The Best $200 Condenser

Monday, November 28th, 2011 | by

matthew mcglynn

Without question, the quality of inexpensive microphones has skyrocketed in the past 10 years. Most every mic company has a handful of entry-level choices now, and most of them sound pretty damn good. At least some of the time.

But which ones sound the best for the sources you most need to record? We decided to find out.

Aaron Lyon, a multi-instrumentalist, engineer, and producer based in Chico, CA, tested seven sub-$200 condensers on guitar and voice. If you’re shopping for your first condenser mic, or an inexpensive workhorse that won’t be embarrassed out of your mic locker, read on for Aaron’s review.

The Condenders

We strictly enforced a $200 (street price) cutoff. We initially included only large-diaphragm mics, but relaxed this rule to allow the Blue Spark and Audio-Technica AT2035, whose capsules use diaphragms just smaller than the 25mm minimum for the “large-diaphragm” designation.

It is worth noting that all these microphones were made in China.

The MXL 2003AMXL 2003A is a second-generation version of MXL’s classic inexpensive LDC. Revised extensively in 2009, the current (“A”) version features a flatter frequency response and lower self-noise, thanks to new capsule tuning and updated electronics.

The AKG Acoustics Perception 220AKG Acoustics Perception 220 is a fixed-Cardioid LDC with a -20dB pad and a high-pass filter.

The Shure PG42Shure PG42 brings Shure’s famous standards for reliability to an inexpensive, imported LDC. It has a pad and filter.

The Studio Projects LSMStudio Projects LSM was designed by Brent Casey for Studio Projects. It is unique among this lineup for providing both XLR and USB outputs; the onboard ADC is capable of 16-bit, 48-kHz resolution. This is the smallest mic in the lineup.

The Blue Microphones SparkBlue Microphones Spark, uniquely among these microphones, has dual voices. The onboard “Focus” switch incorporates a high-pass filter as well as other tonal changes (which you can hear in the samples below).

The Audio-Technica AT2035Audio-Technica AT2035, unlike other microphones here, uses an electret capsule with a very thin diaphragm (2 microns). It provides a pad and high-pass filter.

The SE Electronics X1SE Electronics X1 comes in a bare-bones presentation (no shockmount, no case), implying that all the value of the mic is inside the microphone — where, frankly, it should be. Like many mics here, it has a pad and HPF.

Summary of Specifications

(Click the thumbnail photos to see full specifications.)

MXL 2003A
Audio-Technica AT2035
Studio Projects LSM
AKG Acoustics Perception 220
Percep. 220
Shure PG42
Blue Microphones Spark
SE Electronics X1
Street $169 $149 $120 $179 $199 $150 $169
Capsule ~34mm 26mm 34mm ~32mm 35mm 25mm n/a
Sensitivity 7.1 22 25 18 17.8 28 25.1
Self-Noise 11 12 16 16 18 10 16
Pad no -10dB no -20dB -15dB no -10dB
HPF yes yes no yes yes yes yes
Shockmount yes yes no yes yes yes no
Case no no no yes yes wood no
Gain Settings (in +dB)
  Cab 44 19 27 21 26 22 24
  Acoustic 53 33 45 33 37 ~41 44
  Vocals 43 22 30 24 26 25 27

Audio Files

Acoustic Guitar

[Download the 24-bit WAV files from the acoustic session here.]

Acoustic Guitar, Mic #1

Acoustic Guitar, Mic #2

Acoustic Guitar, Mic #3

Acoustic Guitar, Mic #4

Acoustic Guitar, Mic #5

Acoustic Guitar, Mic #6

Acoustic Guitar, Mic #7

Acoustic Guitar, Mic #8

Electric Guitar (Reamped)

Electric Guitar, Mic #1

Electric Guitar, Mic #2

Electric Guitar, Mic #3

Electric Guitar, Mic #4

Electric Guitar, Mic #5

Electric Guitar, Mic #8

[Editor’s note: we’ve removed the PG42 and 2003A audio samples from the electric guitar test, because I’m not sure they fairly represent the sound of these mics. Perhaps we’ll have an opportunity to retest these mics in the future.]


Vocals, Mic #1

Vocals, Mic #2

Vocals, Mic #3

Vocals, Mic #4

Vocals, Mic #5

Vocals, Mic #6

Vocals, Mic #7

Vocals, Mic #8

The Review

The mischievously named sEX1 is indeed sexy in it’s “none more black,” rubberized enclosure. It feels good to the touch, like a suede shoe. The mic stand mount presents a bit of a puzzle, because there is obviously only one way to attach it to the base of the microphone, but it’s such tight fit, it requires a significant and muscular effort to snap on. However, once installed, the friction fit is an excellent design that allows precise rotation, with a satisfying mechanical feel.

The Blue Spark‘s orange body is bold and attractive, but our review unit was loose and rattled when manipulated. And its mounting hardware would not thread onto the mic stand, while all the others had no trouble.

The SP Little Square Mic, with its compact rectangular package, is a visual standout, and begs to be dropped in a back pocket. It is the only model with an integrated USB output.

For this shootout, all tracks were recorded via built-in microphone preamps of an MOTU 828 mk3 interface into Digital Performer at 24bit/44.1KHz. Levels were adjusted roughly to peak around -6dB (see spreadsheet for mic-by-mic details). No processing. Exported as uncompressed WAV. [… which we then converted to 320kbps MP3 after gain-matching. –Ed.]

A note for listeners: While the parallel walls in my home studio have been acoustically treated, the ceiling and floor have not, and this causes a boost at 137Hz. I often cut this frequency by 6dB when mixing.

To keep the samples as consistent as possible, I recorded electric guitar once, then played it back for each set of microphones. I played an Agile AL-3000 with stock pickups and Elixir strings, plugged directly into a MOTU mic preamp. This performance was then routed out of the MOTU into a 1983 Marshall JCM 800 2203 head, and into a 2×12 Avatar cabinet with Eminence Man O War and Texas Heat speakers. No effects or reverb were used. Mics were placed three feet away, three feet above floor, and the curtains were left open for added reflections.

Next I played a Lariveé J-05 jumbo acoustic guitar with Elixir strings, finger style (no pick), with mics 12 inches away, pointed at 12th fret.

Finally, for voice, I sang the first verse of Thirst for Romance by Cherry Ghost, 18'' from the microphones.

The most obvious difference in microphones is not a good one. The MXL requires far more gain, and exhibits a much higher noise floor than the other mics. It also sounds congested in the higher frequencies, most noticeable on voice, making this my least-favorite mic.

On voice, the SP seems a little bright, and lacks “chest.” The Shure, AT, and SE seem well balanced and otherwise unremarkable. However, on acoustic, the SP does a great job of featuring the top end string shimmer, while preserving the lower end as well. I would choose the SP to feature the acoustic as a “forward” instrument. Alternatively, the AKG was warm and well balanced, and I would choose this mic to push the acoustic back into a supporting role.

On acoustic, the Blue Spark sounds best in my studio with its Focus control engaged. This option scoops the lower mids a bit, helping clear up the bottom end.

For electric guitar, each mic has a different take on the mid frequencies, making the mics easy to distinguish in this area. The AT focuses mids very deliberately, making it the most colored mic, and bringing the guitar much more forward. AKG, again, provides a nice balanced tone. The Blue Spark, with Focus disengaged, sounds the most like what the room actually sounds like to my ears. The Shure captures more of the room ambiance, which might be nice in a mix, but fails to handle the mids well, sounding a bit boxy.

The Best Entry-Level Condensers

With the exception of the MXL 2003A, all of the tested mics deliver acceptable performance given the price point, and qualify as useful studio tools.

Overall, I’d choose the AKG Perception 220 as the best all-around mic. It was consistently mellow and well-balanced, with an honest top end, making it a reliable and flexible tool.

My favorite colored mic is the Studio Projects LSM, which has a brighter, slightly hyped top end, perfect for pushing instruments to the front of a mix, while exhibiting a solid lower end as well.

matthew mcglynn

Six of these microphones were provided by their respective manufacturers for the purposes of this evaluation. We don’t get to keep them.

The 7th mic was purchased at full retail price because AKG is annoyingly unresponsive to requests for evaluation loans.

We have no affiliation with AKG, Audio-Technica, Blue, MXL, sE Electronics, Shure, Studio Projects, or MOTU; we received no compensation for this review.

Part I of III

This is the first piece of a 3-part review:

  1. The best $200 condenser (you are here)
  2. The best $200 condenser for podcasting
  3. The best $200 drum overhead mic

You might also be interested in this followup piece comparing the Rode NT1-A to the sE X1 on acoustic instruments and voices.


Posted in Microphones, Reviews, Shootouts | 45 Comments »

45 Responses to “The Best $200 Condenser”

  1. Ask Kæreby

    November 29th, 2011 at 4:21 am

    Very nice review/comparison, thanks for the good work! In my neck of the woods (Denmark) the SE X1 is the only model available at the same price point, the others are about double of what you would pay in the US.

  2. Bradford Swanson

    November 30th, 2011 at 5:03 am

    Revealing test! Love the blind listening/reveal feature. Thanks for all the hard work!

  3. Norman Adams Lariviere

    November 30th, 2011 at 7:27 am

    I just purchased an ADK S51 5.2 for $173 (typically $199) and I was *very* happy with the improvement over my current AT2035 which does seem to color the mids and the high end can be grainy on female vocals. The ADK on the other hand has proven to be incredibly smooth and darker for my overhead drum mics (haven’t tracked vocals yet). I really appreciate the darker quality because my bright hi-hats always seem to overpower mixes with my AT2035 and Rode NT5.

    I would love to see you add the ADK S51 to your shootout if you do Part II for drum overheads. Highly recommended for the price!

  4. Ben

    November 30th, 2011 at 8:13 am

    Great shootout! I found the same thing in that the MXL was my least favourite on all the sources or at least in the lower bracket. The rest seem to work great and there was very little difference between them. I think it would be dependent on which genre I record most often that would influence my decision if I were to purchase one of these mics. I fully agree that the SP is a good choice for a coloured mic for a different flavour, but the one mic I kept being drawn to is the Blue Microphones Spark. Might have to look into that one.

  5. Frank Adrian

    November 30th, 2011 at 3:06 pm

    All of these outside the MXL were solid performers. But many of the mikes sounded a bit dull to me. Not enough to where they were unusable, but just dull enough to make me like other ones better on the given sound sources. I could see myself using any of them on different sources and being able to make them work. But the thing is that you’d like to find a mike where you don’t have to do a lot of post-processing to make the sound work.

    I would have chosen the X1 for the acoustic – I liked the touch of brightness it gave. The AT-2035 was the winner on the electric – I concurred with the midrange comment made in the summary and I liked the sound it gave. Finally, it was a toss-up for me between the Perception and the AT-2035 on the vocals.

    Given that I liked the AT-2035 on two of the sound sources, I’d have to say it would be my pick in this price range. But, frankly it doesn’t sound that different from the AT-2020 to me, and since I don’t usually need either a pad or a lo-cut filter, I’d probably just pay fifty bucks less and get one of those instead (in fact, I just picked up another pair of 2020’s online for about $119 a couple days ago – thanks Recording Hacks “Mikes on Sale” page!).

  6. Steve Faul

    November 30th, 2011 at 10:44 pm

    Interesting. There’s an AKG Perception 220 on the stand in my VO booth right now. Bought it a little over two years ago on a whim and found it works very well for voice over work. It’s kinder to my voice than the RE-20, for less money. True, it’ll never be mistaken for a U87, but the response curve is quite respectable, and with a tube preamp it gives me the depth I like on narration.

    A friend of mine uses the AT2035 for voice work. He’s no fan of AKG, but he’s got one of those god-like voices. It comes down to what works best for your voice.

  7. Zak Kaszynski

    December 1st, 2011 at 2:03 pm

    So why did you test the Shure PG 42 instead of the PG 27? What are the differences between the two and which would you choose in an overall, general-use application?

  8. matthew mcglynn

    December 1st, 2011 at 2:12 pm

    Zak, if you click through to the PG42 profile page, you’ll see 5 bullet points that answer your question (the differences between PG27 and PG42).

    As to the selection, I picked mics that I thought were best, one per vendor, within the price range. In the case of the 2003A, I bet I could have picked something better though.

  9. ricardo

    December 1st, 2011 at 2:24 pm

    I suspect the MXL sample was faulty. The noise and sensitivity are so far from their spec that something is wrong.

  10. Chris Charlesworth

    December 2nd, 2011 at 9:44 am

    Interested to hear about your experience with the Blue Spark !!
    Purchased mine in the UK. It came witout a serial Nº, It’s bottom screw-on bit cosistently comes loose, no matter how often I tigten it. The screw thread on the pop filter has stripped. I must say that I have made a warranty claim on the stripped thread & eventually received an email asking me to contact their repair centre in the UK. It’s just too much trouble. I have discarded the Blue pop filter & resorted to a std clamp-on-the-mic-stand filter.
    I chose the mic, hoping it would be good for vocals (within my budget). It is not warm at all and vocal performance has much to be desired.
    As an Acoustic Guitar sound-hole mic, it performs pretty well

  11. Sacha M.

    December 6th, 2011 at 11:57 pm

    Nice shootout! Though on the E. Guitar tracks, it really sounds like the PG-42 and the MXL 2003a were set up backwards, because compared to all the other mics they don’t just have a ‘slightly’ more ambient sound, but really no direct sound at all.

    The AT2035 sounds real creamy on that test, almost ribbon-like. I also liked it the best on acoustic guitar. All other mics on the acoustic guitar test sound colored, with weird peaks and resonances.

  12. Doug W.

    December 9th, 2011 at 2:33 pm

    Fantastic work! I found many of these samples grainy, or the louder sections had some unpleasant edge, or lacking in fullness (LSM). The mic i selected repeatedly (blind) was the AKG for it’s forwardness and natural sound.

    The exception was acoustic. I thought the AKG was ok, but the X1 was working for me – lots of air and detail on top. Funny cause I didn’t like the X1 on vocal at all.

    Can’t wait to listen to the wavs at home on better monitors. I suspect my comments will change.

  13. Big Dave

    December 10th, 2011 at 7:07 am

    Thanks for the shootout. I really appreciate the way it was done. I wish it was out a year ago, It would have saved me from buying a bluebird. What I really wanted was an LSM but I had never heard it in context with other mics.

  14. Mitchell Sandifer

    December 11th, 2011 at 3:27 pm

    I too am surprised at the performance of the 2003A in this shootout. While it’s not a mic for all occasions, I’ve had good luck with the pair I purchased a couple of years ago. A slutz shootout also found more than a few sources that it was acceptable on. I found mine to exhibit a fairly flat response in line with the spec’d graph. The V67G is one that gave me fits trying to find something it sounded good on, which I’ve yet to do.

  15. David Beneke

    December 18th, 2011 at 5:40 pm

    The AKG 220, is in many a home VO studio and this shootout proves why. It has an evenness on all sources, whereas the other mics seemed to have a weakness in one area or another. The top end seems tighter without as much coloring as the other mics. The response curve, seems to mirror the U87, in most aspects, and AKG and Neumann have always been in competition. Can’t wait for the next shootout to see if I’ll add this one to my locker, unless Neumann makes a similar model soon…….

  16. Aaron Lyon

    December 21st, 2011 at 11:45 am

    Sacha M.: We did pay careful attention to front-of-mic orientation during the testing process. Thanks for your comments!

  17. Pierre

    December 24th, 2011 at 2:29 am

    The voice test for the MXL is the only on where you change the lyrics at the beginning (“smile on my face”, “smile on your face”) like if it were a different take than all the rest.
    How did you record the voice : different take for each mic ? Few take with 2 or 3 mics ?
    You could explain more precisely your procedure of test…
    By the way, I’m searching for a mic in this money range, and it’s crazy to hear so much differences for a same mic each time it comes to the sound sample (I evend don’t speak of the opinions I can get in the reviews).
    I think that each mic needs a different position, different room acoustic, different voice, so it’s very difficult to compare…
    A the end, I don’t have any idea of the best mic I can find in this price range…

  18. sam

    December 25th, 2011 at 10:36 am

    i picked the MXL 2003a in blind tests, i thought it had the most substantial sound and it was flatter and not as boosted in upper frequencies as the others…

    the ambient noise level is higher than the rest though, and that could be a problem…

  19. Sirio

    December 26th, 2011 at 7:22 pm

    I agree that the MXL is the worse mic out of the bunch. However, I keep liking the Blue Mic: I feel that the lower mids are smoother and fuller with this mic.

    Thanks for doing the shootout RIGHT (including the gain staging).



  20. Gtr Scott R

    March 16th, 2012 at 11:30 pm

    I too found the 2003a results a bit baffling. When compared to my AT2035 there isn’t as significant of a difference in gain. I have an MXL V67g that I thought was unusable and I even sent it in, yet supposedly it was deemed fine. After I had a basic mod done to it, the results were night and day. I believe that capsule or component inconsistencies might be an issue.
    Gtr Scott R

  21. Jamie

    March 26th, 2012 at 5:01 pm

    Obvioulsy we all hated the MXL (though I loved my own V63m, I was ignorant!)

    I’m surprised that the Spark wasn’t noted more. It was the one I kept choosing blind (along with the SE X1)

    I found a great deal on a used P220 local to me, looking for a Spark, and now that I am reading these comments (and the initial response from the test) I am torn! It seems I would be a fool to pass it up, but my ears found it 3rd place behind the SE and BLUE mics…

    Does the Spark perhaps have a more “compressed” sound that my ears liked? Because that can be easily reproduced with a compressor on any other mic…

  22. matthew mcglynn

    March 26th, 2012 at 5:13 pm

    Jamie, to my ear the Spark is not “compressed” so much as “bright.” The X1 leans that way, too. I think they both are best suited to close-miking instruments, where proximity effect will balance out the high end. These work somewhat less well as distance mics, even for drum overheads.

    The MXL performed much better in the 2nd and 3rd installments of this review. Still, when I tallied the results of all three sessions, Aaron’s picks stood out.

    I don’t mean to suggest that there are any absolutes here. The mics we picked seemed to be the most versatile, which means they shined on multiple sources. But if your only concern is, for example, acoustic guitar, then versatility is irrelevant and the Spark might be exactly the sound you need.

    The only true test is in your room, on your instrument, with your ears. Buy both mics, then ebay the one you don’t want. These microphones are not expensive.

  23. Jamie

    March 26th, 2012 at 7:11 pm

    Thanks for the response – If you say that the Blue Spark is not great for distance miking, how far would you think?

    I am primarily a cellist. And while I pine for a c414, I have to get something that will be versatile enough to use for vocals, uke, some acoustic guitar, and hand percussion IN ADDITION to my cello (which is not a very still type of instrument like an acoustic guitar can be – even switching strings back and forth moves the sound projection trajectory… (more than a bass, which has almost a massive sine wave to fill the room, the cello is more like a Tenor/Baritone vocalist with two mouthes…)

    As you said, though, I may have to purchase both and resell the runner up.

  24. matthew mcglynn

    March 26th, 2012 at 7:24 pm

    We did not conduct a full proximity test on any of these microphones, but I would guess that beyond 12 inches none of them will product much proximity effect. At that distance, I expect the Spark to sound pretty bright and thin, because that’s what I heard on my drum overhead test.

    Then again, by angling the mic differently you might be able to reduce some of that high-frequency response.

  25. Jon

    November 27th, 2012 at 6:27 am

    I agree that your MXL2003A must have been faulty, which is a shame because as a rule, it’s a great mic. I own two of them (3, if I count my MXL CR24), and they’ve been solid performers, particularly on vocals, acoustic guitars, and drum overheads.

  26. Rachmad

    March 23rd, 2013 at 10:52 pm

    what is the setting for vocals on at2035? and how far is the distance from your mouth to the mic? i have the same mic but haven’t be able get a sound as good as you did. thanks

  27. Darryl

    June 12th, 2013 at 12:12 pm

    Hi, i don’t know if you respond to old article comments.

    But i would like to know your experience with budget Behringer & Samson microphones as well… care to comment?

  28. matthew mcglynn

    June 16th, 2013 at 6:53 am

    @Darryl, I have not heard any of the Behringer microphones. Regarding Samson, the only mics I heard were one of their low-cost drum set mic kits, and they sounded awful compared to pricier microphones. That is, they worked, and in isolation they sounded OK, but they very clearly provided an opportunity for sonic upgrades given a higher budget.

  29. Darryl

    June 17th, 2013 at 2:51 am

    Your reply is much appreciated! I heard that the Behringer B-1 sounds too “rough”. It’s just that those 2 brands are easier to find in my country (Malaysia). Thanks!

  30. Darryl

    June 27th, 2013 at 1:02 pm

    Hi, it’s me again! I’m purchasing the Perception 220 based on your review 🙂

    However, now I need some advice regarding cheap but good Mic Preamplifiers with Phantom Power. Could you recommend one? Also below $200 would be best. I know little about these, I’ve noticed preamps from Studio Projects, M-Audio, Art, maybe Mackie.

    Coz the Perception can’t work by itself can it? 😛

  31. Darryl

    June 27th, 2013 at 1:16 pm

    So sorry, I forgot to mention that I’m not looking for any colorings, I just want something that works as it should, with as much clarity as possible in this price range.

    The Studio Projects VTB-1 for example has added tube warmth, which I don’t need. I wish they produced a basic tubeless version. I have a thin but grainy male voice.

    Thanks, & sorry for clogging up your comments section!

  32. Larry Hinze

    July 2nd, 2013 at 11:45 am

    I like the PG-27 LC. I have one, sounds great. Surprised no one talks of it more.

  33. Martha

    September 16th, 2013 at 1:57 am

    I had the pleasure of testing AT2020 and AKG 220 using the same audio interface (Audio Kontrol 1). In my humble opinion, AT2020 performed better, I managed to get a warmer sound from it compared to AKG’s. I want to ask you a question regarding a mic that almost fits your price range, the Rode NT1a. What’s your opinion on it?

  34. matthew mcglynn

    September 16th, 2013 at 10:19 am

    @Martha, we published a review of the NT1a (vs the sE X1) here:

    I have not personally used the NT1a extensively, but I know that it pairs a somewhat peaky/bright capsule to a linear circuit. I think it pulls off this pairing better than most inexpensive microphones, presumably because its capsule is better than the 32mm K67 found in most inexpensive condensers.

    For my personal tastes, I prefer mics that are not so brightly voiced.

  35. Bill Gabbert

    August 6th, 2014 at 12:39 pm

    The Sensitivity of the MXL 2003a is 43 ! one of the most sensitive mics that can be found any where at any price. {signal to noise 83 ..self noise at -11.} Basically this ” test ” is a complete sham.

  36. matthew mcglynn

    August 6th, 2014 at 1:16 pm

    @Bill, sorry you feel that way. All I can tell you is that when we compared the mics in this lineup, we got the results described in this 3-part review.

  37. Bill Gabbert

    August 6th, 2014 at 1:45 pm

    Listing the 2003a sensitivity at 7.1, Is a misstatement of fact. {It’s not about a “Feeling”}

  38. matthew mcglynn

    August 6th, 2014 at 3:03 pm

    Now I understand the confusion.

    The 2003A’s sensitivity spec is “-42.9 dB re 1 V/Pa”. That’s a complicated unit. It is NOT the same thing as the more common unit used for sensitivity, mV/Pa. We’ve standardized on the latter, because in my opinion it is more intuitive. So when vendors give us the sensitivity as a dB value referred to 1 V, we convert to the more common unit. In this case, -42.9dB re 1V/Pa equals 7.1mV/Pa.

    It would be better for customers if MXL would standardize. They sometimes give sensitivity data in mV/Pa, sometimes in dB (re 1V/Pa), and sometimes not at all. But then they also give self-noise values as negative numbers, as you’ve quoted. Clearly, lab specs are not MXL’s core strength. And unfortunately, you’ve gotten caught by their inconsistent presentation.

    If the 2003A had a true sensitivity of 43mV/Pa, it would be, as you suggest, among the most sensitive microphones on the market. But that is not the case. In fact the 2003A has _lower_ sensitivity than every other microphone in this roundup. And that explains Aaron’s comment about the 2003A needing more gain, and having higher noise as a result. Part of the noise is from the preamp, sure. Lower-output microphones need more preamp gain, and thus tend to sound noisier.

    What I would encourage you to do, and everyone to do, is to listen to the audio, ideally in a good monitoring environment, and disregard specs and marketing claims. Disregard our written reviews too. The point is that you listen and decide for yourself.

  39. Bill Gabbert

    August 6th, 2014 at 9:02 pm

    Well then, IF true I’m not the only one too be mislead..7.1 would seem to indicate the need of 3 times the gain to produce equal sound levels..So I’m guessing there is a misprint or mistake in the spec sheets.As many on various forms hell this mic (2003a) with high regard..(GearSlutz)

    To try to evaluate a mic on sound samples that have been recorded on one mic then re-recorded on to another..(As stated above) is somewhat futile, as the first mics attributes will be transferred to all subsequent mics….
    { I believe I’ll have to get one to satisfy my curiosity. }

  40. matthew mcglynn

    August 6th, 2014 at 10:04 pm

    @Bill, I believe you’ve misunderstood the sensitivity spec. A mic rated at 21mV/Pa can indeed be said to be “three times as sensitive” as the 2003A. But that does NOT mean that the 2003A needs “3 times the gain.”

    Rather, the 2003A might need 10-12dB more gain than some of these other mics.

    You’ve also misunderstood the test methodology. The track that was played back was recorded direct — not through any microphone at all. This is actually the best way to test mics on guitar cab, because it avoids performance differences from one mic to the next.

    Regarding Gearslutz, I have no doubt that you’ll find all sorts of opinions there. But will you find a comparison of the 2003A to six other mics in its price range, including audio files from guitar cab, sung vocals, voiceover, and drum overheads? My point, to be somewhat unsubtle, is that not all opinions are equally informed.

    Anyway, you seem convinced that the 2003A is a better mic than what we experienced in this test. I am 100% OK with that. I encourage you to buy one and try it for yourself. That is, without doubt, the best way for anyone to learn about a piece of gear.

  41. Bill Gabbert

    August 7th, 2014 at 2:20 pm

    I guess your right ..The Shure sm7 is known for its very low Sensitivity (I don’t think it is published anywhere) but its low even among dynamics.and so an adjustment of distance ; closer source to mic to compensate ,would be only fair. Any high noise produced as a result of using an SM7b would be the result of a noisy pre amp.(or the methodology employed)..and I don’t think that fact alone should cause it (The SM7b) to be deemed an unworthy and an inferior mic in this shoot out.

  42. Bill Gabbert

    August 8th, 2014 at 9:00 pm

    Reguarding “MXL 2003a” Sensitivity ..This web site >

    States sensitivity @ 43 mv/pa {Quote: “…One of the most sensitive microphones on the market”}

    But the only relevant stat (as to how noisy this mic is), is the Decent figure [S/N @ 83 ]
    I don’t what the true numbers are…I don’t have the mic or the equipment too test it.

    However,It’s simply hard to imagine why MXL would alter the “2003” ,producing the “2003a” Then Promote it as an upgrade.

    But in fact, as you suggest, produce an inferior mic.; Below the performance of it’s predecessor?

  43. matthew mcglynn

    August 8th, 2014 at 10:19 pm

    @Bill, are you seriously suggesting that “” knows the mic’s sensitivity more accurately than MXL?


    Both MXL links very clearly state the sensitivity in dB re 1V/Pa.

    I think you’ve fixated on a very tiny aspect of the mic’s performance. Higher-sensitivity microphones are not necessarily superior. I think the 2003A sounds better than some of the other, more sensitive mics in this test. And it is probably easier to use on loud sources without overloading.

  44. Bill Gabbert

    August 9th, 2014 at 8:50 am

    It’s the noise level I’m fixated on. Wheres the noise coming from?

    If MXL IS Accurate in their stats…and to be believed; they are saying that this (2003a) is a quiet mic.
    The new MXL “CR-89” Microphone (they are now promoting as their “Low Noise” professional studio mic)….Has worse stats than the 2003a .
    The CR-89 has a higher self noise, less Signal to noise and less sensitivity….
    So, Where is the Noise coming from?


    December 5th, 2020 at 2:12 am

    This was very interesting and will help me determine which mike to purchase when and if I ever need a low budget mic to give as a gift. Your information is invaluable for determining what mic company is truly trying to offer a good product for under 200.00 dollars.

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