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This large diaphragm cardioid tube condenser makes the excellent sound of the acclaimed multi pattern MXL Revelation tube mic even more affordable


By Phil O'Keefe

 

revelation-SOLO\_Large.jpgDo you ever listen back to some of the recordings you made with lower-cost condenser microphones and wonder "where's the beef?" Are you looking for more richness and refinement in the sound than what your budget microphones offer? I'll let you in on a little secret: while using a mic with a large presence peak or lifted high frequency response has its place, and can be helpful when trying to compensate for old strings or a dull or dark sounding instrument or vocalist, too much of that high frequency emphasis can easily build up and leave you with thin and weak sounding recordings. The key is balance - and you get that by using a mix of different microphone types and matching their characteristics to best benefit the sound sources at hand, or by using higher quality, more refined, less "hyped" and more natural sounding microphones that have more neutral response across the entire frequency spectrum. Unfortunately, there seems to be a lot more of the brighter sounding microphones on the market these days, and not nearly as many choices in the "neutral" category.

That's why I was really excited when MXL released the Revelation, a multi-pattern tube condenser mic that has a detailed, but less forward sounding top end and flatter overall frequency response than a lot of the other mics currently on the market. However, with a $1,295 "street" price, it is still a bit out of reach for some serious but cash-strapped home recordists. The fixed XY pattern Revelation Stereo is also an outstanding mic, but it's even more expensive. Now MXL has released the Revelation Solo - a lower priced, cardioid-only version of the Revelation that is designed to make the sound of that mic affordable to a much wider range of users.

 

What You Need To Know

  • Based on their flagship multi-pattern Revelation tube microphone, the MXL Revelation Solo can be thought of as a lower cost, cardioid only version of that microphone. The look, accessories, sound and features are all nearly identical, with the primary difference being that the Revelation Solo has a fixed cardioid polar pattern.
  • The physical size of the mic as well as the dark violet and chrome color scheme make it look classy and impressive when sitting on the stand.

Revelation Solo on stand side.JPG

 

  • Construction and component quality are both good. Full sized, discrete components are used instead of SMD components, which means repairs and mods should be easier to perform. The MXL Revelation Solo's capsule is a 32mm 6 micron center terminated type, with a hand selected Electro-Harmonix EF86 pentode tube at the heart of the preamp circuit, and a transformer balanced output.  

Revelation Solo EF86 tube.JPG

Revelation Solo transformer.JPG

 

  • There is a -10dB pad switch on the rear of the mic body. All other switching is done at the power supply, which is where you'll find the 12 dB/octave @ 125Hz high pass filter switch (labeled "Bass Roll-Off") as well as a 0 / 180 degree phase invert switch.  

Revelation Solo rear in shockmount.png

Revelation Solo Power Supply.JPG

 

  • The mic comes with a very nice accessory bundle, including a camera style aluminum case, a shock mount and spare elastic band, the required power supply, and two Mogami cables - a 7 pin 15' cable to connect the mic to the power supply, and a 15' XLR cable to connect the power supply to your mixer, mic preamp, or audio interface.  

Revelation Solo and accessories.JPG

 

  • MXL has been paying attention to some of the "mic mod" services out there, and some of the things they typically do to improve the sound of budget microphones have already been done to the Revelation Solo, such as the single layer mesh grille. This reduces head basket reflections and tends to give the mic a more "open" sound, but the downside is you'll need to use a good pop filter when using the Revelation Solo for vocals.

Revelation Solo on stand above.JPG

 

  • Self-noise is reasonable, but not spectacular at -18dB (A-weighted), which puts it in the same ballpark as many vintage tube mikes. The signal to noise ratio is 76dB, and the maximum SPL at 0.5\% THD is 138dB, which means you're not likely to overload this mic with overly hot sound sources.
  • While no single microphone is ideal for all sound sources, the relatively un-hyped and neutral sound of the Revelation Solo makes it a good multipurpose mic that can perform well on a variety of vocalists and on various different instruments around the studio.
  • If you have an overly bright sound source that needs taming, or a vocalist with a lot of sibilance issues, this is an excellent mic to try. Alternatively, if you need the voice to cut through the mix a bit more, you can add additional presence or a high frequency "lift" to the track at mixdown since the MXL Revelation Solo takes EQ very well.  


Limitations

  • Due to the large body size (7.5" x 2.5") and the extra space required by the shock mount system, placement in tight locations may be restricted.
  • Also, due to the substantial weight (2 pounds for the mic alone), you will need to use a sturdy stand to hold it. Using sandbags as counterweights for the bottom of the stand would also be a good idea whenever using the Revelation Solo on the end of an extended boom arm.


Conclusions

As with the other products in the Revelation series, this is a really nice sounding tube microphone. The sound quality is rich, refined, and expensive sounding, and slightly flattering without being overly colored - a far cry from some of the coarser sounding budget condenser mic models out there, and without the harsh, overly hyped high frequencies that many of them exhibit. While not inexpensive, it offers the sonic performance of the MXL Revelation multi pattern tube mic (MSRP $1,495, $1,295 "street") in cardioid-only form, but at a significantly lower price. If you don't need the added flexibility of the variable polar patterns (and most musicians and home recordists tend to stick with using the cardioid pattern anyway), or if you're on a budget, this is a great alternative. MXL has a real winner with the Revelation series mikes - they are my favorite MXL microphones yet. With the reduced price of the cardioid only version, a lot more people are going to be able to discover for themselves just how nice these microphones really are. Definitely recommended!

Resources

Musician's Friend MXL Revelation Solo catalog page ($799.95 MSRP)

MXL's Revelation Solo web page

MXL's Revelation Solo video:


Harmony Central meets the MXL Revelation Solo:



 

 

Phil\_OKeefe HC Bio Image.jpgPhil 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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