Greetings mate and Welcome aboard!
Stuart Charles here, HomeStudioBasics.com helping YOU make sound decisions leading to a beautiful audio experience that will make you fall in love with music (NOT gear) all over again, so…
Today’s review of the MXL 990 will encompass several pivotal aspects, including its build quality, sound performance, and diverse use cases.
It will provide insights into the microphone’s construction, highlighting its durability and design.
Additionally, the review will explore the sound quality across various scenarios, aiming to offer a comprehensive understanding of the MXL 990’s capabilities.
An in-depth analysis of its frequency response will also be featured to better illustrate its performance characteristics.
With that, let’s dive in!
In The Box
MXL 990 Large-Diaphragm Cardioid Condenser Microphone (Champagne)
Mic Stand Adapter
Limited 1-Year Manufacturer Warranty
Registration Extension: 1-Year (US Only)
- Analog or digital: Analog.
- Frequency response: 30Hz to 20KhZ.
- Max SPL: 130 dB. What is SPL?
- Connectivity: XLR. What is XLR?
- Capsule: Condenser.
- Polar pattern: Cardioid.
- Type: Mounted.
- Applications: Studio.
- Diaphragm size: Large diaphragm. Large diaphragm vs. Small diaphragm.
- Switches: None.
- Phantom power required: Yes (48V).
- Width: 2.4″
- Height: 5.11″
- Weight: 1.2 lb.
- Case: Carrying case.
- Clip: Yes.
- Shockmount: Yes.
I picked up the 990 on a literal whim one day because I needed a condenser microphone for rapping/voice-over and heard great things about it over the years.
Is the hype warranted?
In this article,
we’ll go over its build, sound quality, and use cases, and take a look at the frequency response as well.
I’ll also provide some voice-over samples for you to get an idea of its unique tone.
By the end, you’ll know without a doubt whether the MXL 990 is worth a purchase.
What Is It?
First of all, what is the 990, exactly?
- Related: What Is 48v Phantom Power?
This simply means you’ll need an XLR cable to plug into the mic while the other end connects to your interface.
In any event, XLR microphones have an incredibly weak signal on their own and thus need to be boosted to line level.
This is where your interface comes in, but make sure to push the button/flick the switch first!
I’ve read so much nonsense over the years from people who gave an XLR microphone a bad review without actually realizing what they were purchasing.
These reviews went something like “Bad mic, doesn’t work, no power.”
Again, this isn’t a plug-and-play mic, so plan accordingly.
With that, let’s discuss the build.
Right off the bat, the 990 is incredibly robust – especially for the price.
Mine came bundled with the MXL 991, a small diaphragm pencil condenser used primarily to record the acoustic guitar.
Its build isn’t nearly as substantial as the 990 and does feel fairly underwhelming in your hand.
Nevertheless, the 990 is sturdy as can be and gives my Shure SM57 a real run for its money heft-wise.
Both mics seem like they could withstand quite a bit of abuse, and it will really put your mind at ease knowing you’ve invested in something so durable.
For clarification, the 990 is 390g vs. 284 for the SM57.
So if you thought the SM57 was heavy, boy howdy are you ever in for a shock. This thing, like the Samson C01, could probably double as a barbell.
In addition, the 990 comes with a rugged carrying case which you’ll really appreciate for on-the-go recording.
If all that wasn’t enough, the 990 looks the part too.
Styled in a champagne finish, it really does give your studio a cool vintage feel and does remind me a lot of those expensive Neumann microphones.
Speaking of tight lows and mids, what does the frequency response look like?
This is actually one of the main reasons I purchased one, as the signature is incredibly flat across the board.
The 990 is about as close as you’ll get to something like a Rode NT1 without having to spend the extra money.
As you can see, everything is nice and flat with the perfect amount of presence in the highs.
This will ensure your voice has some sparkle without the need for a lot of post-processing.
I got a really good take with no EQ on a rap I just recorded, but do keep in mind you may want to cut out some of the low-end depending on taste and/or the character of your own voice.
That said, I found that 990 provides an almost perfect amount and I felt no need to cut anything.
For simple voice-over applications, I also think the lows give just the right amount of radio broadcast warmth without going overboard.
you’ll hardly have to EQ with this microphone and now that I own one, I can totally understand why it’s become so popular over the years.
Before we get to the sound tests, let’s go over some essential items to purchase with the mic:
A Mic Stand
Can’t really record without one of these unless you want to do your best Robert Plant impression in the studio – mic in hand.
Oh yeah, give it to me!
I’ve had experience with a few different types over the years:
These are kind of annoying in my experience and rather bulky.
My advice is to find one sturdy enough to hold any type of mic.
I say that because the one I owned had trouble supporting my Samson C01 barbell. And yeah, the 990 is just as heavy as that wonderful mic; maybe even heavier.
I think a lot of these stands suffer from that sway issue (the stand swings around by itself due to the weight) and my experience was similar.
Next, I tried a desktop stand with my AT2020 (pictured above), which was the complete opposite – it was incredibly heavy and robust!
The problem with it is that it was too bulky for my setup.
I had a place to put it, but the spot was kind of awkward and not really all that ideal.
Like Goldilocks and the porridge, this stand from the fine folks at InnoGear is just right.
I can mount it to my desk and keep it out of the way when not in use – plus the adjustable arm is great for varying heights and angles.
So I can sit on my rump and record, or I can stand up. It’s just so incredibly convenient and easy to use.
No mic setup is complete without a pop filter or windscreen.
I’ve been using this one for quite a while, and I like how easily it slips onto almost any larger-sized mic. Your mics should always wear protection!
I also owned a Samson PS01 for many years, as the traditional pop filters are great too.
You may enjoy the convenience of a windscreen, but experiment with both to see what works better for you.
A shock mount is optional but holds the mic steadily in place and prevents contact with the microphone.
This contact can create varying low-frequency rumbles, vibrations, etc. that we don’t want in our recordings.
These are typically things we can’t hear while recording but somehow seep their way in at times.
Of course, EQ can always be applied after the fact, and generally speaking, a lot of the low-frequency information present in a lot of recordings is unnecessary and can be cut.
This most famously includes the acoustic guitar’s low end which is almost entirely useless.
The same goes for vocals, but of course, you don’t want to cut all of it as it can render a recording too thin and anemic.
It really just depends on the recording as well as your voice, but I like to keep some of the bass frequencies in there as it adds some weight and additional warmth to vocals.
Audio Interface + XLR Cables
I currently use the Volt 2 and can’t recommend it enough.
All you need to do now is snag an XLR cable and you’ll be set.
Don’t panic if it takes a few times to get the right take.
I found that I get a really nice sound with the gain turned up by around 75% on the Volt 2. Just play around with it until you find the sweet spot.
This is also super important. Experiment with varying distances to get that perfect loudness level and never be afraid to adjust the intensity of your voice (up or down).
I’ve also found that the 990 likes it when you’re not right up on it.
I suppose this is common with a lot of condensers, but for me, the sweet spot for this particular mic is around 5-6 inches away.
Before we give a final verdict, let’s listen to some sound tests:
No Filter No EQ
No Filter – EQ added
I only added in a couple of spots that peaked a tad. You may not even notice.
Teaser for a music video I’m working on
(about DACS no less xD)
Keep in mind this isn’t the final mixdown and I’m still working on it! I recorded with the 990 and this windscreen.
The MXL 990 is a tried and true workhorse large diaphragm condenser microphone perfect for those home-based producers, musicians, and vocalists looking for a great-sounding product at an insanely affordable price point.
It’s built incredibly well and boasts a flat frequency response with just the right amount of treble emphasis.
With this mic, you’ll be doing minimal post-processing, and given proper care, it should last you a lifetime.
One of the easiest purchases I’ve ever made. I know it will be for you, too.
Well, that’s about it for today folks! I hope you’ve enjoyed this MXL 990 review and gained some valuable insight.
Questions? Comments? Requests? Did I miss the mark on something? Please let me know down below or Contact me!!
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Any experience with the Volt 2? What are you going to use it to record with? I’d love to hear from you. Until next time…
All the best and God bless,