Miking a guitar amp with two different mics is a standard technique. It allows engineers to take advantage of the unique sonic signature of each mic, and blend them later in the mix.
The MXL DX-2 is a dynamic mic designed for amp miking that takes a somewhat different approach: It provides two different dynamic capsules in the same microphone and lets you vary the output from each. However, this is not a stereo mic: The output is summed at the mono XLR output and you cannot record each capsule to a separate track as you would with an actual 2-mic setup.
HANG ME, PLEASE
The first thing you notice about the DX-2 is its unusual shape. It’s flat on one side and rounded on the other. The flat side is the front, from which the capsules pick up. Thanks to this side-address design, it’s easy to hang the mic from an amp, with the cable wrapped around the handle and the flat side dangling in front of the speaker. However, a clip is included in case you want to mount it on a stand. A zipper pouch and Euro-thread adapter are also included.
Inside the DX-2, the two capsules are vertically stacked, with roughly a half-inch of space between them. With the DX-oriented as it would be when hanging off an amp, the top capsule (Capsule 1) is the larger of the two and has a supercardioid pattern, whereas the lower capsule (Capsule 2) is cardioid. MXL chose these capsules for their sonic properties. The differences in directionality and in which capsule picks up more bleed isn’t really an issue considering that the mic’s optimal placement is right against the speaker grille.
The Crossfade knob on the DX-2 alters the balance between the cardioid and supercardioid capsules.
A unique aspect of the mic is its Crossfade control, which varies the output of each of the capsules. Fully counterclockwise gives you Capsule 1, fully clockwise only Capsule 2, and anywhere in between is a blend proportionate to the knob setting.
I tested the DX-2 on a Fender Twin Reverb. The mic was hung from the handle for some of the tests, and placed on a stand, oriented horizontally for the others. I used two different electric guitars—a Strat and a Tele—and recorded both using clean and distorted sounds. I also recorded a pedal steel guitar. For each instrument, I recorded a similar part several times with different Crossfade settings.
In general, I found Capsule 1 to be more open sounding, a tad brighter and beefier in the low-end. Capsule 2 was more contained sounding and a bit darker. I enjoyed trying different blends of the two to find the sound I wanted.
No matter how I set the crossfade knob, the sound of the mic was clean and accurate. Because the capsules are so close together, there aren’t any phase issues to worry about, as there could be with two mics. I discovered that, at least on my Twin, the mic sounded better when oriented vertically to the speaker (as if hanging down) rather than when it was horizontal on a mic stand.
Although MXL doesn’t tout the DX-2 for anything but amp miking, I tried it on congas and tambourine and got decent results, with good transient response. I suspect the DX-2 would also work well on toms or maybe even snare.
TWO IS BETTER THAN ONE
I’m definitely impressed with the DX-2. It’s got an innovative design, good build quality, an impressive sound, and is reasonably priced. Kudos to MXL for trying something different.
Variable blend of two capsules. Clean and accurate sound. No phase issues. Convenient for amp placement. Mic clip included.
Only one output: You can’t record each capsule to a separate track.
Mike Levine is a composer, producer, and multi-instrumentalist from the New York area.