Electric Factory | RRP: $189
Marantz is just about a household name when it comes to home Hi-Fi systems and quality amplification. Anyone who grew up in the ‘70s or ‘80s no doubt remembers the wood cabinets and brushed chrome panels – and those blue backlights in the tuners! We cannot continue talking about Marantz without giving them a mention.
Of course, the ‘90s saw the move into slick black casings and more minimalist designs, but at the heart of every unit was a background of design and audio quality. So, jump forward another 30 years and let’s stop talking about amplifiers, as we focus on Marantz’s latest endeavour in sound at the other end of the signal chain, the microphone. While Marantz has a range of studio and stage microphones available in their current range, this month I was able to get a run through with their MPM-4000U USB condenser microphone.
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The world certainly is an incredible place, and this is an amazing time to be living in when we can have a condenser microphone, preamp, power supply, headphone amp, and AD converter all housed within the casing of a microphone that is smaller than condenser microphone housings of the past. And best of all, this can all be packaged up for under two hundred dollars, making it a very real option for anyone looking to start out podcasting, vlogging, live streaming, or just recording music and vocals at home. With Marantz’s offering in this sector of the market, it is easy to get your sound into a computer or iOS device and start recording right away. It’s a plug and play device that doesn’t require a degree in engineering to operate, and that’s just the point: offering quality audio capture to a wider user group.
While the capsule isn’t quite what we’re used to seeing in expensive studio condenser microphones, it serves its purpose well. With a smaller capsule, there is less flutter and less booming from loud sound pressure levels at close range. The result is a reduction in the lower frequencies and an overall tighter mid-range that lends itself well to vocal dialogue without the need to concern yourself with positioning, processing, or other time-consuming adjustments. It’s designed to just sound good when set up on its compact tripod on a tabletop in front of the user. In this regard, it doesn’t require a complicated suspension mount to reduce unwanted rumble through the microphone stand, as the extremely low frequencies that are created in this manner just aren’t captured, and the footing on the desktop tripod is enough to reduce any vibration that would be picked up by the capsule.
The front panel of the microphone features two knobs with a gain control to adjust input levels and a headphone volume dial to adjust output levels for playback. It doesn’t take long to come to terms with the microphone’s gain structure and understand just how far you can push the input based on how close you intend to operate the unit. With a fairly high gain structure to begin with, the MPM-4000U is perfect for capturing vocals at a short distance, as would be expected when it is set up on a desk. You don’t have to situate yourself right up against the microphone capsule in order to get a good result. In fact, that’s the very basis of how this microphone has been designed. With a cardioid pickup pattern, you can still have your laptop or device fairly close to the microphone without capturing the operating noise by situating it to the rear of the microphone.
There is also a handy mute button located just above these knobs so you can silence the microphone completely when you don’t want to be heard during sections of a podcast or performance. This means you can engage in online conversations with multiple participants and shut your microphone off completely when others are speaking. It’s ideal for online interview recording and assembling podcasts with guests that are in separate locations.
Included in the package, you’ll find the microphone, finished in a sleek satin black housing. There’s a matching microphone clip which holds the microphone firmly, while still allowing access to the front panel controls. With an extended arm on the microphone clip, it clears the case of the microphone for full angle adjustment and can be used in conjunction with just about any industry standard microphone stand should you wish to incorporate it with other equipment. Plus, there’s a mini tripod desk stand included so you can mount the microphone on your workspace right next to your laptop and begin recording with the included USB cable. Monitoring is handled through the 3.5mm headphone output jack on the microphone which works with just about any wired earbuds or headphones.
All in all, it’s a quick and easy setup to get you recording whatever your next project is. Even better, if you don’t even have recording software on your computer, there is a free version of MPD Beats software bundled with the microphone, so you are all set right out of the box. With support for Windows, Mac, iOS, and Android applications, there’s really no setup the Marantz MPM-4000U won’t integrate with. The only thing holding you back is your creativity.