Mojave Audio MA-101fet Review

Recording Magazine: July, 2010 | by

A nifty solid state offering for drum miking and more

Mojave Audio’s newest offering is the MA-101fet, a small-diaphragm, solid-state condenser microphone with interchangeable cardioid and omnidirectional capsules. The MA-101 combines the capsules from Mojave Audio’s MA-100 (reviewed May 2008) with the electronics from their Mojave Audio MA-201 FETMA-201 FET (reviewed December 2009).


The MA-101fet is a phantom-powered, transformer-balanced microphone featuring a military-grade FET, an ultra-clean amplifier, and a Jensen transformer. For extremely high SPL applications, an internally switchable 15 dB attenuator can be used.

The diaphragm of the MA-101fet capsules are 3 microns thick and .8 inch (20.5mm) in diameter. They screw on the mic body and are easily attached and removed (as long as you’re careful to make sure that you don’t cross-thread them when putting them on). The frequency response of the MA-101fet is listed as 30 Hz–18 kHz, &plusm;1.5 dB; it can handily deal with up to 125 dB without the pad engaged and 140 dB with the pad. The MA-101fet’s impedance is 550 ohms.

On strings

The MA-101fet mics have seen quite a bit of use here at Java Jive; we tried them out on a few different acoustic guitars, on mandolin, fiddle, percussion and on drums.

When picking up acoustic guitars, the MA-101fet seemed to emphasize the differences between instruments; when used on a Taylor — with the cardioid capsule — the MA-101fet seemed to make even more obvious those things that I find endemic to most of those instruments (a lack of low end, primarily), while on a Martin D-28 and a Santa Cruz, the warmth and fullness of the instrument was captured quite well. Interestingly, the D-28 is a rather boomy sounding guitar ñ the omni-directional capsule with its lack of a proximity effect tamed that boominess very well. It happens that the Santa Cruz is a wonderful sounding instrument, and the MA-101fet captured that.
With the MA-101fet on a mandolin, the musician’s first comment was, “Well, this mic seems pretty colored, it doesn’t sound transparent. But I like it!” That’s an important point; there’s nothing wrong with a mic having a distinctive sound, as long as that sound enhances the sound you’re capturing.

The MA-101fet worked very well on a couple of guitars but didn’t work out as well on a third. And while it worked great on a mandolin, the 5 kHz peak of the cardioid capsule caused a bit of an issue on fiddle which required a bit of experimentation to balance out (moving it close enough to the instrument to let the proximity effect warm up the overall sound).

On drums

Used as overheads, a pair of MA-101fets worked quite well; there was enough presence to add a bit of immediacy to the drum sound without the result being so bright as to require equalization to tame. As room mics, the MA-101fets captured a nice ambience that blended well with the overall drum tracks. For that we were using the omni capsules with the mics set in the opposite corners of the drum room, facing away from the drums and placed about 10 feet up.

This would probably be a good time to discuss the 15 dB pad; when used on snare and toms we had to use the MA-101fet’s internal pad to prevent overloading the mic’s amplifier. While the resulting sounds were very nice — the snare had a crack that let it sit in the track as it needed to do and the warmth of the toms worked great — I would rather that the attenuator switch had been accessible without taking the mic apart. It’s not that it was difficult to do, it’s more that when you have 5 or 6 people out in the tracking room, you really don’t want to take the couple of minutes required to (A) mute the mic, (B) walk out into the room and (C), unplug the mic, (D) take the mic out of the clip, (D) unscrew the body, (E) push the switch, and then put it all back the way it was. On a tracking session, time often is money or at the very least, the few minutes it takes to do this can interfere with the flow of the session. It’s a minor issue, but details are supposed to matter to the engineer. [Mojave Audio reports that this design choice was made to keep a shorter, cleaner signal path and prevent dirt entering the mic body through an external switch, as well as to help maintain the mic’s price point. — Ed.]

I liked the sound of the MA-101fet when tracking percussion as well; we used it on congas, djembe, shakers and tambourine over the course of a couple of sessions. In each of these applications, the mic worked very well.

In conclusion

Overall, I found the MA-101fet to be a versatile and very useable microphone in many applications. On overheads, as room mics and on percussion they worked extremely well, and they worked great on some acoustic guitars, mandolin and even when used to mic a vintage Fender amp. Selling at this price, designer Dave Royer has created another winner for Mojave Audio.

Price (as of July, 2010): $595

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