The MXL 990 is an excellent condenser microphone that sounds great with all vocal types. It has a natural high-frequency boost in the 5kHz to 10kHz range which adds a natural brightness to vocals, generally enhancing audio clarity. It is hard to beat the MXL 990 for vocal recording clarity or find a better microphone for less than $100.
The MXL 990 has been getting such great reviews online, I didn’t believe that such quality could be achieved for under $100, so I had to buy one for myself to really check it out.
I work with a large variety of microphones, from low-end to top-end professional microphones and everything in between.
I am a true believer in “finding the right microphone for the job”, so I am always experimenting with microphone types and adding to my collection.
What is the MXL 990 microphone?
The MXL 990 microphone is a large-diaphragm condenser microphone, which is great for vocal recordings in particular.
A “condenser microphone” is one of the three main types of microphone, (ribbon microphone and dynamic microphone are the other main types).
Typically, condenser microphones are great at recording detail and producing good clarity in the sound recording.
For recording vocals, be it singing or the spoken word, condenser microphones are a great option. Personally, I do all my vocal recording with condenser microphones.
What is included with the MXL 990 microphone?
Included with the MXL 990 microphone is a shock mount and a carrier proactive case as shown below.
When using a condenser microphone, as it is very sensitive to picking up surround sounds, it is necessary to mount it in a shock mount.
A shock mount is a suspension cradle that isolates the microphone from surrounding surfaces and vibrations.
The shock mount included feels very durable and made from a nice quality metal alloy.
I am really impressed with the quality of the shock mount build. I feel that this shock mount can take a lot of wear and tear.
I have been using it regularly for over two years now and everything is still working well.
How much is a MXL 990?
The MXl 990 ranges in price from between £89 to £100.
Given the excellent recording quality and good build quality, this microphone stands out from the crowd in the under £100 microphone price range.
What connections does the MXl 990 have?
The MXl 990 has an XLR connection. Therefore, you will need an audio interface to connect this microphone to your PC or laptop.
An XLR connection is one of the most common connectors in audio studio equipment as they are rugged and durable.
Many audio interfaces exist on the market, so if you want to connect this microphone directly to your PC, you will need an audio interface.
As the MXL 990 is a condenser microphone it requires a phantom power supply. Therefore you need to ensure that your chosen audio interface can provide a standard 48V phantom power supply.
Due to the circuitry within the design of condenser microphones, all condenser microphones need an external power supply to operate.
This is typically supplied by the audio interface or the sound card on a mixing desk.
Does the MXL 990 need phantom power?
The MXL 990 needs a phantom power supply as mentioned.
You need to ensure that you can provide an independent 48V power supply to this microphone in order for it to operate.
Is the MXL 990 good for streaming?
The MXL 990 is a good choice for streaming. The natural boost that it gives between 5kHz and 10kHz, adds a nice brightness and clarity to the vocal recording, allowing the dialogue to cut through background sound and music.
The MXL 990 is also sensitive enough to pick up the detail of the vocal recording without being so sensitive that it picks up lots of unwanted ambiance.
By sitting 6 to 12 inches away from the MXL 990, you will get a clear vocal recording that has a nice sizzle to the dialogue.
What does the MXL 990 sound like?
Firstly, this microphone has clarity that outperforms some microphones that are twice the price.
I think this is due to the natural 5kHz to 10kHz boost in the design.
Below is the measured response of the MXL 990 taken from the back of the box.
You can see that the response is fairly “flat” until you get to 5kHz, then there is a natural boost.
This will give a nice “sizzle” or brightness to vocals as this is typically the frequency range that vocals sit within.
In sound production, we often refer to the 5kHz to 10kHz range as the “sibilance zone”.
As a music producer, if I have a “bright” female singing vocal, sometimes I have to cut the frequencies in this range as they are too harsh when recorded on the MXL 990, however, I have found that for dialogue recordings, this natural boost that the microphone gives is more of an advantage than disadvantage.
When should I not buy the MXL 990?
You should not buy the MXL 990 if you have a high-pitched, nasal voice. Seriously.
I know no one likes to hear how they sound, but some people do have a higher timbre and pitch voice.
If you are one of these people, the MXL 990 is not for you as the higher frequencies in your voice will be boosted further.
If sibilance, harshness, or bright sounding recordings grate on you and you have a voice in the higher frequency range, then stay clear of this microphone.
If you have a low, mellow, or mid-range sounding voice, then this microphone is great as it will naturally enhance the top frequencies of your vocal box.
What hidden accessories do I need to get this microphone working?
This microphone, like most XLR condenser microphones, are NOT “plug and play” and you need some extra bits to get this microphone working:
1 – XRL Cable. [Required]
2 – Audio Interface with Phantom Power [Required]
3 – POP FIlter [Optional]
Below are some XLR cable recommendations. The links below will take you to Gear4Music.
The differences in price are a reflection of the quality of the cabling here. The more expensive XLR cable will have better solder joints, build quality, and cable quality with electrical shielding.
|Custom Lynx High Quality XLR to XLR Microphone Cable, 2m||Lynx||£6.99|
|Klotz M1K1FM XLR Microphone Cable, 2m||Klotz||£19.99|
|Klotz M2FM1 XLR Microphone Cable, 2m||Klotz||£27.99|
Below are some audio interface recommendations. The links below will take you to Gear4Music where you can check out the specifications in more detail.
|Behringer U-PHORIA UMC202HD USB Audio Interface||Behringer||£61.90|
|Mackie Onyx Producer 2.2 USB Audio Interface||Mackie||£101.75|
|Presonus Studio 26C Audio Interface||Presonus||£165.00|
A pop filter or pop shield is a device that will protect “pops”, noises and sibilance getting into your recording.
Some words, especially ones beginning with “p”, move a lot of air when spoken. These are often called plosives. When you speak such words, your mouth will be moving a lot of air turbulence towards the head of the condenser microphone.
When this air hits the “diaphragm” of the microphone, which is a thin piece of material that vibrates to record sound, it will pick up these sudden movements of air as noise.
We don’t hear these plosives on a day-to-day basis, but as large condenser microphones such as the MXL 990 are so sensitive, they will pick these sounds up and they will sound like a “op” sound on your recording.
Therefore using a pop filter or pop shield is a great investment as it can help reduce the impact of these sounds.