CAN MXL MAKE A SERIOUS TUBE MICROPHONE?
by Mark King for Proworkshop.com
|THE MXL REVELATION MULTI-PATTERN TUBE MICROPHONE|
I've been a fan of MXL microphones for modding ever since I bought my first MXL model 2001 large diaphragm condenser microphone back around 2004. The internet was starting to bristle with hot-rod microphone stories and I was ripe to jump in and apply my 50 years of electronics experience.
The capsule is the heart and soul of any large diaphragm microphone, getting the right one in there has everything to do with how the microphone ultimately sounds.
The electronics need to be right too for a tube microphone to sound right. If you look at the schematic for a Neumann U-47 tube microphone there are not many components in the mic itself, the power supply is much more complicated electronically. The elements that affect the sound in a tube mic the most are the capsule, the tube and the output transformer, these are the three biggest contributors to the way a tube mic sounds.
|NOTE THE THIN GRILLE ON THE REVELATION MICROPHONE|
MXL microphones are built in China for the American company which is located in El Segundo, California (right across the street from the RV storage company we used for three years).
I've always thought MXL made great looking and durable microphones but their audio performance was very lacking, especially above 10k. That first MXL-2001 microphone I bought had terrible non-linear frequency response in the higher range and it very quickly died too. MXL replaced the microphone for me under warranty. The 2001 microphone could be interesting on a close mic'd vocal but when used around something with a lot of high frequency content like cymbals the true awfulness of it's frequency response came out in abundance.
David Royer created a popular mod for the MXL-2001 by changing the electronics out for a small tube circuit. The mod and the mic it created was so popular that David grew that microphone into a product and a company, the Mojave MA-200 microphone and the Mojave Microphone company. That microphone really shows how the electronics can mean the difference between a particular capsule sounding good or not.
MXL is guilty of creating some more expensive microphones that look cooler than their cheaper counterparts but when the rubber hits the road these mic's still have the same low grade, low performance capsule and the included electronic package does not help.
The MXL V69ME is just such a beast, it's a tube microphone finished with a very distinctive gold grille and in spite of internal Mogami wiring and tube circuitry this higher priced MXL model has the same dreadful sounding capsule as their cheaper offerings. Unfortunately changing the capsule does not help this model as much as some of the other MXL models benefit with replacement capsules, in the case of the V69 the tube circuit is just weird and not good sounding.
All this experience really left me asking, can MXL could make a good sounding tube microphone?
ENTER THE REVELATION
|NOTE POP FILTER RESKINNED WITH HIGH QUALITY PANTY HOSE|
One afternoon recently I was seaching the internet for some microphone bodies to rebuild when I stumbled across an almost unbelievable sale price on the top of the line, multi-pattern MXL Revelation tube microphone. The price was amazing and as luck would have it, the seller was also selling through Amazon which meant if the mic totally sucked they would take it back. I decided to give it a shot.
|MXL REVELATION POWER SUPPY|
Like a lot of microphones from China this one came packaged in a nice little gray suit case. The mic itself is a heavy chunk of purple metal with a bright nickel grille. Speaking of the grille, this one is very thin and if you want the microphone to live long use a pop-stop blast filter with it on singers. The shock mount is one of the better quality types and the mic comes with two premium Mogami XLR cables, one 7-pin and one 3-pin. The power supply is unique in that it has a continuously variable polar pattern knob, there are no switch stops. There's also a low frequency roll off switch and a polarity switch.
|REVELATION POWER SUPPLY CONTROLS|
HOW DOES IT SOUND
We've only used the Revelation on vocals so far but we like it a lot. In the cardioid pickup pattern it has a lot of proximity effect when used up close. The microphone has a wonderful high-frequency response, crisp but not too crisp, very clean with a pleasantly flattering character. It's not the quietest tube mic we have but it's one of the best sounding, really!
When I first began auditioning this microphone I was really expecting it to be something I'd be wanting to immediately mod with a new capsule. The sound the Revelation mic produces eliminated any thoughts of modding it. Recording with it is a blast, it compliments my baritone voice beautifully. I like it best in the cardioid pattern but it's nice to have the other patterns as options.
There is very little to complain about on the MXL Revelation microphone. I wish it had a slightly longer 7-pin cable, the 15-foot one provided makes placing the power supply challenging at times. I do know that from an engineering stand-point it's good to keep this cable as short as possible for the best sonic performance, lets hope that was the reason they made it so short.
I'm not a fan of the 7-pin XLR as a tube-microphone connector, if the mic becomes disconnected while powered up it can be terminal for the microphone and/or the power supply.
Other than these minor complaints this is an awesome sounding microphone and I'd say it's easily worth the $900 street price it's currently selling for. I bought mine new for less than half that amount during the flash sale so I'm extremely happy.
Would I buy this microphone for $1200? Probably not because for that much money I'd be building a custom microphone myself.
Would I buy one for $900? Knowing what I know now I might if I needed a second one or if this one was stolen. The sound quality of this microphone is great and it's not a kit, open the box and start recording great sounding vocals. The Revelation is extremely flattering in the highs and dare I say full sounding below 200 HZ.
The MXL Revelation microphone competes head to head with retail models like the Miktek CV-4, the lower priced Telefunken offerings, the Mojave brand and the mics from Peluso. Soundwise it competes with the high end American Telefunken microphones depending entirely on the voice of the singer.
I'm not a Peluso microphone fan, I bought a new 2247LE like so many other people have, hoping for a U-47 style sound, I was sadly disappointed. It did not have what I think of as an expensive sound. For me the 2247LE was the epitome of harsh sounding Asian-manufactured capsules and the construction of the microphone was exactly the same as other Chinese microphones except for the octal socket which was populated with a vintage steel Telefunken vacuum tube. The output transformer was so small it fit in the standard steel can like the one used in my MXL-2001 microphones.
I'm not a fan of the American Telefunken brand either for reasons I won't go into here. For that much money I'd build my own microphone and use real premium quality components.
The Mojave microphones are ok, but while their new Chinese-built top-shelf offering with a custom US made transformer is a nice microphone, it's also $3000. For that kind of money I'd be seriously looking at a Wunder model or a Flea 47, their build quality is some of the best. You could always replace the capsule with a Theirsch PVC M-7 replica from Germany and arguably have the best sounding microphone in the world if you're a maniac like me.
Advanced Audio in Canada sells tube microphones direct, I had one of their newest models in the studio and sadly the capsule had come loose during shipping and was flapping around inside the head grille so it ended up costing me $60 to return the microphone for a refund. Needless to say the sound on the AA was not impressive. They did refund the original shipping cost which was very kind of them.
I like the Miktek CV-4 and thought about buying one until I built the V-Twin Tube microphone (aka 12-251) from parts I got at microphone-parts.com, that kit really changed everything for me and LDC microphones. Now I'm building all the microphones I want from parts sourced from all over the world.
Given all these choices I'd be very glad to buy an MXL Revelation. It's got the sound I like and want for vocals, big, meaty, clear, sweet and definitely warm. The build quality is at the top of the heap for Chinese mass production and plenty adequate for daily recording studio use. With a little care the MXL should last for years and it provides a unique good sound.
I think the MXL Revelation absolutely answers the question, can MXL make a good tube mic? The answer is an unequivocal and resounding YES! The Revelation is a great tube mic and a great value.
Good music to all!
|MXL REVELATION MICROPHONE MASTERPIECE|