Mojave Audio MA-101FET Condenser Microphone Quick Pick Review

The fourth installment in Mojave Audio''s product line is the solid-state MA-101fet small-diaphragm condenser microphone ($595). Mojave Audio was started in 2005 by David Royer, of ribbon mic fame, as an outlet for his condenser mic designs. Having reviewed the three previous models, I was certainly interested in checking out the new addition.
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The MA-101fet condenser mic uses two of the same capsules as found in the MA-100.

The fourth installment in Mojave Audio''s product line is the solid-state MA-101fet small-diaphragm condenser microphone ($595). Mojave Audio was started in 2005 by David Royer, of ribbon mic fame, as an outlet for his condenser mic designs. Having reviewed the three previous models, I was certainly interested in checking out the new addition.

The MA-101fet shares the same capsule—rather, pair of capsules—as its tube kin, the MA-100. The all-black MA-101 ships with interchangeable screw-on cardioid and omni capsules, a small flight case, a foam windscreen, and a slightly oversized rubber clip. The clip is larger than you might expect, as the mic''s body south of the capsule tapers out to become wider than your average pencil condenser. This extra girth is necessary to accommodate the Jensen transformer Royer chose to use for the MA-101, and it gives the mic a solid heft not usually found in small-capsulecondensers.

DRUMS, ETC.
One of my favorite applications for the MA-100s is close-miking drums, both toms and snare, so it didn''t take long for me to try the MA-101fet in these capacities, with excellent results. For such scenarios, there''s an internal switch to engage a -15dB pad for the mic''s electronics, which is easily (if oddly) accessed by unscrewing the housing around the main shaft of the mic body. I didn''t hear any overloading when I didn''t engage the pad, but employing it did give me the flexibility to use my preamps that don''t have pads and not clip the recording devices'' inputs. Toms were full, round, yet percussive, and snare was crisp and snappy, but still deep. Next to a Neumann KM184 on an open, ringy snare drum, the mic yielded a lot more definition and depth. The Neumann mic sounded hazy by comparison.

As drum overheads, I compared the MA-101s to the tube MA-100s and to the large-diaphragm tube MA-200s, which are arguably my favorite overhead mics. Next to the small-capsule tube 100s, the 101s had an upper-midrange presence that the drummer really liked, although I would happily use either pair for the mix. Next to the MA-200s, the 101s sounded a little hyped at the top of the midrange, especially as the 200s sound so natural to my ears. For some quiet brush work, the 101s brought out the detail in the snare and cymbals beautifully, but when the drummer kicked it up a few notches, I preferred the realism that the larger 200s imparted on the set; the 101s sounded almost like spot mics on the cymbals by comparison.

I used the MA-101fet mics with the cardioid capsules on everything from upright bass to piano to alto sax to banjo, and was impressed with the mics'' versatility and overall quality. On upright and electric bass, I felt that the MA-101s provided definition and had less low-mid buildup as compared to the reference mics. On banjo, I really felt like the depth of field between the skin and strings came through, whereas my reference mic sounded flat and slightly boomy in comparison. On saxophone, the MA-101 sounded slightly thin on its own, but when paired with a Coles 4038, it added a sparkling presence that the ribbon mic didn''t have alone.

OMNI PRESENT
I also used the mics'' omni capsules on a number of sources, and although I didn''t find them quite as useful and versatile as the cardioid ones, it was definitely nice to have the omni option at no extra charge. I got some great drum room sounds out of them and really liked the way they sounded in stereo on a group of six vocalists singing on the chorus of a ''60s-influenced pop song. Another handy application was as a room mic for an electric guitar. [Note: The first set of omni capsules shipped with the MA-101s had an unpleasant upper-midrange bump. When I reported the problem to Mojave Audio, they sent me a much-improved pair and have since corrected the problems that caused a few early capsules to have such issues.]

Even if the MA-101s came with only the cardioid capsule, they would still be great mics at a really fair price. Overall, they certainly live up to the quality and value I''ve come to expect from Mojave Audio over the years. They give more-expensive tube and solid-state mics a run for their money at a price that project and home studios can easily afford.

Overall rating (1 through 5): 4
MA-101fet Product Page