MXL 2003A is a large diaphragm, low-noise condenser microphone. Released in 2009, it gained a large fan base among recording enthusiasts for its accurately clear sound and great results on vocals and instruments.
The 2003A is a redesign of the original 2003, however, MXL says this is a completely new microphone. While the capsule of the 2003A is tuned differently from that of the 2003, the internal circuit is also redesigned to reduce sensitivity and self-noise which makes it a strong competitor to similar, more expensive mics from other brands especially the most famous condenser; Rode NT1-A.
In this MXL 2003A review, we’ll take a look at its sound quality and features.
Build, Look and Feel
The MXL 2003A is in my opinion a very beautiful microphone. The all-metal black body resembles a sleek black U87Ai with nice black brill and gold logo. It also feels nice in the hand, not too big and small either.
Package and Accessories
The MXL 2003A ships with an elastic shockmount (model: MXL-56) which is a very basic shockmount and not as big and robust as the ones included with other MXL microphones like the V89. It also comes with extra rubber bands, a “leather” zip pouch and a microfiber cleaning cloth.
It would’ve been very nice if MXL included a storage/carrying case with the 2003A like most other MXL mics.
MXL 2003A Sound Quality
Many fans of the MXL 2003A say that its sound is reminiscent of expensive German microphones which is a generous statement to make but holds some truth to it.
The 2003A is equipped with a large 32mm capsule and a 3-micron diaphragm which is thinner than the typical 6-micron you get in most consumer grade condensers. The result is a microphone with a more balanced timbre and flatter frequency response compared to other Chinese mics which can sound overly hyped and harsh. The sound of the 2003A is clear and detailed without any harsh artifacts and it has less hyped top end unlike other MXL large diaphragm condensers like the 2006 and the V63M.
A mic with a flat frequency response will capture your true and natural voice and the MXL 2003A is close enough to being a flat mic. Actually, it’s fair to say it’s beautifully close and sounds outstanding. You normally don’t have to add any EQ to the tracks which is good news as you will get a consistent unprocessed sound almost every time.
For vocals, the MXL 2003A is surprisingly a very good all around vocal mic for both male and female. It is incredibly accurate for its price point and sounds absolutely wonderful.
If this 2003A is the only mic you have, you can use it for vocals and acoustic guitars and drums overheads and it will sound ridiculously natural and brilliantly clear. For instance, to show how accurate it gets, if the source sounds really good in the room and you really like it, nine times out of ten, the MXL 2003A is going to sound really good on that source. As with any condenser, to get a pristine, clear sound you don’t want your source to be right upon the mic.
There are some great features built-in the MXL 2003A, one being the -10dB pad switch to attenuate the source sound by -10dBs which can help you tame those loud sources and prevent clipping and distortion from happening in the first place.
The other one is the base roll off (high-pass filter) switch which can be incredibly useful particularly if you’re using the 2003A for drum overheads where a lot of times if you have a big bass drum you might want to use the base roll off switch if you’re getting too much rumble from the low end in the room. It’s also useful in getting rid of some bassiness in an acoustic guitar singer’s bassy voice.
With all the good news out of the way, there have been some critiques to this mic that basically boils down to this mic being lumpy in the mid-range.
They say it’s a flat mic but in the mid-range, it has some coloration and it’s a little lumpy there but not awfully so. “It’s most prominent at 4.5kHz and in the throat region. The lower vocal presence is starts from about 3kHz to 7kHz, so the throat region is what sticks out the most which is bad for speech”.
They add: “it has less emphasis on the upper vocal presence so this is not a good voice-over microphone. Sure, it’s a flat mic but sounds a little bit too throaty because of the 4.5 prominence.”
Overall, I think it’s a minor issue and not as prominent as the critics say it is. You absolutely can’t go wrong with this mic for its price point. It’s a great all around mic for a lot of your application. It is accurate, clear and quiet. It has equivalent self-noise of -11dBa which is pretty good.
If you got hesitant after hearing these critiques, take a look at the obvious alternative from another brand. Although a little pricier than the MXL 2003A, the Rode NT1-A has a less chewed up frequency response and it focuses on the upper vocal presence treble a little bit better instead of the lower vocal presence as found in the 2003A. Also, with the Rode NT1-A, you get a lower self-noise. So basically, the Rode is a cleaned up equivalent to this MXL 2003A with a lower self-noise, a little bit cleaner frequency response and better voiced than the MXL 2003A.
MXL 2003A Price
The MXL 2003A retails for about $179 on Amazon (paid link).