Today, we’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. Let’s take a look.
Our verdict on the MXL 990
While the MXL 990 is a budget microphone, its performance excels many of its competitors. As a microphone for vocalists and guitars especially, the 990 is perhaps one of the greatest options available that doesn’t break the bank.
- Bright, present sound.
- Extremely affordable.
- Great for vocalists.
- Max SPL of 130 dB make it a less viable option for louder sound sources.
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. This can make it a great choice for most mid range instruments, especially vocalists who are looking to get a bit more presence from their performance.
While it might be easy to overlook the 990 due to its stubby profile, this is a perfectly well-built microphone. There are no frills with the overall design. The mic also has a 130 dB max SPL, which isn’t low, but we would veer away from close miking drums with this one.
Recording vocals in the studio is probably the first thing we 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.
While great in the studio, we 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.
Believe it or not this microphone can be used great as an overhead. Any close miking might run into overloading the 990, but above the kit and a few feet out can have some impressive results.
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.
We wouldn’t recommend this when recording bass cabinets, at least not as the main microphone in your setup. It’s 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.
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.
Compared to other microphones
While the MXL 990 may be the perfect microphone for you, here are a few alternatives to consider in comparison. You can also check our recommendations for the best microphones you can buy, the best budget microphones, and especially, the best budget condenser microphones.
MXL 990 vs. MXL 770
The 770 is the smaller, less experienced sibling of the 990. While both microphones are perfectly viable options, it should be noted that the high end boost on the 770 is slightly more exaggerated than we see on the 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 our 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.