MXL DX-2 Microphone Shootout
MXL recently released a new microphone that piqued my interest. It's called the DX-2, which is a new concept. It is a dual capsule,Variable Dynamic Instrument Microphone, meaning it has two different voiced dynamic microphone capsules which can be adjusted infinitely between the two. Capsule one is a super cardioid and capsule two is a cardioid. Now there are other dual diaphragm mics out there, this is a new concept to my knowledge, at least in the realm of dynamic microphones.
I found the MXL DX-2 microphone to have a very interesting sound with possibilities for use with voice over with the following caveats.The MXL DX-2 is designed mostly for guitar cabs, so it might at first not be considered for voice over. When it was first released the Shure SM5b was a movie and television boom microphone and not considered to be a voice over microphone as was the case with the Sennheiser 416-MKH. Eventually, however, these odd microphones, not generally invented or intended for voice over became industry staples. This may be the case with the MXL DX-2, not because of the variable capsule adjustments but the way the first capsule reacts to the voice, more about that later. Looking at the polar patterns, the second capsule reminds me a little more a hyper cardioid capsule, with a smaller lobe at 180 degrees. That said, the frequency response of capsule one reminded me of a mix of between the frequency plots of the old Shure SM5b which is no longer in production and the Sennhieser MD421/441, all dynamic microphones. The second capsule has a steep bass roll off below 200 hertz, then
it's semi flat to 3k, rising approximately 7bd to 6.5k, then dropping steeply after that. I found my own frequency evaluation tests to mirror MXL’s plots.
MXL was kind enough to send me the DX-2, for evaluation purposes to write this review. I was able to test the microphone against some of my other Dynamics and a few Condensers as well. I also recorded the DX-2 with various preamplifiers, a Grace m101, a modified ART Voice Channel and the side to side tests with a Focusrite Forte and its Red Net preamps at 96/24. I recorded various audio tests using the Shure SM7b, Shure SM 58, and Electro Voice RE-320 dynamics and a couple of condenser microphones namely and AKG C414 XLII which I had set in its hyper cardioid pattern and a CAD E100S microphone, a super cardioid. The diaphragms were all set to the same height and distance from my mouth. I am posting the tests below, so you can see whether or not you agree with my conclusions.
First of all, the DX-2 acts as its own high pass filter. Meaning, most other microphones require high pass filters to sound good on the voice to cut down on unwanted boom, low frequency rumble, proximity and plosive problems. This helps the DX-2 sound good right out of the box and into a digital audio workstation . The top end on the DX-2 is crisp, but not to the point of being overly strident, unless you add more of capsule two into the mix of the microphone. I suggest using no more than 10 to 20 percent of capsule two in the mix, to avoid an overly bright top end, at least on my voice. Dynamic microphones have had voicing switches for a long tome. Sennheiser md441, md421 and the Shure SM7b are examples of that. Anyone who knows these mics have to find the setting that is right for the situation. Some settings sound good on voice, others on instruments. In this aspect the DX-2 falls into this category of versatility, except it is continually variable, with more than just 4 or 5 choices of voicing.
What impressed me the most about the DX-2, is its ability to reject noise at the 90 degree point all the way around to 180 degrees. The off axis rejection, even in very noisy rooms (I tested it with air filters and dehumidifiers going) and it did not pick up those extraneous noises as much as my other Dynamic microphones and Condensers. This makes the MXL DX-2 a good candidate for voice actors needing a travel microphone or who record in less than ideal rooms. It also has a robust build quality, it is fairly small, easy to carry, meant for road use and at $150.00, the bank will not be broken if the mic does! It comes with a soft pouch carrying case and holder, the latter does nothing to isolate the microphone from mechanical noise, which is the biggest drawback of the DX-2. It is very susceptible to mechanical noise, therefore I suggest putting the microphone in a shock mount to try and tame any vibration or mechanical bumps that the mic is sensitive to. For my tests, I used the shock mount from a CAD m179, and put a MXL WS2 foam windscreen over the DX-2, as it is very sensitive to plosives. Now to the sound of the MXL-DX-2 With the capsule all the way over to the number one position it sounded close to a SM7b with its internal high pass filter engaged. The microphones sounded pretty close again, with the high pass filter and the mid presence boost switch engaged on the Shure and with the mix of the MXL-DX2 set with the variable fade control at 80% of capsule number one and 20% of two. The MXL DX-2 to my ears at certain points of the recordings, has a bit more presence. Any more boosting, the DX-2 sound became very sibilant and unpleasant. When the Shure was set flat, the SM7b had more bottom-end but I find that high pass filtering is always needed to remove any boom from this mic to make it sound more natural. The same went for the Electro Voice RE320, the Shure SM58, as well as the condenser microphones tested, the AKG C414 XLII and the CAD E100S. All and all, the DX-2 has a pretty respectable sound. MXL DX-2 Shootout Audio Files
All recorded at 96/24 in Adobe Audition. These files were then converted to the highest 32 bit, 48k, 320 kbps MP3 for playback on this blog. To access the RAW 24/96 Wave files, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org for a link. The test file audio player comes from Wix, press play to listen, forward to go to the next track and so on. If you know of a better way to present audio files please contact me!
Set One MXL DX-2 vs Shure SM7b: 1am MXL DX-2 80% Capsule One 20% Capsule Two
1as Shure SM7b High Pass Filter Engaged on Microphone 1bm MXL DX-2 80% Capsule One 20% Capsule Two 1bs Shure SM7b High Pass Filter and Mid Presence Boost Engaged on Microphone 1cm MXL DX-2 RAW 1cs Shure SM7b Flat Setting, no High Pass Filter in chain
Set Two MXL DX-2 vs Shure SM 58 2am MXL DX-2 RAW 2as Shure SM 58 DAW High Pass Filter 85Hrtz 6db slope 2bm MXL DX-2 RAW 2bs Shure SM 58 RAW NO High Pass filter used in chain
Set Three MXL DX-2 vs Electrovoice RE 320 3m MXL DX-2 RAW 3e Electrovoice RE 320 RAW
Set Four MXL DX-2 vs CAD E100S 4c CAD E100S Focusrite Forte High Pass Filter Engaged (-6dB response (referenced to 1kHz) 65Hz +/- 3Hz, roll-off 12dB / octave) 4m DX-2 RAW
Set Five MXL DX-2 vs AKG C414 XLII 5a AKG C414 XL IIFocusrite Forte High Pass Filter Engaged (-6dB response (referenced to 1kHz) 65Hz +/- 3Hz, roll-off 12dB / octave) 5m MXL DX-2 RAW
I found that the DX-2 to takes audio processing, notably compression and EQ, either on a channel strip or DAW controls very well, in fact it takes less work to process the DX-2 than some of the other mic's mentioned. The DX-2 to also seemed to shine on my modified ART Voice Channel Tube amplifier with some impedance adjustment and a little gating. Any added extra processing becomes a very simple matter with the DX-2, after going through the ART Voice Channel. If you put a Cloudlifter, or similar ribbon/dynamic mic booster on the DX-2, it uses very little preamp gain, giving you very low self noise. ART Voice Channel MXL DX-2 6 MXL DX-2 into ART Voice Channel, Impedance set at 2k, Expander/Gate -22db, Compressor 2:5.1 Fast Attack, Medium Release Setting Threshold -26db, De-Esser -5db at 5k
Cloudlifter CL 2 MXL DX-2 7a First File RAW, NO Processing 7b Second File, Processed in Adobe Audition with Custom Settings (see screen capture)
The DX-2 also tamed the bit of natural raspiness my voice can sometimes get early in the morning, or later in the day, without any EQ! SUMMARY The things I like about the DX-2, is the fact that you can process it very easily, it doesn't require and external high pass filter, it has excellent side and rear rejection and if you need a little extra top end you can dial that in with variable fade control. The DX-2 also requires less power than the Shure microphones and a little more than the Electro Voice re320. I found the DX-2 to have a similar sound to tested dynamic microphones as long as the high pass filter was engaged some where in the chain. It also has an un-veiled mid and high clarity, reminiscent of Sennheiser dynamics. Things I did not like about the DX-2, is its susceptibility to mechanical noise. It can sound a little thin, especially if you have a high pass filter engaged some where in the recording chain. It is very susceptible to plosives, needing some kind of aggressive pop filtering. You also must be right on axis with the mic, as it does not have a lot of leeway if you are slightly off, remembering its super cardioid pattern. This will also make the DX-2 sound thin and reedy. If MXL wanted to design something for voice, they may want to consider using a flatter voiced capsule with more low end, in conjunction with something close to what the number one capsule offers in sound right out of the box. I would also do something about the mechanical noise perhaps, suspending the capsules and isolating them from the body of the mic somehow, like Shure and Electro Voice does with theirs. Adding a little more plosive protection would also be a plus. But remember, this is made for guitar cabs. I can't say that I would use this microphone the DX-2 in all voice over situations. It might work better with other voices and I think for general use because of its design and portability, it would make and excellent travel mic for voice actors. Listen to the samples yourself to see if you think that the MXL DX-2 could be an addition to your voice over mic locker. The two capsule, crossfade design is an excellent idea and I see a future for this particular type of microphone with all sorts of uses, drums perhaps, percussion, well beyond what the DX-2 is thought to be capable of now. Disclaimer, MXL sent me a DX-2 for review purposes. No other compensation or endorsement, beyond my own personal view of this microphone, has been given.