AKG Microphone Review

From Guitar News Weekly Edition #58

This week, the series continues with the AKG ACOUSTICS MICROPHONE REVIEW.

To any musician, studio engineer or soundman, Austria's AKG Acoustic's microphone products are nothing short of legendary. That being said, this renowned company has made quite a few surprising changes to its product line as of late. Just to whet your appetite, AKG has substantially lowered the prices of many models in their microphone lineup. Along with these most welcome price changes come a few clever twists to several of their more popular microphone models that are much more than just cosmetic. We received their C1000S and C391B condenser mics while also having the welcome opportunity to try out two versions of their mini C-411 condenser vibration transducer units. Additionally, we took a D770 dynamic mic for a spin in hopes of replacing our bored ears with the opposite...excited ones.

Related Feature:
AKG P170 Review

The P170 is a modern condenser microphone well suited to acoustic guitar.

Finally, we were graced with the latest addition to AKG's large diaphragm condenser lineup, the brand-new C4000B. I must be brutally honest here: I was VERY unsatisfied with the majority of my old "industry standards," therefore I was focusing my complete attention on finding the mic(s) that would effortlessly capture the every nuance and detail of my favorite stage [and studio] instrument's tonal identities and could translate them seamlessly to tape (or a live audience) every time, without question. AKG's devotion to quality and construction are evident from the smallest details; their bulletproof microphone clips and shock mounts, which are virtually impossible to harm yet are just pure genius in their design(s). AKG has left no stone unturned in their engineering or design chops, leaving a very vivid aural image of what the "big picture" sounds like to them as the truly respected company they are the world over.

AKG C 411

C411 & C411/B acoustic stringed instrument transducer ($248, $152 respectively). Finally, help and truly great sound has arrived for those of you who regularly play acoustic guitar onstage as your main instrument. The mini-sized C411 series are a real find and definitely a delightful surprise! My contact at AKG, Kevin Madden, told me from the start to "watch out" for these. What Kevin had affirmed to me was absolutely the gospel truth as my beloved 000C-16 sounded "spot on" to my ears with little effort and far less hassle in locating the transducer's best sounding placement position. Using the old F.R.A.P. transducers as a pointed example, it took quite a while [too long really] to find the "sweet spot" on those, but happily, this was certainly not the case with the C411s.

These clever transducers are actually a "figure-eight" condenser microphone in disguise and they're a snap to "dial in". Want to have real some fun? Try TWO of these on the opposite sides of your acoustic guitar's bridge; you WON'T believe your ears! I am very convinced that these are THE way to go if I ever play my Martin acoustic in any "live" setting; solo or otherwise. The C411 comes in two versions: one has an XLR type end jack which plugs directly into your console for phantom power while the second version [C411/B] can use the AKG B29 battery pack unit that easily attaches to your belt or strap and has a 1/4" output for easy connection to amplifiers. Kiss acoustic feedback goodbye... then really get into the sound of your acoustic onstage [for a nice change]. These babies are very scary and will definitely rock the house down!

AKG D 770 Mic

D770 dynamic ($129 retail). This dynamic mic is a real winner all the way around, its sound is very "juicy" and present without any of those nasty midrange "humps" in its frequency response curve. Some dynamic mics that were introduced and designed decades ago have seen little or no change since their initial appearance in the market . A perfect example of this is Shure's SM57. Some might argue that it is a great microphone for amp miking, but they are not very consistent. Each SM57 actually sounds different than another one and if you take twenty SM-57s and record all of them, you will hear variables in every single one! This is where AKG's products are very consistent. Their quality control is much tighter than some other companies who have shifted their manufacturing and assembly lines from the USA to another country where labor costs are much cheaper.

Personally, I need to know the "true" origin of where a product actually comes from. The D770 ranked as one of my favorite mics during these tests, it proved to be accurate and very punchy without de-personalizing the actual sound of my guitar. A great microphone for the dough! Just in passing, since this section is based around dynamic style microphones, I thought I would also mention AKG's D65S. This particular entry level dynamic can be bought for roughly $49.00 and I have seen them advertised as low as 3 for $100 recently! The D65S is yet another of my new personal favorites, having an on/off switch [this feature alone is very difficult to find on any dynamic mic at ANY price]. The sound and "vibe" of the D65S totally bely its very deceiving price tag! This microphone is also manufactured in Vienna, Austria along with almost all of AKG's products. No alternate production lines here.

AKG C-1000 S Mic

C-1000 S ($297 retail). This small diaphragm condenser microphone has changed for the better in many ways. It used to list at roughly $539, used to have a black finish and a battery compartment that was a bit tough to get into without possibly damaging the microphone's internal battery contacts if you were even a little overzealous (or frustrated). NO MORE!! The C-1000 S has undergone a complete "makeover"...it now has a beautiful silver finish, is ergonomically redesigned for your hand's comfort and its battery compartment is now very easily accessed with no fuss or muss. This model comes with a few nice little accessories that make it much more versatile too. What hasn't changed is the sound that made it a studio favorite for many situations. The C1000S comes with a PPC1000 polar pattern converter that allows you to change the microphone's standard cardioid pattern to a tighter hypercardioid pattern with a simple addition to the microphone's capsule assembly.

New to this model is the PB1000 Presence Boost Adapter that gives you an added 5 dB high-frequency peak when operating in the cardioid mode giving you more brilliance in the 5 to 9 kHz region. This microphone represents an outstanding value for the money and offers first rate sound and performance for acoustic and electric guitar miking. It also sounds great for drums (as overheads/cymbal mics) and all vocal applications. I like all of the changes AKG has put into this one. Before, I liked the sound of this model, but is was a bit clumsy. Way to go! If you're looking for a nice condenser mic for a decent price, this is a very good choice for any application, be it live or in the studio.

AKG C-391 B Mic

C391B ($462 retail). This pencil type condenser microphone is very infectious and it is very difficult to find the proper adjective to describe its sound/tone other than saying that it has TONS of what I refer to as the "Voodoo factor." Yup, this little monster has that "Chunga Voodoo Thang," with it regularly lighting my fire the more I tested it's muscular sonic abilities. This condenser microphone worked extremely well when close miking any amp [ Ha, this IS the mic that really dug our Vox Pathfinder, too]. With a wee bit of added compression [coming from my ART TubePAC], I thought I WAS David Lindley playing his very own "Mercury Blues!"

The C391 B is one well thought out system. It consists of a main preamp body [SE-300B] that can accommodate a wide variety of interchangeable differing polar pattern capsules with a simple twist and turn. This is definitely one of its coolest features in my own mind. A very flexible and convenient mic for any occasion! Acoustic guitar shined brightly with this beauty and it also excelled for use as an overhead room mic. I am still digging this model a lot, by FAR my favorite pencil condenser of the bunch. Retail price will vary if you add any extra capsules with your purchase of this microphone system, however, the C391B comes stock with a CK91 cardioid pattern capsule. Complete with adjustable O to-10dB gain pad and bass roll off selectors.

AKG C 4000 B Mic

C4000B ($848 retail). This brand new addition to AKG's line of larger diaphragm condenser microphones is another fine example of that "Voodoo Factor" once again! This model reminds me of AKG's famous C414 studio microphone, yet it exhibits a smoother more "even" frequency response which is not so bright in character as the C414. This is another "do it all" piece of engineering with all the trimmings such as adjustable gain pads, [0 dB and -10 dB] with more flexibility found in it's bass cut filter switch that starts to slope at 12 dB/octave at 100Hz. Add to all this selectable omnidirectional, cardioid, and hypercardioid polar patterns and you have a microphone that is a real stunner! You cannot go wrong with the C4000B if you are looking for a single mic for all live or studio applications. Highly rated on my personal list of cool mics, AKG has done it again with its indestructible, single twist locking shock mount and very attractive dark "electric blue" windscreen...too happening!

By Dean Farley
Leomuser@aol.com

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