One of the dark secrets of microphone reviews and the world of microphones in general, is that the mic doesn’t matter nearly as much as the person using it.
Except for the worst microphones on the planet, you can get a good sound with just about any of them, as long as you know how to use it. While experience can really help you position a mic quickly, anybody can do this. As long as they can hear and they have patience.
It could take all day to get the mic position right. But it’s worth it. Just try this simple formula:
- Listen to your source.
- Position a microphone near it. Anywhere.
- Record a bit of the source and listen back.
- If it sounds awesome, you can record.
- If it sounds terrible, return to step 2.
With that in mind, we’ll approach the MXL 990. Did we mention all this because it’s a bad microphone? Not at all.
On the contrary, it’s a fine microphone but MXL has had a hard time steering away from the stigma of releasing microphones made in China. The association of cheapness, of shoddy quality, has followed the company.
But we’ll just forget about that and ask the question: does this mic do the trick in the studio?
It can. Let’s look closer.
It’s a fairly unconventional looking mic, as if somebody squished a normal microphone, though this doesn’t affect the size of the mic basket, a critical component in the equation.
But how does it sound? That really depends on the source. For some sources, like guitars, you might really like what this mic has to offer, since it has a slightly warmer sound. This warmth has been characterized by many users as a “muddy mid-frequency.” There’s no denying that and it’s something that you can use to your advantage to get a slightly beefier guitar sound.
That warmth can translate into some problems when you’re recording vocals. Not only is the mid-range ill-defined, but there can be a bit of a harshness to the higher frequencies, a particularly worrisome issue with vocals. Sibilance is especially pronounced.
Many buyers will balance the sonic qualities with the incredible price of the mic. We always advocate getting it right at the source, which might not be possible when recording vocals with this mic. However, if you’re on a budget, willing to spend some time with EQing and de-essers, you can get away with some passable vocal tracks.
That doesn’t mean you can’t find a use for it. There are plenty of instances where a quality, budget mic can shine, and many beginning producers get a lot of mileage out of this microphone.
Don’t let your budget restrict you. This mic can serve you perfectly well and if it’s in your price range, you can make great records with it.