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Mojave MA-50

Cardioid Microphone By Neil Rogers
Published December 2020

Mojave MA-50Photo: Neil Rogers

Mojave’s most affordable mic yields great results on a wide range of sources.

Mojave microphones are perhaps better known in the States than the UK. There, they have carved out a reputation for producing ‘high‑end‑sounding’ mics at midrange prices. The brainchild of David Royer (of Royer ribbon mic fame), Mojave have a small range of large‑diaphragm capacitor mics that they have gradually refined and added to over the last few decades. Key to achieving their successful price/performance reputation is what they call a “hybrid of domestic and overseas manufacturing”, which involves outsourcing most of the assembly part of the process to a single company in China that they have a long‑standing relationship with. The design, and the sourcing of key components like tubes and transformers, are all done by David Royer himself, however, and he still personally signs off each microphone after the quality control process is carried out at their base in Burbank, California.

For review here we have Mojave’s most affordable offering: the MA‑50. This model has been available for a while now but, alongside their other products, the MA‑50 has had a makeover to help make Mojave’s mics more distinguishable from each other. Despite using the same one‑inch, gold‑spluttered capsule as some of their expensive models (albeit a cardioid‑only version), the MA‑50 attempts to push the Mojave cost/performance ratio even further. The MA‑50 is also the only transformerless mic in their range. High‑quality output transformers are one of the more expensive components used in microphone electronics, so using a design that doesn’t need one helps bring the price down. There is of course a subjective sonic difference, with some believing that transformers add something to the sound, and others favouring the removal of a component that potentially can colour the audio signal, depending on taste. The team at Mojave explained that they were always frustrated at the performance of popular German transformerless options available in the mid‑price bracket, and the MA‑50 is their attempt to offer a better‑sounding version on the theme.

In Use

The MA‑50 is the epitome of no‑frills design. The mic feels compact and has a simple, all‑black styling that works well. The build quality seems immaculate and the mic ships with a high‑quality shockmount and a solid foam‑lined case.

An acoustic guitar recording was its first audition in my studio and when I pulled up the faders it seemed well suited to what was quite a dynamic strummed guitar part. It had just the right amount of detail and a good sense of ‘solidity’ to the overall sound. The MA‑50 doesn’t sound like a ‘flat’ mic, and a quick look at the stated frequency response confirmed my perception that there was a little lift around the 5kHz range. This seemed to work well on most sources, and on a male vocal it produced a nice ‘present’ sound that sat very nicely in the mix. That region is where a lot of sibilance can be found on some singers, so it could be a little fussy on certain voices, but when I did come across this, it was fairly easy to tame with minimal de‑essing or EQ. I got good results on a voiceover recording, and my impression was of a clean, crisp‑sounding microphone with a restrained proximity effect.

The MA‑50 doesn’t sound like a ‘flat’ mic, and a quick look at the stated frequency response confirmed my perception that there was a little lift around the 5kHz range. This seemed to work well on most sources...

Drums were next and I was keen to test Mojave’s claim that the MA‑50 can handle high SPLs whilst retaining fast transients. In the classic U47 FET position, I used the MA‑50 as an outside kick mic, placed very close to the resonant head. The mic seemed to handle the job with ease, and I got a very usable low‑frequency thump to mould into my drum sound. Although I didn’t have a pair of MA‑50s to try out, the role I was perhaps most impressed with the MA‑50 on was as a drum overhead. In a less than stellar‑sounding room, I got a very usable picture of the whole kit when I tried it as a mono overhead. There was no nastiness from the cymbals, and the snare, in particular, had a punchy and solid feel that worked great with the additional close mics. A pair of these should make an excellent stereo drum overhead option.

Summing Up

When they were founded in the 1980s, Mojave were ahead of the curve with the ‘offshore’ manufacturing process, but it’s a well‑trodden route for many microphone manufacturers nowadays. This has lead to a huge selection of lower‑cost offerings for people beginning their journey into recording or trying to flesh out their microphone collection. The MA‑50 sits in that price band just above the more budget options but, to my ears, it sounds noticeably better than some of the cheaper mics I’ve looked at in recent years. I’d always recommend that it’s better to build up a small collection of ‘good’ mics slowly rather than rushing out and buying a number of budget mics that you may quickly outgrow and have trouble moving on!

The Mojave MA‑50 seems nicely judged, and whilst it’s not the cheapest option around, it’s a flexible mic that works well on a number of sources. This isn’t the direction to go in if you’re looking for a ‘vintage’ character microphone, and while it can sound a little bright on certain voices, that’s not at all unusual for this sort of microphone. It always seemed to be within the realms of being easily tamable with minimal mix processing — which is a good sign! On the right source, the frequency response can help to flatter, and the high SPL handling and clean transient response make it a very useful mic to have around. If you’re looking for an all‑round studio mic in this price range then the MA‑50 would be a very solid option indeed.  

Listen Online

I’ve prepared a number of audio files to accompany this review, so you can hear the mic in action for yourself on a range of sources, including male vocals, acoustic guitar, kick drum and drum overhead. To download the files, head to: https://sosm.ag/mojave-ma50-audio

Alternatives

The Neumann TLM103 is one of the best‑known mid‑priced transformerless mics, and the same company do a few cheaper options now. For around the same price as the Mojave, you also have a huge range of options from companies such as Rode, sE, Aston and Sontronics.

Pros

  • Good value.
  • Flexible.
  • Good transient response.
  • High SPL handling.
  • A great option for acoustic guitars or drum overheads

Cons

  • Can be a little sibilant on some voices.

Summary

The MA‑50 is Mojave’s take on the transformerless large‑diaphragm capacitor microphone theme. It’s the most affordable microphone in their range and is a highly usable all‑round studio mic that should appeal to many home recordists or studios looking to fill out their mic locker.

Information

£560 including VAT.

www.mojaveaudio.com

$599

Mojave Audio +1 818 847 0222

www.mojaveaudio.com

Published December 2020