Marshall Electronics MXL2001-P and MXL2003: STUDIO CONDENSER MICROPHONES

Mar 1, 2000 12:00 PM, Roger Maycock

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Perhaps best known as the distributors for Mogami cable, Marshall Electronics recently introduced two condenser microphones-the MXL2001-P and MXL2003. The MXL2001-P has been designed for the budget-minded studio owner, while the MXL2003 is intended for more critical recording applications.

Introduced approximately one year ago, the MXL2001-P has, in recent months, been re-engineered. Its upscale sibling, the MXL2003, is quite new to the market. The two jet-black instruments, at first glance, appear almost identical; however, they are quite distinct in both their components and circuitry, as well as in their performance.

With both microphones, Marshall has put its resources into the performance characteristics of the instruments as opposed to the packaging. Unlike mics that ship with cases that resemble treasure chests (not that a good mic isn't a treasure), the MXL2001-P and MXL2003 are shipped in modest cardboard boxes. But these two microphones are much more capable of capturing the essence of a performance or the spoken word than their modest packaging suggests.

The MXL2001-P The $199 MXL2001-P employs a 25mm (1-inch) diameter, gold-sputtered diaphragm that is 6 microns thick. The capsule is coupled through an electromagnetic screen to a FET preamp with a balanced transformer output. The microphone is encased in a heavy brass enclosure, which gives the unit a very substantial feel. The MXL2001-P comes with a screw-on mic stand adapter and a storage pouch. An MXL-56 shock-mount is optional.

Without getting too caught up in the specs, it is important to note that the MXL2001-P has a single cardioid polar pattern and a frequency range of 30 to 20k Hz. The microphone is phantom-powered and has a S/N ratio of 80 dB referenced to 1 Pa, A-weighted. There are no switches for pre-attenuation or bass cut.

The MXL2003 By contrast, the $399 MXL2003 uses a slightly larger, 27mm (1.06-inch) and thinner (3-micron) gold-sputtered diaphragm. The capsule is coupled through an electromagnetic screen to a FET preamp with a wideband transformerless output. Like the MXL2001-P, the MXL2003 is housed in a heavy brass enclosure. Unlike the MXL2001-P, this microphone ships with the MXL-56 shock-mount adapter, but no storage pouch.

The MXL2003's basic specifications include a single cardioid polar pattern and a frequency range of 20 to 23k Hz. The microphone is phantom-powered and has a S/N ratio of 77 dB referenced to 1 Pa, A-weighted. The MXL2003 has a three-position switch for bass cut (-6 dB/octave at 150 Hz) and pre-attenuation (0/-10 dB).

IN SESSION My first experience with these microphones involved recording a local band where I used them to record the output of a guitar amplifier. Both microphones are extremely sensitive, and I found that microphone placement had a significant impact on the signal I was receiving at the board. The difference of 12 inches right/left of center and from the cabinet was surprisingly apparent.

Both mics captured the amplifier's output very capably, given the high sound pressure levels of the amp. While the MXL2001-P seemed quite tolerant of the sound pressure levels, I ultimately came to rely on the MXL2003. Initially, the MXL2003 was on the verge of distorting, but by engaging the microphone's pad, I took care of the problem with the throw of a switch and achieved a sound that more accurately reflected the nature of the performance.

I used both mics in my studio for a considerable amount of close-proximity dialog recording. In order to get a clear, dry sound typical of broadcast production, I positioned the mics roughly 3 to 4 inches from the speaker's mouth with a pop filter placed between the mic and talent.

Both microphones exhibited a big, well-rounded sound that accurately conveyed the nuances of the talent's voice and articulation. Without any editing, the voice-over tracks had a pleasing quality, which translates to less work after the session. The MXL2001-P delivered a crisp, uncolored sound that works very nicely for vocal and dialog work. Compared to the MXL2001-P, the MXL2003 has considerably more depth of character in the lower frequencies-not a low-end coloration, but a certain fullness that sounds considerably more expensive than this mic actually costs.

It should also be noted that the MXL-56 shock-mount secured the microphones with a light touch while isolating them from common floor vibrations.

CONCLUSION Marshall Electronics' MXL2001-P and MXL2003 are two condenser mics that are capable of handling numerous recording tasks competently. The MXL2001-P is a straight-ahead, plug-and-play type of instrument without any controls whatsoever, yet it records with a nice, open sound that will cut through just about any mix. Such characteristics make this microphone a good choice for the smaller studio that focuses most of its efforts on the recording of popular music.

With a noticeably fuller quality to its sound and a slightly better balanced on-axis response than its sibling, the MXL2003 strikes me as a mic that could very easily find a home in broadcast, ADR and Foley applications, in addition to a multitude of music chores. Although it still has just a single polar pattern, its three-position switch for pre-attenuation and bass cut make this microphone considerably more versatile.

In terms of workmanship, these products have a look and feel that is the mark of well-made equipment. At this price point, there really isn't anything to complain about-unless you're expecting first-class luggage as part of the deal. As for the fancy case, I'd rather have the benefits these mics bring to the party.

Marshall Electronics Professional Audio Division, Box 2027, Culver City, CA 90230; 310/390-6608; fax 310/391-8926; www.mars-cam.com.






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