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MXL 990 review: Best $100 spent on a condenser?

In this review, 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.

MXL 990 with stand mount
Image: Higher Hz

Final verdict on the MXL 990 4.0

While the MXL 990 is a budget microphone, its performance excels many of its competitors in the under $100 range. 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

Why you should trust me

I’ve worked with a diverse spectrum of gear over my decade spent in the field of audio production and engineering, both in the studio environments and on live productions.

Brandon Schock, author and contributor at Higher Hz

Working with names such as Shure, AKG, Neumann, and Sennheiser, among many others, has lent me nuanced insights into the practical application of audio equipment, and what value it provides users ranging from novice to seasoned professionals.


Use these jump links to navigate to the desired section of the review.

Polar pattern and frequency response

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 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.

Vocals 4.5

Recording vocals in the studio is probably the first thing I would think of when applying this microphone.

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.

MXL 990 with microphone stand
Image: Higher Hz

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.

Acoustic guitars 4.8

This is perhaps an obvious application for this condenser 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.

Guitar amps 4.0

The MXL 990 can be a solid choice when recording electric 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.

Bass amps 2.8

I wouldn’t recommend this microphone 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.

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.

Build quality 3.8

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 one of the best $100 options out there 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.

Who is the MXL 990 best suited for?

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

Buy MXL 990 at: SweetwaterAmazon

Recent updates

  • Mar 7, 2024: Minor changes in structure. Added quick jump links for easier navigation.
  • Dec 10, 2023: Updated the Comparison section.
  • Feb 16, 2022: Adjusted the scores in three popular applications. Updated the Verdict section.
  • Aug 31, 2021: Published original review based on the early test results.