AKG C 414 B/XLS
Jul 1, 2005 12:00 PM, By John McJunkin
Classic mic provides high-quality sound performance.
On the short list of uber-popular, high-quality, large-diaphragm condenser mics is AKG's C 414, available in several versions. This mic was based on the landmark C 12 A, which first appeared in 1962. The C 12 A was the first AKG mic with the “trapezoidal” windscreen. Since that time, the mic has progressed through several variations. Current iterations include the C 414 B/XL II and the C 414 B/XLS. The B/XL II was designed primarily for vocals or distance-miking of instruments. The B/XLS is intended for general purpose use and acoustic instument miking. We'll look at the C 414 B/XLS.
This is a 48V phantom-powered, 1in.-diaphragm, pressure-gradient condenser mic with five available patterns: omnidirectional, wide cardioid, cardioid, hypercardioid, and figure eight. The new wide cardioid is best described as being halfway between the omni and cardioid. The rejection in the cardioid modes is perfectly sufficient, with the hypercardioid being well suited for directional miking. Another new feature of this mic, as compared with previous versions, is the appearance of push buttons. There are three: one for the pre-attenuation pad, one for pattern selection, and one for HPF selection. Each button has a corresponding LED to indicate the current selection. A locking feature on the pattern switch prevents the inadvertent changing of patterns. The pad switch sequences through four levels of attenuation: 0dB, 6dB, 12dB, and 18dB. The HPF switch engages any of three cutoff frequencies: 40Hz, 80Hz, and 160Hz. The slope of the HPF is 12dB/octave at the 40Hz and 80Hz settings, and 6dB/octave at the 160Hz setting. Another helpful new feature here is an overload indicator — the LED's indicating pattern will temporarily flash red with an overload signal, signifying the need for a pad.
AKG's frequency response traces demonstrate super-flat performance from 200Hz to 1kHz in all patterns, and a slight dip starting around 1.5kHz and resolving back upward at a little above 2kHz. In the tighter cardioid and figure-eight patterns, there is a slight bump in the “intelligibility” frequencies from just above 2kHz to around 6kHz. This is a subtle bump, but it's in a very good spot. Above 10kHz in all patterns, there is a bump that imparts “air” to the signal. In the lower registers, the mic solidly represents frequencies as low as 20Hz, but the unit's HPF enables some control over rumble.
The clip that ships with the 414 B/XLS feels more solid than I remember with the other versions. It enables easy placement of the mic in nearly any orientation.
I put a pair of B/XLSs through their paces with an array of applications. First, I recorded both acoustic and electric guitars at the Conservatory of Recording Arts & Sciences in Gilbert, Ariz. In both cases, I used the new Universal Audio 8110 mic preamplifiers with the Shape switch on both channels set to Vintage, a transformer-loaded path with harmonic enhancement. Both mics were set to cardioid mode, with one placed over the sound hole and the other on the neck of the guitar, both about 1ft. away. Monitoring was through a Neve VR48 console and Tannoy System 800A near-fields. I was very pleased with the sound.
C 414 B/XLS
The Universal preamp's Vintage mode brings warmth but with it a bit of mud around 250Hz, so I scooped that a bit (about 1dB). I also added 1dB with a shelf EQ above 10kHz, which accentuated the air frequencies pleasingly and gave me a really open-sounding guitar recording. In particular, the mic reproduced the “air” above 10kHz quite faithfully. That's one of the things I've always liked about this mic.
After recording the acoustic guitar, I removed one of the mics and used the remaining one to mike a Fender amp in omni mode to capture the room as well. In this case, I wanted a rounder tone, so I left the Vintage switch engaged but eliminated the 1dB dip at 250Hz and the 1dB boost at 10kHz. The guitar was a Telecaster, to be recorded clean. The tone was clear and bright, and the mic presented the room's ambience admirably. I had used 414s to record acoustic guitars prior, but never electrics. I was very pleased with the result, and I will certainly record electrics with this mic again.
I used the pair of 414s as part of a package to record a drum kit in overhead and knee-high modes. I have used 414s many times as overheads, and in this case, having re-discovered the wonderful air above 10kHz, chose to accentuate it, once again with a boost of only about 1dB. I compressed both channels, and upon monitoring the results, I was reminded why the 414 is a first-choice drum overhead mic for professionals the world over. I was thrilled with the resolution in the high end. In knee-high placement, the mics rendered an excellent stereo image with all the high-end resolution I got in the overhead placement and a healthy dose of low-mids and mids due to proximity and directionality vis-à-vis the kick drum.
During my tenure as chief engineer with another organization, one of my primary vocal mics was a C 414 B-ULS. I'll go out on a limb and say that it is, to this day, my singular favorite mic for my own vocals. Since I rarely record my own voice singing these days, I don't own a 414 at this time, so I was excited to get my hands on one. I overdubbed some four-part harmonies and was instantly reminded why I love the way this mic captures my voice. I'm a tenor, and the 414 does wonderful things in that range. Obviously, with its frequency range, it will capture any human voice commendably, but in that register, there is a sweetness that really pleases my ear. It was truly wonderful to become reacquainted with an old friend.
The only complaint I can register in regard to this microphone is in reference to the push-button switch for selecting the pattern. When shifting from one pattern to the next, a transient pop is occasionally heard, significantly powerful enough to cause concern over monitors. The obvious workaround is to mute that mic's channel when changing patterns, but if you forget to do so, you will have a pop in your monitors. I'm guessing that AKG will address this issue quickly and future NeXt Generation 414s will not have the problem. Otherwise, I love the 414. There's a reason why it is indeed on the short list of the most popular high-quality, large-diaphragm condenser mics. Its multi-pattern flexibility and high quality will keep it on the short list of go-to mics.
Company: AKG Acoustics www.akg.com
Product: C 414 B/XLS
Pros: Flexible, high-quality microphone
Cons: Transient pop can occur when changing patterns
Applications: Recording instruments and vocals
Frequency Range 20Hz to 20kHz
Sensitivity 23mV/Pa (-33dBV) ±0.5dB Max SPL 140/146/152/158dB SPL (0/-6/-12/-18dB) (for 0.5 percent THD)
Equivalent Noise Level (CCIR 468-2) 20dB (0dB pre-attenuation)
Equivalent Noise Level 6dB-A (0dB pre-attenuation, DIN 45 412, A-weighted)
Signal/Noise Ratio 88dB
Pre-attenuation Pad -6dB, -12dB, -18dB, switchable
Bass Cut Filter Slope 12dB/octave at 40Hz and 80Hz; 6dB/octave at 160Hz
Recommended Load Impedance ≥2,200Ω
Supply Voltage 48V phantom power to DIN/IEC
Current Consumption Approximately 4.5mA
Dynamic Range 134dB minimum
Connector Three-pin XLR to IEC
Dimensions 2.0"×1.5"×6.3" (50×38×160mm)
Net Weight 10.6oz. (300g)
John McJunkinis the principal of Avalon Studio Services in Phoenix and consults for both studios and live sound applications.