The Revelation II is MXL's newest offering from their Premium Studio microphone line. This large-diaphragm, continuously variable pattern tube mic features top-shelf components: Internal Mogami cabling, a hand-selected EF86 Pentode tube, and a dual gold-sputtered 6-micron diaphragm. The power supply has toggles for polarity reverse and bass roll-off (12 dB per octave at 125 Hz), plus a continuously variable pattern selector. Physically, the mic's silhouette is similar to a Neumann U 47fet while remaining distinctive unto itself with a dark violet and black chrome finish, plus a -10 dB pad located on the back of the body. In addition to the power supply, bundled accessories include a 7-pin Mogami cable, a Mogami standard XLR cable (nice bonus), a shock mount, and a cleaning cloth. MXL and Mogami are part of the same parent company, explaining how premium cables don't bump up the retail price.

My first test of the Revelation II was as an accent mic on a drum kit for a pop rock piano EP. I placed it at knee height, about six feet out and to the left of the rack tom (right-handed drummer's perspective). After sweeping through patterns, I settled on omni, which permitted the room to bloom more while offering a sense of space to the guitar. It also sounded fantastic alone as a mono drum mic. This placement can be very hi-hat heavy, so a mic with a crunchy high end can render the track useless if you aren't careful. I found the Revelation II was silky rather than strident, providing a well-rounded track I can pepper in as needed.

Next, I used the mic on a 4 x 12 guitar cabinet during tracking for a punk/metal album. I already had a Sennheiser MD 421 with a ribbon mic yin/yang pairing placed close to the cabinet, so I auditioned the Revelation II in cardioid about four feet out. While close mic'ing is standard procedure, I was really concerned with capturing the sound of all four speakers coalescing. In this application, the Revelation II proved to be forgiving in just about any location. It supplied a rich, focused sound while taming some of the screeching overdrive from the amp. Clean tones remained dynamic, articulate, and punchy.

Vocals through Revelation II sounded open, yet present. A small bump at 8 kHz on the EQ added a little sizzle without going overboard. Paired with a signature tone and the ability to sweep patterns, this mic was starting to sound like I could use it on anything. The versatility that a variable polar pattern microphone can add to your studio is hard to understate – do not assume that cardioid is the only pattern for vocals. Adjustable mic patterns can be some of the easiest stepping-stones between the sounds you get and the sounds you're trying to get – all at the simple twist of a knob.

For recordists that don't yet have a large-diaphragm tube condenser, the Revelation II is an impressive microphone at a modest price point that can affordably beef up any mic locker. The pros: Open and detailed sound, outstanding value, versatility, and rock solid build. The only con for me is that I just bought a new interface and am in the middle of paying that off, so the prospects of purchasing this mic right now are bleak. It's a good thing MXL didn't send two. Who knows how I would have resisted a pair of Revelation IIs!

Tape Op is a bi-monthly magazine devoted to the art of record making.

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