Mojave MA-200

Designed by David Royer (of Royer ribbon mic fame), this mic is Mojave’s entry into the sub-$1,000 tube mic category. For starters, I really like the way the MA-200 is packed; everything (mic, power supply, cables, and shock mount) fits inside a briefcase-sized anvil case. The mic itself has its own, smaller anvil case that fits inside the larger one. The result is very rugged and portable, and a nice change from the standard issue wooden mic box.
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Note that when setting up tube mics, a long warm-up really helps (I generally try for an hour). Also be gentle when inserting the female end of the power supply cable into the male end on the mic, as the connecting pins are long and a bit fragile.

VOCALS

Mojave touts this mic as being especially good for vocal recording, so my first test was recording vocals for the emo-hardcore band Permanent Black. Paired with our Blue preamp, the MA-200 worked comfortably with the lead singer’s voice; the mic’s upper midrange bite gave the vocalist a nice lift over the guitar-heavy mix.

The Mojave also worked well with the singer for the punk-metal band 12 Steps to Nothing — once again, the upper midrange boost helped him to cut through the mix. We also used this mic to record the group’s background vocals. Despite the MA-200’s cardioid pattern, it was easy to get a good blend with the three backup singers positioned around the front of the mic, and about 3' back.

Recording the dual male and female lead vocalists with the pop-punk group the Obsessors, the MA-200 sounded a bit too thin and harsh on the woman’s voice. I tried switching to our V72a preamp, which generally has a little more lower midrange oomph, but still couldn’t get a satisfactory recording. The MA-200 was a far better match for the male singer.

I also didn’t have much luck recording the vocalist for the roots-rock band the Careless Hearts; the MA-200 again needed a little more warmth and depth in the lower midrange to bring out the singer’s personality. For this type of music the Mojave sounded just a bit too “modern.”

ON TO THE INSTRUMENTS

I used our UA 610 preamp for the instrument recording tests, and started off using the MA-200 to record the mandolin in a live guitar/mandolin track. With 10' of separation between the instruments, the Mojave did a great job minimizing the acoustic guitar bleed. Unfortunately, it wasn’t really the right choice for mandolin; the sound wasn’t quite punchy and focused enough for the song, so I switched to a Neumann KM140.

Next up: Acoustic guitar overdubs with the Careless Hearts, and here, the MA-200/UA 610 combination shone. The sound was very silky, with a nice natural dip in the lower midrange — perfect for the guitar’s supporting role in the song.

Recording the San Francisco-based alt-country band T&A, I used the MA-200 on banjo and steel resonator guitar overdubs. Placing the mic back about 2' off the banjo’s body brought out the player’s double picking well, and the mic really complemented her tone. On the steel guitar I again pulled the mic back, around 3' out. With its slight upper midrange peak, the MA-200 emphasized the instrument’s harmonics, again to good effect.

Finally, I used this mic to track the lead guitarist’s 1960’s Fender Vibrolux amplifier. Placing the mic 2' back and a little off to the side provided a very full and balanced guitar sound. The amp was set up in a 15' x 25' room with a high ceiling, and even with its fairly tight cardioid pattern, the MA-200 managed to get a bit of the room into the sound.

WRAP UP

The MA-200 is not a retro-sounding tube mic: With its upper frequency boost and a slight midrange dip, it has a very smooth and modern sound. Vocally, it works well for aggressive music where the singers need a bit of an edge. The flip side is that its upper midrange emphasis can be a problem with singers who tend toward sibilance; I sometimes used a de-esser to knock the high end down a bit.

However, when miking acoustic and electric guitars, that same peak really helped bring out the upper harmonics. The MA-200 also takes high SPLs well. For those who want a well-designed tube mic that strives for a modern, rather than vintage, sound, the Mojave MA-200 does an excellent job.

Product type: Tube condenser microphone.
Target market: Pro studios who want a tube mic with a modern, rather than vintage, character.
Strengths: Slight midrange push can sound great with vocalists who need some edge in a mix. Works well with many instruments, despite being billed as a primarily vocal mic.
Limitations: Emphasizes sibilance with singers who tend toward brightness.
Price: $995 list.
Contact:www.mojaveaudio.com