Four Tube Condenser Microphones Tested

By on 9-24-2005 in Gear Notes

Gary Powell & Marty Lesterby Gary Powell

Marty Lester (young guy on the right), audio engineer from the Austin production studio, Tequila Mockingbird, helped me compare four cardioid tube microphones;
As pictured – Top left: Mojave MA200 $1k (Mojave Audio) / Top right: Rode NTV $1k / Bottom Left: Manley Reference $2.7k / Bottom Right: AT-4060 $1.4k (Audio Technica)

This quest started when I heard an Austin CD engineered by Marty Lester back in 1999 for artist Robert Kraft. I thought this was maybe the best vocal sound I had ever heard recorded, so I called Marty to find out how he did it. The microphone was a Manley Reference recorded through an Avalon mic-pre.

I know the Rode NTV very well and have used it for years, so it was my standard by which to compare the three new contenders. The Mojave and NTV were run through the Drawmer 1960 mic pre. The Manley and the AT-4060 were run through the Peavey VMP2.

I’ll let Marty share his opinions in the comments, but I think we were in agreement. These are all tube microphones with a single cardioid pick-up pattern. Let me say first that each of these mics could be the perfect microphone for any particular singer.Four Cardiod Tube Microphones That said, without price being a factor, the newly released Mojave MA200 designed by David Royer was the clear winner.

Mojave MA200 – This was like going to your local Ear, Nose and Throat specialist and having your ear wax removed and feeling like your ears hadn’t been in the studio for 30 years!

Rode NTV – A little boxy in the middle, but I’ve always loved it on “airy” singers prone to sibilance problems.

Manley Reference – That famous “grain” sound up top is wonderful, but I thought the mids were a little overpowered by it.

AT-4060 – Smooth through all the frequencies, but a little dark on the top. I should own this mic just for that one singer who would sound great on it.

Also, I compared the Neumann TLM103 against my AKG-414 ULS. After routing them both through the Drawmer 1960, I found them so similar that there was no discernable reason to purchase the Neumann as much as I liked it.

My special thanks to Marty Lester in bringing Tequila’s Manley and his excellent ears over to my studio. Also, thank you Jeffrey Green my Sweetwater sales engineer, for suggesting the Mojave and sending out so many mics.

4 Comments

  1. hey Gary-

    nice re-cap. thanks for the chance to help…i love mic shootouts!
    i think you summed it up pretty well. that Mojave was amazing.
    if i were doing a voice-over, i might have a tough time between
    the Manley and the Mojave, but for over-all goodness, the
    Mojave was amazing.

    one more thing we found interesting was how an “untrained ear”
    was immediatly impressed with the Mojave and the Manley. our
    “real-world” test subject was inspired right away upon hearing
    herself through those two mics…which could very well translate
    to a better performance by an artist because they feel “bigger
    than life.”

    anyway, thanks again for the change to check out new toys. your
    studio is amazing, by the way.

    cheers,
    marty.

  2. gary,
    i am currently in a recording class at ut and right now we are learning various stereo micing techniques. so far we have learned a lot of different methods with different types of mics. i was wondering what method you have found best for recording grand piano. assuming that you record an actual piano and not just a digital keyboard. by the way interesting blog, and i look forward to seeing you in class tomorrow
    -dustin

  3. Dustin, I have a Yamaha C-7 (7’4″). For the past several years I’ve been miking it with a pair of AT-4033’s. They are crisp sound great on this piano, but the placement is critical. I am about to try the M/S configuration with a pair of AKG-414’s which is how my favorite piano sample was recorded. It’s the GigaPiano for Tascam’s GigaStudio and was sampled by my long-time friend and associate Larry Seyer. Wanna come help me? See you tomorrow. — Gary Powell

  4. Gary

    Hello we are looking at upgrading to a higher end mic and I’ve been looking at the Mojave MA-200 & MA-201. I stumbled upon Lawson microphone while checking out reviews on the Mojave’s. How would you compare or rate the 2 vs each other. Lawson MA-200 vs L47CII or L47MP MKII. Mojave MA-201 vs L47FET or L251FET. Look forward to your comments or thoughts. I’ve heard great things about both mic’s.

    Thanks

    Gerald

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