Marshall MXL V6

Last fall, Marshall Electronics launched what was to be the first model in a new line of microphones — the V12, part of the Silicone Valve series. The result of more than three years of research by Marshall, the Silicone Valve mics are solid-state, yet are intended to give the sonic characteristics of tube circuitry.

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.

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!