Developed and built in Marshall’s Southern California headquarters, the Silicone Valve microphones are said to use FET amp circuitry to simulate what happens naturally in a tube. The internal mic circuitry is designed to amplify the “musical” even-order harmonics, while subduing odd-order harmonics, which are responsible for harsh, edgy sound quality. Transformers on the output stage also help enhance the tube-like qualities in the mics.
Now the second mic in the Silicone Valve series has been unveiled: the MXL V6, a solid-state condenser model that’s intended to emulate the tone and response of the MXL V69.
The V69, which I reviewed for the February 2003 issue, is the flagship in Marshall’s line of tube-based microphones. The V6 and V69 are very similar in many respects; both are large-diaphragm, single-pattern — cardioid — condensers. Neither has any controls; there are no pads or filters. Both have 24-carat gold-plated grilles. Since the V6 is a solid-state mic, there’s no external power supply required, nor does the mic need to warm up as the V69 does.
When I reviewed the V69, I was impressed with its solid, punchy sound and its open top end — and I was even more impressed with the value it offered; at a retail of $399, the mic came packaged in a flight-type case with its power supply and an included shockmount. The V6 comes in at $50 cheaper, in a cherrywood box, but doesn’t include the shockmount in the price. Since an optional Marshall shockmount lists for about $50, figure the price is about the same.
For this review, I was sent an early-release MXL V6 with a shockmount. The mic was so “hot off the presses” that there was no cherrywood box for it, nor was there a spec sheet or manual. Given the lack of documentation, I did what any good engineer should do . . . I used my ears.
The V6 and the V69 are clearly cut from the same cloth. Both have a round, warm midrange, with open, present top end. There’s enough proximity effect to work with; the mics handle level well, so you can use them close and take advantage of proximity to fatten up the bottom end. As with the V69, I did find myself wishing for a lowcut filter on the V6 to tame the deep bass “thumpiness” that was revealed when monitoring through a subwoofer-equipped system.
Given that they’re so similar, it’s no surprise that I enjoyed using the V6 for the same applications at which the V69 excelled. I liked it on male vocals, where it provides a full tone, with bright but smooth high end. The detailed, open top-end also worked well on steel-string acoustic guitars, delivering a thick sound with plenty of sparkle. Marshall is correct to characterize the mic as smooth sounding, with no “solid-state” harshness.
TUBE-Y OR NOT TUBE-Y
The V6 easily lives up to the claims made by Marshall Electronics. It’s a big sounding mic, with plenty of open top-end, good dynamic response, low noise, and a warm tone. It lines up next to the V69 very well, delivering similar tone, and excellent value.
I don’t know how they do it, but Marshall continues its history of delivering value-packed microphones with the new Silicone Valve series. Like the V69 tube mic, the V6 performs like a microphone that costs way more money.
Perhaps the Silicone Valve series is the beginning of a new industry-wide “analog modeling” trend... time will tell!