First off, I would like to state that this microphone review of the MXL 604 is not geared towards music recording. The microphones I buy and rent are for the purpose of recording sound for films. This includes both production and post-production.
As I have learned, the MXL 604 is a handy tool for any post-production recording that needs to be done. As you can see from the pictures, this microphone is quite small. Unlike a shotgun microphone, its range is quite limited. I occasionally take the MXL 604 to student films for production recording, just in case, but I have never needed to use it. Therefore, when on set, you can probably get away with leaving your MXL 604 at home.
Basically, the MXL 604 is a small condenser microphone, therefore, requiring 48V of phantom power. This makes it ideal to use with small recorders, such as the Tascam DR-100, that have weak pre-amps. You will have less hiss from the MXL 604 compared to most dynamic microphones. Of course, the better the pre-amps, the less system noise regardless of the microphone you use, but if you are on a budget and cannot afford a better recorder, condenser microphones will be useful.
Speaking of being on a budget, the MXL 604 is a great starter microphone for anyone who just needs to record sounds. For about $100, I was able to buy this microphone complete with it’s own wooden case. In addition, the microphone comes with a small foam windscreen, which will probably be sufficient for most indoor recordings, a cardioid capsule and an omni-directional capsule. There is also a switch for a high pass filter and a -10dB pad. It is a great deal that will sound much better than the $20 USB microphones you see so many people on the internet use for their videos.
Cheap microphones aside, how does the MXL 604 sound for post-production work on actual films? Pretty good, for its price. In my experience, I have been able to use the microphone for voice-over recording, sound effects and foley walking. Like I mentioned before, the range on the MXL 604 is small so it really needs to be close to the sound source in order to pick something up. This can cause some vibrational issues when doing foley recording or breath pops when recording voices. How you solve this depends the quality of your microphone stands, windscreens, etc. In most cases, I have been able to record sounds, put them into a student film via pro tools and everything sounds fine. Obviously, most of what I record needs to be mixed in post, but what is recorded is definitely usable.
There are a few shortcomings I have experienced with the MXL 604. Depending on the sound source, the recordings can sound a bit too superficial or metallic. I was recording a paper bag once and the sharp sounds felt too unnatural for the film for which I intended to use the recording. Also, I have tried recording ambiences with the MXL 604’s omni-directional capsule, but have been dissatisfied with the results. It felt a little too soft and hollow. Later, I may try using two MXL 604s to create a stereo recording and see how those sound together.
Really, the above are nitpicks. I have truly enjoyed using this microphone for student films. The sound quality is good enough for the price. I will be using my MXL 604 for a long time before I feel the need to upgrade to a much more expensive microphone.