.
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Old July 13th, 2005, 07:16 AM   #10
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Originally Posted by Ryan Graham
What I don't understand is why people feel the need to compare these cheapo Chinese mics with high-end classics like Neumanns. Comparing them is just inviting disappointment and ridicule. They're good for the price, and that's that. There are some low-priced gems out there that sound great on pretty much everything (the Oktava MC012s come to mind), but for the most part, these cheapo mics are going to have limited use. They might sound brilliant on one person's voice, maybe even better than a particular model of Neumann sounds on that person, but usually they'll sound okay or just plain bad on everything else. Whereas the Neumann is probably going to sound pretty great on everything. Ryan
The companies that sell these chinese knock off have been marketing them as Neumann alternatives since day one. To the uninitiated who have never heard what a good mic sounds like, the "savings" is compelling.

There's a lot more to how a mic sounds than to its overall frequency response. The MC 012 is an OK mic for the price, but it's no Neumann and no Schoeps. The AT 4053, actually, sit nicely in between the MC012 and Schoeps, both price and quality-wise.

If Hollywood could get by on less, they would. There's a reason they use Schoeps, Neumann and Sennheiser mics to make movies. They sound better on many different levels.

Regards,

Ty Ford
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Old July 13th, 2005, 10:00 AM   #11
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First off, low price doesn't necessarily mean low quality when it comes to mics. The SM57 costs about $80, but you'll find it in all pro studios because it sounds great on a few instruments. The MXL mic also sounds great for a few applications (like I said, as a room mic, on a guitar amp, and with screaming vocals). Is it a great mic? Yeah, for those things it is.

I don't buy a mic expecting it to do everything. I didn't buy an SM57 expecting it to do a great job on a kick drum. Likewise, I didn't buy a D112 expecting it to sound great on vocals. If a mic consistently sounds good on particular sources, then it is worth the money, however much it costs. That's why the MXL is worth the money (aside from the nice shockmount). I can stick it about five feet away from an amp, and know it's going to sound better in that application than any other mic I have, 100% of the time. That's a big timesaver, and it's reassuring.

As far as the MC012 goes, I would say it is an excellent mic for the money. Especially when you take into account the versatility offered by the switchable capsules. It might not be as transparent or accurate as a Schoeps (and I have had the opportunity to use a matched pair of Schoeps both as drum overheads and on acoustic guitar), but it has a pleasing color that the Schoeps don't have; a color that happens to sound great not only on acoustic guitars, but also on overheads. With the hypercardiod capsule, it also works great as a boom mic, and with the omni capsule it does a pretty decent job as a plant mic. Considering that I got it for $140 (including the hyper and cardioid caps), I would say this is definitely more than just "an ok mic for the price".

Please remember when posting on this board that a lot of us here (in fact, probably the majority) don't do this stuff for a living. We're doing it on the side for a little extra cash, or as a fun hobby. If I was making a living at it, I'd make it a point get the best tools out there, because that's what high-paying clients would expect. But I'm not making a living at it, and thus I can't justify the expense of a $1000 microphone. And I'd imagine that the same is true for most people on this board. The OP obviously can't afford an expensive mic, or else he wouldn't be posting about a $70 one. So instead of ripping on the MXL and telling him how much better an expensive mic would be, it would be much more helpful to post responses like, "Well, the MXL is great on drums, but not so good on trumpets", or, "It's not a very good mic, but for only $100 you can get X mic that's much better".

Ryan Graham
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P.S. Good luck on your upcoming audio clinic, Ty!
P.P.S. Just found out about Francis Xavier. Very, very sad.
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Old July 13th, 2005, 06:16 PM   #12
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Originally Posted by Ryan Graham
The OP obviously can't afford an expensive mic, or else he wouldn't be posting about a $70 one. So instead of ripping on the MXL and telling him how much better an expensive mic would be, it would be much more helpful to post responses like, "Well, the MXL is great on drums, but not so good on trumpets", or, "It's not a very good mic, but for only $100 you can get X mic that's much better".
Well, we don't really know what he can afford, cause he didn't say. So instead of sending him to the basement to kick around, I thought the better idea would be to explain why he could do better and what better WAS.

I'll keep doing that because I think people deserve to know what GOOD is. I'll keep doing it and explaining WHY cheap mics are cheap.

It's not that I have issues with the cost of the mic. SM57 and SM58 can sound quite nice. The AT 2020 condenser mic at around $99 is also very nice.

However it doesn't sound as good as a U 87, which costs 20x as much. The U 87 is a three pattern mic. It has pads and roll-offs and it's a proven world class mic.

It costs around $2k now which is down from a few years back when it was $3125 +/-.

The lower cost condenser mics from China have a nasty little edge and some selfnoise issues. That's not so much a problem if your sources have a bit of edge already, but if your source is relatively pure, the edge is most unwelcome.

If you only know the edgey ones, you never realize what the good stuff sounds like. Once you do, you can't go back.

Want to read up on mics? I've been reviewing them since 1986. A bunch of them are in my online archives.

Regards,

Ty
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Old July 14th, 2005, 11:11 AM   #13
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Ty,

I don't disagree with anything you've said. People *should* know that an expensive mic costs a lot because it sounds a lot better than cheap mics! Anyone who buys into the hype that a $70 mic is as good as a $2000 mic is fooling themselves. But that shouldn't discourage people who are hobbyists from buying cheap mics if that's all they can afford. Good recordings can be made with these mics; it's just a lot harder in the mix stage to get everything to sound right.

I also agree that a lot (but not all) of the chinese mics have some very hyped upper mids. It's a cool sound on electric guitars, some acoustic guitars, screaming vocals, and a few other things. It can sound terrible on other things, like female vox. And I also agree that the U87 will sound better than any of the Chinese mics on probably 90% of all sources.

I've been lucky enough to work with a lot of different high-end mics in a variety of situations (running audio at CNN in Atlanta, doing session work in some nice studios in Nashville, producing singers who own their favorite mic, etc), and I've been able to figure out which mics suit my voice the best (for some reason the best one is the TLM103, which really isn't *that* expensive). Other people probably haven't been so lucky, and I don't think anyone should make judgements about buying a mic based on a review. I think if someone really has enough money to buy a nice mic, they should first try renting a bunch of different ones to judge for themselves how they sound. Another alternative would be to go to a good studio for an hour of session time and just record your voice (or whatever) with a lot of different mics, and then take the CD home and listen to it over and over until you can hear the differences and can decide which is going to be best for what you're going to use it for.

Someone buying a mic should also keep in mind that it can sound great when paired with a certain preamp, and not so great with another preamp, due to impedance differences.

That said, you can't go wrong with an SM57 or a Beta57. There are more than a few platinum selling albums where all of the lead vocal tracks were recorded with an SM57. Some people's voices just sound much better through one of those than through a $2000 boutique mic!

Ryan Graham
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