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Review: Aphex Microphone X USB Cardioid Condenser Microphone

At $199 street, it’s a useful, flexible USB sound capture tool.

Big Bottom and Aural Exciter, no doubt provocatively named in the height of rock and roll largeness, have proven to be a duo with some really useful applications; the Bottom’s low-end compression-based effects and Exciter’s harmonics-based midrange emphasis effects have been heard on many sound sources, everywhere, over the years. With the advent of record-ready, USB-direct microphones and their most common purposes, Microphone X’s “one size fits most” analog effects (usually effective with thoughtful application) may be the simplest opportunity to sculpt key sound sources before hitting YouTube, demos/scratch tracks or even final/keeper takes. And even with no extra Bottom or Excitement added or fixed optical compression applied, Microphone X-captured performances are appealing: clear and present with an overall accurate sound. Clean or “effected,” there’s a lot to like in the Microphone X.

Designed to incorporate “U-style” aesthetics, Microphone X actually uses a small diaphragm cardioid condenser and operates at up to 24-bit/96 kHz resolution. On its backside, it provides a set optical compressor (via on/off switch) and individually adjustable Big Bottom and Aural Exciter effects (with a shared on/off switch). On its front side reside input level and headphone adjustments with an eighth-inch headphone jack for artist monitoring. A USB 2.0 port resides where the XLR would normally be. The Microphone X ships with a really impressive, surprisingly adjustable desktop stand—probably the best of its kind that I’ve ever seen in a mic kit for review; it’s often simple features like this—extra effort applied in thoughtful design—that are most notable, helping a product like Microphone X stand out in an increasingly crowded market.

The USB microphone marketplace is packed with great options, but I can easily recommend Microphone X to someone who wants to grab a knob or two and dial in a desired effect, committing on the spot to it. There’s many times when this is the best approach, at least creatively, capturing the moment with an immediate take on a sound source. Using the Microphone X, it can be clean or thickly enriched with enhanced bottom, emphasized crucial upper midrange, and/or a fixed vocal range-friendly compression ratio. At $199 street, it’s a useful, flexible tool and perhaps the only large USB mic you would need.