Sometimes the success of a company’s low-end products causes challenges getting respect for the flagship stuff. Case in point: MXL Microphones. When you’re as widely recognized for value-priced studio microphones as MXL is, you’re not necessarily the first brand that comes to engineers minds when it’s time to invest in a “premium” microphone for the studio. But with the Revelation Solo tube microphone, MXL should have no trouble convincing you that when it comes to designing serious mics for the professional studio, this company means business.
The MXL Revelation Solo is a fantastic, pro-level, cardioid tube microphone ideally suited to vocal work, and it makes a worthy addition to any collection of premium microphones—without the premium price tag. Don’t expect it to sit in the case, though. The sound is so warm and smooth when applied to high-pitched vocals that the Revelation Solo could easily become one of your go-to vocal mics in the studio. We were so impressed that in the end, we had to buy one for permanent use in our studio.
|Documentation & Support||10%|
|Overall: 3.7 Stars, which earns it a WIHO Award!
3.6 stars or better: Outstanding, WIHO Award
3 stars or better: Worth considering
2 stars or better: Suited to specific needs
1 star or less: Not recommended
What’s big and blue and sits in a cradle at the end of a boom arm? The MXL Revelation Solo, of course! If you haven’t used a tube microphone before, you’ll probably be surprised at first by the size of the Revelation Solo—it makes your large studio mics look somewhat diminutive by comparison, measuring over eleven inches tall and a few inches across.
The MXL Revelation Solo is a studio condenser microphone with a fixed cardioid polar pattern (unlike its big brother, the MXL Revelation, which offers selectable polar patterns). But before we get into all of the other requisite specs, the obvious distinguishing feature in the Revelation Solo is the fact that it is a tube microphone, featuring a hand-selected EF86 preamp tube.
The Revelation Solo has a frequency response of 20Hz to 20kHz, and offers a high-pass filter with a 12 dB cut at 125Hz and polarity switching (switches located on its external power supply). The microphone has a maximum SPL of 138 dB, 76 dB signal-to-noise ration, and 140 ohms impedance. A -10dB pad switch is located on the rear of the mic, and inside, the mic incorporates a 32mm, six-micron, gold sputtered capsule.
A custom shock mount holder is included in the supplied aluminum hard case, along with an external power supply—a basic metal box with I/O connections and switches for power, bass roll-off, 180 degree phase reverse, and ground lift. A pair of fifteen-foot Mogami Gold XLR cables and a cleaning cloth (and gloves!) is also included. The cable from the mic to the power supply is wired with a 7-pin XLR connector, so treat it well as these aren’t regularly stocked at your local music super-store.
Cardioid mics pick up sound primary from the front, with reduced sensitivity to the sides and even less to the rear. As such, the MXL Revelation Solo is a great vocal mic for the project studio, where the design is advantageous in less-than-perfect studio conditions. Of course with its heft and external power supply, we can’t think of any other location you’d deliberately want to use it.
If you haven’t invested in a studio-grade mic stand, you’ll want to do so before setting this mic up. At two pounds for the microphone itself, this is not the kind of mic you attach to the end of a cheap, un-weighted stage mic stand.
It only took a minute or two to screw the Revelation Solo into the base of the included shock mount, make the requisite cable connections from the mic to the power supply and then to our preamp, and finally begin to put the mic through its paces.
The MXL Revelation Solo is an excellent sounding tube microphone that oozes with the kind of warmth that you’ll only get from an actual tube microphone. We paired it with both solid-state preamps like the PreSonus XMAX preamps in our StudioLive 24.4.2 mixing board as well as premium tube preamps like the ADL 600, asking the questions, “Would a tube mic into a tube preamp sound too warm?” and “Would a tube mic into a solid state preamp make a better match?”
MXL Revelation SoloAs should have been expected, the answer was obvious from the start. And no, you just guessed the wrong answer. The correct answer is, well, it all depends on what sound you like best based on the vocals going into the microphone! We had great results in both preamp scenarios (plus a few other random preamps we had laying around the studio at the time).
We can say that in general, this mic sounded best with vocalists in the contralto/mezzo-soprano/soprano ranges as opposed to baritone/bass singers. The results could just get a little flubby for those thicker, deeper voices, though tenors could go either way in our book depending on if they lean a bit more to the high parts or the lower registers.
If you’re looking for a natural and easy way to give your high-pitched vocalist some necessary warmth and depth in their voice, the Revelation Solo makes a great choice. If you don’t inform your vocalist about this mic’s tube characteristics during your essential microphone and preamp shootout at the start of a big recording session, we suspect you’ll find many singers being drawn to the warm sound this mic delivers purely on the merits of the sound.
But it’s not all peaches and cream for everyone. The mic struck some of us as too warm for deep voices without having to resort to some EQ cuts, and the nature of the tube mic lends itself to a slower transient response. For a fast spoken rap or metal vocal delivery, this mic just delivers a bit too much of what it is great at, at the expense of clarity.
The mic has other uses beyond vocals, though we feel vocals are its forte. Although not the focus of our testing, the Revelation Solo would certainly find good use when miking acoustic guitars, and the added warmth of the mic would probably make a nice improvement in the captured sound of a thin-bodied acoustic in particular.
A tube microphone like the MXL Revelation Solo isn’t versatile enough to be the only mic in your locker, but it certainly sounds warm and clean enough to be the only tube mic in your collection.
Documentation and Product Support
MXL provides outstanding documentation with the Revelation Solo. In addition to full operational details, the documentation contains a great tutorial on miking various instruments ranging from drums to pianos to guitars and vocals. We were especially impressed that the first recommendation on guitar miking was to start with a properly tuned guitar and not a dialog about mic placement. Bravo, MXL!
The MXL Revelation Solo sells for $799. This is a very good price for a premium studio microphone, and if you’re in the market for a professional tube microphone, it’s definitely worth serious consideration. The inclusion of a pair of Mogami Gold cables is a fantastic, cost-saving bonus, too.
If you desire selectable polar patterns as provided by the MXL Revelation, that mic will set you back approximately $1,200.
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