Headquartered in El Segundo, California, Marshall Electronics, the company behind the MXL brand, is known as a manufacturer of, among many other product lines, good sounding and very reasonably priced microphones. Marshall Electronics is able to maintain low production costs due to the fact that the company operates manufacturing facilities in the US, China, Japan, Korea and Russia, along with an additional R&D Center in Portland, Oregon-all the designs and prototypes are created here in the U.S.
Another well-known product line of the Marshall company is Mogami, the high-end cabling, and Mogami products are found in the wiring of the microphone under review.
The V87 microphone is a large-diaphragm condenser FET mic with a fixed cardioid polar pattern. It was designed to offer some color and character reminiscent of the warmth of vintage mics, but with a more modern sound to it.
The appearance of a mic has a psychological impact and therefore influences the performance of a recording vocalist. At first glance the V87 appears to be a solid product, an impression that is reinforced when you first hold it in your hands. The build quality seems to be very good.
The V87 comes snugly packaged in a cardboard box; also included are a nickel-plated rectangular "Metal Mesh Pop Filter" (MXL PF-005-SS)-which adds a bit to the 'vintage vibe'-a hard mount mic stand adapter (MXL-V6-H), a low profile shockmount (MXL USM-002) with an extra elastic band, a blue microfiber MXL cleaning cloth, and some basic paperwork about this and other MXL mics.
Unlike other mics from the same manufacturer, the V87 does not include a case, be it plastic, metal or wood. That may be a matter of price point, but it sure would be nice to have a place other than the cardboard box it came in to store it safely. Even though it also doesn't include a soft carrying case, I found the included micro fiber cleaning cloth useful when leaving the mic on its stand overnight. The plastic Ziploc-type bag it comes in fits perfectly over the mic with the blue cloth surrounding it, and therefore functions as a dust shield when the mic is not in use. Hey, times are tough... I've learned to improvise when I have to.
General technical specs
The V87 is a pressure gradient condenser microphone with a 6 micron gold-sputtered diaphragm. Its capsule is 32mm/1.26 in., with a stated frequency response of 20 HZ to 20 kHz, no data on deviations given. It has a cardioid polar pattern, and the stated specs are: 200 ohms output impedance, an equivalent noise ratio of 8.5 dB (A-weighted IEC 268-4), a signal-to-noise ratio of 85.5 dB (Ref. 1Pa A-weighted), and a maximum SPL of 136 dB (for 0.5 % THD). It requires 48 V phantom power (+/- 4V). It weighs 1.1 lbs/498.95 g, and is 47mm x 190mm/1.85 in. x 7.48 in.
Testing, testing... Uno, dos, tres...
I had the opportunity to try the V87 mic to record vocals and acoustic guitars, and the results were formidable in every case.
To try the mic I used Pro Tools LE 8 with a Digi 003 audio interface modified by Black Lion Audio, with Mogami Gold cables and the included upgraded mic pres, as well as an SSL XLogic Alpha VHD Pre and a Chandler Germanium.
When recording vocals, the beautiful and talented coloratura singer, Valerie Koskiniemi, assisted me by volunteering her lovely voice. I was also able to record myself. I re-recorded an original song on which I had used a different mic of similar specs and price range, as well as an opera piece performed by my delightful artist/assistant.
I also tried different mics during these tests to have a better comparison point and understanding of its directivity and compatibility with different singers. The way that the V87 captured its surroundings stood out as I noticed that it showcased the details of the room more prominently than others. This may or may not be so great depending on the space in which you're recording. But depending on how you position it in front of the source, and with some minor acoustic treatment, you can get nice focused tracks. You can get more of the modern presence that it promises simply by coming in close to the mic.
In the operatic recordings it performed rather well. The mid-to-high register material was captured with clarity. I was rather impressed when I set up a second mic (worth just over twice the V87) upside down, directly over the V87, to capture the same performance with two mics, and in a blind test preferred the clarity that the 87 offers with the dynamic high-octave vocals. When it came to the smooth mid-to-low range in a more rock/pop setting, the other mic earned more votes.
When playing around with placement on acoustic guitars, the capacity of the V87 to capture different sounds and textures was quite noticeable. If you place the mic over the twelfth fret, the low end that could potentially interfere or clash with other instruments in the mix is reduced, and the amount of pick noise decreases too. I really liked how it sounded over the bridge as it picked up a lot of the attack from the guitar pick (in the case of the steel stringed guitar) and the finger attack (when finger picking and in a more classical guitar setting). The slight bump in the high-frequency response between 5 and 10 kHz helps augment the nice pick noise that can work so well in a rock or pop tune.
I then tested it on a singer-songwriter recording guitars and vocals simultaneously. With careful placement it works just fine on a singing guitar player.
Despite the obvious resemblance of the name V87 with the classic Neumann U87, MXL does not create microphones that simulate others, and the V87 is no exception. The MXL representative I spoke to commented that all of their designs start off with a blank piece of paper, and they seek to create something original that "simply sounds better".
The V87 offers a very good value for the home and project studio. Its sound has some character, but not too much, and it is useful to mike the voice and a variety of instruments. At its very reasonable price ($200 street) it could function as the only mic for a beginning recording musician. I recommend it for its sound quality, solid construction and usefulness in the studio.
More from: Marshall Electronics, 310/333-0606, www.mxlmics.com.
Fernando Curiel (firstname.lastname@example.org) is the Editor of Recording's Spanish-language sister publication Músico Pro. Fernando would like to thank singer Valerie Koskiniemi for her time and talents in the testing of this product.