While perhaps a lesser-known brand in the pro audio niche, MXL does have a solid fan base in the entry-level and home studio market with their high-value, bang-for-your-buck studio condensers. In this MXL 770 vs 990 comparison, we’ll take a look at two of their most popular models among hobbyists and those just getting started in audio. We’ll look at frequency response, polar patterns, technical specifications, pros and cons, and overall sound and performance to help you make a decision that’s right for your situation. Lets have a look.
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Last Updated: 10/11/2021
The first thing we notice about the MXL 770s frequency response curve is the massive spike in gain from 5 kHz all the way to 20 kHz. Parts of this bump in the treble response are nearly +10 dB! That’s quite a bit, but independent testing shows that the MXL 990 is the one with the exaggerated high-end.
On the other end of the spectrum, the MXL 770 displays a slight bump in the low-end between roughly 70 and 150 Hz. This will definitely add to the overall warmth of the mic, and may bring out the tone of deeper vocals. The -6 dB high-pass bass roll-off filter can be activated to tame the low-end, which may be ideal if you’re recording bass-heavy instruments. All in all, the pad and filter are what really set this mic apart from the MXL 990. Check out the full review here.
In comparison to the MXL 770, the high-end response curve of the 990 is more leveled out. But oddly enough, the 990 is known to be the one with shrillness in this range. It seems hard to justify the higher price tag on the 990 when compared to the 770. It’s a bright mic, and may be over the top for some applications.
The rest of the response curve is pretty flat for the 990, with small dips around 500 and 3500 Hz. The low-end response is set in stone for the 990 as it lacks the high-pass filter that that 770 does have. Overall, it lacks the warmth that the 770 has. Check out the full review of the MXL 990 for more information.
As far as polar patterns, there is no discernible difference in the MXL 770 vs the 900. They look absolutely identical – textbook cardioid patterns as expected.
Looking at the spectral data for the spoken audio, it’s plain to see that the 770 has a much more prominent peak at 10 kHz. Vocals definitely sound brighter on the 770. The 990 also sounds slightly muddy, which is confirmed by higher peaks in the bass region.
The claims that the the 990 has a “harsh” or “shrill” treble sound are hard to stand behind by just listening to the recordings. But when we look at the spectral data, it’s clear to see why this is the general consensus.
The 990 has a few peaks in the 15 kHz range and generally higher gain above that. This simply isn’t the case with the 770. I could see this making a big difference with high-pitched sounds. The treble roll-off in the 770’s response curve from MXL is definitely steeper, so the evidence for this is twofold.
My thoughts are that the 770 is the better-sounding mic (for vocals at least). It’s more versatile, sounds cleaner and less muddy, and I’m sure if we recorded something in or above the 15 kHz range, it would be a little more tame vs the 990.
As we can see, these two mics have much in common. Like the 770, the 990 has a standard cardioid polar pickup pattern. These mics are both great at rejecting noise from the back, making them perfect for honing in on single sound sources. The polar patterns between the two are pretty much identical.
Both mics are also condenser microphones with 0.75″ diaphragms. Condensers are used for recording pretty much anything. They’re the studio workhorses for vocals, guitar, drums, and anything else, really. Condenser microphones will require phantom power. If you’re looking to buy one, make sure you know where it’ll come from. Most modern audio interfaces have phantom power built in.
These mics differ quite a bit in frequency response. The MXL 770 is definitely a warmer mic when compared to the MXL 990. While the frequency response curve shows the 770 having an insane boost in the treble, the reality is that the 990 actually seems to be the one with the more exaggerated high-end, as we can hear in some of the review videos.
The MXL 770 also has a slightly higher max SPL (sound pressure level), coming in at 137 dBA vs the 990s 130 dBA. So the 770 will be slightly better for recording louder sounds. At a bare minimum, you should shoot for at least 130 dB SPL, and both of these mics meet that requirement. You’ll only run into trouble with max SPL with these mics if you’re recording very loud drums at close proximity or blisteringly-loud guitar cabs. They’ll both be fine for vocals.
Another critical difference in the 770 vs the 990 lies in the 770s two added features: a -10 dB pad and a -6 dB per octave high-pass filter at 150 Hz. What’s that all mean, you ask? Let me explain.
The attenuation pad is a switch that lowers the overall gain of the mic by 10 dB. Let’s say you’re recording that ridiculously loud guitar cabinet we talked about earlier. You could switch on the pad which effectively tacks on an extra 10 dB to the 770s max SPL. Very handy.
The other feature is the filter. This adds even more to the 770s versatility and value over the 990. If your low-end sounds muddy, just switch on the HPF. That’ll clear things up a bit and tighten up your bass.
It’s become clear from our test that the claims that the 990 is muddier and also slightly harsh past around 15 kHz are true. We can hear and see hard data that leads us to believe this. The peak at 10 kHz adds to vocal brightness, and in my opinion, voice just sounds better on the 770.