MEET YOUR MAKER with MOJAVE AUDIO

In this month’s Meet Your Maker column, we get to know the story behind one of the audio industry’s best mic manufacturers, Mojave Audio.

David Royer started Mojave Audio in 1985 in the garage of his house. The location was Fullerton, California, and Mojave Audio was a one-man, custom pro audio gear shop. David is best known for his ribbon microphone designs with Royer Labs, but he originally started out designing and building vacuum tube microphones, mic preamps and compressors for engineers in the Los Angeles area.

David Royer, Mojave Audio founder

Since the mid 1990s, David’s custom Mojave products have been used on a number of well-known recordings and have achieved legendary status among a small circle of high-end engineers. Mojave Audio Inc. was launched in 2005 to bring David’s condenser mic designs to the world.

What makes Mojave different?  A Mojave microphone’s journey begins and ends in Burbank, CA. US made Jensen transformers and NOS (new old stock) tubes are shipped offshore and mated to capsules and bodies, according to David Royer‘s design specifications, at a highly respected factory that David has worked with for over 15 years. All Mojave microphones are constructed with respect to David’s unprecedented research and attention to electronic design and quality. After assembly, they are shipped back to Burbank for extensive QC inspections. Prior to packaging, every mic is burned in for 24 hours, tested and personally listened to by David.

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Very few companies (and none in Mojave’s price range) invest so much in the audio components. The high-quality Jensen transformers alone cost more than many import mics. The NOS tubes are military spec. The FET’s are top quality and the resisters are custom made. At Mojave, it’s a given that no sacrifices are made in the critical signal path electronics.

This hybrid of domestic and overseas manufacturing allows us to make superb microphones that are affordable without compromise.

MOST POPULAR MODELS

MA-300 – Tube LDC, MA-301fet – Solid-State LDC

WHAT MAKES MOJAVE SPECIAL

  1. Designed by David Royer – Winner of the 2013 Technical Grammy for his revolutionary work with Royer Labs.
  2. We are engineers. We only build microphones that we will use -proudly.
  3. Big Jensen Transformers – made in USA. Size matters!
  4. Only the finest military-grade fets, transistors, resistors – custom made in the US to David Royer’s exacting specifications.

LESSONS LEARNED FROM RUNNING MOJAVE

  1. Meticulous attention to detail!
  2. Multi-tasking
  3. Even after 15 years, we’re still learning from David Royer about microphone design on a regular basis.

BONUS REVIEW: Mojave Audio MA-301fet Large-Diaphragm Condenser Microphone

Mojave Audio’s developed a big reputation for high quality microphones in a very short time, and being a sister company Royer Labs, they are upholding a tradition of high-quality components, and high-quality sound.

The MA301 we received is a large diaphragm, multi-pattern, solid state microphone that’s based off of their MA-201, but has some added features. With selectable 3-position pattern control covering Omni, Cardioid, and Bi-directional modes, a 15db pad, and a switchable bass roll off control, the 301 takes things to the next level. The innards: a 3-micron gold sputtered capsule, add in a Jensen audio transformer, along with Military grade FET (Field Effect Transistors). To top it all off, low noise resistors that are custom designed for this application. We’ve seen similar design specs and component approaches used before in other microphones, and it yields positive results with the 301 here, as well.

Our first application was trying out some vocals. The first thing we noticed at how quiet this was, even when applying gain at the mixer, we were amazed at the clean and clear signal. Now we know not every microphone works well with every kind of vocalist, but the articulation in this setting was phenomenal, there’s no real coloring happening here either. If the vocalist leans into this with their delivery, there’s no issue of distorting the diaphragm, and it maintains overall tonal feel without any notable proximity effects in normal use. A vocalist who works in a rapid fire, multi-syllabic sound (modern hip-hop, we’re talking to you) will really appreciate the focus this mic has. This then took us down the road in trying this as a voice over mic. Yes, there are more inexpensive mics for this, and we’ve tried some good ones, but again, the delivery of definition and positive response was shockingly good.

Moving on to acoustic guitars, we tried some of our faves: a Taylor GT, A PRS, and an inexpensive Mitchell Grand Auditorium. Yes, it’s not a surprise the Taylor and PRS sounded great with this mic, but it really delivered a nice top-end ring to the low-cost Mitchell, while maintaining a very pleasant low-end response. This also did not disappoint when applying this to electric guitars. Our Fender Blues Jr test amp sounded great; we did a close mic placement, and again, the higher volume levels were no issue no matter where we placed it around the cone. However, we really liked using this as a bit of a room mic, backing it off about three feet, and putting into Bi-directional mode to get a nice room sound. If you’re into the “let’s record in the bathroom” kind of approach, this really opens things up to those natural ambience moments that plug-ins just don’t accurately capture [yet].

OK, here’s where the road splits though, for the home recording enthusiast, this is a serious step up. Yes, it’s a bit expensive for a lot of “project studio” setups, but it’s worth it. Ever wonder why you’re not happy with the mic’s you have? Well take a look (and listen) at this one, and you’ll see why. It’s pro, not pro-sumer. For a serious studio there should be at least one of these (two would open up more options for stereo piano, and drum applications) in the mic locker. It’s good to have a mic that serves many masters, and this one does it oh so well. If you’re going to invest in one really good mic to kick off your mic locker, this would be an excellent choice to start with.

PROS:

Plenty of functionality, sounds great on instruments and excellent on vocals

CONS:

None

STREET PRICE:

$999

For more info, head to www.mojaveaudio.com and follow Mojave Audio on Instagram @mojaveaudio

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