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Hands-On Review: MXL Genesis II Vacuum Tube Microphone

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Two high-quality tube mics in one

By Rusty Cutchin
Harmony Central Contributor

If looks alone could kill, then MXL’s Genesis II would make some absolutely killer recordings. Its crimson body and 24k gold-plated grille with gold labeling and switches (a color scheme that extends to the power supply) make it a head turner in any studio. But looks by themselves won’t cut it for quality audio tracks, so MXL has taken care of the mic’s inner beauty as well. The Genesis II combines features of the previous MXL model Genesis and V67i microphones to create a hot-sounding hybrid that performs as well as tube mics costing twice as much or more.

MXL GENESIS II Tube Condenser Microphone

Overview

The Genesis II is a large-diaphragm cardioid-pattern tube condenser mic featuring a unique, patented design with two selectable diaphragms. It uses a Mullard 12AT7 dual-triode tube that’s hand-selected from new old stock. From the V67i tube mic, the Genesis II inherits a unique dual-voice capsule. Either side of the capsule can be enabled by a toggle switch set to “warm” or “bright.” The new mic retains the body, tube, and transformerless amplifier circuit of the Genesis I.

One innovative feature of this dual-voice capsule design is a light that’s visible within the grille, and that glows on the side enabled by the warm or bright setting. The mic also has toggle switches for a –10 dB pad and low-cut filter (–6 dB/octave @ 150Hz).

Accessories

A complete set of accessories greatly enhances the appeal of this mic. Besides the color-matched power supply, which provides 115- and 230-volt setting for global use, the package includes Mogami cables for both the 15-foot 7-pin mic-to-power-supply and 15-foot XLR cables. You also get a high-quality black shock mount and direct-attach adapters, a cleaning cloth, and even a pair of MXL white cotton gloves (classy when your valet sets up the mic, but also a good idea for keeping moisture and oils away from the case and grille at all times).

The mic itself comes in a latched natural-finish wood box. (The other accessories are in cardboard boxes.) The icing on the accessory cake is the gold-metal pop filter that wraps around and latches to the crimson body, with the filter’s screen arcing nicely around the head at four inches from the grille. Having replaced a few tarnished gold bridges on guitars in my playing days, I found myself grabbing the white gloves to attach this fine-looking pop screen.

In the mix

Tube mics are known for their rich warmth on vocals, and popular models (usually of German design and build quality) can run into several thousand dollars. MXL is known for bringing quality mics to studio owners with more modest budgets, and after testing this mic, I am convinced that its overall sound quality and versatility rival some of those mics I’ve used for pro sessions. No doubt about it, MXL has gotten it right with the capsule design and circuitry of the Genesis II.

After connecting the mic to its power supply and letting the tube warm up, I listened to it in several applications, including soft- and hard-rocking vocal tunes and as a mic for acoustic guitar—all typical uses of large-diaphragm condensers in studios. The Genesis II’s tonal options, selected with the Bright/Warm switch, worked well in a number of situations. I could hear the quality and full frequency response of the mic as soon as I brought up a fader. The Genesis II has the warmth you expect from a tube mic, but also a nice crispness as frequencies rise above 1,000Hz, giving the mic a modern edge that balances the low-end warmth without compromising the tube character. The transformerless output stage may contribute to this mic sounding somewhat brighter than traditional tube mics, but it can also mean better transient response with distinct-attack instruments such as higher-range percussion and acoustic guitar. Both of them sounded excellent in a couple of tests I ran.

The Genesis II is an outstanding vocal mic and I was very happy with the clarity it imparted to my own bass-baritone audio clips. A female vocalist I recorded required a little extra experimentation, and we eventually settled on the Warm-switch capsule side with the mic turned slightly off axis to round out the sharpness of her voice. No mic is perfect for every situation, but the Genesis II is one of the best I’ve heard in its price range for covering a variety of uses and achieving a high-end, pro-quality sound.

Gold standard

There are amazing bargains in tube mics these days, especially compared to what was available for the home studio several years ago, but I haven’t seen or heard a better bargain than the Genesis II, given its versatility, its overall sound, and yes, its looks. The quality of the total package makes it well worth the price. Its looks are magic and its audio performance proves the Genesis II is not just crimson smoke and golden mirrors.

Tags: Recording Microphones Harmony Central MXL

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