Home Microphones MXL 990 Review – Best Budget Condenser Microphone?

MXL 990 Review – Best Budget Condenser Microphone?

by Stuart Charles Black
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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 design, build quality/overall construction, sound performance, and diverse use cases.

We’ll also compare it with a few other mics including MXL’s own V67G and 770, and I’ll provide some samples for your listening discernment.

By the time you’re finished reading this, you’ll know exactly where the 990 stands in terms of its sound quality and if it’s ultimately worth a purchase.

With that, let’s dive in!

MXL 990

Price: Check Amazon! | Check Sweetwater! | Check B&H!

In The Box

MXL 990 Large-Diaphragm Cardioid Condenser Microphone (Champagne)

Custom Shockmount

Mic Stand Adapter

Carrying Case

Limited 1-Year Manufacturer Warranty

Registration Extension: 1-Year (US Only)

Specifications

  • 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.
  • Switches: None.
  • Phantom power required: Yes (48V).
  • Width: 2.4″
  • Height: 5.11″
  • Weight: 1.2 lb.
  • Case: Carrying case.
  • Clip: Yes.
  • Shockmount: Yes.

Introduction

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?

Well, let’s dive in and find out!

What Is It?

First of all, what is the 990, exactly?

For those new to the wonderful world of recording things, the MXL 990 is an XLR condenser microphone, meaning it needs 48v phantom power from an audio interface, mixer, etc.

This simply means you’ll need an XLR cable to plug into the mic while the other end connects to your interface.

Right now I’m using the Universal Audio Volt 2; an excellent product and one that won an award in 2023! (second from top)

Universal Audio Volt 2 ReviewIn 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.”

Huh?

Lol.

Again, this isn’t a plug-and-play mic, so plan accordingly.

With that, let’s discuss the build.

Build Quality

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 should 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 you’re 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 appreciate for on-the-go recording.

Style

If all that wasn’t enough, the 990 looks the part too.

Styled in a champagne finish, it gives your studio a cool vintage feel and does remind me a lot of those expensive Neumann microphones.

MXL 990 ReviewFrom B&H:

Inside the vintage-style body are quality components—a 6-micron, gold-sputtered diaphragm and an FET preamp with a balanced output. These allow the MXL 990 to impart tight lows and mids along with sweet highs. The mic’s directional response helps reduce the background noise that plagues many home recordings. Unlike battery-powered miniature mics, the MXL 990 needs to be plugged into the XLR mic input of any audio interface, mixing board, or microphone preamp that can supply 48V phantom power.<span class="su-quote-cite"><a href="https://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/1481597-REG/mxl_990_condenser_microphone_with.html" target="_blank">B&H Photo</a></span>

Speaking of tight lows and mids, what does the frequency response look like?

Sound

This is 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.

Graph courtesy of Recording Hacks

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.

In fact,

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 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.

In short,

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.

From MXL:

The 990 remains one of the industry’s most ground-breaking microphones. The first high quality condenser microphone to come into reach of working musicians, the 990 has a FET preamp and a large diaphragm for truly professional sound quality in both digital and analog recordings. This revolutionary condenser microphone continues to astound artists with its silky, high end and tight, solid low and midrange reproduction. <span class="su-quote-cite"><a href="https://amzn.to/40UMxfe" target="_blank">MXL</a></span>

Before we get to the sound tests, let’s go over some essential items to purchase with the mic:

A Mic Stand

Can’t record without one of these unless you want to do your best Robert Plant impression in the studio – mic in hand.

I’ve had experience with a few different types over the years:

Boom Stand

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.

Desktop Stand

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.

Scissor Arm

Blue Snowball vs. Snowball Ice vs. Yeti

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.

Pop Filter

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.

I find windscreens more convenient, but what makes a pop filter great is that it creates a tangible separation between you and the mic, ensuring you’re not right up on it.

For many condenser microphones, the sweet spot for the best and cleanest results is usually around 6 inches away.

Having a pop filter in place acts as a kind of barrier, helping to tackle the issue of getting too close and potentially causing problems like plosives and other undesirables seeping their way into the mix.

Shockmount

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.

Fortunately for us, the 990 comes with one!

EQ

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 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 retains some additional warmth to vocals.

Audio Interface + XLR Cables

As mentioned above, an audio interface is crucial in converting your voice (analog) into digital information that you’ll be editing later.

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.

Recording

Don’t panic if it takes a few times to get the right take.

This just means the mic, in conjunction with your interface and DAW (I use FL Studio, Reaper, and Audacity) needs to be set at the correct levels.

I find 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.

Mic Technique

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:

Demos

What Is 48v Phantom Power?Here I will provide a few recordings with several different microphones so you can get an idea of how they sound in relation to the 990.

For these tests, I did not use a windscreen/pop filter and was about 6″ away. No gain or EQ was applied either. These are all raw recordings from the same position and distance.

DAW used: FL Studio. For those just starting, Audacity is free and Reaper has a 60-Use Free Trial. Both are great!

MXL 990:

MXL 770 (Flat):

MXL 770: High Pass Filter

MXL V67G:

Fifine K669C:

Demo #2 – MXL 990

Here I was a bit closer to the mic

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.

Windscreen Used:

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.

Impressions

MXL V67G vs. 990 vs. 770

You might notice that among the options, the MXL 990 and K669 offer the brightest and most open sound, while the 770 and V67G present a warm, radio-broadcast-like quality.

Despite my inclination towards gear with a clearer and more neutral profile, there’s a certain allure to that radio sound, especially when considering the affordable price of the V67G or 770.

Given that all three (770, 990, V67G) are similarly priced, the choice ultimately comes down to your personal preference.

If you appreciate a warmer tone, both the 67G and 770 are solid choices.

For those inclined towards a more neutral and airy presentation, the 990 stands out.

Taking it a step further, if you lean towards a warmer sound, should you go for the 770 or V67G?

The 770 offers added versatility with its -10dB switch and Hi/Pass Filter/Flat switch. This flexibility is valuable, as some users prefer a bit of low-end roll-off, while others enjoy the radio-like quality.

Effectively, with the 770, you’re getting two microphones in one.

Additionally, the durable carrying case is ideal for those on the move, and the provided shock mount adds significant value by ensuring effective isolation from vibrations and handling noise. This results in consistently clear recordings.

If you really love the look of the V67G (and who doesn’t?) by all means, go for it. I’m keeping them all to experiment with!

All of that said, I wouldn’t fault you for going with any of these, though, despite it being a solid option in its own right there are some issues with the K669.

Final Verdict

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.

Closing Thoughts

It’s important to understand that, to me, any potential sound differences between these mics are, at the end of the day, fairly inconsequential.

That is to say that I would be, and am, perfectly satisfied recording with any of them because I’m comfortable with EQ and can tailor the mic to suit me.

Which YOU go with depends entirely on preference.

For instance, my voice, in my opinion, sounds best with the MXL 770 on the flat setting, but your voice may sound best with another mic. It just depends.

If you were to force me to make an overall recommendation based on value (which is what I base my review philosophy on), I’d probably tell you to buy the 770.

Despite its relatively affordable price point, this microphone doesn’t compromise on essential features.

MXL 770 Review

MXL 770 ReviewThe inclusion of the -10dB switch allows for handling high sound pressure levels without distortion, catering to various recording scenarios.

Additionally, the High Pass Filter/Flat switch is very useful as certain users prefer some low-end roll-off while others like that radio-ish sound. This is probably the main draw as you’re essentially getting a warm-ish and neutral mic rolled into one.

Additionally, the rugged carrying case is great for on-the-go users, and the included shock mount further elevates its value by providing effective isolation from vibrations and handling noise, contributing to consistently clear recordings.

Learn More:

 

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!!

If you love what I do here and want to support the blog and channel in a more personal way, check me out on Patreon and discover all the value I have to offer you.

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Which of these mics do YOU like the best? I’d love to hear from you. Until next time…

All the best and God bless,

 

 

-Stu

[Xtr@Ba$eHitZ]

Be sure to check out my Reviews and Resources page for more helpful and informative articles!

MXL 990

5

Build Quality

5.0/5

Sound Signature

5.0/5

Ease of Use

5.0/5

Value

5.0/5

Pros

  • Easy to record with, minimal EQ required
  • Build incredibly well like a barbell
  • Insane Value
  • Flat frequency response
  • Nice presence in the highs

Cons

  • None

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