I have been a Mojave mic owner since the company released the MA-200 back in 2005. It was David Bianco [Tape Op #104 bonus] who turned me onto Mojave’s offerings, saying, “You really should check these mics out.” They are solid workhorse mics that are rich in character and useful in a ton of situations — from drums to vocals, and everything in between. I own an MA-200 fixed cardioid condenser [#55] and a pair of MA-300 multi-pattern condensers [#87], and I use them confidently on every session.
If you are paying attention to what is going on in mics these days, you are of course aware of Royer Labs’ excellent line of ribbon mics, but did you know that Mojave mics are also the brainchild of David Royer? When you purchase a Mojave mic, you can be assured that you are getting a top-shelf product for a fair price. Excellent and personalized customer service can be added to the list of this company’s virtues. I jumped at the opportunity to take a look and listen to the latest from Mojave Audio, the MA-1000.
The MA-1000 is a large-diaphragm, tube condenser mic with remotely controlled, continuously variable polar-pattern selection. It utilizes a 5840 NOS tube, 251-style capsule, and custom Coast Magnetics transformer. It features a bass roll-off switch and a −15 dB pad. The mic itself comes in a wooden box lined with microfiber suede, which in turn fits inside a large, foam-lined, Pelican-style, molded-plastic travel case. A premium cable made with Mogami wire and Neutrik connectors, as well as a substantial Sling-Shock shockmount (licensed from Royer Labs), are also included inside the travel case. The build quality of this mic is very nice, and the accessories are top notch — and the whole kit is without compromises. The MA-1000 looks very much like the Mojave mics of late, but with a new cherry-red badge done up with a typeface reminiscent of ‘50s and ‘60s–era automobiles. Plus, the logo is centered between some extra horizontal grille venting, completing the hot-rod look.
I first gave the mic a spin on vocals — starting with voiceover for the Tape Op podcast, and then moving on to singing. I paired it with Burl, API, and Crane Song preamps for variety, and it shined with each pairing. Although each preamp brought its own flavor to the sound, the character of the mic remained constant throughout. The top end of the MA-1000 is sweet — very clear and airy sounding, with none of the fizz you might get with a budget condenser. It’s very natural sounding and true to the source.
I have used a beautiful vintage Telefunken Ela M 251 at Studio Litho here in Seattle on numerous occasions, and I love its open, magical fairy dust, top end. It sounds (and is!) expensive, and you don’t have to work to make it sound great when it’s a good match for the source — which is almost exclusively vocals, and more specifically, male vocals. The MA-1000 reminds me of that mic, especially in its lovely open highs and firm mids. If I had this mic in my permanent collection, I would mostly use it on vocals, but it would be an excellent choice for so many other sources too.
On acoustic guitar, it was a one-stop shop. The MA-1000 captured my Gibson Dove with great realism and a nicely balanced tonality. I felt that on its own, the track recorded with the MA-1000 really needed no EQ, but when I needed to carve out some space for the Gibson as the mix got denser, the MA-1000 took EQ very well, and the mic maintained its character. There is a smooth articulation to the top end of this mic, and it captured the body of the guitar in a rich, warm way, without clouding the mids. But again, the top end was so enticing — very smooth, not spiky in any way, round but not dull, and lots of air. The bass roll-off was useful and musically appropriate for the acoustic guitar task.
While working on a mix with Tom Eddy (from Seattle bands Beat Connection and The Dip), we wanted to revisit a pulse-like, simulated kick drum sound we had recorded using an empty guitar case. As a time-keeper, it was functional but lacked some low end that a kick would have naturally provided. I have a few different frame drums lying around the space, and we grabbed one and set up the MA-1000 about 4 ft behind the drum. The mic captured the enormous low end of the 20’’ drum, as well as the mellow attack of the yarn mallet we used to strike it. Problem solved. (I actually preferred the blend of both the guitar-case knock and the frame drum for a very complete and robust time-keeper.)
I use my MA-200 on electric guitar with fantastic results and had an inkling that the MA-1000 would also shine in this regard. Did it? When you have room for it in a mix, and can hear the breath and air around an electric guitar, the MA-1000 is a real treat. I feel like I can hear the fibers of the cone and the weave of the grill cloth when my MA-200 is in front of my Vox AC30, and the same holds true for the MA-1000. All the body, great upper mids, and high-end articulation you could dream of. As with the acoustic guitar, I used the bass roll-off to good effect to clean up what I would typically filter out later.
Aside from using the roll-off switch on a few things to eliminate potential mud where I didn’t need it, as I mentioned earlier, I found that when this mic was placed properly on a good sounding source, it did not need any EQ to make it shine. It just sat right down when asked, and with a little compression on a lead vocal, it was centerstage.
I use my other Mojave mics in many ways — for mono front-of-kit and stereo overheads, on horns and vocals, and in front of amps and acoustic instruments. They always work and have been issue and maintenance free for years. After using the MA-1000 for a brief time, I am certain it too would be a staple of my setups. This one, however, has something special in its character and vibe that makes it more than simply a great-sounding workhorse.
I did not know the cost of the MA-1000 mic while I was evaluating it. Mojave’s pricing is very competitive, but I realized that this mic was a step up, in a more high-end direction. My initial guess was that it was upwards of $5,000 — and based on its performance, that would be a steal. Even if you used the MA-1000 exclusively as a vocal mic, it would be worth that. I was quite surprised to learn its actual price is closer to half of what I estimated.