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MXL 990 Microphone Review for Podcasting: Top Value Condenser Mic

Quite a few years ago, I bought an MXL 990 for use as my main podcasting microphone.  I had read some great feedback on the mic itself, and it occupies that price niche between entry level microphones and ridiculously expensive pro kit.

The thing is, the MXL is actually on the lower end of that price range, at £80 in the UK and around $85 in the US, but somehow, it produces a sound on a par with far more expensive equipment.

Years later, the MXL is still mounted proudly on my desk, powering the bulk of my podcasting and course recording efforts. So, I thought it was time to put together some coverage of the mic itself and give you some sound samples. To that end, finally, here's my MXL 990 podcasting microphone review.

Where Would you Use the MXL 990?

Learning how to Podcast ProperlyThe MXL 990 is a condenser microphone and so comes with all of the pros and cons associated with that. This a mic for use in a permanent location where you can set up some pretty decent noise isolation.

Don't use the MXL in a noisy environment, as it'll pick up a lot of background noise, but if you can find a nice quiet spot you'll get a deep, rich sound out of this mic.

What Type of Recording Setups Suit the MXL 990?

The MXL 990 is XLR mic and requires phantom power to work. This means it has to be connected to a phantom power capable recording device. It also needs a decent mount since it's not the lightest. I have a Neewer boom arm which holds it quite nicely, although you could use any standard microphone stand for that purpose.

I use the microphone in two different contexts:

1. A mixer setup for mix minus recording or live production. The MXL 990 goes straight into channel 1 of the mixer and other audio sources go into the other channels. The mixer provides phantom power and adjusts gain/EQ/etc. Then mixer output goes to my Zoom H4n for final recording.

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2. A simple digital recorder setup for solo recording. Sometimes when I want to do a run of simple solo recordings, I'll just record straight ino my Zoom H4n. This keep the audio chain super simple and so reduces the chance of any noise or little problems creeping in.

What are the Vital Statistics?

The MXL 990 is a condenser microphone with a cardioid pickup pattern. That means it's one sided, so it's suitable for one speaker, projecting very close to the mic. It's side address, so you'll mount it standing upright in it's stand.

What Does it Come With?

What makes the MXL 990 package even more valuable is the fact that it comes with a shock mount and a padded case. This means you don't have to worry about it fitting your current shock mount, if you have one, or about buying one if you don't.

MXL 990 Microphone Sound Sample

So that you can get an idea of how this microphone sounds, here's a sound sample recorded in my home studio. This was inbetween homes, so it's a non-treated room, with a PC running not far away, so very similar to a standard office room in anyone's home.

Gimme the Summary

The MXL 990 produces a great quality sound for your podcast at a very good price. To me, it's on a par with the ever venerated Heil PR40 as a podcasting microphone, but, of course, it's always down to your voice which microphone suits you best.

Because of the microphone type, it's really only for a permanent setup in a quiet room, rather than for mobile recording. But, if it's a studio style, XLR recorder or Mixer setup you're looking to build, this is the mic I recommend above anything else for a balance between quality and value.

Need More Equipment Advice?

if you’re looking more help with choosing the right podcasting equipment, then we’d love to work with you.

Check out The Podcast Host Academy, where we hold regular live Q&A sessions, run a community forum, and offer access to every video course, checklist, and ebook we’ve ever made!

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Written by:

Colin Gray

Colin has been teaching people how to podcast since 2007. He's worked with Universities, businesses and hobbyists alike. He started The Podcast Host to share his experience and to help as many people as possible get into Podcasting. He runs Podcraft, to spread the art of podcasting, and does the Mountain Bikes Apart podcast whenever he can. Who doesn't like to talk bikes, after all!

March 17th 2015