David Royer continues his tradition of stellar microphone design with Mojave’s latest gem, the MA-101fet.
This mic combines the electronics from Mojave’s MA-201fet with the MA-100’s cardioid and omnidirectional capsules while adding a -15 dB pad (via DIP switch inside its lovely body), increasing the mic’s headroom to 135 dB SPL. This makes the MA-101fet perfect for capturing everything from a subtle fingerpicked acoustic guitar to an ear-shattering Marshall stack.
Historically, Mojave’s craftsmanship has been impeccable, and the MA-101fet is no exception. The mic’s ultra-clean signal path features a high-quality Jensen audio transformer, military-grade FET (field-effect transistor), customdesigned low-noise resistors and hand-selected, interchangeable .8-inch (20.5mm) diameter threemicron cardioid and omnidirectional capsules. The 6.75-inch x 1.12-inch, 8-ounce MA-101fet has a frequency response of 30 Hz to 18 kHz, +/- 2.5 dB and a sensitivity of -39 dB re.1V/pa +/- 1.5 dB. Its output impedance is 550 ohms.
The mic’s odd shape (which morphs from a diameter of .8 inches at the capsule end to 1.12 inches at the connector end), is a result of the hefty Jensen output transformer, which undoubtedly has a large influence on the mic’s extraordinary sound.
The MA-101fet includes a handy 8.3-inch x 6.7-inch x 3.3-inch carrying case and, while the mics are assembled in China, they are fully tested and evaluated before leaving Mojave’s Burbank, California headquarters, insuring their immaculate quality. I received a pair of MA-101fet mics for this evaluation.
Before I ever put the MA-101fet to work, Mojave had already blown me away three times (via its MA-200, MA-201fet and MA-100). So understandably, I came to the party expecting something great.
My first experience with the mic — using it to record bass guitar via Ampeg SVT cabinet — was fantastic; I ran the mic through an API mic pre with no EQ and only slight compression via LA-2A. The result was wonderful: clarity was superb while low end was giant, yet still defined — never muddy or boomy.
I used the mic along with the Gordon Model 3 mic pre to record a fingerpicked Taylor 514-CE acoustic guitar and was amazed by the subtle detail it captured with no noticeable noise whatsoever. The mic worked equally well recording a strummed acoustic guitar. I used a pair of the mics to record the guitar in stereo — placing one mic on the neck and the other on the body — and ended up with a fantastic sound.
During multiple tracking sessions, I used the mics on drum overheads, hi-hat, toms and snare drum. In every instance, the mics performed flawlessly; the pad was a necessity on toms and snare. Thus, here, I must note my only complaint with the MA-101fet: the internal pad switch. An external switch would be better, allowing immediate access to the pad activation. Having to take the mic apart to activate or deactivate the pad is time-consuming and, because it’s a somewhat fragile process (so much so that I don’t feel comfortable allowing assistants to do it frequently), I have to do it myself. I end up switching the pad’s position quite frequently as the mic sounds amazingly good on both extremely quiet and extremely loud sound sources. Additionally, there is no way to look at the mic and know if the pad is active or not.
As I found to be the case with the MA-100, the 101fet works wonders on toms. Coupled with Daking mic preamps, the sound was fabulous, requiring no equalization at all. I went on to use the mic on kick drum (again, the pad was required) through a Gordon Model 3 pre, a GML 8200 EQ and some slight compression with a Tube Tech CL-1B; I couldn’t believe the result, and I’m pleased to report that the MA-101fet has become my new go-to kick-drum mic.
Next, I put the pair to work (with omni capsules) on grand piano, placed in a spaced-pair configuration over the hammers and had great results. The imaging was terrific, and the sound was smooth, rich and extended. In another instance, I used the mics with the cardioid capsules as a coincident pair that yielded even better results.
Over the last several months I’ve had the opportunity to use the mics to record dobro, violin, viola and cello as well as several percussion instruments (including shaker, tambourine and bongos); in every instance I was thoroughly pleased. The mic is perfectly tailored for acoustic instruments.
The MA-101fet worked extremely well capturing electric guitar. On multiple occasions I used the mic either by itself or blending it with a Royer R-122, and it always sounded wonderful.
My whole experience with the MA-101fet is somewhat ironic in that it is the most affordable mic in the Mojave Audio lineup and is quite possibly my favorite of the bunch. It is likely the most versatile microphone I’ve ever encountered: It provides the nuance and detail of a Neumann KM-84 or Earthworks SR-77 on soft instruments; the punch and girth of the AKG D112 or Electro-Voice RE-20 on drums; and the thick, rich impact of the Royer R-121 or AKG 414 on electric guitar, making it a perfect addition to any studio or engineer’s microphone vault. With a price tag of $595, buying more than one is a no-brainer.
Russ Long is a Nashville-based producer, engineer and mixer as well as a senior contributor to PAR.