If you do any serious recording, analog or digital, you a need a great mic. Condenser mics have been the de facto standard for recording music and voice since World War II, and that hasn’t changed. However, the price of a good large-diaphragm condenser mic has been out of reach for most recording aficionados – until now. Ladies and gentlemen… announcing the Marshall MXL V57M! This mic is affordable, rugged, and sounds great. Just what a recording Gigmeister needs!
If you spend any time recording, you noticed early on that the typical dynamic mic used on gigs sounds bland when recording. Especially when recording on great analog or digital gear, a dynamic mic on acoustic guitar or voice sounds colorless. Unless you’ve independently wealthy, you also observed that a fine large-diaphragm condenser mic, like a Neumann U-67 or 87, costs well over $1,000. Some of these old tube mics can set you back $5,000 or more. Until recently, you either rented a nice mic or bit the bullet to own one. Fortunately, times have changed for the better.
Marshall Electronics is a California-based company that makes Mogami cable and several condenser mics that work well in studios, whether they’re home/project studios or high-dollar commercial facilities. If you go looking for it on the company’s website (mxlmics.com), keep in mind it’s basically a model 1006; the V57M is an OEM version made especially for Mars music stores.
The 1006/V57M (retail $79.99, $129.98 with optional shock mount) is a solidstate large-diaphragm condenser mic with a gold-sputtered 1″ membrane (the surface which, when vibrated, produces the sound). The V57M has a fairly wide fixed cardioid (heart-shaped) pickup pattern. The cardioid pattern means the mic only picks up sound pointed directly into it. Electret condenser mics are usually phantom powered, and the V57M is no exception. The power required, usually supplied by the mixer, gives this style of mic tremendous gain. Live, it would be difficult to control a mic like this, but in a studio environment, a large-diaphragm condenser mic is just the ticket for vocals, acoustic piano, bass, guitar, etc. Frequency response is 30-20,000 kHz, which is virtually the entire range of human hearing. There’s a slight drop-off below 100 cycles and above 15,000 cycles, but between those two ranges, the Marshall is pretty flat. That’s a wonderful thing when doing critical recording to tape or disc.
The V57M is finished in an attractive champagne color and is approximately the same size as a Neumann U-87, the standard in large-diaphragm condenser mics. My Marshall came with two stand adapters, a typical screw-on with the standard 5/8 27 thread, and a really nice shock mount. Unfortunately, there were no instructions with the shock mount, but after playing with it for a while, I was able to slide the mic in and use it. Because of the tremendous sensitivity of a large-diaphragm condenser, a shock mount isolates the mic from floor noise and vibration. Those sounds could otherwise ruin a perfect take, so running a Marshall near a drum kit, amp cabinet, piano, etc. requires the shock mount.
My friend Troy Scheer has a wonderful studio in Carrollton, Texas (trance productions.com.) I do a lot of voiceovers there, and Troy engineers everything. For awhile, he used a Rode NT-2 on my voiceovers, and it sounded fine. But last year he switched to a Marshall MXL V67, and I used it on several projects. Troy’s V67 sounded incredible, so I wandered into my local Mars and nabbed the V57M for my home studio.
I was recording acoustic guitars and vocals for my solo/duo/trio demo CD. I started with my Gibson CL-35. For years, I’ve played “Classical Gas” on a steel-string, and it sounded great through the Marshall – lots of top-end, and that great Gibson bottom that made the piece sound full.
We then used it on all the singers in my trio, cutting each voice to hard disc one at a time. It does a fine job on lead vocals, provided you use a windscreen. A large-diaphragm condenser mic sounds horrible if you pop your Ps or spit on the membrane. You can spend $35 on a windscreen, but I spent 50 cents on a 4″ round wooded hoop, then stuck some nylon hose on it. I clamp it to my Kyser capo, then to a mic stand, and it works like any other pop or spit filter.
Another area I’ve been using my V57M each week is voiceovers from my home studio. I record at home, then e-mail the resulting wav files to clients. I can record and edit until I feel everything is perfect, then send the results. I’d been cutting at one studio with a small-diaphragm Audio Technica condenser and into a dBX 286 preamp. My clients say I’m getting better results at home, and I seldom have to travel! I record the lines directly into my PC, add a bit of compression at mixdown, and voila – the check’s in the mail!
The only problem I’ve had with my Marshall is distance. If you work this mic too close, its proximity effect makes the track too boomy. So I record anything at least 4″ from the mic, and everything is fine.
If you want to improve the quality of your recordings, and don’t have lots of money, get a V57M. You can thank me later.
This article originally appeared in VG‘s March ’02 issue. All copyrights are by the author and Vintage Guitar magazine. Unauthorized replication or use is strictly prohibited.