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MXL R144

Test & Review

Are you interested in ribbon microphones? Would you like to acquire some for use in your home studio or professionally? If it is difficult for you to choose from the many existing models on the market, we suggest you try the MXL R144. This ribbon microphone is greatly appreciated for its affordable price and for its many advantages. We took it in hand and tested it to assess whether its performance and sound quality really live up to its good reputation. Discover in this guide the detailed presentation of the MXL R144, as well as the results of our test and our opinion on this microphone.

MXL R144 test and review

🎤 by Kevin Jung

Summary of the Test 👇

The ribbon microphone belongs to the large family of dynamic microphones. It has a moving coil that moves back and forth under the influence of a magnetic field. In general, this type of microphone produces a very natural sound , warm , soft , and without the slightest resonance . Many professionals and audiophiles use it for recording vocals and musical instruments, in this case acoustic guitar, piano and wind instruments.

Ribbon mics don't come with as many features as the USB microphone like the Blue Yeti, but they can surprise in terms of sound quality . Thanks to their perfect tolerance to high sound pressure, these microphones are suitable for capturing the sound of drums and percussion . It can also be used to sharpen the sound coming from a speaker amp for electric guitars (solo, bass). To do this, simply position the ribbon microphone at a good distance from the amplifier.

One ribbon mic in particular caught our attention. This is the MXL R144 which we have examined in detail. So, we put it through a series of tests to find out if it really lives up to the good reputations of ribbon microphones . What are the strong points of the MXL R144 (and its weak points if, possibly, it has any)? Does it make sense to get one for use in an amateur or professional studio? Discover in this guide as much useful and detailed information on this ribbon microphone .

MXL R144
Picture from Eli-audio.blogspot.com

Presentation of the MXL brand and “unboxing” of the MXL R144 microphone

MXL Microphones is a branch of Marshall Electronics . Since 1998, the brand has been manufacturing and marketing microphones at a very competitive price-quality ratio . They are intended for use in a professional setting or in a home studio. Many audiophiles around the world appreciate MXL microphones because they deliver results that meet the expectations of professionals, while most of them are accessible on a low or medium budget.

In addition, the majority of them are internally wired with high-end Mogami cable , which guarantees exceptional robustness and performance (very low background noise). This is the case for the MXL R144. This is an entry-level ribbon microphone and one of the cheapest on the market. We took it in hand to test its real capabilities.

The equipment is neatly stored in a plastic storage case packaged in a cardboard box. Opening the case, we see the microphone stored in a spongy sculpted foam which effectively protects it against shocks. It comes with a soft microfiber cloth for cleaning, and a shockproof suspension for securely attaching it to a stand. The MXL R144 comes with complete documentation containing its instructions for use and many practical tips for successful recording.

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MXL R144

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MXL R144 Microphone Overview

The MXL R144 is a passive design ribbon ribbon microphone with bidirectional directivity . It uses an aluminum ribbon transducer with a length of 47 mm and a thickness of only 1.8 microns . The transducer is housed in a shiny basket consisting of a chrome grille overlooking a cylindrical body of violet blue color. The chrome seems to us to be somewhat in contrast with the violet blue. However, this detail is tolerable since it does not affect the sound quality.

With a dimension of 47 mm x 171 mm , the MXL R144 weighs 400 g , which is a very correct weight. The pattern designating the MXL logo and the number 8 are printed on the front. Since this microphone has an 8-shaped polar diaphragm , it has a large amount of rejection at 90°, even though the sounds it captures from the front and rear have almost the same level of response. sensitivity. The audio signal is in phase at the front of the mic, while at the rear it is in reverse phase.

Not being a wireless microphone, the MXL R144 must use an XLR cable to be able to connect directly to a mic preamp , analog-to-digital converter , or mixing board . The cable should be plugged into the XLR connector embedded in the bottom of the cylindrical body of the microphone.

In terms of build quality, the appearance of the MXL R144 is excellent. The shiny chrome finish immediately catches the eye. Made entirely of metal , the basket and the cylindrical body are robust enough to withstand shock .

Testing the MXL R144 in the studio
Picture from Amazon.com

Zoom on the sound quality of the MXL R144 microphone

Many audiophiles know the softness and warmth of the sound that a ribbon microphone reproduces. The MXL R144 is one of the best inexpensive representatives of this type of microphone. Its frequency response curve shows broad peaks at around 300 Hz and 6 kHz with a useful frequency range extending from 20 Hz to 17 kHz .

R144 is especially appreciated for its subjective tone . It can perfectly smooth out the finest details from various sources. When captured with condenser microphones , these same details show streaks.

Furthermore, the polar pattern of the MXL R144 is similar to an 8, because it belongs to the category of single ribbon microphones . Since sensitivity isn't really the strong suit of most ribbon microphones, the R144 should be used with a high-end mic preamp like the AMS Neve 1073 DPX which provides a low signal signal. background noise .

On the other hand, one of the strong points of this microphone is that it perfectly tolerates sources with high levels having SPLs greater than 130 dB . Therefore, it can be used to peak the sound emanating from lead guitar or bass amplifiers, and may be suitable for capturing drum sound. But above all, it is an excellent mic for vocal recording which requires a melodious ribbon tone in most cases.

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MXL R144

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Precautions to take for safe use of MXL R144

The MXL R144 certainly has good manufacturing quality , it is advisable to take some precautions when using it. You should know that ribbon microphones are particularly fragile compared to dynamic microphones or other types of microphones. Therefore, the R144 should be handled with care and secured on its stand to prevent it from falling during recording.

The shock mount holds the mic using a rubber-lined spring sleeve. Also, the MXL R144 should not be exposed to strong blasts of air in order to prevent stretching or tearing of the ribbon element. Thus, the use of a pop filter during use is highly recommended. The other option is to cover the basket with a windshield.

It is even more prudent to prevent dust, or worse, iron filings, from getting inside the microphone. For optimal protection , it is best to wrap the MXL R144 in a plastic bag during breaks between recording sessions.

When the microphone is not in use, it is best to store it in its case, or in a place protected from shock, dust, and other harmful particles. This way, you can guarantee its longevity .

Please note that the warranty does not cover damage to the tape. If you wish to have your MXL R144 repaired, you will have to pay a replacement fee. Note, however, that this costs more than the microphone and its accessories.

Microphone MXL R144
Picture from Worthpoint.com

As the MXL R144 belongs to the passive varieties of ribbon mics, it should never be plugged into any device (preamplifier, mixer, converter, etc.) equipped with phantom power enabled . This could result in a short circuit or power surge that could seriously damage this recording equipment.

So, if you need to connect the R144 to one of these devices, you should first ensure that the +48 V phantom power supply is deactivated . For your information, active ribbon microphones like the Superlux R102 , unlike passive ones, need phantom power to operate. This feature will never damage them.

Also, for the MXL R144 to function properly as a studio microphone, it is recommended to use a high-end “ low noise ” XLR cable. Indeed, most low quality cables generate parasitic noise causing distortion and a significant loss of part of the signal.

We tested the MXL R144 for voice recording

Now let's test the MXL R144. First, we placed the microphone in the center of our studio room so that it captured the sound of the ambiance in the room. We hooked it up to an A/D converter which then passed the signal to the recorder.

For the monitoring speaker , we used a standard monitor speaker. After a few minutes of recording, we quickly realized that this microphone is excellent for capturing ambience .

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MXL R144

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We achieved significantly more precise and detailed compared to our previous tests with condenser microphones which tend to amplify high frequencies somewhat. With the MXL R144, the sound is naturally closer to what the ear wants to hear.

In addition, ribbon microphones have a reputation for enhancing the voice. Before validating this statement or not, a test with the MXL R144 for podcast and voice-over recording is necessary.

For this test, a professional podcaster agreed to lend us his voice. Since it's a two-way mic and not a wireless lavalier mic, our guy didn't have to worry too much about his distance from the mic. We asked him to speak naturally. The captured soundtrack revealed to us a voice that sounds with great clarity .

We were enormously surprised by the level of detail reproduced. Even though we didn't insert an EQ into the recording chain, the sound is remarkably smooth and creamy with a very nice vintage feel.

However, we had to give more microphone input gain, because in general the MXL R144 provides a soft signal . Its output level is lower than that of a condenser microphone like the Neumann TLM 103 or a shotgun microphone.

To validate that the MXL R144 is truly excellent for vocals , there's nothing like a test with singing. A variety singer agreed to perform a few choruses moving the register of her voice from the lowest notes to the highest notes. Here again, our team really liked the result.

MXL R144 microphone review
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Starting from the lowest notes, the details of our singer's voice have been faithfully captured . Then, in the middle of the register, we hear very well this soft medium which characterizes the female singing voice .

When she moved up into the treble, reaching very high notes, her voice rang out with such warmth and liveliness that gave us chills. The overly persistent highs were well tamed and we could observe a balanced presence of bass and mids .

However, it is useful to use a compressor for recording vocals. We observed slight signal peaks each time our singer shouted and went very high in the notes.

Also, an equalizer is welcome in the recording chain if you want to get an even clearer sound and a good balance between all the useful frequencies. We highly recommend using a good pop filter, as the MXL R144, like most ribbon microphones, is prone to boom.

We tested the MXL R144 for recording musical instrument sounds

The MXL R144 is renowned for its versatility. It is said to pick up any sound source remarkably well . We tried this studio equipment with several musical instruments, including drums, electric guitar and trumpet.

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MXL R144

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For the test with the battery, we used the MXL R144 as a microphone room by placing it at a certain distance from the instrument. We stripped the recording chain of compressor and EQ to capture the sound of a drum as is without any enhancement. The sound obtained is very correct . We can clearly hear the kick of the bass drum.

We particularly appreciated the well-balanced level of low frequencies with the other frequencies characterizing a clear and punchy kick sound. Even if the sound is not up to the level of that obtained with a microphone specific to the bass drum, the ear is delighted to perceive a perfect sound balance between all the elements of the drums.

Furthermore, the richness in detail is very appreciable to the point that it can be very interesting to use the MXL R144 for recording a live session with complete instruments in a room.

After the test with the drums, it's the electric guitar's turn to play. With an almost similar tone for the front and rear of the MXL R144, it can, in theory, perfectly smooth out the highs of bowed strings and the fizzy tone of many guitar amplifiers.

By placing it a good distance from our guitar amp, we got a very usable sound . We wanted a smooth blues sound, neither too high nor too muffled. To our great joy, we easily obtained it. The R144 reproduced exactly the sound emanating from the amp, without losing the slightest detail.

MXL R144 Ribbon Microphone
Picture from Audioshop.com.ua

When mixing, we only needed to boost the presence slightly and apply a low-cut filter to get a steamy, warm sound. We obtained equally appreciable results by applying effects like fuzz or distortion to our guitar.

With its SPL level of 130 dB , the MXL R144 can handle aggressive and very rock sources very well, and ultimately restore perfectly audible sound, without saturation. For more power and warmth, you can pair the R144 with the Shure SM57 cardioid microphone.

For the last part of the test with musical instruments, we asked a trumpeter to perform some famous jazz pieces in front of an MXL R144 microphone. The sound we obtained is very clear and rich in detail and harmonics . We can clearly hear the sound of air passing through the instrument. We have noticed that the quality and volume are optimal when the microphone is perfectly aligned with the axis of the trumpet.

The technical characteristics of the MXL R144 microphone

  • Type: Ribbon Speed ​​Microphone
  • Directional characteristic: bi-directional
  • Tape element: 1.8 micron aluminum tape
  • Ribbon length: 47 mm
  • Frequency response: 20Hz -17kHz
  • Polar diagram: Figure 8
  • Sensitivity: -56 dB (0 dB=1V/Pa)
  • Impedance: 250 ohms
  • Nominal load impedance: > 1500 Ohms
  • Max SPL for 0.1% THD: > 130 dB at 1 kHz
  • Size: 47mm x 171mm / 1.85in x 6.75in .
  • Weight: 400 g / 0.85 lb
  • Metal finish: purple and chrome
  • Recommended for: vocals, lead and bass electric guitar, acoustic guitar, drums and percussion, wind and string instruments
  • Internal wiring: high-end Mogami
MXL R144 packaging
Picture from Musicarms.net
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Our Overall Opinion

Overall Sound Quality

4,8 /5
4.8/5

Value for money

4,6 /5
4.6/5

Global mark

4,7 /5
4.7/5

Our opinion on the MXL R144 microphone

Although its price is affordable, the MXL R144 produces good quality sound and is very easy to work with in the final mix. Our test allowed us to certify that it is a very good microphone for singing and for recording the sound of musical instruments. It faithfully reproduces harmonics across the entire bandwidth. If you're interested in a slightly vintage sound, this microphone is exactly what you need. Even though it is the least expensive ribbon microphone on the market, it smoothes the rough ends of bowed strings, and its vocal performance is very appreciable.

With a reasonably quiet mic amplifier, the treble frequency response spans a wide range. As a result, the high end responds well to EQ, allowing you to go well beyond the smooth, creamy sound. For us, the MXL R144 is an excellent piece of recording equipment if you want to introduce the use of ribbon microphones into your studio. However, it does not sufficiently offer the clarity sought by some fans and practitioners of modern punk, rock and pop music. The MXL R144 is certainly versatile, you will get better results by pairing it with a dynamic or condenser microphone.

MXL R144 Microphone Demo

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