MXL 990 Review – The 7 Most Useful Reviews From Around The Web

The MXL 990 is a popular studio microphone, mainly because it is cheap. It is easily purchased from Guitar Center Online with beer money, but does it sound like a $59 mic, or something more?

So as I am sure you can guess, there are thousands of reviews on the web regarding this mic. However, only a fraction of these reviews are actually useful. So in this post we take a look at the 7 most useful MXL 990 reviews from around the web.

Note: The last review on our list shares some info about the MXL 990 you probably don’t know, and how to make it sound way better


Best MXL 990 Review from Amazon

An Amazon customer by the screen name “Bassman” points out that the mic is decent, but a little muddy. However, he is quick to point out that in this price range, it is by far the best mic around. The MXL 990 should work just find for voiceovers and basic song demos, especially if you are on a budget. However for primo work, it might fall a little short.


Best MXL 990 Review from Musicians Friend

This Musician’s Friend customer left a lengthy review, and pointed out several things.

  1. The MXL 990 sound far better than it’s price range.
  2. Even $5000 mice can sound terrible, so price isn’t always the measure of quality.
  3. With a decent preamp, you CAN use this mic to record a commercial album.
  4. He used it side by side with super expensive mice, and it held up.
  5. It’s a hot mic, so don’t drive it too hard.
  6. There is a bit of a bump at 8-10k, so be careful boosting these frequencies.

mxl 990 review


Best MXL 990 Review from Guitar Center

Billy left a review on Guitar Center’s product page, and pointed out that paired with a good preamp that has phantom power, this mic can rock.

I’d like to point out that Billy is a hardcore vocalist. Screaming is one of the hardest vocal techniques to record due to the irritating frequencies that can result from the performance.

If it worked well for Billy’s vocals/screaming, I’m sure it will work well for almost anything!


Youtube MXL 990 Review from Trevor

Trevor from youtube demonstrates the MXL 990 pretty well in this video. He let’s you hear the difference between just plain camera audio and the actual mic. He also points out that you could spend $99 on a cheap USB microphone, or you could spend the same amount on the MXL 990 and get a way better sound.


Youtube MXL 990 Review from JordanHumble

This guy certainly has some charm! Jordan Humble had owned the MXL 990 for about a year when he filmed this review. He starts by going through the packaging and showing the mic itself, and how to use the stand.

He points out that he has not had any issues with it, and while it is not the best microphone out there, it is certainly the best for the price.

He also tells you how to make a cheap DIY pop filter out of a wire hang and pantyhose haha!


Youtube MXL 990 Review from CowcarMusic

The reason we like this review is because it features the MXL 990 on guitar, and it done in a condo, not a professionally treated studio. This shows you what the MXL 990 is capable of in a normal home studio environment.

Ryan points out that his audio was recorded with no eq and no compression. Just raw mic audio.

He also point out that the MXL 990 is in fact a low budget microphone, and while it sounds great, it can have a little humming. You shouldn’t hear this in the mix though.

Ryan plays guitar through the MXL 990 from the hole position and the 12th fret position, and also through two different preamps. So this gives you a really good idea of how the MXL 990 can sound in a variety of settings.



#1 Most Useful MXL 990 Review


anxious from Gearslutz forum

This review blew my mind. It is surely the most useful information about the MXL 990 on the web. User “anxious” from gearslutz points out that there is actually a cable loading issue with the MXL 990, and he has verified this with an oscilloscope.

What does this mean? It means the mic needs a minimum load capacitance to function properly.

Ok ok what does that mean? Well it means that when you use a short cable with the MXL 990 (which most people do), it will sound harsh and and generally low quality. However, if you use a long cable, the problem disappears and the mic sounds fantastic!

This could explain why when searching for reviews on the MXL 990, you tend to find either extremely positive reviews, or extremely negative.

Also, if you notice, there are a TON of glowing reviews about this microphone when recording overheads. This is probably because when people record cymbals/drums, it is often through a long snake or long mic cable, which would eliminate the load problem.

Judging from these reviews, if you are a a beginner or have a low budget, the MXL 990 is about the best you are going to find. If you have a large budget or are a pro, it may not be your first choice for vocals, but it could definitely work for room or cymbal mics!

You can buy the MXL 990 on Amazon, or get it from Guitar Center Online.

So what do you think about the MXL 990? Leave your thoughts below!

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7 Pros that use the Avalon 737

The Avalon 737sp preamp is a staple in the studio, yet is not without controversy. You can regularly find engineers bashing it on forums, or as we have heard one tech call it, “A wire with gain”.

We use it in our studio and love it. If you want to hear it in action, you can check out an in-depth Avalon 737 Demo with audio samples we did some time ago.

So, we know what a lot of unknown engineers on the audio forums think. But we set out to find out what the Pros think. So after a full day of research and about 7 pots of coffee, we came up with this list of 7 Pros that use the Avalon 737.


Dave Pensado

@pensadosplace

Credits: Michael Jackson – Earth, Wind & Fire – Mariah Carey – P!nk – Beyoncé – Shakira – Usher – Will Smith


Back in 2004, a guest user on Gearslutz asked Dave a pretty straightforward question.

Dave what outboard do u consider mandatory?

See screenshot below:

Well that is pretty damn direct! I myself would love to know what gear Dave friggen Pensado considers not only a must have, but mandatory! Thankfully, Dave responded to the post and not only mentioned the Avalon 737, but made sure to put in parenthesis “a great all in one“.

Dave’s Avalon preamp can be seen in his rack in many of his videos on Pensado’s Place, and heard on many records he produced.


Chad Kroeger

@Nickelback

Credits: Avril Lavigne – Santana – My Darkest Days – Thornley – Bo Bice- Nickelback – Theory of a Deadman


Chad Kroeger is mostly known for being the lead singer of Nickelback, but he is actually an accomplished producer as well. When Nickelback set out to make The Long Road, Chad (being aggravated with studio delays), hired a contractor to build a studio in his barn in 30 days, and recording commenced.

In a Mixonline interview back in 2003, Chad was asked what vocal chain he used on the “barn recorded” followup to Silver Side Up. Surprisingly, his response included a Rode NTK as the mic, along with an Avalon 737 at the end of the chain.

Here is a quote from the Mixonline article:

Vocals were recorded in the upstairs vocal booth with a simple setup of a RØDE NTK tube mic running through a Neve 1084 preamp, UREI1176 compressor and Avalon 737 SP mic processor.

Seeing as the Avalon preamp was last in the chain, we are assuming that it was primarily used for EQ. Also, in case you were wondering why he used an NTK when he probably had access to a plethora of microphones, Chad said:

If I’m screaming, we need to be able to have a diaphragm that’s going to beable to handle the screaming and is not going to gut out some of the stuff

Kroeger’s vocal sound has become extremely sought after and is considered by some to be the holy grail of the “big rock” sound.

So if you are looking for that huge rock vocal sound, you may want to consider throwing the Avalon preamp in your chain.


Mike Mangini

@manginimike

Credits: Joss Stone – Tom Jones – Dream Theater – Donny Osmond- Joan Osborne – Disney – Jonas Brothers – Baha Men


Mike Mangini is yet another well know musician (drummer of Dream Theater) that also excels in engineering and producing. Blair Jackson from Mixonline did an interview with Mike, asking questions about his vocal micing on Joss Stone’s “Mind Body and Soul“.

Mike said that because Joss’s voice is so inherently dark, he wanted to capture it as is, without color. Mike chose the Sony C-800 to mic Joss’s voice, explaining that is was the most transparent mic available and really let her voice shine unaltered.

Obviously, his preamp choice was next, and staying in line with the “unaltered” approach, he chose the Avalon 737 to keep the path as clear and transparent as possible.

Here’s a quote from Mike:

We went with the C-800, which seemed totally transparent. So that was the mic we used primarily on both records, and then we’d also go through an Avalon 737.

Seeing that Mike took such care to find a totally transparent mic to preserve Stone’s voice, we believe this is a testament to the clarity of the Avalon preamp, as Mike chose it to match the transparency of the Sony C-800.


Young Guru

@young_guru

Credits: Method Man – Mariah Carey – Jay-Z – Ludacris – T.I. – Pete Rock – Ghostface Killah – Fabolous


Young Guru certainly lives up to his name, as he is considered one of the top recording and mixing engineers in Hip Hop. He has mixed 8 Jay-Z records, 2 Mariah Carey records, and a host of top Hip Hop albums.

Specifically talking about Jay-Z’s vocals, here’s a quote from Young Guru on the Avalon 737:

My signal chain is normally a Neumann 87 or 67 going into an Avalon 737. I love the way the Avalon preamp sounds with his voice. It’s a perfect match. I use the 737 compressor as well as the preamp.

This quote can be found in this SoundonSound Interview from December of 2009.


Johnny K

@thegroovestudio

Credits: Alien Ant Farm – Nonpoint – Disturbed – Megadeth – Staind – Sevendust – 3 Doors Down – Drowning Pool


Johnny K (John Karkazis) owns Groovemaster Recording Studios in Chicago, IL. The K man has also engineered some of metals top artists, such as Disturbed and Mushroomhead.

So how does Mr. K feel about the Avalon 737?

Here is a quote from this 2003 Mixonline Interview:

We changed mic pre and compression settings to bring out the depth of David’s vocals. We overdrove the compressor. We used a Distressor on the vocals occasionally when we tracked, but it was not always engaged. The vocal mic pre was an Avalon 737, and I used a Neumann tube as a vocal mic

Well he feels good enough about it to use it on David Draiman of Disturbed’s vocals, specifically on their debut album “The Sickness“. Great album, great sound!


Billy Howerdel

@billyhowerdel

Credits: A Perfect Circle – Guns N’ Roses – Hollywood Undead – Trust Company – Melvins – Ashes Divide- Secondhand Serenade


Billy Howerdel started out as a studio engineer / road tech, and wound up forming one of the worlds most eclectic hard rock bands, A Perfect Circle.

It wasn’t easy though, as APC’s front man Maynard James Keenan is also the lead singer of the legendary Tool.

This forced Howerdel to write and even track a lot of APC’s record on the road.

In this 2001 Mixonline Interview, Robert Hanson asks Billy what gear he takes with him on the road to record tracks:

I’ve got a big 20-space rack with a Marathon 9600 with a Pro Tools MIXPlus system, an Avalon 737 and the new Apogee 2-track, a little Mackie mixer, a tube mic, a basic guitar and an acoustic, and I pretty much do everything.

We are assuming the Avalon preamp was used mostly for DI and probably a bit of compression. It is said that Maynard may even have tracked some vocals in Howerdel’s hotel room, but Billy explains he mostly did it at home and they sent tracks back and forth.


Steve Hodge

Credits: Jam and Lewis – Boyz II Men – Michael Jackson – Mary J. Blige – Toni Braxton – Janet Jackson – Spice Girls


If you are scratching your head wondering if you have heard of Steve Hodge, don’t feel bad. Steve has intentionally tried to stay out of the spotlight all these years, but the man has engineered more top R&B records than you can shake a stick at.

Steve is probably best known for mixing literally every Jam and Lewis record, but he also worked with Michael Jackson on vocal tracking several times.

We found this SoundonSound article where Steve talks about what gear he used to track Michael’s vocals. His quote not only reveals his use of the Avalon 737 as both preamp and EQ, but offers some insight into the magic that occurred while recording the King of Pop.

I ran it into the Avalon 737 preamp with the EQ and compressor built in. With Michael, you set the mic and stand back. He moves around incredibly when singing, just like he does on stage. But he has this remarkable knack for getting back precisely on mic in time for the line. He could circle the room and never miss a line. The problem was that the mic would pick up all of the noises he made — finger-snapping, mouth-popping and so on; he’s a huge foot-stomper. A lot of the percussion you hear on his records is actually him. What you have to do is build new percussion tracks around his vocal later. You have to augment it rather than try to cover it up.

Well we learned two things we didn’t know.

  • The most iconic voice in Pop went through an Avalon 737.
  • Michael Jackson created music with every inch of his body!

If you want to take the plunge and add the Avalon 737 to your chain, you can buy from Guitar Center
or for faster shipping, you can buy from Amazon .

So what do YOU think about the Avalon 737?

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