MXL 840 Pair Microphone Review

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It’s really hard buying things in an area where you lack expertise.

I felt this way one or two yeas ago when I started to get an interest in recording.  Every option was overwhelming – “What is a signal to noise ratio?  Is this one good?  What’s cardioid pattern?  Why’s this one called a snowball?  It looks stupid.”  I did as much research as I could understand, and finally made my first microphone purchase: a pair of MXL 840s, procured at my local Guitar Center for around $100.

Although my buy was a little blind, I picked these microphones up for a few good reasons:

  1. They are super cheap. I can’t find anything comparable for $100 that includes two microphones.
  2. Two microphones mean I can record in stereo.
  3. The frequency response is flat enough for what I expect from a beginner set of mics.
  4. They are nearly omnidirectional, so I assumed they would be good for recording instruments like pianos.

First impressions

These things just exude coolness, from their blue metal casing to their included shock mounts. The box they come in is hardly exceptional, sporting just cardboard and dense styrofoam, but it isn’t realistic to expect a professional case based on their relatively minute price. The microphones themselves are subtly distinguished by MXL’s logo and model number, in effect giving a very refined look.   MXL also provides some extra cords for each shock mount, along with a light blue cleaning cloth.

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In use

MXL’s 840s microphones are as easy to set up as any other condenser microphone. My general setup runs my audio signal through a small mixer and then to my audio interface. Being condensers, they do require Phantom power, which my mixer provides.

Since I bought these microphones, I’ve used them alongside my field recorder to create virtually every sampled instrument on my downloads page, including my favorite instrument, Mysterium Music Box. The fact that these microphones merit a purchasable product, and that they have already paid for themselves really says a lot about how little their initial price tag represents their quality.

Of course, they aren’t perfect. However, most of the problems I’ve encountered deal more with the application, and aren’t really related to the low-end quality one would expect from cheap microphones. My only quality-control complaint is that the XLR cables often fit too snugly in their sockets, rendering set-down to be a minor annoyance.

So what? all that matters is sound!

I really could yabber on all day about build quality and looks, but in the end, listeners never really see the microphones that they’re listening to. Audio quality is quite obviously the most important aspect of a good microphone, and MXL will not disappoint. The 840 pair reproduces sounds with fantastic clarity and accuracy. However, they do perform best in certain situations. Given that their frequency response rolls off at around 40Hz and increases at around 10kHz, these microphones aren’t suited for recording bassy instruments or (for the most part) vocals. These microphones are doubly not suited for vocals, given their super-loose cardioid polar pattern. In my experience, the 840s shine the most when recording instruments such as chimes, acoustic guitars, cymbals, or bells. They successfully record high ends with fantastic clarity while maintaining a full-bodied and surprisingly warm sound.

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As aforementioned, the 840 pair also includes two shock mounts. These metal devices snugly wrap each microphone, supposedly reducing vibrations contributed by walking/running/earthquakes. In application, I found that the shock mounts don’t do very much in the home-production scenario. My wooden floors transfer vibrations very easily, so any walking around will be audible. However, if I were in a proper recording studio with less extreme vibrations, I could see how these mounts could prevent small tremors from being recorded.

Sample Audio

(More to be added.)

Cool.

MXL seems to have a knack for economically deceiving hardware. Although definitely not suited for all recording instances, the MXL 840 pair proves to be a good choice for any musician looking for a cheap but exceptional set.

(P.S. Hardware is very expensive, and as such, I can’t review the amount of products I’d like. However, with the help of viewers, I can promote this website, and potentially make the money to buy and review new products. Please share if you like our content – it eventually comes back to you.)

Buy MXL 840 mics at Guitar Center

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