What do you get when you combine decades of expertise and high attention to detail? A company that continues to hold true to its foundations and core values in an increasingly crowded market. Mojave Audio has carved out an excellent reputation in the business, and the transformerless MA-50 is among the most well-thought-out and executed entry-level mics you can buy today.
Mojave Audio MA-50
The Mojave Audio MA-50 is an outstanding microphone with multiple potential applications in a studio setting. While it might not have all the bells and whistles of some other microphones, it offers sublime sound in a reliable package.
Hunting around for a dependable condenser microphone is no small feat. There is a glut of options out there, and sifting through them all can be a challenge. But the more you dig, the more likely you’ll find people raving about the MA-50, and for good reason. Let’s dive into the details.
Can you get consistent and reliable performance from an entry-level microphone? The answer is a resounding yes, and the MA-50 is among the most definitive examples. From the first moment I got to use this slick microphone, I consistently had to take a moment to appreciate what David Royer (the man at the heart of Mojave Audio) has achieved.
For vocal applications, the MA-50 offers exceptional clarity and presence. It also provides ample warmth and character while retaining high authenticity.
The MA-50 is a capable all-rounder with authentic sound.
Is it the flattest microphone on the market? No. But it doesn’t have to be. Some of my favorite microphones deliver a smidge of color that enhances vocal performances without sacrificing the unique characteristics of the vocalist. The MA-50 fits into this mold, and I can see myself reaching for this more often than other microphones I’ve tried.
The rich character in the sound profile also makes this a fantastic choice for voice-over applications. The cardioid polar pattern is perfectly suited to side address applications, but this no-frills microphone doesn’t feature any built-in features to mitigate plosives, so a pop filter is a must.
The Self-Noise is a tad high at 16dB, but in practice, it appeared to perform much better than this rating suggested. It might not be the best choice for low-volume recordings, but in a pinch, it isn’t the worst option out there.
“Rich and engaging sound that retains authenticity across various studio situations.”
While the performance with vocals is impressive, I would still opt for other choices for a live sound environment. This could be my bias, but condenser microphones are a little too fragile for my liking. Your mileage may vary, so feel free to experiment with it.
Where the MA-50 shines brightly is the excellent performance when recording instruments. Acoustic guitars and even electric guitar recordings offer crisp detail and retain the high level of authenticity present when recording vocals.
The relatively modest Max SPL of 125dB did give me some initial reservations that it would struggle with louder instruments, but it held up a lot better than I expected. The depth and warmth in low-end tonality is also wonderfully rich and dynamic.
The last test was to see if it could handle some drum work, and once again, the MA-50 proved it was up to the task. As an overhead mic, it is fantastic and even surprised me with its capability in demanding situations like recording a kick drum.
I still feel that Mojave Audio has some better options within its lineup, and I wouldn’t outright recommend the MA-50 over some other choices. Still, at this price point, few microphones can match it. Clean, full-bodied, and surprisingly versatile.
The Mojave Audio MA-50 features a standard frequency response of 20Hz-20kHz. Not uncommon for condenser microphones. Peering into the frequency response chart highlights where some of the additional character in the sound profile comes from with a minimal bump around the 5kHz area.
As for condenser size, Mojave Audio doesn’t provide a specific measurement on the product page beyond the fact that it is large, but knowing that the MA-50 uses the same capsule as the MA-200SN and MA-201VG reveals that it is, in fact, a 1-inch gold-sputtered diaphragm.
The MA-50 can handle louder recordings and offers low noise.
As mentioned, the Self Noise is a little high at 16dB, but in practice, it seems noticeably less than this, so it could be a case of Mojave Audio playing it safe with the stated Self Noise specification.
The listed Max SPL of 125dB also seems conservative as this microphone doesn’t struggle with higher volume output. Mojave even states that the MA-50 can handle transients up to 140dB on the product page.
I don’t mind the conservative approach to the listed numbers. It’s a departure from what can often be overhyped numbers from other manufacturers.
Wrapping up the specifications is a listed rating of sub-100 ohms impedance. You shouldn’t have much trouble running this sleek black microphone, but as expected, you’ll need 48V phantom power.
Aesthetic design is subjective, but I would hazard a guess that the vast majority of people will be in agreement that the Mojave Audio MA-50 is a sleek and stylish condenser microphone.
The all-black finish displays minimal flair with a simple metallic strip at the base of the microphone. The raised Mojave logo is appealing and adds extra dimensionality to an otherwise smooth cylinder.
The Mojave Audio MA-50 also features an XLR connection point for accurate signal delivery. USB microphones have become increasingly popular in the podcasting space, but I suggest you stick with an XLR microphone for optimum sound quality.
The MA-50 looks as good as it sounds.
Beyond appearance, the MA-50 offers a unique design process that extends across the entire Mojave Audio lineup. The founder, David Royer, has a highly hands-on approach to his products.
First is the detailed design process that takes advantage of his decades of experience. Next, all components ship over to a factory in China for assembly. They return to Burbank, California, for stringent testing, including 24 hours of burn-in and QC inspections.
It’s an unusual approach but one that goes a long way to differentiate Mojave Audio from the competition and gives you the feeling that you are holding something special in your hands.
The design process is a perfect segue to discuss the build quality of the MA-50. This robust microphone is ready to go straight out of the box and will likely remain a staple of your studio for years.
Designing a transformerless microphone that overcomes some of the inherent challenges of a transformerless design is no small accomplishment, especially when you factor in the entry-level pricing of the MA-50.
Every Mojave Audio product exudes quality, and while some might scoff at Chinese manufacturing, David has handpicked a highly respected factory. This is not just a production line microphone. It’s a partnership that blends the best of both worlds.
Premium-quality materials and sleek design.
The MA-50 is a dependable microphone with high attention to detail throughout. But it is still a condenser microphone with delicate components, so keep it within the case when not in use and handle it carefully.
The high attention to quality extends to the included accessories. The ultra-tough case features excellent padding to protect the microphone and the included shock mount.
The shock mount itself is also superb and matches the quality of the rest of the package. I’ve encountered many cheap shock mounts with brittle connections and lackluster plastic. That is not the case here. Top marks across the board.
One of the first things I noticed with the Mojave Audio MA-50 is the elongated design of the microphone. It is noticeably longer than other options in the market but retains a similar circumference, which is essential to provide adequate room for the large condenser.
The MA-50 is a long microphone with a good amount of heft.
The other thing that stood out was the heftiness of the microphone. It is rock-solid with a weight rating of 1 lb. (450 grams). This adds to the premium feel of the microphone. It exudes robustness that inspires confidence and feels great in your hands.
You’ll have to bear with me in this section, as the value proposition of the Mojave Audio MA-50 is a tale of two swords. Before I get into the nitty-gritty, the MA-50 represents fantastic value but is open to minor criticism.
For a high-quality microphone, the MA-50 punches well above its price point. This superb microphone features components from Mojave’s more expensive offerings while retaining a modest price point. You can spend thousands on microphones, so in that regard, the MA-50 is excellent value.
The included accessories are just as great as the microphone itself.
The sound and build quality exceed what you might expect from this price point. But it is still a high-priced piece of audio gear. If you are a beginner setting up a project studio for the first time, there are alternatives that will perform exceptionally well and come in at a much lower price point.
The other consideration is the distinct no-frills approach of this microphone. There are no extra features like multiple polar patterns, built-in pop filtration, or pads. It’s a microphone with a set purpose. If you want increased versatility, this might not be the microphone for you.
Despite the minor quibbles above, context is paramount. This is a premium-quality microphone with exceptional performance and superb accessories. To reach this level of quality, you can easily spend a great deal more money. If you are serious about high-quality sound and want to support a company with a proven track record of excellence, the MA-50 is an excellent investment.
The Mojave Audio MA-50 has a stellar reputation among customers. Review after review highlights this microphone’s impeccable sound quality and recording capability. Industry insiders and musicians also list it among the best transformerless condenser microphones at this price bracket. If you place a lot of importance on what other people think, the MA-50 will set your mind at ease.
Benefits of Transformerless Microphones
Some microphones feature an internal component called a transformer that helps convert the electrical signals from the microphone into a different impedance level. This is useful for connecting the microphone to various audio devices with different impedance requirements.
But this added versatility isn’t without some potential drawbacks. Any additional conversion in the signal chain can impact the overall tone and signal quality.
Transformerless microphones are an excellent choice for authentic recordings.
On the other hand, a transformerless microphone does not have this internal transformer. Instead, it uses electronic circuitry to achieve the necessary impedance conversion.
This design can reduce the microphone’s size, but it is also a way to lower cost. The other benefit is the potential for improved audio quality due to fewer components in the signal path. But as with any piece of audio gear, the devil is in the details.
Whether you opt for a microphone with a transformer or a transformerless microphone, stick to well-established brands with a proven track record of delivering high-quality products.
If you’ve made it this far into the review, you’ll likely already know that I recommend the MA-50. But that is not to say that other options don’t exist. Below, I quickly run down a few alternatives that are also worth considering.
AKG C214 Review
The C214 from AKG is another popular entry-level option in the condenser microphone space. It offers a few extra features than the MA-50 and comes with some great accessories.
- Excellent tonal quality with high dynamic range.
- It features a low-cut filter and comes with a W 214 windscreen.
- Not as attractive as the MA-50.
Audio-Technica AT4050 Review
If you want additional versatility, the AT4050 from Audio-Technica is a serious contender for your hard-earned money. Excellent performance from a trusted brand.
- High-quality sound that can handle high SPLs while retaining transparency.
- Switchable polar patterns including Omnidirectional, cardioid, and figure 8.
- It is less balanced for vocals compared to the MA-50.
Telefunken TF11 Review
The last alternative I want to highlight is the excellent TF11 from Telefunken. This high-quality microphone delivers superb performance both in a studio setting and on stage.
- Excellent all-rounder with a flattering midrange.
- Rock solid build quality and attractive styling.
- A sizeable jump in price compared to the MA-50.
Should You Buy?
I’m not one to be a brand loyalist. I assess every product on its merits regardless of the company’s reputation. But it is hard not to be a fan of Mojave Audio. The team has a proven track record of delivering exceptionally refined microphones, and their specialty in the area is undeniable.
The ability to take this depth of knowledge and experience and refine it into an approachable entry-level option is worth commending. The MA-50 ticks several of the most important boxes for high-quality microphones. It sounds fantastic, it’s built tough, and it’s easy on the eyes.
If you want supreme clarity and definition with a softly massaged response, the MA-50 is worthy of your attention and a microphone I can readily recommend.
Mojave Audio MA-50