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MXL DX-2 Dual Capsule Dynamic Microphone
A guitar amp mic with a split personality?



By Phil O'Keefe



How do you mic up your guitar amp? If you're like most people, you put a dynamic mic right up against the grille and you're done. And there are a lot of advantages to that approach - especially in a live situation - and it's also far from uncommon in the studio. But why stop at just one mic? Engineers have long appreciated the variety of tones obtainable by blending the sound of two microphones, and MXL has made it super easy to do exactly that with their latest guitar miking solution - the MXL DX-2. Let's take a closer look at this rather unusual microphone.

                                                                



What You Need To Know

  • The MXL DX-2 is a dual-capsule dynamic microphone designed for high SPL applications (although MXL doesn't list any maximum SPL figures for this model). It's specifically designed for close-miking guitar cabinets, both live and in the studio.

  • While the DX-2 does has some interesting and fairly uncommon visual aspects, the all-metal body is finished in a fairly traditional dark metallic gray and black.

  • The MXL DX-2 is a "side address" microphone - you don't point the "end" of it at what you want to record or amplify, but rather the flat front / side surface. This has a honeycomb grille sitting over a finer mesh grille. The curved rear of the microphone has horizontal slots in it, and inside you can see open-cell foam material.

  • The front of the MXL-2 isn't visible in most photos - usually what you see is actually the rear of the mic. The front surface is flat, and designed so it can sit right up against the grille of your amp, while the back is curved and points away from the grille.

                                                                 

  • What makes the DX-2 rather unusual is that unlike most other microphones, it contains two different mic capsules instead of only one. While MXL isn't the first company to market a dual-capsule mic with dissimilar capsules, they're fairly rare but do have some advantages in terms of sonic flexibility… and sonic flexibility is what the DX-2 is all about.  

  • The MXL DX-2 has a crossfade knob on the rear of the microphone body that allows you to dial up Capsule 1 by itself, Capsule 2 alone, or blend the two together in any combination you desire.

  • The knob itself is brushed aluminum and appears to be fairly sturdy and wobble-free, which inspires confidence in the overall build quality that is borne out when you closely examine the mic's overall fit and finish.

  • Capsule 1, which is located closer to the XLR end, is a larger-sized dynamic capsule with a super cardioid polar pattern. Of the two capsules it has the warmest, thickest, and beefiest sound, with a tone that leans slightly to the darker side.

  • Capsule 2, which is further down the tube, is a bit smaller in size and has a standard cardioid polar pattern. It also features a different frequency response than Capsule 1, with more midrange emphasis, and far less low frequency extension. Thinner and edgier, it's a nice contrast to Capsule 1.

 

                              

 

  • Either capsule can be used by itself, and it's quite possible you may find situations where one or the other gives you exactly what you need or want. However, blending the two together can give more variety (and generally more interesting and useful tones).

  • Capsule 1 has a sensitivity of -52 dB re 1V/Pa, while Capsule 2 specs out at -54 dB re 1V/Pa. Since they're fairly closely matched in sensitivity, there isn't a huge volume difference between the two. Impedance is 400 / 600 ohms.

  • The MXL DX-2 measures 43 mm x 156 mm (roughly 1.73" x 6.14") and weighs 204g / 0.45 pounds.

  • The overall frequency response of the DX-2 is 50 Hz - 14 kHz, with no tolerance specification listed.

  • While the DX-2 is ideal for using with the stage-approved "hang the mic from the amp handle" trick (and MXL even encourages that in the DX-2's documentation), they do include a threaded ring-style mic stand mount for it, so you're all set if you'd prefer using a mic stand. Also included is a zippered vinyl storage pouch. MXL also throws in a MXL sticker and MXL-branded cleaning cloth.



Limitations

  • The DX-2's high frequency response is not as extended as some microphones - especially many condenser models. In actual use, the DX-2 has plenty of high frequency "reach" to handle guitar speaker cabinets with ease, but if you're looking for ultra-sparkle, you might want to try a different mic.

  • I thought the selection of a pair of dynamic capsules was an interesting one, and I was a bit surprised that MXL didn't go with one dynamic, and one condenser capsule - or even one moving coil dynamic and a ribbon element; while this wouldn't make the mic brighter, the transient response of ribbon mics tend to be faster than dynamics. Admittedly those alternative versions would most likely be more fragile, cost more, and would have required phantom power (at least for a condenser capsule), but engineers are just as likely to pair a dynamic and a ribbon or a dynamic and a condenser on a single guitar speaker cabinet as they are to use two different dynamic mic models - at least in the studio. For live use, the ruggedness of the dual dynamic capsules can't be beat.
     
  • Because there's a single XLR output jack, you can't use the two capsules independently, or process them individually, beyond the built-in blend control.

  • You'll want to use an assistant or get some good sealed / isolating headphones so you can hear what you're doing when you're dialing up the blend.  



Conclusions

With its dual capsule design and the ability to use either one alone or to blend them together in any ratio you want, MXL has come up with a very interesting microphone. It was designed with live and studio guitar amplifier miking in mind, and for that task, it works very well. Other possibilities would be for use on Rotary Speaker cabinets and possibly low brass, but you're headed into uncharted territory if you want to experiment with this mic on other sources.

 

While a condenser element combined with a dynamic may have offered even greater tonal variety (and most likely an extended frequency response, especially in the high frequency range - which to be fair is generally just fine for electric guitar amps), the ruggedness of dual-dynamic capsules and the ability for the mic to run sans phantom power are big advantages in live situations, and to be fair there's still considerable tonal variation between the two capsules to explore, even in the studio. Best of all, you need only a single mic preamp / board channel / DAW track; youll obtain the sonic variety benefits of a multi-mic type setup with minimal gear and minimal hassle, which makes the MXL DX-2 a very worthy mic to try on your guitar speaker cabinets.  -HC-

 

Do you have questions or comments about this review or want to discuss the MXL DX-2 microphone? Then be sure to check out this thread in the Studio Trenches Forum right here on Harmony Central!




Resources

MXL DX-2 Dual Capsule Dynamic Microphone ($149.95 "street")

MXL's product web page    

You can purchase the MXL DX-2 Dual Capsule Dynamic Microphone from:

Guitar Center    

B&H Photo Video  

Musician's Friend    












__________________________________________________

 




Phil O'Keefe is a multi-instrumentalist, recording engineer / producer and the Senior Editor of Harmony Central. He has engineered, produced and performed on countless recording sessions in a diverse range of styles, with artists such as Alien Ant Farm, Jules Day, Voodoo Glow Skulls, John McGill, Michael Knott and Alexa's Wish. He is a former featured monthly columnist for EQ magazine, and his articles and product reviews have also appeared in Keyboard, Electronic Musician and Guitar Player magazines.  

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