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Ultimate AKG C 414 Shootout? Condenser Microphones
Old 7th September 2011
  #1
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FossilTooth's Avatar
 

Ultimate AKG C 414 Shootout?

Some friends and I just finished a little project where we gathered all the major versions of the AKG C 414 from across 40 years and recorded them back-to-back on the instruments where they excel.

I don't know if there's a way to host mp3s and wavs directly on GS, but here's a link to the page with the audio samples:

Curing Condenser Confusion: An Audio History of The AKG C 414

In it, you'll find stereo and mono comparisons of the 414 EB with a brass CK12 capsule, the EB with a teflon capsule, the B-ULS, TL-II, XLS and XL-II.

Leading up to the samples there's a short overview and history of the mics in case you get confused.

Anyway, please enjoy and comment here with your findings!
Old 8th September 2011
  #2
Gear Head
 

Great article! I've actually been planning to pick up a 414 XL II so this was very helpful. The XL II and TL II are my favorite from this shootout.
Old 14th September 2011
  #3
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The website no longer loads - neither the link (here or facebook) - any one know what's up? Really wanted to listen to the shootout.
Old 14th September 2011
  #4
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My 414 EB sounds better than that. I use the roll off switch though! Are you sure those mics were in good shape Capsule wise?


Jazztone
Old 16th September 2011
  #5
Here for the gear
 

Yeah, I liked this shootout too, thanks! And the link works okay for me. Jazztone, I'm not sure I follow. Did you plug your EB into the same preamps in the same room and record the same guitar? How can you be sure it would sound better than these EBs? You're probably right that they would sound different. All old mics do. A lot of new ones, too.
Old 16th September 2011
  #6
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lord_bunny's Avatar
 

wonderful read, thanks for posting!
Old 16th September 2011
  #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by trollofjustice View Post
Yeah, I liked this shootout too, thanks! And the link works okay for me. Jazztone, I'm not sure I follow. Did you plug your EB into the same preamps in the same room and record the same guitar? How can you be sure it would sound better than these EBs? You're probably right that they would sound different. All old mics do. A lot of new ones, too.
I meant in comparison to the other 414 models , most of which I know well . I have used ULS and TLII the most. I agree mics age differently. IN fact I have two new but far away serial number TLM 102 and they sound different! I just meant that the recording wasn't quite as good as I would have expected against the other 414 models. That is based on the 4 or 5 414EB's I have used including my own. That EB sounds a little darker and less lively (transient pick up) than I expected. It is probably capsule condition on these very old mics!

Jazztone
Old 16th September 2011
  #8
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d_fu's Avatar
 

Your interesting historical overview does not even mention the 414 B-TL, the transformerless version of the B-ULS, with the "regular" capsule. Very nice microphone, I have a matched pair... heh
It's fairly rare, and was not produced for a long time.
Attached Thumbnails
Ultimate AKG C 414 Shootout?-330524_3extralarge.jpg   Ultimate AKG C 414 Shootout?-330524_2extralarge.jpg   Ultimate AKG C 414 Shootout?-330524_4extralarge.jpg  
Old 16th September 2011
  #9
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Any chance of adding a poll to this to see people's favs?
Old 23rd September 2011
  #10
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FossilTooth's Avatar
 

Hey, thanks for all the great feedback!

d_fu, the B-TL does get mentioned briefly in there when we first start talking about the TL-II. You're right that they're much less discussed in general. I think they're harder to find because they were in production for a very brief period and in such small quantities compared to the rest of the line.

bowdagger, I don't know - is it possible to add a poll this late in the game? I'm also not sure if they're really that valuable in circumstances like these. In my experience they often seem to trigger counter-productive hive-mind behaviors. Especially when the model numbers and/or poll results are on display. But if you want to create your own poll, go for it!
Old 23rd September 2011
  #11
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Cheers for this.

I listened to the acoustic guitar samples and then the vocals.

I could be wrong, but are you not missing 1 of the acoustic guitar samples in Cardioid? There only seemed to be 5 different samples, not 6. It could be I miscounted.

Cardioid Acoustic Guitar:
1. Brass CK12 sounded lovely, warm, mellow
2. Teflon sounded very similar but just a tad "mushier"
3. B ULS sounded preferable to the Teflon, & actually closer to the Brass, but really all three so far are within a hair's breadth of sounding near-identical for practical purposes
4. TLII had a bit more attack/pick noise, which I think was a plus, as this mic family has a tendency towards sounding very mellow on acoustic guitars
5. XLS sounded a bit too jingley-jangley, still smooth but not as warm or robust as the others

Now either I got this completely wrong or that's where your Cardioid samples end: we don't get to hear the XLII !

Omnis:
1. Brass, bit more boom and bottom-end than on the Cardioid setting. Lovely, nice and vintage sounding
2. The Teflon sounds much better in Omni than it did in Cardioid: in Omni pattern it's somehow clearer despite having more bass response
3. B ULS I'm repeating myself here, really not a great deal of difference to the first two
4. Noticeable marked lack of bass compared to the first three.
5. & 6. Progressively jingley-jangley sounding. I don't hear much difference between the XLS and XLII other than the latter being brighter. Neither sound harsh though.

I might be just projecting my own already-formed ideas about these mics on the listening, but this confirmed what I already thought about 414s and acoustic guitars. Namely, that they are GREAT for a mellow guitar sound, but that they do soften transients quite a bit.

They really suit strumming, and they really suit this particular song. Any acoustic guitar you want to sound a bit mesmeric and laid-back and mellow, 414 is a go-to mic.

If, however, you had a Robert Johnson or a Bert Jansch in the studio, an AKG 414 wouldn't really suit them. It just wouldn't properly register their aggression, their pinging strings, their bite.

Of all those samples, I thought the TLII in Cardioid sounded best, because it was starting to have a bit of that mid-range bite that the mic is generally a bit lacking in. (When I say mid-range, I mean "mid mid", rather than "upper-mid"!) So I guess you could conclude that this is a good advert for the C214 if you were after a mic for acoustic guitar in 2011 on a budget!
Old 23rd September 2011
  #12
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Bit disappointed that the vocals were all just spoken. I find it hard to judge mics based on spoken words, it always sounds too nice to me!

So, briefly, it was only when we hit the TLII that I heard an appreciable difference in the vocals. The "T" sounds started to leap out at that point. The "S"s too, but not hugely: the samples were a good advert for the AKG not being too sibilant (for a bright mic). All the male vocal samples sounded nice though: while you could hear the 414s getting brighter over the years, on that particular speaker, all of the mics sounded reasonably flattering. None really made him sound unpleasant.

On the female vocals, however, the XLII really leapt out at me as sounding unpleasant, just too much. I imagine if I was buying a mic for female vocals I'd try to avoid the XLII.

However, as the owner of both an XLS and an XLII I would only use them in either Omni or Wide Cardioid on vocals. The difference is really significant. Seriously, you could do an AKG shootout on the XLII just changing the patterns from omni to subcardioid and hearing what it does to the timbre of a voice. They go from sounding even and broad and warm to sounding quite pinched and nasal.
Old 23rd September 2011
  #13
Jai guru deva om
 
warhead's Avatar
 

We actually use a B-ULS for our "control" mic in the Clipalator, and recently we added the C414 XLII, XLS, as well as the C214 cardioid only version all recorded one after the other on voice, acoustic guitar, electric guitar and drum overhead. That may help bring some context as well!

War
Old 3rd October 2011
  #14
Gear Head
 
nosoulman's Avatar
 

"I’m obliged to remind you that you’re currently reading an online microphone shootout, an exercise that ranks just a few points lower on the get-a-date-scale than learning conversational Klingon."

priceless!

but nevertheless a really good read and shootout. thank you!
Old 3rd September 2013
  #15
Here for the gear
Here is a new link. This deserves a bump!!
Old 3rd September 2013
  #16
Registered User
 
Rick Sutton's Avatar
 

just a note for those just learning the AKG C12/C414 history. The image of the C12A in the link is incorrect. Just sayin'.
Old 3rd September 2013
  #17
Gear Nut
 

Somethin's not right with the audio samples.....all I hear is drum overheads....?
Old 23rd January 2014
  #18
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paultools's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by binarymilton View Post

However, as the owner of both an XLS and an XLII I would only use them in either Omni or Wide Cardioid on vocals. The difference is really significant. Seriously, you could do an AKG shootout on the XLII just changing the patterns from omni to subcardioid and hearing what it does to the timbre of a voice. They go from sounding even and broad and warm to sounding quite pinched and nasal.
I concur.

Good work on this!
Old 24th January 2014
  #19
Gear Maniac
 
PlotinusVeritas's Avatar
 

have YET to hear a AKG mic that didnt sound like poop.
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