If you are looking for an affordable yet reliable condenser microphone, MXL 440 vs 990 are two popular options that you should consider. After all, there is a good reason behind these microphones’ popularity. The following discussion will explain to you further about how these microphones compare to each other, and whether you should go for MXL 440 or MXL 990.
After reading this article, you will understand better about:
- The design and dimensions of each microphone
- The features of MXL 440 and MXL 990
- What accessories that are included with each mic
- The performance of MXL 440 vs 990
- Which MXL microphone that is generally more recommended
MXL 440: Overview
MXL 440 is an inexpensive large-diaphragm microphone designed to fulfill the needs of small recording studios and home users. Large-diaphragm mics are often preferred because they are able to capture more acoustic energy than their smaller counterparts, and they tend to have minimal noise. MXL 440, in particular, claims to be able to capture the richness and detail of human vocals, strings, as well as percussion instruments. Read also: MXL 440 vs AT2020
In terms of appearance, MXL 440 is quite radically different than MXL 990. It is clad in a black finish with a gold print for the logo and pick-up angle indicator. It certainly looks elegant, though some will say that it still doesn’t look as classy as MXL 990.
It is slightly slimmer with a diameter of 2.08 inches, but also taller with a height of 7.08 inches. However, the weight is similar to that of MXL 990, which is about 1.2 lbs. It feels solid and rugged.
As expected from a condenser microphone, MXL 440 vs 990 both require 48V phantom power. They use XLR cables. So, you need to have a suitable audio interface or mixing board in order to use either of these mics. In general, XLR connection is superior to USB in terms of sound quality, but beginners who want an easy start will probably prefer the plug-and-play simplicity of USB mics.
MXL 440: Features
MXL 440 has a fixed cardioid polar pattern. This means, it picks up sound from the front and rejects sound from the sides and rear. The cardioid polar pattern is suitable for recording sound that is coming from a single direction, and is the most commonly used for studio recording.
|MXL 440||MXL 990|
|Shop now at Amazon||click here||click here|
|Product Dimensions||2.5 x 2.5 x 7.7 inches||11.8 x 7.3 x 3.5 inches
|Shipping Weight||1.54 pounds||2.69 pounds|
Inside the mic, you will find a FET pre-amp that provides a balanced output. This enables the mic to deliver accurate tonal quality with minimal noise for professional recordings. It is able to handle most singers and instruments properly, so it is quite versatile. MXL 440 can be a valuable addition to any studio, either as a primary microphone or a back-up.
One similarity between MXL 440 vs 990 is that they both use the 603S small-diaphragm capsule that is mounted inside a brass ring. However, MXL 440 pairs this capsule with a Schoeps-style transformerless circuit. Also, while the company has started to use surface-mount circuit boards for the latest products, some MXL 440 microphones apparently still use an older V57 circuit board with leaded components.
The problem with leaded components is that they are more difficult to fix and replace when they fail. However, this is not a big problem for MXL 440 because the microphone is rather cheap. You probably can just buy a new mic when the current one has stopped working. MXL 440 ships with a plastic stand adapter, but the shock mount is sold separately.
MXL 440: Sound Quality
Overall, the performance of MXL 440 is definitely better than your typical USB mic. This improvement in sound quality is one of the main reasons to use an XLR mic. MXL 440 can produce detailed and accurate reproduction of various vocals and instruments without adding much color.
MXL 440 shares many technical specs with MXL 990. Each of them has a frequency response range of 30 Hz – 20 kHz, a sensitivity of 15mV/Pa, a maximum SPL handling of 130dB at 0.5% THD, and an output impedance of 200 Ohms. They even have a similar self-noise rating, which is 20dBA.
However, a careful observation of how they sound will reveal some notable differences. MXL 440 tends to reduce the presence of low frequencies. This characteristic is especially noticeable for sounds under 50 Hz. Meanwhile, the mid-range is quite stable, and the treble has a bump starting from 6kHz.
Because of that, MXL 440 is best for vocals and strings, whose sounds mostly reside in the mid-range frequencies. It can definitely work for drums, but a slight EQ adjustment to increase the low frequencies will be needed.
MXL 990: Overview
MXL 990 is one of the best-selling microphones in the industry. Previous condenser microphones with good quality were very expensive; MXL 990 was the first quality condenser mic sold at an affordable price point for working musicians.
Today, MXL 990 still remains popular because of its outstanding performance. It is armed with a FET pre-amp that is not quite too different from the one found in MXL 440, and a large diaphragm for professional sound suitable for analog as well as digital recording. The transformerless circuitry enables MXL 990 to have minimal self-noise and wide dynamic range.
MXL 990 measures 2.36 inches wide and 5.11 inches tall. It weighs around 1.2 lbs. The small and lightweight design makes it quite portable, and it comes with a hard carrying case to allow safe travel. The included carrying case is probably one thing that you may want to consider when choosing between MXL 440 vs 990.
Appearance-wise, MXL 990 is a very attractive microphone. It sports a vintage design with a matte champagne finish. There is a black line accent surrounding the body just under the black printed logo, and there is a black ring surrounding the connector at the bottom. This microphone will look nice in any studio. In fact, you will probably feel confident to use this mic for a high-profile client.
MXL 990: Features
Despite the subtle and rather laid-back elegance, MXL 990 actually contains very solid components inside it. We have mentioned about the MXL FET pre-amp before, which is known for having excellent consistency, and the large diaphragm which is placed inside a quality capsule.
It goes without saying that the XLR connector of MXL 990 requires phantom power. This can be an issue for beginner musicians who don’t own a decent audio interface yet, but most studios should already have one to begin with.
MXL 990 is a rather simple mic, as it does not have any on-board switch or attenuation pad. Any adjustment should be performed on your mixing board or recording software. This is a good thing if you want to have a centralized control.
Other extras that you will get right out of the box, in addition to the carrying case, are the stand adapter and the shock mount. While the stand adapter is a basic plastice piece, the included MXL-90 shock mount is of very good quality. It has a similar vintage finish, and is both durable and very stable. It is really effective for eliminating mechanical vibrations that may get picked up by the mic.
You probably would also like to know that MXL 990 is available in a USB version. In general, musical recordings should stick with the XLR version, but podcasters and voiceover artists will probably appreciate the simplicity of a USB connection. The USB version records sound in 16-bit/48kHz. If you want to create 24-bit high-resolution tracks, you will need to stick with the XLR version.
MXL 990: Sound Quality
The sound quality of MXL 990 is best described as warm and crisp, with a tight low, solid midrange, and silky high-end. Just like its sibling MXL 440, MXL 990 is versatile enough to handle various vocals and musical instruments – but it handles them better.
The self-noise level is 20dBA, which is fairly low. It won’t introduce any hiss to your recording. The sensitivity is rated at 15mV/Pa, which means that the mic is able to capture fine details quite well and show you the hotspots in your mix. With a maximum SPL handling of 130dB, MXL 990 is also capable enough to handle drums and guitar amps.
The frequency response of MXL 990 is relatively more flat and stable than MXL 440, except for the presence bump in the high-end starting from 6kHz. The mid-range has solid presence that will allow vocals to cut through the mix without any EQ tweak. This is always a good thing.
The mic has good balance throughout the spectrum when micing acoustic guitar and grand piano. The sound is crisp and rich. Fingerstyle plays and arpeggios are captured very nicely. MXL 990 is also great for drum overheads.
MXL 440 vs 990
Between these two mics, MXL 990 is generally better and more recommended. It has better frequency response which will allow you to handle vocals and instruments with more ease. It also comes with a shock mount and a hard carrying case, both of which are quite useful and valuable.