The V88 ($199 street) is the newest addition to MXL’s line of budget-priced studio and broadcast microphones. It’s a solid-state, single-pattern cardioid condenser mic with a 32mm capsule and a 6-micron gold sputtered diaphragm. It has a listed 20 Hz–20 Khz frequency range, 150 ohm impedance, a 25mV/Pa sensitivity, a signal-to-noise ratio of 80 dB, and a max SPL level of 138 dB. It has a nickel-plated body, and like many of MXL’s microphones it is internally wired with Mogami cabling. The V88 comes as part of a kit that includes a shock mount and a foam-lined aluminum carrying case. I reviewed a pair.
Out of the box
The V88 looks and feels solidly made and should easily stand up to the day-to-day abuse of both studio and stage. MXL describes this mic as “small profile”, and while its capsule and windscreen are close to full size, the body is significantly shorter than most average large-diaphragm condensers on the market. With a 5-1/2” height the V88 is well suited to tighter spaces like inside pianos, close-up string work, and on hand percussion and toms.
The V88’s included shock mount looks to be a new design for MXL and is one of the better-made mounts I have seen out of China. It is solid, tight, and more importantly the bands look like they should last a while. It may seem odd to obsess over a mic mount, but as someone who has a drawer full of overstretched, wobbly and broken low-rent shock mounts, I can assure you these extra touches are important. My only complaint here is that one of the compression clamps sticks out a full inch in front of the mic and, in my opinion, slightly hinders the mic’s placement in the abovementioned tight spaces.
Sound—studio and live tests
The V88 is best described as slightly mid-forward with a smooth top end. It is has a very full and pleasant sound that is clean, but not harsh like some low-end import mics. It also has a nice off-axis rejection making it suitable for untreated project spaces as well as live use.
In my studio the V88 fared well on acoustic guitar, toms and percussion, and it also worked well a few feet back from a combo amp on a blues-guitar session. On the string family (violin, viola & contra-bass), the V88 accentuated too much of the nasal string tone.
The pair worked nicely as stereo drum overheads, reproducing the fullness of the kit and cymbal crashes without sounding too crispy, however they were not airy and open enough to be my first choice as room mics.
In my opinion, the V88’s biggest strength is as a vocal mic, for both speech and singing. The V88 offers a classic warm vocal sound and is a nice alternative to the plethora of bright vocal microphones on the market.
The V 88’s off-axis rejection and warm high end made it a nice choice for live applications, such as baby grand piano, percussion and drum overheads, where bleed and feedback are often issues.
While there is no shortage of microphones in the $200–$300 price range competing for your love and cash, the V88’s warm sound and solid build make it well worth checking out.
MXL USB .006 / .007
Along with the V88, MXL also sent me two of their USB mics to play with, the mono .006 ($99.95 street) and stereo .007 ($199.95 street). Both bus-powered mics offer direct 16-bit (44.1 / 48 kHz) audio recording on your PC or Mac, via just the included USB cable. Each mic also comes with a desktop mic stand, mic holder, foam windscreen, and zippered cloth case.
Both mics share the same body and appearance. Their full-size grey metal bodies look a bit like MXL’s 20XX series of mics, except for the USB connector in place of the usual XLR. Each mic has a red LED light inside the grill to indicate USB power and a 3-position (low, med, high) input attenuator.
Each mic is plug-and-play and installed effortlessly on both my Mac and PC. From Sound Forge (PC) to Garage Band (Mac) I experienced zero hiccups, crashes or problems.
These mics have a low presence to them that is tailor made for Podcasting, giving you an instant “radio voice”. They also work okay for singing and instrument recording, but setting the levels is a tricky balance of input attenuation and distance, as both mics can clip easily with loud sources. The same goes for field recording with the stereo mic. It works great as long as you watch your levels. (See Mike Metlay’s DAW Details in this issue for more about this.)
I do the voiceovers for my church’s videos and weekly podcasts, and these mics are a blessing that allows me to work quickly at my desk with just a mic and laptop. Do they sound better than my studio’s usual chain of mics and outboard gear? No, but to be fair, for MP3s does it matter?
These mics are all about ease of use with solid sound, and they do their job well. I can’t imagine doing my podcasts without them.
More from: Marshall Electronics, www.mxlmics.com