Ah, MXL. We meet yet again for another review. But today, we aren’t talking about a condenser; we’re discussing the R144. Read on to learn about this unique and budget-friendly ribbon mic!
Most studio ribbon mics run in the $1000 range, but the R144 is only $99. If you’re skeptical, I can’t say I blame you! Let’s check out the details and specs. The R144 is a ribbon velocity microphone with a figure 8 polar pattern. The ribbon element consists of a 1.8 micron aluminum ribbon, which measures 44ml in length.
Hang on -but what even is a ribbon microphone? Well, I’m glad you asked. Once popular in the 1920’s (before the tube mic took over), ribbon microphones are mics that use an aluminum transducer. Essentially, a transducer is a piece of metal that changes something from one type of energy into another. This strip of metal lives between two magnets, inside of the microphone. When the strip begins to vibrate, it creates a tiny bit of voltage. With a little bit of magic, and a lot more psychics, that is basically how we get our sound.
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Ribbon microphones are a type of dynamic microphone. Many dynamic mics use a moving coil, but not this kind. Your quality of pre-amp becomes really important when you’re using a ribbon mic. Ribbon mics are bilateral microphones, which means they pick up sound from the front and back, but not from the sides, and the R144 is no different. If you’re recording a podcast (or talkshow) with two speakers sitting across from each other, this mic is a great choice.
If you’re looking for a mic to pick up the ambience of the room, look no further than this one. It will make your room sound more spacious, and can make a string quartet sound more orchestral. Overall, ribbon mics pick up sound more accurately than any other kind of microphone, including condensers, and are closer to how your ears hear live music (Condensers tend to boost higher frequencies). But there’s a little catch.
In general, ribbon mics are much more fragile than other types of dynamic mics. So if you do purchase the MXL R144, don’t store it on its side for extended periods of time, or allow it to be exposed to strong voltage, or even high winds. This is because of the thin metal that is inside.
You might be thinking, well, it’s still metal, I mean, how fragile can it be? Well. The R144 has an aluminum transition that is 1.8 microns. By comparison, a strand of your hair is 100 microns, approximately. And the older they get, the more fragile they become. But don’t let the ribbon mic’s delicacy deter you away from them entirely, unless you tend to be really hard on your gear.
MXL claims the R144 to have a ‘creamy and warm’ sound. This microphone is great for brass instruments and guitar, and it can also be used for vocals. It cuts the guitar amp’s overwhelming midrange, and compliments the horns. If we were comparing it to the V67G, this microphone would be far superior for recording brass. But why?
One of the reasons why the R144 is so great for horns and guitar is because of it’s extremely high SPL capability. The max SPL on this mic is >130 dB @ 1 kHZ. But since those are just numbers, let’s give it a reference point. 130 dB is considered ‘the threshold of pain’ . This microphone can handle sounds so loud, that they cause people pain. If we added just 10 dB to its maximum, you’d have a sound as loud as a jet plane that was 30 meters away.
But this high SPL doesn’t mean it won’t pick up the integrity of your art. The MXL R144 is astoundingly accurate. So if you’re looking for a microphone that can handle some seriously loud and detailed music, then this is a great pick. Now, onto some more specifics.
The R144 picks up a frequency range of: 20Hz -17kHz, and has a sensitivity of -56 dB. its impedance is 250 ohms, and its rated load impedance: >1500 Ohms. Also, it is Internally wired with Mogami.
Well, what is Mogami? Mogami is a Japanese company that is renowned for its cables. Mogami is known to have cables that are extremely clear. The company itself touts their cables as being ‘Mogami is the most respected cable for electric guitar, acoustic guitar, bass guitar and cable for Keyboards and Pedals’. It’s clear to see that this under-100 mic is built with some quality structure.
As long as you’re gentle with it, this can be a great gigging microphone. Weighing in at less than a pound (.85 lb), It’s smaller, portable, and pretty. It is made with a purple base and chrome finish, and screams sleek.
As far as accessories, it comes with a shock mount, carrying case, and micro-fiber cleaning cloth. The only thing you might want to consider adding for this mic is an MXL pop filter, if you’re going to be using this for vocals.
Reviewers say that this is ‘one of the best bargains available’ and that it ‘brings out bass and silkiness’. If you’re looking for a budget microphone to record sounds accurately (especially brass and guitar), then the MXL R144 is a great pick for your studio. Your range of tone color in microphones will be expanded, and your wallet, still mostly full!