MXL 770 Review
The sheer volume of choices available these days for a budget studio condenser mic are overwhelming. You’ll find loads of excellent prospects online for all types of applications. More commonly, you’ll see large-diaphragm condensers used for recording vocals in makeshift bedroom studios. Everyone’s dream is to go viral on SoundCloud off a record made from humble beginnings. So if this sounds like you, and you’re looking for an excellent, budget-friendly condenser mic at an even better price, keep reading. In this article, we’ll provide an honest, unbiased, in-depth review of the MXL 770.
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MXL 770 Review: Overview
Those just starting out in audio will soon come to a disheartening realization – gear can be expensive. Like, really, really, expensive. But, fortunately it doesn’t always have to be. A beginner can get away with near-professional sounding recordings for relatively cheap these days.
And herein lies an additional challenge, as if all of the confusing technical knowledge behind audio production wasn’t enough: balancing the quality of your gear with the price. A valuable tool that anyone interested in recording should always have is a great bang-for-your-buck condenser mic.
This brings the spotlight to the subject of this review, our beloved MXL 770. Just a glance at the price tag would deter many professionals from even touching the thing, but if you’re just starting out or you don’t have $10,000 to drop on a Neumann, the 770 deserves your consideration. The 770 offers a smooth, crisp sound and some features commonly found on more expensive mics for a mere fraction of the price. Feast your eyes on the 770, in all it’s glory.
- Tube Type: Pressure gradient condenser microphone
- Diaphragm: 6 micron gold-sputtered
- Frequency Response: 30 Hz – 20 kHz
- Polar Pattern: Cardioid
- Sensitivity: 15mV/Pa
- Impedance: 150 ohms
- Equivalent Noise: 20 dB (A-weighted IEC 268-4)
- Signal to Noise Ratio: 74 dB (Ref. 1Pa A-weighted)
- Max SPL for .5% THD: 137 dB
- Power Requirements: Phantom power 48V (+- 4V)
- Size: 59mm x 158mm / 2.32 in. x 6.22 in.
- Weight: 1 pound (453.59 grams)
- Metal Finish: Black or Midnight
- Pad: 0 dB or -10 dB
- Filter: 6 db per octave @ 150 Hz
MXL 770 Review: What’s In The Box
The MXL 770 came packaged in a regular cardboard box. In the box was the carrying case. The case is a hard plastic and had a foam cutout inside to hold the mic and shock mount. The mic itself was wrapped in a plastic bag along with desiccant inside to prevent moisture from entering and damaging the capsule. Here’s the full list of what’s included:
- MXL 770
- Shock mount
- Extra shock mount bands
- User’s manual & documentation
- Hard plastic carrying case
MXL 770 Review: Features
This is a pretty versatile mic for recording both male and female vocals, doing voiceover work, and for producing podcasts. The two main features the 770 has are its -10 dB pad switch and its HPF or bass-roll off switch.
-10 dB Pad Switch
The pad is just a switch on the side that reduces the overall gain coming from the mic by 10 dB. This is pretty useful if you’ll be recording very loud sound like a guitar cabinet or a kick drum. It basically boosts the max SPL specification by 10 dB.
Bass Roll-off Switch (HPF)
The filter is another tool we can use to achieve some versatility with the MXL 770. If you’ll be close-miking anything with this mic, it’s a good idea to switch the filter on. The proximity effect is known to add to the bass response of the microphone as you place it closer and closer to the source, and the HPF can really help to cut back on that. The filter cutoff is 150 Hz and roll-off is -6 dB
The shock mount that came with the MXL 770 recording kit is a solid piece. It’s body is made completely of painted metal with the exception of the foam lining around the clamp that contacts the microphone body and the suspension bands. The stand adapter is a 5/8″ female thread. The mount comes with two additional replacement suspension bands. Overall, it’s a solidly-built shock mount that simply works.
The case is made completely of hard, black plastic, my guess being polyethylene. It has a handle and two plastic buckles to keep everything bundled up. The outside has the MXL logo etched into the cover. It has an egg crate foam insert in the top half and another foam insert in the bottom half with spots carved out for the mic itself and the shock mount.
The bottom half of the case has a groove along the edge, and the top half has a ridge that fits inside this groove. This case is definitely not airtight, but this feature could help keep some moisture or humidity out during long-term storage. Condensers don’t play nicely with moisture! Overall, it’s a cheap case that’ll help protect your investment a little bit.
The Pros & The Cons
- Pad and filter for some added versatility
- Lacks muddiness and sounds brighter than the MXL 990 (check out the test here)
- Extremely affordable
- Comes with carrying case and shock mount
- Relatively high self-noise
- Not a true large-diaphragm condenser
How It Stacks Up
The MXL 770 is often compared to the 990. These two entry-level mics are in the ultra-budget, entry-level category, which makes their competitors few and far between. Most of the budget condenser microphones that are good enough for hobbyists or beginners are a good amount above the 770’s price range. But even so, there a couple worth looking at before you pull the trigger on a purchase. No MXL 770 review would be complete without some alternatives.
Neat Microphones King Bee
The King Bee condenser mic from Neat is one of those hidden gems that only a few people know about, but it adds some serious value for what it costs and puts it right there in the budget category along with the 770. While the diaphragm on this one is considerably bigger than the MXL 770’s (34 mm/1.33 in in diameter), making it a true LDC, it’s flamboyant and flashy looks may deter some.
If you can get past that, the King Bee will serve well for vocal applications. The response curve is very flat in the bass and mids to mid-highs, with some air and presence boost to make your vocals shimmer and pop. The larger diaphragm also allows the bass response of the King Bee to reach all the way down to 16 Hz. The self-noise is very low, too, and you’ll be better off investing the money saved into some audio treatment because this mic will pick up room noise. One important difference between the King Bee and the 770 is in features. The King Bee has no switches, but it does come with a shock mount, pop filter, and soft pouch for storage.
The Audio-Technica AT2035 is often one of the first microphones mentioned when it comes to affordable entry-level gear. In truth, the AT2035 performs well enough that the “entry-level” tag is almost unnecessary. The back-electret design features a comparably sized diaphragm and a full bandwidth that runs from 20 hertz to 20 kilohertz. The build quality is excellent thanks to a cast metal design and a durable wire mesh cover over the capsule.
Sonically, the AT2035 is very transparent and faithful. The mic adds relatively little of its own color and features a fairly tame proximity response compared to some of its competitors. Perhaps the most similar attribute this mic has when compared to the MXL 770 is in added features. It also has a -10 dB pad, and bass roll-off filter. The filter cutoff is at 80 Hz though, slightly less than the 770’s 150 Hz. And keep in mind that the AT2035 is considerably more expensive.
Anatomy of a Quality Condenser Microphone
I’d like to keep this MXL 770 review somewhat educational, and if you’ve landed yourself here there’s a good chance you’re looking to buy your first mic soon. There are a few things most quality microphones have in common regardless of the price tag attached to them.
The first is a responsive, high-quality capsule. The capsule is the business end of the microphone and it contains the components that actually convert sound into electricity. The capsule itself is composed of a solid metal backplate and a very thin diaphragm made from a conductive material. Most modern condenser microphones use gold-sputtered Mylar diaphragms to achieve the greatest fidelity and dynamic range.
The size of the diaphragm is also important. Large-diaphragm condenser microphones have a diaphragm of one inch or larger in diameter. They essentially provide a bigger surface area for incoming sound waves, producing greater sensitivity and a higher signal voltage. This makes larger diaphragms better at picking up quiet audio and subtle detail without adding unwanted noise. Usually, larger diaphragms are better at maintaining low-end accuracy. The MXL 770 and MXL 990 are typically billed as a large-condenser microphone, but their diaphragm diameter actually falls a quarter of an inch short of the one-inch standard.
MXL 770 Review: The Bottom Line
Ultimately, the MXL 770 is everything you’d expect an entry-level condenser microphone to be. Whether that’s a good thing or a bad thing depends on your budget and your needs. If you’re a hobbyist operating on a budget, or just getting your feet wet and want to experiment with recording audio, the MXL 770 is a great microphone that can handle a variety of work.
That’s it, thanks for reading. I hope this review helps you find the right mic for your specific application, needs, and situation!