TapeOp Issue #34/March, 2003 | by Pete Weiss
The MXL V69 Mogami Edition is the latest in a parade of low-priced tube condenser mics on the market today. MXL’s parent company, Marshall Electronics, has been the North American distributor for Mogami cable for over 30 years; and in the V69 Mogami Edition, all of the inner wiring, as well as the included XLR cables, are now made with high-end Mogami materials. Besides the 7-pin Mogami cable for interfacing with the power supply, a 3-pin XLR cable for audio output is included — over $150 of Mogami cabling. The microphone was designed here in the US, and the first three production runs were made here.
The V69 is a large diaphragm (1'' diameter) tube condenser mic (12AT7 tube) with a fixed cardioid pattern. Classy-looking, its brass body is finished in flat black with a shiny gold windscreen. When I picked up the mic, I was surprised at how light it was. Still, it seemed sturdily built. Or sturdy enough, anyway (it’s not as if I planned to use it to close mic a snare…).
The mic lacks any pads or rolloffs, presumably to keep costs down. It comes with its own external power supply, a black birdcage style shockmount, a foam windscreen, and the aforementioned Mogami XLR cables. The whole lot is housed in a not-overly-robust, road-style carrying case.
I’ve never used the old version of the V69, so I couldn’t compare the Mogami version with it; but I put this new version up against a couple of similar large diaphragm tube condensers (a vintage Neumann U 47 and an SE Electronics Z-5600) for some subjective listening. As a drum overhead mic, the MXL sounded great. Full, rich toms. Bright, but not painful cymbals. Even though there was no pad on the mic, loud drumming did not overdrive it. The U 47 behaved similarly. The SE Z-5600 sounded nice, but more scooped in the midrange, with the cymbals poking out a bit.
On male vocals, the MXL performed well but not spectacularly. There was a bit of scoopiness (as with a lot of these budget-priced tube condensers out now), but it was not as scooped as the SE. Meanwhile, the U 47 sounded the best of the three in this application.
On acoustic guitar, all three mics sounded very fine, exhibiting sparkly detail and a full, natural sound. But in my book, at least on this particular day with this particular guitar and player, I thought the MXL sounded best. It definitely was quieter and had more sheen than the 40-year-old Neumann. I should mention though, that all three mics were very similar sounding, with very subtle differences; this was not a situation where any of the mics blew away the others. Soundwise, I was very impressed that the V69 could hold its own against an industry standard like the U 47. It struck me as very versatile and of higher quality than other budget tube condensers. My only beef is that a rolloff, pad, and pattern selector would have been handy. But I understand those features are not absolutely essential and would have bumped the price of the mic up significantly.
Speaking of which, the V69 lists for an astonishingly low $399 (street price is in the $300 ballpark.) I could understand a large commercial studio eschewing the V69 for a more exotic (pricier) tube condenser, but for a smaller project studio on a budget, the V69 offers a severe bang-to-buck ratio and could play a key role in that studio’s mic cabinet.
Read more about the MXL V69 Mogami Edition tube microphone.