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AKG C414 on orchestral recordings? (+ general usage)
Old 14th November 2009
  #1
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AKG C414 on orchestral recordings? (+ general usage)

Hi, (I'm new to the forums! I'm not entirely sure where this thread should belong...) I have been recording orchestras using a pair of AKG C451Bs into an E-MU 1616m (mostly using ORTF). I have not been satisfied with the sound, generally it sounds a bit harsh and lacks richness in the lower mids, as well as imaging seeming a bit narrow. I'm looking to upgrade these mics.

I don't have that much gear, just 2x C451Bs, 1x Rode NT2-A, and some standard SM58s/SM57s.

Now, I've been dreaming over mics like the DPA4011s or Schoeps MK4, but those are just out of my budget for now.

Since I've also been looking for a better vocal mic & a general purpose LDC, I am considering the AKG C414B-XLS. I'm pretty sure that it would work well as a general purpose mic, but how would it fare in the orchestral area? What I like about it is that it will allow me to experiment and try new setups like spaced omnis, M/S, etc. since they have variable patterns. But how would the sound fare? Would it be better to just wait out and save up for something like the DPAs/Schoeps?

I would preferably not exceed the $2.5k USD mark on 2 microphones - I have a 3.7k budget including a new audio interface / preamps (I am looking at the Steinberg MR816csx, which supposedly has phenomenal pres for its price)

p.s. I have additional queries on audio interfaces, etc. Is this the correct place for them to go?
Old 14th November 2009
  #2
Don't know if it will help you but i've recorded some string quartets using only a pair of 414 ULS in X/Y and was quite good. The blend on the mix was made by the distance they had to the mics.

I tried ORTF but the X/Y was a little better.

Use the conductor position to put the mics.

I've recorded a choir that way too, nice results but it was with lame mics, not good 414.

Well, hope i helped.
Old 14th November 2009
  #3
Lives for gear
You are going to need to spend the money for the DPA's - the high end ones too.

In a shoot out between AKG 414 and the DPA's 130V omni with Melliennia Pre - there is absolutely NO contest.

DPA's win so completely.
Old 14th November 2009
  #4
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DCtoDaylight's Avatar
 

The 451s are rolled off in the low end, which is probably much of what you're experiencing with the lack of richness. The imaging issues you mention, though, are more likely to be a result of mic placement than the mic itself - do some searching here on "ORTF" and "NOS," and read the Michael Williams "Stereophonic Zoom" paper (http://www.microphone-data.com/pdfs/Stereo%20zoom.pdf) for advice - it's super-helpful.

As I'm sure you know, the "standard" choice for stereo pairs like this is a small-diameter condenser, but there's no rule or anything. The SDC will tend to have faster transient response because the diaphragm has less mass, and they also tend to be a bit better in terms of off-axis frequency response.

That said, you should be able to make a very nice recording with a pair of 414s....but....you shouldn't have to spend anywhere near $2500 on them. You can find them anywhere for $999 each brand new, and if you shop around and work eBay, you should be able to find a pair for $1500 or $1600. Used ones would be even less. Heck, for $2500 or so you could probably get a pair of the very well-regarded Sennheiser 8000-series SDCs, which get mentioned in the same breath as Schoeps and DPA.

You might also try posting this question in the "Remote" forum - a lot of orchestral recording folks hang out there, and it's a tremendous source of field recording info! As far as questions on an interface, this forum, Remote, or Music Computers would all give you one perspective or another. Good luck!
Old 14th November 2009
  #5
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camerondye's Avatar
 

The XLS is $799 right now at Guitar Center...did AKG drop the price on the XLS. It doesn't seem like a temporary thing.
cam
Old 14th November 2009
  #6
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Thanks for the replies so far!

My $2500 budget is the upper limit. I know that the C414 is lower than this =)

Well, if I'm perhaps doing something wrong with my C451Bs which is not using their full potential, I've attached a short clip of a recording I did recently.

Unfortunately I'm not currently in the US (Not for the next few months at least) - so the guitar center offer won't work.

Is there a link to the DPA/C414 shootout? I didn't seem to find it when searching...

I'll also look into the Sennheisers.
Attached Files

beethoven-c451b-ortf.mp3 (656.4 KB, 3475 views)

Old 14th November 2009
  #7
Gear Addict
 

If you decide to go the 414 route, you might consider buying a used pair of vintage C 414 B-ULS. They show up on eBay pretty regularly and go for considerably less than your $2500 budget. I was fortunate enough to be able to try a pair about a year ago and was impressed with how they sounded. In omni they were very close to my Neumann KM 131s on piano.
Old 14th November 2009
  #8
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matyas's Avatar
 

This is Gearslutz, so of course there are going to be people who will tell you that if you don't have DPA or Schoeps, you're wasting your time. However, 414s can be perfectly acceptable mics in an orchestral setting. I've used them as such, and more famous people than me have as well. Some people will tell you that since it's a dual-capsule design, the "omni" is not a true omni pattern and therefore unsuitable for orchestral main-pair work, but my guess is that if you can't afford super-high-end mics, you're not working in ideal halls anyway, so you're probably better off in cardioid (ORTF) or fig-8 (Blumlein).
I had a pretty limited budget, and although classical is my first love, I do record rock as well, and wanted some mics that could do just about anything. 414s are like that. Yeah, I'd rather have Schoeps, Sennheiser, or DPA as my orchestral main pair, and a nice tube mic for rock vocals, but the 414 can handle both of those duties and just about anything else respectably. They have good transient response, and the high-end boost is usually a good thing when you're distant-miking in sub-prime halls.
Old 14th November 2009
  #9
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waxx's Avatar
 

i did a lot of folk and traditional world music, and often used the 414 for ortf or bluleim work. It may not be the perfect solution (but that is the budget of the recordings mostly also not) but i can deliver good recordings for sure. But you got to be extra picky on placement, especially when the recording room is not so perfect.

a DPA, Schoeps or Sen 8000 is better altough.
Old 15th November 2009
  #10
Gear Head
 

I just posted in another thread about how my 414B XLS was my most regrettable purchase. If you don't like the 451, then you definitely won't like the 414.

The 414 XLS will sound acceptable for both vocal and orchestral recordings, whilst being neither outstanding nor inspiring in any way. I wouldn't consider it an upgrade from the 451, and based on what you've said about the 451 I think your standards and expectations for quality are far beyond it.

My recommendation, and you probably won't like it - stick with 451s for now and SAVE UP for some 4011s, use them, love them and be done with the whole thing. They're great microphones and you'll forget about how much you spent once you start using them.
Old 15th November 2009
  #11
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I could possibly stick with my 451Bs for now. I actually did some recording with a pair of ORTF 414B-ULS 4 years back, but it was in a terrible room.

Would it not be a good decision to get the Sennheiser MHK8040s (Which do fit into the budget)? I can't seem to find sample clips - if anyone could point me to some that would be great!

Though I'm also not sure of the usefulness of the Sennheisers outside of orchestral recording.
Old 15th November 2009
  #12
Gear Head
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by hoongern View Post
Would it not be a good decision to get the Sennheiser MHK8040s (Which do fit into the budget)? I can't seem to find sample clips - if anyone could point me to some that would be great
I Haven't used the MKH 8040, but have used the older MKH 20 (omni) and MKH 40 (cardioid) for orchestral work. Very good microphones. They are about the same price.
Old 15th November 2009
  #13
Gear Addict
 

Mics such as the MKH 8040, KM 184/140 or Schoeps MK 4 are each excellent choices. The main issue that I see is that they're all cardioid-only. I think omnis are really the way to go a lot of the time with classical music. Perhaps a smart choice given your budget would be to get a used pair of KM 184s in addition to a pair of KM 183s? You might be able to sneak in under $2500 for both pairs. You probably wouldn't want to use them for vocals though (unless it's a lieder recital), so their versatility is limited in that regard.
Old 15th November 2009
  #14
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I have actually used KM184s before, although not in a main stereo pair situation, but just in the studio to mic up solo violins/mandolins. I didn't find them hugely different from my C451Bs, perhaps a little less harsh, however I didn't try both mics on the same instruments. So I'm not sure if the 184 would be a great upgrade?

One reason why I am more towards cardiods (Even while I'd love omnis) - I don't have the logistical ability to set up spaced omnis in the places I work - and a lot of the rooms I work in are acoustically less than ideal.

I'm actually getting more interested in the Sennheiser MKH8040s, although I'm still not entirely convinced. I guess it all boils down to whether I want a specialized pair of mics, or general purpose 'but not so good in some areas' mics. How does the MKH fare in studio situations such as solo instrument miking (i.e. Acoustic Guitar, violin, drum OHs)?
Old 15th November 2009
  #15
Quote:
Originally Posted by BrianHanke View Post
If you decide to go the 414 route, you might consider buying a used pair of vintage C 414 B-ULS. They show up on eBay pretty regularly and go for considerably less than your $2500 budget. I was fortunate enough to be able to try a pair about a year ago and was impressed with how they sounded. In omni they were very close to my Neumann KM 131s on piano.
+1 on that!

I'd say that I don't know why AKG keeps screwing around with the design of the 414, but I'm afraid that I do - and it's all about bean counters and not about sound.

Older model 414s definitely sound better than new ones.
Old 15th November 2009
  #16
Gear Addict
 

I directly compared a C 451 B against a KM 184 on piano a few years ago. I wasn't thrilled with the AKG - it sounded a bit veiled. The 184 was clearer, warmer and more "musical," at least to my ears.
Quote:
Originally Posted by hoongern View Post
I have actually used KM184s before, although not in a main stereo pair situation, but just in the studio to mic up solo violins/mandolins. I didn't find them hugely different from my C451Bs, perhaps a little less harsh, however I didn't try both mics on the same instruments. So I'm not sure if the 184 would be a great upgrade?
Old 16th November 2009
  #17
Lives for gear
 

If you've got $2500 to spend, there are lots of mics that I'd consider before the 414.

The 8040 is probably at the top of the heap. Great all-purpose mic that seems to work on everything I've used it on. I use it as a main pair (ORTF) for classical stuff, it works on a variety of instruments and percussion, it is a first-rate vocal mic (used it on classical singers to gospel singers)... There are some samples up in the remote section FWIW, but most samples posted here don't seem to do the mic justice.

You can also find a used pair of Schoeps for that price pretty easily. The advantage there is that you can also find capsule sets pretty easily and you could swap capsules for different situations.

DPA is great, but out of your budget. A more clinical sound, but not in a bad way.

For multipattern LD mics, instead of the 414, I'd reach for an AT 4050 or the Shure KSM44 first. I find both to be more useful than a 414. If you're set on a 414, don't bother with anything other than an EB with the CK12 capsule or one of the newer XLS mics. It is shocking how much worse the other models sound. If you end up with a BULS, send it off to Audio Uprades for their magic. Helps that mic a LOT.

Good luck

--Ben

Good luck.
Old 18th November 2009
  #18
Here for the gear
 

After doing more research and listening, I've gotten pretty interested in a pair of DPA 4060 omni mics, which seem much cheaper than all the rest. From the samples I've found in the remote forum, it seems that these tiny things pack a huge sound, at a cheap price (relatively). In fact, it's funny, as the DPA 4060 seems cheaper than my AKG C451Bs!

So, I may go for a pair of 4060s + some other mics (perhaps a 414, plus some dynamics)

Any comparisons of the 4060 to other mics like the KM183/even MKH8040? Obviously, the MKH8040 is very different as it is a cardoid.

The only thing I'd be worrying about is when I'm in less than ideal rooms.
Old 8th December 2009
  #20
Gear Addict
 

You might want to try some used Shure KSM41s - you'll have some pattern options, and they do not sound as inexpensive as they are. Though not Schoeps, they are reminiscent of that footprint, quite so. It would be a frugal choice, without as much musical compromise as you (and others) might think.
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