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Mojave Audio mic upgrade kit

mark1voman

I recently took the plunge on the "MA-2 Upgrade Kit For Large Diaphragm Tube Condenser Microphone". I had a Marshall Electronics MXL-2001 sitting around doing absolutely nothing and thought it would be fun to try and get under the hood of that puppy and supe it up. I figured, at worst, I'd blow $300 while getting an education on the innards of the 2001 and, at best, end up with a serviceable tube-mic. I think I exceeded all of my expectations!
Unfortunately, Mojave doesn't sell a lot of these so my order took a couple of weeks to arrive. Once, it finally did arrive, I was initially overwhelmed by the shear number of components that are included in the kit. But, once I saw that each component was clearly labeled, and corresponded perfectly to it's reference in the well illustrated instruction manual, my fears quickly abated.
Though, once the unpacking and sorting was completed I was disappointed by two realizations. One, a component for the five pin XLR cable (Mogami Gold, I might add) was missing. And. two, the box for the power supply was still the old-style modified army surplus ammo-box rather than the slick, newly designed, Mojave Audio box that had been described in an article I had read.
A call to John Jennings quickly resolved these problems ... with a solution beyond what I ever could have hoped for. The missing component was easily replaced, according to John, but the box was a different story. They indeed had the new boxes on hand, but the vendor who made them got the specs wrong and the circuit boards they used in the design wouldn't fit in the new box without some touchy customizations. John then said since I had been so patient with the delivery of my kit and was missing the component he would have Dave Royer himself assemble the power supply for me using the new box and customizations - an offer I couldn't refuse.
Once I had my custom Royer power supply and new cable component in hand, I went to work. Four hours later, my new tube mic was ready for a test drive. Fortunately, I had recorded a couple of things (a voiceover and an acoustic guitar riff) just before I began the mic's conversion. So, I re-recorded the same performances immediately after the process was complete. The results are astounding!
Click on these links to hear the before and after V.O. recordings. Click on these to hear the before and after recordings of the guitar (1962 Martin D-28). For all the segments the mic was fed directly into a Digi 002 Rack with no compression, EQ or processing.
While each genre is recorded at the same relative waveform level, you'll likely notice that the converted mic offers a louder, clearer, fuller and warmer signal than it did previously. Unfortunately, some of the sonic improvement is lost in the compression of the 128kbs MP3 files, but the differences are still quite apparent.
But, don't take my ecstatic reaction as gospel. Give your ears a listen and let me know what you think.
August 5, 2004 @03:46am
Hynek

Thank you Mark, very enlightening!
First - When doing any testing, be sure to always keep in mind the two sources must be perfectly level-matched. The "after" versions are 3dB (VO) and 6dB (guitar) louder than their respective "before" versions.
Second - What else does it really do apart the 9kHz 4dB boost obviously inspired by Neumann U87 and the good amount of added noise?
I heard immediatelly where the boost was located because it's so familiar and it took me hardly a minute to EQ the "before" versions very very close to the "after" ones. If I was a perfectionist I could even add the noise too ;)
Again, it's great that you decided to share your interesting experience with us. I also employ my soldering gun on regular basis to do all sorts of weird things.
I'm holding my thumbs up for your post but am hesitant about what to think of the result. In your place I'd most probably put the thing back to its original state.
BTW: I remember your voice from the recording you posted a few months ago - awsome charismatic timbre I must repeat. I wish I could order a voice like this from somewhere for $300 :( :)
August 5, 2004 @07:23am
Ed Belknap

I received the Mojave MA-2 kit a few months ago, but still haven't gotten around to building it.
However, I did build one of Scott Dorsey/Kludge Audio's FET upgrades for another MXL2001-P I had, and the improvement over a stock MXL is astounding. Top end gets much smoother; none of that harsh bright treble that plagues most Chinese LDCs. Secondly, the low end extension is astonishing! You just don't realize how much damage to bass response the stock transformer is inflicting until you rip it out (Dorsey's electronics are transformerless). Overall it's cleaner, quieter, and flatter response. I think you can still get article reprints with parts info from Recording Magazine.
So I'm looking forward to building the Mojave as soon as I have some free time, and then comparing that to the Kludge'd MXL. Will post my results here.
August 5, 2004 @04:39pm
mark1voman

When doing any testing, be sure to always keep in mind the two sources must be perfectly level-matched. The "after" versions are 3dB (VO) and 6dB (guitar) louder than their respective "before" versions.

I purposefully recorded them at the same gain and output levels on the preamp in order to see what kind of volume boost there be from the modifications. I guess I should have mentioned that.
What else does it really do apart the 9kHz 4dB boost obviously inspired by Neumann U87 and the good amount of added noise?

As I said, the 128k MP3 does compress out many of the subtle sonic differences. In listening to the original sesiion files, as well as the AIFF versions it is readily appearent. I hear crystaline highs and much clearer, fuller lows than the muddy sound the mic ehibited in it's original state.
Plus, isn't better if your mic has the inherent characteristics of a legendary mic rather than having to add more things in post production to try and imitate it?
BTW: I remember your voice from the recording you posted a few months ago - awsome charismatic timbre I must repeat.

Thank you very much. It's all thanks to Mom! :)
I wish I could order a voice like this from somewhere for $300 :( :)

Talk to my agent. ;)
Hynek,
I think if you hear a higher quality version of those recordings you might appreciate the differences more. Just MHO.
Thanks for listening.
August 20, 2004 @03:44am
Ed Belknap

Originally posted by Ed Belknap
I received the Mojave MA-2 kit a few months ago, but still haven't gotten around to building it.
However, I did build one of Scott Dorsey/Kludge Audio's FET upgrades for another MXL2001-P I had, and the improvement over a stock MXL is astounding. Top end gets much smoother; none of that harsh bright treble that plagues most Chinese LDCs. Secondly, the low end extension is astonishing! You just don't realize how much damage to bass response the stock transformer is inflicting until you rip it out (Dorsey's electronics are transformerless). Overall it's cleaner, quieter, and flatter response. I think you can still get article reprints with parts info from Recording Magazine.
So I'm looking forward to building the Mojave as soon as I have some free time, and then comparing that to the Kludge'd MXL. Will post my results here.

I finally built the Mojave MA-2 over the weekend. Still haven't done exhaustive evaluation, but a preliminary listening on voice suggests that it's a significant improvement over a stock MXL 2001-P in terms of both low- & high-frequency extension and midrange detail. It does have a bit of that sibilance that I associate w/ some U-47's; this can make some singers sound awful, but for others it provides an incisive presence and very palpable texture.
So far it appears the Kludge modification yields a much flatter, less hyped mic. But hype, especially for a vocal mic, is often a good thing, so I'm glad I have both options.
I'll continue to post my impressions after I've done more extensive listening.
October 12, 2004 @04:54pm