MXL, whose parent company is Marshall Electronics, has released a new affordable microphone: the V6 Silicon Valve. Its characteristics are that of a tube microphone, but without the hassle of actually having to set up a separate power supply and wait for the microphone to warm up. The V6 is the first microphone is this new Silicon Valve product line. MXL uses the highest quality components and great attention to detail in this new American made microphone.
The V6 is a large diaphragm (one-inch), pressure-gradient condenser microphone with a solid state FET amplifier meant to simulate a tube microphone. Although MXL does not state exactly how they get a solid state microphone to sound like a tube, the engineers have spent three years to create the sound of a high quality tube microphone. The V6 does not require an external power supply, as it can be powered off the 48V DC provided by most consoles, and does not need any warm-up time. The frequency response is 30 Hz to 20 kHz, with a boost in the high end, and a slight attenuation of the low frequencies starting at around 150 Hz. There are no pad or rolloff switches available. The maximum SPL is 130 dB at 1 kHz for 1% THD, and the mic has a transformerless output. The weight of the microphone is 1.15 pounds, so the user may want to take extra care in securing it to a good quality mic stand. The microphone ships in a lined cherry wood box, with a clip. MXL does have shockmounts available, with separate purchase.
I had several opportunities to use the V6 in different applications. For the price, I would say it is a great all-around microphone. When used on drums, I found it to really shine on hi-hat. When positioned about 4 – 5 inches away, tilted towards the end of the hi-hat opposite the snare (to get rejection with the cardioid pattern), with the diaphragm aimed about two inches inside the edge of the cymbals, it had a great high-end crispness to it. I then moved the mic to a mono (center) overhead position about three feet over the drummer’s head, pointed down at the kit. Again, it brought out the high end well, and made the cymbals sound great. With a little compression I added this center mic in with my spaced pair of overheads for a very punchy drum sound.
The next application was acoustic guitar. As long as I did not get the mic too close, and avoided a lot of proximity effect, I found it to really sound nice. The mic was about 6 – 8 inches away from the guitar, aimed where the neck meets the body of the guitar. I was doing a very “organic” recording, and the artist really liked that he was able to hear his strings as he was changing chords.
I tried the V6 about four feet away from a bass amp, and that was not my favorite application. It got a little muddy in the 200 – 300 Hz range, when compared to another condenser microphone. I mixed the mic signal in with the DI signal, and had just a bit too much of that low-mid range of frequencies coming through.
I had heard good things about the V6 on vocals, so I was definitely excited to try it out for myself. And everything I heard was right: vocals (male and female) were probably the best application I found for this microphone. Whether I wanted to emphasize the higher frequencies of the female vocal, or the mid-range of the male vocal, it worked well. The vocalists both liked the mic when compared to other more expensive condenser microphones.
One drawback I found with the microphone is the grille. It is a very soft metal that you can actually bend just by pressing your thumb against it. I would not normally press on the grille of any microphone, but if you purchase this mic, you may just want to take extra care when handling it.
For the price ($299) this mic is a great buy for any home studio, as it has many good uses. Larger studios may also want to add it to their collection simply because it has different characteristics than many other microphones available that I have heard, and it may just be that “different sound” you are looking for one day. I have had good luck with other MXL mics as well, and they have simply added the V6 to their line of affordable, good-quality microphones.