If you are looking for a small device that can replace your recording chain then you should definitely check the MXL MIC MATE XLR To USB Preamp, a cheap device that’s specially created for standard and condenser microphones, a device that’s definitely worth the money and your curiosity. The portable USB preamp was designed with care, and it delivers so much that it appears to. Don’t get fooled by the cheap package it comes with, the Mic Mate is actually better than other solutions twice its price (or more).
This little gadget is no bigger than a magic marker, having only 10 x 2 x 6 inches and weighting only 4.8 ounces. You should know that Mic Mate does not with an USB cable, so you will have to buy that separately. Although the above image may be deceiving, the harsh truth is that this portable preamp is made of cast-aluminum. Even so, after reading some of the reviews written by other customers I understood that the internal components seem to be made of quality materials. A plastic case is not a big problem as long as you don’t drop it on the concrete.
The Mic Mate has three settings: the low setting, the medium setting and the high setting. After testing all of them, I seem to love the high setting, since it gives me more power and my voice lays better in the mix. As I said in the beginning of this review, this XLR to USB preamp comes with Phantom Power, so you can use it with a condenser microphone. I’ve managed to test it with my AT2020 condenser mic and everything went smoothly. I can also give you a tip in this regard: if you remove the end-piece from the XLR connector, you will be able insert that connector directly into the mic, without having the XLR cable in the chain. This way, the quality of your recording gets even better, because most XLR cables add their own self-noise to the recording. Just see the image above to understand what I’m talking about. The manufacturer brags about the “studio-quality” of this microphone. Not sure about that, but the low noise analog front end does seem to be well balanced. If you decide to buy this mic you will also get the Free MXL USB Recorder Software which allows you to get a 2-Track recording out of it. After testing this great condenser mic for couple of days I’ve included it in my home studio setup, as a backup for my Audio Kontrol 1 interface.
Most online shops are selling this small device for $40 – more or less. As usual, I advice you to get it from the most trusted seller of them all, Amazon.
For a device that costs only $41.99 you get a pretty decent quality. No, scrape that. The quality is better than decent, and most of the users on Amazon seem to agree with that conclusion. Having 4 out of 5 stars, you can expect for a device that will get the job done at an affordable price. This microphone is perfect for home recording studios created on tight budgets, but you can also use it in podcasts, various voice recording projects or even live music performance. I know that I’m definitively adding it to my portable home studio setup.