So, that must be a two- to three-thousand-dollar microphone, eh?” Such were the comments that I heard when the Marshall MXL V69 Mogami Edition came out of its case. An impressive looking unit, no doubt. Of course, what matters is the sound, and as I soon discovered, looks were not deceiving. As a vocal and instrumental microphone, the V69 proved to be a capable performer, rivaling much more expensive mics.
Product PointsApplications: Studio, project studio
Key Features: Cardioid pattern; 12AT7 tube; Mogami wiring and cable; ships with shockmount, case and separate power supply
Contact: Marshall Electronics at 800-800-6608, Web Site.
+ Low price
+ A warm, but extended response
+ Low self-noise
+ Includes windscreen and shockmount
+ Comes with premium Mogami cable
– No pad
– No bass cut switch
The Score: An incredibly priced, high-caliber tube mic – not too bright, not too warm.
Marshall Electronics is the American distributor for Mogami cable and purveyor of numerous products for the pro audio industry. Marshall entered the microphone fray in 1999 with the MXL 2001 (PAR 1/00), and has since created a number of condenser and dynamic microphones for professional studio use. The MXL V69 Mogami Edition ($399) continues its bang-for-the-buck tradition.
As its full name hints, the designed in U.S.A./manufactured-in-China cardioid-pattern tube microphone sports Mogami cable inside and out, including a 15-foot cable to run from the power supply to your mixer. A weighty brass enclosure and a 24K gold-plated grille give this microphone a serious look and feel. There are no adjustments of any kind to worry about. The V69 arrived in a carrying case befitting the dignity of a quality tube microphone.
The 25mm element design incorporates a 12AT7 tube in a hybrid signal path with a FET. The mic is wired internally with Mogami cable. Marshall claims 20 Hz to 20 kHz frequency response, with no tolerance in dBs listed. Looking at the supplied graph, the -3 dB point on the bass end is about 70 Hz while the mid/treble response is flat to 5 kHz. The response gently rises about 2 dB to 12 kHz, then rolls off as it heads toward 20 kHz, about 6 dB down.
Accessories include the power supply, cables, shockmount and windscreen. The shockmount has a clothes pin-type release that makes it easy to use, although I occasionally found it hard to crank down the angle adjustment thumbscrew hard enough to keep the mic in position.
There is also a printed warning to use the windscreen for vocals in order to protect the diaphragm. That said, the filter is quite effective. Measuring only about a 1/4-inch thick, it does a surprisingly good job of blocking pops and wind noise of any sort. Given the absence of a low-cut switch, this is reassuring. My only qualm with the package is that the case proved not quite sturdy enough to handle the weight of the power supply. When the unit arrived, a couple of the dividers had broken loose. No harm was done to the unit, but if you were to ship it around often, it could become a problem.
To compare the V69 against another large-diaphragm microphone in our kit, we put it up next to a Neumann TLM 170 for some pop vocals that my graduate assistant was tracking for a project. It may not seem like a fair comparison, as the two microphones differ in price by nearly an order of magnitude, but the V69 held its own. There was plenty of air at the top, as its printed curve indicates, and it made for a sound with both warmth and punch. A few of its tracks made the final mix, alongside those of the TLM 170.
The next test was a rock concert. A rather energetic friend of mine was playing a benefit concert at an old movie theater now inhabited by a local church. It was my intention to compare several microphones that I brought along for his vocals. We started with the V69 and never got around to the others. The FOH mixer found that he needed to add only a little EQ for the sound to cut through. Even though the singer was stationed less than 10 feet from one of the main speakers, there was minimal trouble with feedback. I did find myself wishing there was a pad on the unit, as it puts out a strong signal, but it never got too hot for our Millennia Media HV-3 preamp to handle.
The singer was comfortable with the microphone right away, and had no trouble working it to good effect. On tape (okay, on hard disk, but that just does not sound right!) the V69 rendered his voice, a high baritone, with a clarity and subtlety that blended very well with his acoustic guitar and the rest of the band. It was detailed throughout the frequency spectrum, and from a near-whisper to a wail, the V69 caught every nuance. Final mixes are a ways off on this project, but I suspect that very little EQ will be needed.
The following week brought our school’s Jazz Weekend, a festival that gathers some 60 bands from around the state to compete and to hear great jazz from our own ensembles and from some nationally known guest artists. The V69 first found its place with the female vocalist fronting one of our student groups. Her voice has the sort of mellow, easy-to-listen-to character that would be the envy of many a professional singer.
Since this project was a live recording, the V69 again did double duty. The setup required the use of the internal preamplifier on our Yamaha 02R mixer this time, but the results did not suffer greatly for it. The singer was roughly centered between the loudspeakers, which were about 50 feet apart. Filling a hall of 1,200 over a 20-piece big band required a substantial amount of gain, but there were no problems with feedback.
On the recording the vocal is crisp and clear, with the warmth one would expect from this style of microphone. The relatively wide pattern makes for a fair bit of bleed from the band, which is not a big problem for my style of recording (which relies heavily on the main stereo pair). For other mixing styles, though, it could hamper efforts to do a lot of processing.
For the warm-up combo before the festival finale, I tried it out in front of the saxophonist. It worked well enough that I left it in place for the finale concert with our guest artist, saxophonist David Liebman, and our own top big band. It had been my intention to try it on the piano for the second half, but we liked too much on Dave’s saxophones to give it up!
For his alto, it was the only mic, and for his soprano, we used a combination of the V69 at the bell and an AKG C535 aimed at the body. This made for a perfect pickup of all the notes on the instrument, allowing the large-diaphragm tube mellowness of the V69 to balance with the condenser brightness of the C535 as the tunes required. On the recording, the V69’s upper-end extension and clarity carried the day again, letting the sax soar over the group and requiring little EQ to make it fit into the mix.
The Marshall MXL V69 Mogami edition is an excellent microphone, and when you factor in the low, low price, the price performance becomes downright amazing.
At the price, one might wonder about durability, but during my testing I heard and saw nothing that would give me reason for concern. After using it in several different venues under varying conditions, I am convinced that it would make a great addition to any microphone kit.
Millennia Media HV-3 preamplifier; Mackie MDR 24/96, TASCAM MX-2424 hard disk recorders; Sony DMX-R100, Yamaha 02R mixers; Genelec 1031A monitors.