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MXL 2003A Least Favorite in Shootout
Old 4th May 2011
  #1
MXL 2003A Least Favorite in Shootout

After all the rave reviews, I'm not understanding why the 2003A was my least favorite in a 4 mic vocal shootout and 4th favorite in a 7 mic acoustic guitar shootout with other low end mics such as:

AT2035
MXL 990
MXL 603
MXL 991

I don't really have the technical knowledge to tell you exactly what I didn't like about it other than it sounds thin and bright. Could I have gotten one that isn't up to spec?

You can listen to samples here:

Guitar Mic Shootout by Paul Ladendorf on SoundCloud - Create, record and share your sounds for free
Vocal Mic Shootout by Paul Ladendorf on SoundCloud - Create, record and share your sounds for free

The 2003A is #6 in the guitar shootout and #2 in the vocal.

Any opinions are appreciated.
Old 4th May 2011
  #2
i've got the 2001a i picked up a few years ago in the pack with a 600 & a pair of the 603s. what i hear in your #6 guitar recording is the same thing i heard in those mics & that's the lifeless air around the instrument instead of the actual resonant tone you are attempting to capture.

i've since moved on to other mic brands & am very happy with the results. occasionally i'll use them as suplimental room mics & would someday like to get them modded as the demo's i've heard are a significant improvement in tone capture, but thats not in the budget at the moment. i hear that the MXL V series mics are much better than those i picked up, but i'm done w/ MXL. i've gotten much better bang for the buck out of the box from AT, Shure & CAD.
Old 4th May 2011
  #3
Well to my ears, the 2003a sounds less muddy and more detailed than the others on the vocals. I've tried just about every MXL LDC and tube mic and have gotten rid of all except a couple of modded V67gs and the 2003a. It's got a very flat response curve.
Old 4th May 2011 | Show parent
  #4
Gear Addict
 

I really like my 2003a. I get fantastic results on vocals and acoustic guitars with it.
Old 4th May 2011 | Show parent
  #5
Gear Addict
 
rockum's Avatar
 

I listened to the shootouts but was left wondering which mic each recording used. I had no clear favorite in the vocal shootout, but mic 4 was my favorite in the guitar battle. Do you have a listing somewhere of which was which?
Old 4th May 2011 | Show parent
  #6
Quote:
Originally Posted by Stevil View Post
that's the lifeless air around the instrument instead of the actual resonant tone you are attempting to capture.
Maybe thats why it sounds a little hollow to me.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Stevil View Post
better bang for the buck out of the box from AT, Shure & CAD.
I definitely like the AT2035 better on both vox and acoustic guitar. I have to admit I like the 603 on guitar as well, but the 2035 seems to capture more detail.
Old 4th May 2011 | Show parent
  #7
Quote:
Originally Posted by rockum View Post
I listened to the shootouts but was left wondering which mic each recording used. I had no clear favorite in the vocal shootout, but mic 4 was my favorite in the guitar battle. Do you have a listing somewhere of which was which?
#4 was the AT2035 and was my fave as well.
Old 4th May 2011 | Show parent
  #8
Quote:
Originally Posted by Rob Coates View Post
Well to my ears, the 2003a sounds less muddy and more detailed than the others on the vocals. I've tried just about every MXL LDC and tube mic and have gotten rid of all except a couple of modded V67gs and the 2003a. It's got a very flat response curve.
I think what you are calling muddy, I would call warm. Obviously its very subjective and depends on what you like.
Old 4th May 2011 | Show parent
  #9
Gear Nut
 
NYM1985's Avatar
 

moral of the story here is try before you buy and let your own ears be the judge.

your particular room/source may not be the best fit for said microphone(s)/gear.

honestly nothing in your shootout really standed out in the crowd to my ears and I use and like some of the mics you did. It just wasn't the best test imho and it's kinda tough to judge a mic by a simple demo like that, yeah it's nice to have the reference and everything but that's one very brief instance of what each mic can do. That's really not the same as recording a project with it and really learning the ins and outs of the gear. Who knows if you recorded an album with the 2003a and messed with placements more, messed with preamp settings, eq settings, comp, reverb, etc and then just replaced the 2003a with say the 2035 and then spent that same attention to detail to all the other variables perhaps your opinion would be changed. I find that every mic is very unique and to fairly judge mics you have to find what works best for them. Some mics aren't as flattering when you put them up in a generic position, a generic gain level, and all flat settings on a mediocre source. We also have to remember your shootout while helpful isn't a full mix. Hearing things solo'd and in a mix are two very different scenarios.

Right now the only MXL I own is a V67G and I'm planning to send it out to Michael Joly to get modded once funds allow. In it's stock form it's a pretty good mic especially for the price I got it for well below the current street price everywhere I've seen. I went to one of the music mega marts during an anniversary sale recently.

I plan to get a pair of 604 or 603S and send them in to get modded by Michael Joly with the Ultimate Mod ends up making them about the cost of Shure SM81 mics and they sound a bit nicer.

But anyway the MXL V67G I have pairs great in my project studio with my folk/acoustic guitar/vocal tracks running to the preamps on my Focusrite Saffire 24 interface. It's no worse than my CAD M179 or AT40 series LDC mics in the same application, a little different.
Old 4th May 2011 | Show parent
  #10
[QUOTE=NYM1985;6609436 yeah it's nice to have the reference and everything but that's one very brief instance of what each mic can do. That's really not the same as recording a project with it and really learning the ins and outs of the gear.[/QUOTE]

True. But in my case, I'm just using it to record acoustic guitar and vocals. The rest will be done by a pro studio. So it really told me what I needed to hear. And of course, I didn't say one mic was better than another. I just was pointing out that in this particular application, I liked other mics better....specifically the AT2035.
Old 4th May 2011 | Show parent
  #11
Gear Maniac
 
asap audio's Avatar
 

Seems like it might be a SDC vs LDC shootout. 2003A large, AT2035 small.
SDCs have faster transients and sound better on many sources than an LDC.
Just a thought.
Old 4th May 2011 | Show parent
  #12
Quote:
Originally Posted by asap audio View Post
Seems like it might be a SDC vs LDC shootout. 2003A large, AT2035 small.
SDCs have faster transients and sound better on many sources than an LDC.
Just a thought.
2035 is an LDC
Old 4th May 2011 | Show parent
  #13
Gear Maniac
 
asap audio's Avatar
 

I have one. 2035 = 20mm is small/medium.
2003A = 25mm. Many LDCs are 30mm. 603 = 16mm.

These capsule sizes make a big difference in how they react to sounds.
Old 4th May 2011 | Show parent
  #14
Quote:
Originally Posted by PaulInTheSticks View Post
Maybe thats why it sounds a little hollow to me.
airy & hollow is exactly how i describe it.
i know one of the popular inexpensive mods for this mic is to get rid of the second inner layer of "head basket". the electronics upgrade mods are a bit more costly but from what i've heard, improve it exponentially.


2003 oktavamod from Michael Joly
MXL 2001 Mod? Not Royer, but something...


Quote:
Originally Posted by PaulInTheSticks View Post
I definitely like the AT2035 better on both vox and acoustic guitar. I have to admit I like the 603 on guitar as well, but the 2035 seems to capture more detail.
maybe i should give the 603 a shot on guitar. i always tried it on drums.
Old 5th May 2011 | Show parent
  #15
Quote:
Originally Posted by asap audio View Post
I have one. 2035 = 20mm is small/medium.
2003A = 25mm. Many LDCs are 30mm. 603 = 16mm.

These capsule sizes make a big difference in how they react to sounds.
Says ldc on the box but that's good to know. Thanks for that info.
Old 5th May 2011 | Show parent
  #16
Gear Maniac
 
asap audio's Avatar
 

That's cool. I tend to like SDCs better than LDCs. They just react quicker on almost everything. The 2035 is a nice compromise in size and sound.
Very good for the price.
Old 5th May 2011 | Show parent
  #17
Jr. Gear Slut 2nd class
 
chessparov's Avatar
 

Although YMMV of course, liked the 2035 on my voice than the 2003A. What's weird is when comparing a 2003a to the AT4040, they sounded almost identical on me-go figure.

Chris

P.S. My fave "low end" all rounder (non-modded) is the Studio Projects CS
Series.
Old 5th May 2011 | Show parent
  #18
Lives for gear
 
giraffe's Avatar
 

out of 4 of my least favorite mics of all time, that one is your least favorite?

works for me.
Old 5th May 2011 | Show parent
  #19
Lives for gear
 
KeithMoonwannabe's Avatar
 

My favorite application for the MXL 603 has always been acoustic guitar.

they are ok for drums if it's all you have to use, they will get the job done but their are much better budget choices.

Honestly my favorite low end condenser mic (capsule type irrelevant) is the CAD M179.

You can score a brand new pair for $269 USD and they slay just about everything in their class.

-Variable Patterns (means tons of flexibility)
-Low Freq Roll Off Pad (great for vocals where you wanna reduce unwanted mud and rumble)
-Attenuation Pad (ie you can use it on loud sources TOMS and GTR CABS)
-Clean, transparent tone with good frequency extension BTW this mic goes LOW and has a nice detailed mid and treble range without being overly bright or forward sounding it's very neutral)
-hard case
-shockmount
-low self noise

some problems with your shootout is how you classify a lot of your mics the MXL 990 is a SDC for example, AT2035 is what I'd technically label a mid-large diaphragm depending on how you define the capsules, etc. Also I found the choice of material a little less than ideal for putting a mic through it's paces as their isn't a lot of dynamic range contrast in the piece nor is there really an example of how the mic handles the full frequency spectrum. Not that I don't appreciate the time and energy you put into the test just that it could've been executed differently to present the mics in a better light. I'm also not personally a big fan of the Presonus preamps they are kinda crummy sounding (not very accurate/transparent to me they sound very hypey and colored) I would've liked to hear em through something more like a Focusrite Saffire, Soundcraft GB30, A&H ZED, EMU preamp (like 0404 usb, 1616m, etc), and so on. Gear shootouts and demos are really no easy feat though because there are so many things that affect how a product performs and so many ways one can use them.

The thing people need to remember on this forum is that especially in the low end a lot of gear isn't great and that the true focus should be on skill/talent in regards to songwriting, performing, and sound engineering. You should be able to make anything you have work for you and get a useable result. Your music and production abilities shouldn't be based solely upon the gear you use because it's honestly secondary and whether or not you are in it to make money the end result is to be enjoyed by people, well I can tell you the average listener doesn't know and doesn't care what you used to record it or how you did it they are just interested in the music/message you are conveying. I'm sick of all the gear acquisition syndrome, I enjoy buying gear and checking out the cool new toys and stuff but at the end of the day make do with what you have and make the most of what precious little time we are given in this life to do what you love.

Not trying to be mean but making a mic shootout is kinda pointless in the grand scheme of things anyone on here could've just got any old mic and recorded a whole project in that amount of time and had something remarkable to show for it. It's not really going to help anyone out to compare a bunch of low end mics when any one of them can be used and achieve good or better results.

So much of the end result really has to do with skill and talent. Again not trying to be a prick just trying to get to the music. That's the reason we are all so in love with the gear....TO MAKE MUSIC

Honestly if you own every piece in that shootout I could argue you could've been better off having some self control and just buying one really nice mic like a Shure KSM32 or whatever instead of buying a bunch of similar garbage
Old 5th May 2011 | Show parent
  #20
Gear Addict
 
jaz49's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by KeithMoonwannabe View Post
I can tell you the average listener doesn't know and doesn't care what you used to record it or how you did it they are just interested in the music/message you are conveying. I'm sick of all the gear acquisition syndrome, I enjoy buying gear and checking out the cool new toys and stuff but at the end of the day make do with what you have and make the most of what precious little time we are given in this life to do what you love.
X 1000!
I enjoy these kind of mic shootouts but I have to agree with your message. It's funny how an old live Stones video from the mid '60's on youtube with crappy sound can still move people. In one that I watched recently Jagger appeared to be singing into an old sm57 type 'unidyne'. It's about the music, obviously...not the gear. One of the best songs I heard in a whole lot of years was recorded with cheap mxl mics on a laptop. The guy didn't have great gear, but what he DID have is talent and inspiration.
Old 5th May 2011 | Show parent
  #21
Quote:
Originally Posted by KeithMoonwannabe View Post
The thing people need to remember on this forum is that especially in the low end a lot of gear isn't great and that the true focus should be on skill/talent in regards to songwriting, performing, and sound engineering.
Sorry, but you don't decide what people should spend their time and focus doing. Recording is a science and art, and if people want to spend their time finding the best gear for the best price, then they have every right to do that. Its called freedom.

There are plenty of people that would say that you are wasting your time writing music and you should be focused on a real career and/or making money. What would you say to them? You would probably tell them to piss off right?

Quote:
Originally Posted by KeithMoonwannabe View Post
I'm sick of all the gear acquisition syndrome
Then why are you wasting your precious time telling us about the Cad M179?

Quote:
Originally Posted by KeithMoonwannabe View Post
So much of the end result really has to do with skill and talent. Again not trying to be a prick just trying to get to the music. That's the reason we are all so in love with the gear....TO MAKE MUSIC
Lots of people are interested in electronics and sound quality.

Quote:
Originally Posted by KeithMoonwannabe View Post
Honestly if you own every piece in that shootout I could argue you could've been better off having some self control and just buying one really nice mic like a Shure KSM32 or whatever instead of buying a bunch of similar garbage
Well, I don't. I was testing different mics to figure out which one(s) to keep. So now these mics are garbage?

Maybe you should worry about you and let other people have the freedom to do what they want.
Old 5th May 2011 | Show parent
  #22
Lives for gear
 
giraffe's Avatar
 

he's kinda being a jerk about it, but he's right about the "bunch of similar garbage," imo...
Old 5th May 2011 | Show parent
  #23
Lives for gear
I wouldn't call my MXL CR-24 (same as 2003A) my favorite mic on AcGtr or Vox, but I got it for next to nothing on Musician's Friend Stupid Deal and I leave it up ALL the time so I don't lose momentum if inspiration strikes and nothing else is set up. Scratch vocals, guitar, whatever. If the take works in a song I'll bloody well keep it because frankly it's good enough. If it gets knocked over it's no great loss. It's a fracking tool, and it really really helps me get on with what I want to do = make and record music.
Old 5th May 2011 | Show parent
  #24
Gear Nut
 
NYM1985's Avatar
 

I have to agree with KMW here none of your clips really wow'd me.

Yeah you are entitled to your freedom/opinions he never said anything that I read that took that right away from you but if you ever want to seriously progress you just need to pick something and learn to use it. Or save your money for a better piece of gear.

Doing quick non conclusive shootouts with a bunch of mediocre gear isn't the answer.

In comparison to the mics you used in your shootout the CAD M179 would be a way better option. It has a proven track record for sounding great, it's proven to be a tool you'll never sit on the shelf to collect dust, and it's more versatile than any of the single pattern mics you mentioned.

Honestly he brings up a good point because what is the reason you obsess over gear for? to make music that's enjoyable to listen to. Not every recording requires pristine crystal clear fidelity. Sometimes you want dirt, character, mojo, vibe, etc/whatever you want to classify the magic as. Even well chosen gear doesn't mean you are going to have a good end result. You have to fix the room and the performance before you can really get this worked up over gear. Out of your gear I'd only buy an AT2035 but even then I wouldn't do that simply because I know for the same or less money I can get CAD M179 and get way more flexibility and the same or better sound on a lot of sources.

most likely having slightly less than the best possible sound quality won't dismiss great music from being enjoyed. Rolling Stones recordings don't have great sound quality but they make great music and will likely be way more successful than you and that's just one example.
Old 5th May 2011 | Show parent
  #25
Gear Addict
 
rockum's Avatar
 

Just adding a bit to what I already said. The 2003a was the only one in the vocal group that I cared for at all. It wasn't a run away slam dunk, but I think with a little eq and compression it would have ended up sounding pretty nice. In a way, it seems easier to add something to a vocal than take away. The other mics seemed to add some unwanted resonances and I wouldn't want to have to tame them.

For the same reasons, the 4th mic (the 2035) in the guitar shoot out seemed like a clear leader.
Old 6th May 2011 | Show parent
  #26
Gear Guru
 
drBill's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by KeithMoonwannabe View Post
My favorite application for the MXL 603 has always been acoustic guitar.
Interesting. Out of 3 or 4 that I've tried, they were the worst sounding mics on Ac Gtr (steel string) that I've ever heard. Horrid. I'd rather have used a 57.

I've found them OK on snare and toms though.

I guess the moral of the story is -- YMMV.
Old 6th May 2011 | Show parent
  #27
Gear Guru
 
drBill's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by KeithMoonwannabe View Post
My favorite application for the MXL 603 has always been acoustic guitar.
Interesting. Out of 3 or 4 that I've tried, they were the worst sounding mics on Ac Gtr (steel string) that I've ever heard. Horrid.

I've found them OK on snare and toms though.

I guess the moral of the story is -- YMMV.

Out of fairness, even saying "my favorite use" and "603/604/991" in the same sentence for me brings a wave of nausea. Sorry. Just my opinion. Without serious work those mics are a phasey smear to me. Even modded to China and back, I'm still not too fond of them.
Old 6th May 2011 | Show parent
  #28
Quote:
Originally Posted by drBill View Post
Interesting. Out of 3 or 4 that I've tried, they were the worst sounding mics on Ac Gtr (steel string) that I've ever heard. Horrid.
Interesting how a lot of people really like the 603's and some really hate them. Makes me wonder about quality control.

I a/b'ed the 603 (#1 in the shootout) against a modded Oktava 012 (#5 in the shootout) and I thought it was pretty close. The 991 (#3 in the shootout) OTOH didn't sound near as good as the 603 IMO...the highs sounded very brittle and it sounded hollow compared to the 603.

Maybe my ears aren't as good as some of yours tho.
Old 6th May 2011 | Show parent
  #29
yor
Gear Head
I bought a 2003a largely due to good things I read here. While I think the microphone sounds even and natural, it doesn't amaze me in any way. My biggest problem is that it seems to have a low output. I compared it with a shure LDC with the same gain settings, position, source, and the shure seemed to be at least twice as loud, verified visually by the waveform. And of course it sounded better, too.
I haven't heard anything about this in my reading and I want to know if I got a bum unit or something. I noticed looking closely that the capsule is slightly off-center within the mesh housing. Think it was dropped? However I am not counting on that, I'm guessing they all sound like this, but I'd like to be proven wrong.

Does anybody else's 2003a have a low output? Mine just seems well...Insensitive.

This is bad for obvious noise reasons. I want to return it now.
Old 6th May 2011 | Show parent
  #30
Gear Guru
 
drBill's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by PaulInTheSticks View Post
Interesting how a lot of people really like the 603's and some really hate them. Makes me wonder about quality control.
I tried several. Tried putting them up against a C451E, KM84, a 184, Gefell. It's like night and day. Phasey & smeary transients on the MXL's. IMO of course.
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