In today's BOOM TOOLS section, David Osternacher is talking about the AKG C414 XL II microphone
- Reference multi-pattern condenser microphone
- Nine selectable polar patterns
- Price: 1.155,00€
1. Briefly describe the product. What does it do?
The AKG C414 is a classic large-diaphragm condenser microphone, standard equipment in many recording studios around the world, designed in Austria (yay!). In music production, it is often used to mic acoustic guitars or pianos, but its most common use is to record vocals.
2. To what extent has the AKG C414 XL II changed / improved your way of working?
I rarely produce music or dialogue, but mostly sound effects. So I normally wouldn’t have too much use for large-diaphragm microphones, but at Dynamedion we regularly create monster vocals or combat screams. Ever since I got the C414, I wouldn’t want to work without it anymore. It’s the perfect tool for recording vocals, and the mic’s switchable pickup patterns can be a huge timesaver.
3. What are the pros?
This microphone is world renowned for its general high quality, and having an extraordinarily flattering effect on the human voice. It’s surprisingly versatile and, as a “nice to have” feature: it comes in a pretty solid metal case, complete with some useful gear like a shock mount and a pop filter.
4. What are the cons?
One problem a lot of people are going to have with this product is the price. Right now you can get it for around $ 1,000 at some of the big US stores. The retail price is 1,499 Dollars (1,155 Euros), which is actually about what it will cost you if you live in Europe.
For me personally, the frequency range is a letdown. As great as the mic is for vocals, it “only” records frequencies up to 20 kHz. That’s fine most of the time, but I can’t use it for BOOM sound effects. We use microphones that capture frequencies up to 100 kHz, so our library sounds can be heavily pitched or otherwise processed, and still hold up.
In general, the characteristics of large-diaphragm microphones tend to limit their possible fields of application for sound designers, but that goes for any mic in that category.
5. What is the Killer-Feature? What do you like in particular?
Apart from the fact that the C414 is a top-drawer microphone, as far as sound quality is concerned, the switchable pickup patterns are extremely handy. You can choose from 8 different settings, ranging from omnidirectional to hypercardioid, plus a figure eight pattern.
6. Compared with similar products from other manufacturers. What is better / worse?
You could probably compare this mic to another legend, the Neumann u87. I’m not qualified to make a serious comparison, because I have never owned a u87, so I’ll give you the common perception: in a nutshell, the Neumann sounds warmer and maybe fuller, while the AKG creates a more accurate recording. While the u87 is likely even more legendary in the music business, it also comes at roughly twice the price of the C414. Comparing two microphones as revered as these is not unlike comparing religions to some people.
7. The AKG C414 XL II is best suited for whom / which area of application?
The C414 is, first and foremost, a studio vocal or classical instrument / ensemble microphone. If you’re a sound designer, it might be useful to you if you work on a lot of video games, or otherwise record loads of screaming, yelling or talking.
8. How is the price / performance ratio?
It really depends on how much you’re going to use it. It’s a terrific microphone, but it’s also expensive. If you don’t need it regularly, you might be better served with something less pricey. I was lucky to get it at a sizeable discount, otherwise I probably couldn’t have justified the investment. If you do need a high-class microphone like this, the C414 is still quite a bit cheaper than some of its peers, as I mentioned before.
9. Your conclusion to the sound designers / BOOM blog readers out there?
The AKG C414 is called an industry standard for a reason. The most common field of application for this microphone is certainly music production. But if you’re a sound designer, your work may often require a large-diaphragm mic just as well. If you’re in the market for a top-of-the-line product, I can definitely recommend the C414.
10. How many points do you give the AKG C414 XL II (0-10) ?