Gadgets & Goodies: Let's Get Mikey!

As in “microphones,” that is—two really cool ones crossed our desk this month, so of course, we wanted to tell you all about them (all prices are MSRP).


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Having owned and used a Mojave MA- 200 tube mic for about a year, I was excited to find out I’d be reviewing the new MA-201. I’ve always been fond of the MA-200 for acoustic guitar and sometimes brass; but with vocals, I almost always have to take down the response around 12kHz with a de-esser. So, I was curious to find out if the MA- 201 shared similar characteristics.

As a solid-state version of the MA- 200 tube mic, the MA-201 uses a Field Effect Transistor (FET) and comes with a very nice shock mount and metal flight case. The mic features a 3-micron gold capsule, Jensen transformer, cardioid pickup pattern, and low noise resistors.

As a pair was sent for review, I first tried them as stereo drum overheads because we tend to switch up drum overhead miking techniques from session to session. Sometimes we go to pencil mics (like a pair of Shure SM81s or AKG 451s) for that tight, controlled cymbal sound, but other times we use large diaphragm condensers such as Neumann U87s or Blue Dragonflies for the more open, “whole kit and room” sound. We set up the MA-201s, powered them with a pair of API 512Cs, then sent the signal straight to Pro Tools.

The initial position was about six feet above the kit. It was very apparent that the mic’s pickup pattern was broad and wide—we were getting too much room tone, and not enough control of the cymbals. We lowered the mics to around three feet and rotated them outward, away from each other, and that helped everything snap into place. The stereo spectrum was wide as a house; we had good control of what each mic picked up.

Next up, I wanted to compare the sound of the 200 with the 201, so I set them both up for a vocal shout out. Using a Nice Pair pre, there was a noticeable difference between the two mics. The MA-201 sounded very accurate, with a little color; it did not have the high-end sibilance I’ve encountered in the MA-200. Especially at this price, the MA-201 is a great mic to add to your collection.


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Cool: Instead of the usual pickup patterns (cardioid, omni, figure-eight, and hypercardioid), the C720 is a variable pattern mic that lets you switch the polar pattern at any time—even after you’ve finished recording (yes, you read that right). The mic has a dual capsule, dual FETs, dual transformers, and even a dual XLR output cable. Thus, you can record both outputs from the C720 and manipulate the polar pattern during mixdown.

I put this mic to some serious tests while working with the 2008 American Idol standout, Amanda Overmyer. During rhythm sessions, we set up the C720 as a knee-high mic for a drum kit. It was around eight feet away from the kit and four feet in the air, with the capsule’s front facing the drum set. We plugged in both XLR cables into two channels of our DDA console’s mic pres, which then went to Pro Tools.

Talk about control over your room tones! By mixing both mic outputs at different levels, and even dialing in different polarities, we had an unbelievable amount of control. Just listening to the front capsule, the mic sounded vintage and warm; it had a pleasing round bottom, and realistic top end.

Next, we did a vocal shootout for Amanda. Before starting vocals, we always choose several mics to audition with an artist—in this case a vintage Neumann U87, our modded Neumann U47, an AKG C12, and the C720. The producer and engineer found very positive aspects with each one; in the end, they kept the C12 for lead vocals, with the C720 and U47 for backup vocals. As each mic has its own character, the producer just left all three set up and advised Amanda which one to sing through, depending on the part she was recording.

The C720 proved to be extremely powerful for backup vocals because of how you can control the amount of room tone mixed in with the front capsule, as well as the warm beef that it added to the track. It’s not cheap— but given the exceptional amount of control it provides, on balance that’s a small price to pay.