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MXL 990 review

Today, I’ll be taking a look at the MXL 990 large-diaphragm condenser microphone. This microphone is bright, silky, and capable of much more than one would expect from a cheap microphone in this price range. I got my hands on its “Blaze” edition. Let’s take a look.

About the author

I’m a producer, audio engineer, and songwriter with over 10 years of experience with a wide range of gear and recording techniques. I’ve worked with a huge variety of microphones from Shure, Electro-Voice, Neumann, and AKG, among others.

MXL 990 condenser microphone review
Image: Higher Hz
  • Cardioid condenser
  • 30 Hz – 20 kHz
  • 130 dB max SPL
  • 15 mV/Pa sensitivity
  • 200 ohms impedance
  • 20 dBA self-noise

Final verdict on the MXL 990 3.5

While the MXL 990 is a budget microphone, its performance excels many of its competitors. As a microphone for vocalists and guitars especially, the MXL 990 is perhaps one of the greatest options available that doesn’t break the bank.

What I like

  • Bright, present sound.
  • Great for vocalists.
  • Extremely affordable.

What I don’t like

  • Max SPL of 130 dB make it a less viable option for louder sound sources.
Buy MXL 990 at: SweetwaterAmazon

Polar pattern and frequency response 4.0

The MXL 990 is a cardioid condenser microphone with a frequency response of 30 Hz – 20 kHz. There is a slight boost along the upper frequencies which in turn can add some sizzle to your recordings.

MXL 990 cardioid condenser microphone
Image: Higher Hz

This can make it a great choice for most midrange instruments, especially vocalists who are looking to get a bit more presence from their performance.

Studio vocals 4.5

Recording vocals in the studio is probably the first thing I would think of when applying this mic. The slight boost around 8 kHz can give a bit more presence and character to a vocalist, and in turn can help to balance out the bass frequencies that turn up through proximity effects.

Check out this pick of the best vocal microphones for more great options.

MXL 990 tested with microphone stand

Live vocals 2.0

While great in the studio, I wouldn’t trust this mic in a live setting necessarily. Perhaps for a mellowed-out acoustic session, but not for anything much louder due to its sensitivity and max SPL.

Check out this microphone selection for the best options to use for live settings.

Drums 3.0

Believe it or not this microphone can be used great as an overhead. Any close miking might run into overloading the MXL 990, but above the kit and a few feet out can have some impressive results.

Check out this pick of the best drum mics for more great options.

Guitar amps 4.0

The MXL 990 can be a solid choice when recording guitars, whether as a close mic or as a room mic. While it might not be able to capture the lows as well with its 30 Hz drop-off, it can be a solid choice when trying to add some brightness and depth in conjunction with another microphone or two.

Check out this microphone list for the best options to record electric guitar.

Bass amps 2.8

I wouldn’t recommend this when recording bass cabinets, at least not as the main microphone in your setup. Its 30 Hz drop-off will inevitably leave with a bass recording that lacks bass (the opposite of what you want). However, in conjunction with another microphone it can help provide some clarity and body to your recordings.

Acoustic guitar 4.8

This is perhaps an obvious application for this microphone, and for the same reasons as it’s great for vocals. The high-end boost can help balance out any prominent low end from the guitar, but its sensitivity and general character can help add presence to your performance.

Check out this microphone selection for the best options to record acoustic guitar.

Build quality 4.0

While it might be easy to overlook the MXL 990 due to its stubby profile, this is a perfectly well-built microphone for the price. There are no frills with the overall design. The mic also has a 130 dB max SPL, which isn’t low, but I would veer away from close miking drums with this one.

Compared to other microphones

The MXL 990 is a great budget condenser and one of my favorite vocal microphones in any price range. While it may be the perfect mic for you, here are a few alternatives to consider in comparison.

MXL 990 vs MXL 770

The MXL 770 is the smaller, less experienced sibling of the MXL 990. While both microphones are perfectly viable options, it should be noted that the high-end boost on the MXL 770 is slightly more exaggerated than we see on the MXL 990. This makes it a bit less silky, and a little more harsh-sounding.

Not necessarily a bad thing as there are times and places where one would work best, but let your preferences sort this one out for you.

MXL 990 vs Audio-Technica AT2020

Both of these microphones are perfectly useful to have laying around your studio. The AT2020 is a bit warmer, and richer-sounding than the MXL 990, but keep in mind that different mics work better for vocalists and performers.

It’s all a matter of taste, but in my opinion the AT2020 is a bit more versatile than the MXL 990, so if you’re a beginner just starting out it might be the better option. Although both are great.

Read the full Audio-Technica AT2020 review

Who is the MXL 990 best suited for?

The MXL 990 is perfect for beginner producers looking for a studio vocal microphone on a budget. It’s also great for acoustic guitars.

Buy MXL 990 at: SweetwaterAmazon
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