Remember when the term large diaphragm was synonymous with big bucks? Today, large-diaphragm condenser microphones just keep getting cheaper and cheaper. Take the Marshall MXL 2001, for example. You get a 1″ diaphragm, transformer-balanced output and microphone stand adapter for less than $200. That’s cheaper than the shockmount basket alone for some of those big-buck microphones!
Product PointsApplications: Project and professional studio recording
Key Features: 1″ diaphragm; cardioid pattern; transformer-balanced output; high-pass filter
Contact: Marshall Pro Audio Division at 310-390-6608
The MXL 2001 is a familiar-looking microphone right off the bat, being roughly the same size and shape as microphones from Rode, Alesis, Langevin, BPM and others. A small cardioid logo is the only thing distinguishing the front and back of the mic. The rest of it is covered in a matte black finish, including the grille assembly.
The MXL 2001 uses a single gold-sputtered diaphragm for a fixed cardioid pattern. This diaphragm feeds a common-source FET gain circuit. The output of the mic is transformer-balanced, which somewhat mellows and softens the sound of the microphone.
The microphone comes with a normal clip, but the review unit I tested included the Marshall shockmount basket. The shockmount basket uses spring tension to hold the mic securely. It isolates the mic very well and is easy to position and adjust. This is more than can be said for many comparable low-buck baskets. The Marshall basket even comes with extra elastic bands.
I’ll admit it – when I first plugged in the MXL 2001, I wasn’t expecting much. What I heard from my monitors was a pleasant shock – the MXL 2001 sounds very, very good. Its output is nicely balanced overall, with a slight top-end emphasis that really opens up some sounds.
The microphone’s top end has a few resonances that make it sound brittle on some stringed instruments (such as acoustic guitar), but those same resonances add nice character to vocals. The Marshall’s vocal sound is crisp and articulate, but not overly sibilant. In fact, the MXL 2001 I tested captures vocal sounds that equal those from microphones costing (it’s hard to believe, but here goes) 10 times as much. The mic also put in a good showing on percussion, capturing one of the most natural shaker sounds I’ve heard from a large-diaphragm condenser microphone.
Sensitivity of the microphone is average, but the 20 dBA self-noise spec puts it on the noisy end of the range. This is noisier than most low-cost condensers (even some tube mics), making the MXL 2001 a questionable choice for recording very quiet sounds. According to the manufacturer, more recent models have reduced noise and improved preamp circuitry. From a construction standpoint, the MXL 2001 is on par with the myriad of other bargain mics assembled from Asian-made parts.
My only concern at this price-point is the quality of the diaphragm itself. Will it hold up well through years of use, humidity changes and studio calisthenics? Only time will tell. Low-buck mics like this can also vary in sound quite a bit from sample to sample, so I’d encourage potential buyers to listen to several MXL 2001 mics before they commit. Come to think of it, I’d recommend that for mics that cost a lot more than this, too.
Is a $200 large-diaphragm condenser mic too good to be true? Apparently not. The MXL 2001 is a no-joke, no-frills, versatile mic that sounds a lot more expensive than it is. The trade-offs of this mic (internal bass-cut switch, moderately high self-noise) pale in light of its price.
Folks on a miniscule budget can finally afford a large-diaphragm condenser mic, and those on a limited budget can afford several. This microphone’s almost cheap enough to replace all those crusty old dynamic mics you have laying around your studio.