At long last I got all three of these hot little gadgets at the same time to do a comparison test in an actual studio environment quiet enough to be worth the effort. I loaded them up (grand total weight about 1lb) and took them with me over to the Don LaFontaine Voice-over Lab. I used the DLF VO Lab Solo booth and patched each unit one at a time into a Harlan Hogan VO:1-a microphone. Yes I could have used a U87 or a 416, but I wanted to use a mic that any voice-actor can afford that still sounds excellent.
My impression of the build quality of each unit in order of best to worst, click each name for a photo:
- Shure X2u- Just feels solid, nice buttons, full-size USB-b connector, monitor mix control, but knobs are not calibrated for repeated settings
- CEntrance MicPort Pro- Well built, good knobs, but dislike tiny 48v button and USB mini connector
- MXL Mic Mate Pro- Not bad for the price, but the knobs feel chinsy, and no 48V switch!?
Sound quality tests- click each file name to hear an MP3 sample (in order of price):
Take a listen to the audio clips and see which one YOU like. I find they are so close in overall response and resolution that it is very difficult to rank them. In this test you'll find the MicPort Pro has the highest noise-floor. This has been my finding with only some units, while others are much quieter. If you get a noisy Mic Port Pro, they'll exchange it for another one. CEntrance support is very helpful.
Avoid the MXL if used with low output mics, due to the gain control touchiness at the top of the scale. If you want 24bit/96khz sample rates, the CEntrance MicPort Pro is the only way to go. If you want a monitor mixer control, then the Shure is the only choice. In conclusion, I would say pick the unit based on the features you prefer. You can't really miss with any of them, if this is your first USB mic interface.