Does incredibly well in an incredibly unfair comparison!
I've been working at another studio lately, singing into an utterly amazing vintage U47, valued at approximately $15,000.00. It's destroyed any affection I had for my exceedingly modest personal mic collection, and I've been listening to tons of mics, trying to find something, anything, that I can afford, that approaches it in quality and character. The most recent was the Lauten Atlantis, which I found too 'smudgy' - it just did not seem to have the fine detail, what I call 'articulation'. I've been on a quest to find a cheaper mic than the 8K Telefunken U47 that has this sound. I have actively considered the Flea U47 clone, which is FANTASTIC. But also costs over 4K. I just don't have the money. I've since read that Peluso makes a 'credible' U47 clone for about 1900.00, but a) that's more than I want/have to spend, b) the variable polar pattern on the MA-300 has proven oer the course of two days that this is a much more all-round 'workhorse' mic. than any genuine '47 or clone.
So, I am comparing a vintage U47 worth somewhere around $15,000.00 with a $1300.00 mic. Not a fair comparison at all. And yet, it did surprisingly well!
Vocals (male, baritone - mine): head to head, same signal chain (ISA828 through Apogees, into Pro-Tools) this is what I found. The U47 is slightly more 'open' and slightly 'closer' sounding, the MA-300 is slightly 'boxier' and slightly more 'compressed' and slightly more... 'transistor-y' (or 'modern', if you will) - i.e. it was warm/smooth, but not quite as warm/smooth. Oddly enough, it was also bright but not quite as bright as the '47. This was using the cardioid setting (trying to compare apples to apples, after all). And I am talking SLIGHT differences here...
The settings between cardioid and hypercardioid were not useful for my voice (or, later, for acoustic guitar)- very boomy and seemingly muddy - almost liked overdone proximity effect - not sure what I'd ever use this for - perhaps for a female vocalist with a thin tone). The Omni setting was quite nice, but perhaps the best sound (and closest to the U47 in terms of both brightness and open-ness), was midway between cardioid and omni - perhaps the MA-300's cardioid is in fact closer to a hypercardioid).
Guitar: we mic'd my Martin Concert sized acoustic with the U47 and the MA-300, again, with the MA-300 in that sweet spot between (Hyper?)cardioid and omni. Again, VERY close results - exceedingly close when you take into account that this mic is not even attempting to copy the '47, just inhabit a similar warm, tubey, accurate place.
Like the U47, it's a very SMOOTH AND SWEET-SOUNDING mic. Just not *quite* as much of either - but close!!! Like the U47, it's warm, though not quite as warm. Like the U47, it feels very 'articulate', detailed, as if less 'grainy' than my other mics, also less 'grainy' and more detailed, than the Lauten Atlantis (the ginormous diaphragm on the Atlantis my just not be fast or precise enough).
There is a *slight* advantage to the '47 in terms of this elusive 'fine detail' or 'articulation', and an even slighter advantage in terms of high end and the equally elusive open-ness. Was it a $14,000.00 difference? No. Was it even a $3000.00 difference? To me, no. I daresay that two of these mics would do me more good, be more useful, than any single U47 or U47 clone. The infinitely variable polar pattern looks to be VERY useful, and offers FAR more variability in tone and timbre than the gimmicky-seeming three-position 'forward/neutral/gentle' switch on the Atlantis.
The veteran engineer I was working with was also quite impressed. And he agreed with the next sentence: As another reviewer said: There is no better mic at this price point!
Bottom line, this mic sounds WAY more expensive to me than the Atlantis, or anything else I've personally auditioned in its price range. It is really the first 'pro' versus 'pro-sumer' mc I've ever owned (my 'best' mics are a Rode NTK and a pair of Blue Baby Bottles). Well, I have owned other good mics, like AKG 414's, but not lately. It's a giant leap up for me, for only a modest increase in price, and its proof that really good mics are getting cheaper - if you let go of the need for a Neumann, Telefunken, or other fancy-pants name badge.
So why 4.5 stars instead of 5? A quibble: The only thing I don't like about the MA-300 is its pimped out black body with too-shiny chrome mesh and big, big company logo splashed across the body. A mic is a tool, not a toy, and not (for me) something to impress the rubes with. I prefer a no-nonsense, more understated look - so much so that I really didn't initially consider this mic as it seemed to be 'trying too hard' in the looks department - I felt it was over-compensating for a middling sound. But after reading some reviews, I decided to give it a shot and bottom line, although it was an initial turn off, in the end, who cares?
The damn thing works (VERY) well, and is, to my mind, a real bargain!