The company’s promotional boilerplate pitches this portable microphone squarely at podcasters, videographers and content creators. let’s check it out and see what it has to offer a muso. Words by Alex wilson.
Note: This piece first appeared in Australian Guitar #132. Subscribe to our print edition here!
In a world where mindless algorithms are constantly plowing content down our virtual throats, the audiophiles among us would at least like our viral videos to please the ear. Poorly recorded smartphone audio can be a distressing sonic experience – up there with a kindergarten recorder choir or Pitbull. Shure released the original MV88 a few years back, and with this new iteration, they’ve added a ‘plus’ onto the name along with some cool new features.
The basic component is a stereo condenser microphone with switchable pickup patterns. These are controlled from Shure’s MOTIV app, which is available for Android and iOS devices. Within the app you can set the mic as cardioid, bi-directional, mid/side and width-adjustable stereo. There’s also some basic, yet well-considered DSP on board.
You’ll have access to a limiter, compressor, a channel swap, and a five band EQ with a high-pass filter. Presets are available for beginners, but experienced users will also be impressed by the degree of control that available using these tools.
A very nice touch is that you are not restricted to using the MOTIV app when recording with the mic. Your settings for the MV88+ will be retained even if you’re using a different iOS or Android app as your DAW. This flexibility is very welcome, and other companies would do well to follow this example.
There is also a related MOTIV video app, which unfortunately I don’t have the space to explore in detail. Suffice to say, it’s easy to use and succeeds in allowing users to create a quality AV product using just their phone and the MV88+.
SHURE IS EASY TO USE
The first pace that I put this setup through was recording an acoustic guitar. Unboxing and assembling the MV88+ for this task indicated the quality that has gone into this product. Shure have collaborated with respected AV supplier Manfrotto for the tripod, which is both sleek and sturdy. It sits nicely on a tabletop, and the legs also fold together into an easily grippable handle if you want to take it on the go.
On top of this you can attach the phone clip and then the mic, or just the mic clip itself.
These parts also feel reliable and solid, fitting together logically. I was easily able to assemble everything without consulting a manual. Another big plus was the roll-up neoprene and velcro sleeve, mesh compartments inside housing each component. Overall, full marks for ergonomics, sturdiness and aesthetics.
Downloading Shure’s MOTIV app and connecting my phone using a supplied cable was the next step. With everything ready to go, I was able to select an acoustic guitar preset and record. Everything sounded great from the start.
This is a solid little mic, as befits one of the world’s legendary microphone manufacturers. While lacking the character of a boutique mid‑range condensers, it is admirably transparent, responsive and balance. The noise floor was clean, leading to a clear and detailed reproduction of my acoustic. The stereo field was captured nicely, and also collapses into mono without any nasty phase issues.
Additionally, I was able to plug monitoring cans into the MV88+ itself to check the recording as we went. This is excellent, as not all significant aspects of a recording are available from visual feedback.
I can see certain artists benefiting greatly from the MV88+’s basic application. Today’s music scene relies very much on content, and artists can catch a break with nothing more than a viral video. This combination of hardware and software allows artists to have a very respectable AV package on hand. If you’re a singer-songwriter, the MV88+ is pretty much all you need to turn that acoustic strumathon into something ready for YouTube or Facebook.
For more complicated applications, I can see the MV88+ sliding nicely into an existing setup. If you want to record your band jamming in the practice space, Shure’s product will provide you with a good image and a quality room microphone. You could then supplement that with another portable recording rig to track spot mics and integrate everything into the post-production mixdown.
PC GONE MAD!
Unfortunately, things were not so straightforward when I tried to connect the MV88+ to my recording PC via USB. Tracking into REAPER led to glitch-riddled recordings, no matter how long I pushed the latency. I encountered similar audio degradation when recording via the MV88+ into a MacBook Pro, so it’s not just a PC thing.
I was hoping to be able to harness the tabletop convenience and solid sound quality of the MV88+ for a library music job, yet when connected to a computer, the recordings were unusable.
A workaround was a cable that converted the headphone jack’s monitoring output into a stereo signal that I could plug in to two channels on my interface. It’s still annoying that this was required to get a usable result for an advertised functionality.
Frustratingly, there’s nothing in the MV88+ user guide about computer recording. It feels like this capability was tacked on to make the product appear as versatile as possible. If Shure want to appeal thoroughly to recording musicians as well as online content creators, then more care should be put into this aspect of the design.
THE BOTTOM LINE
While I was quite disappointed in the MV88+ when connected to a computer, there’s no denying that it succeeds overwhelmingly in its main application. For an affordable price, you get a very respectable condenser from one of the world’s best companies, useful AV hardware and a flexible, intuitive software environment.
While the benefits of this won’t be immediately apparent to all musicians, there are undeniably artists out there that will have their careers and expertise enhanced by using this product. If Shure was to invest a bit more effort into studio compatibility, then the MV88+ could truly be called a no-brainer.
• Excellent hardware
• Portable and light carry sleeve
• Simple, yet solid DSP via MOTIV app
• Switchable microphone pickup patterns
• Inbuilt headphone monitoring
• Good sound quality
• Intuitive and highly usable software environment
• Affordable price point
• Poor connectivity with PC and Mac computers
Ph: (02) 9582 0909