Most musicians can remember their first studio session like it was yesterday – something from the experience made it stick in your mind the way you remember only special moments. Maybe it was the way the lights were dimmed, or the thickness in the air that only a group of creative imaginations jammed into a room for 12 hours can create. For me, it was the studio engineer repeatedly saying “trust your ears,” even though at the time, I didn’t really know what that meant and hadn’t yet had any ‘aha’ moments to help me define it.
Now that time has slowed down a bit for all of us, what better a time to get in the studio and start expanding our comfort zones with some gear we aren’t used to? We have time to test the sounds our ears know and trust.
Mojave gave me the opportunity to try out its MA-201fet…and after hearing good feedback from friends, I was excited to try one out. To be honest, the first few sessions I used it, each time felt like I was having one of those aha moments we’ve all come to appreciate.
I don’t like to gush over nerdy specs you can easily Google, but it should be noted that the 201 has only one polar pattern (cardioid) and no roll-off or pad. If that’s something you definitely cannot live without, consider the 201’s sister-mic, the MA-301fet—it has all the same specs as the 201, but with a little extra.
The range of uses that the 201 can handle is vast. It’s built for the subtle nuisances of voice overs, as well as piano and acoustic instruments, all while handling high SPL sources like kick drums and bass/guitar amps.
First thing I wanted to try it out on in the studio was my acoustic guitar. I used four to six-inch placement off the body slightly above the pick guard, and the response was smooth and dynamic. Acoustic guitar can be a tricky instrument when you’re trying to find a perfect balance of body, presence and performance dynamics. The 201 gave me all of the above without having to sacrifice one of them or having to add additional mics or DIs, or dive into processing after the fact.
Placed on a guitar cab on-axis in the middle of the cone, the 201 captured a sound that was warm and clean in the lows, while the mid-range provided plenty of smooth information to shape the tone however I wanted. The top end was present and capable of cutting through a mix before it hit any compression or EQ. I tried three different mic placements and each one was able to give me something slightly different, but the common theme was that right from the start, I was able to get an accurate representation and make any creative decisions from the source.
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Next up was testing it with my drummer, Sheel Dave. His style is extremely dynamic; in a matter of seconds, his playing can go from very subtle and soft to resembling Animal from The Muppets. With that kind of swing, it’s imperative—and often challenging—to find a solution for overheads that can capture his dynamic range without adding undesirable characteristics. I soon found this is where the 201 punches strongly inside and above its weight class.
I kept my set up simple with the standard stereo pair in order to gauge the accuracy of what I was hearing, so I could trust my ears with what they were telling me. The accuracy of the highs, combined with the warm lows and creamy mid-range, allowed me to make creative decisions based solely on the drum or cymbal. This allowed us to change cymbals and tune the drum fundamentals differently right from the start, instead of having to solve those unintentional conflicts with processing after the fact.
At the end of the day, audio is subjective, regardless of where you are in your journey. We are all constantly having aha moments with different sounds or pieces of gear as we grow and change our preferences. What makes this mic really shine is that by leveraging its top-notch clarity and accuracy (particularly in the top end), creators and engineers alike are more in control of their environment, and thus, more able to accurately decide what is a good or bad sound.
Overall, the Mojave 201fet is a wonderful choice. It’s versatile, musical, and it certainly can give the high-end large diaphragm mics a run for their money…and at a considerably better price.
Mojave Audio • www.mojaveaudio.com