Thursday, June 5, 2008

Living Room Laboratory - The AKG D202 "Rocket"

I've been getting my hands on some really fun old mics. First the SM56, then the MD421-U-5, and now this AKG D202 "Rocket".

This mic was given to me from a friend who runs a studio. Sat in a box, it didn't sound all that great (compared to the Neumanns they use), and no one even knew what it was as all the badges ("we no need no stinking BADGERS!") and labeling had been torn off. Add to that, it also didn't fit in ANY standard sized mic holder, and just to use it they had to rig a shotgun shockmount. No fun at all...

So they gave it to me!

The D202 is an odd little duck. First manufactured in 1966 (I have no idea when this particular mic was made, as there are no serial numbers), it was AKG's first dual element microphone.
High frequency sound is captured under the nose cone, low frequency sound captured by the XLR connector, and the two elements communicating over a cross over which runs the length of the mic. This process leads to a directional mic with almost no proximity effect. It also seems to lead to a more fragile mic, with many complaints online of D202's being sold with busted LF elements.


The mic's design SCREAMS 1960's. They don't call it "The Rocket" for nuthin. The vents in the tail are actually functional, aiding in low frequency accuracy, and the nose cone is made of sintered bronze, creating a built in pop/spit/dust guard. I don't even know what sintering IS! [Sintering is a method for making objects from powder, by heating the material (below its melting point - solid state sintering) until its particles adhere to each other. Sintering is traditionally used for manufacturing ceramic objects, and has also found uses in such fields as powder metallurgy. -- Ed.]

So how does this D202 sound?

Well, considering the amount of damage, not bad, and surprisingly the LF element is functional. I broke out some Aesop this time, instead of my usual Poe, and did a comparison between this Rocket, and my new dynamic sweet-heart the MD421-U-5. I recorded dry, directly to my FW410, approximately 3 inches from the grill/nose of each mic. I did compress in post, then mixed down to 320Kbps MP3.

MD421:


AKG D202:


Yup, this mic has NO PROXIMITY. I sound a lot thicker on the MD421 at this distance. Even though the low frequency element is working (I confirmed by rolling through the bass cut), I sound a little hollow. I think the D202 is a little closer to accurate, but reality is probably somewhere in between the 421 and the 202.
Again, the MD421 shows what a champ it is dealing with plosives, the 202 suffering through almost as much as a naked SM57.
Off axis rejection was about equal surprisingly enough. That's pretty impressive considering the the D202's lack of proximity. I'm surpised we don't see more specialty mics using this process, as it works REALLY well. Could it be an issue of durability?

In all, I was surprised at how well the AKG did. Through scrapes, scuffs, and a big ole dent in the nose cone (probably from a fall that dented the bronze), it's still got a usable sound. I don't think it's particularly honest anymore, but as an effect mic, or on certain voices or instruments, it still delivers an interesting sound.


Two last notes.
I found the mic holder that I got with the M-Audio Aries is a PERFECT fit for the D202 if you're missing the original mic clip.

Also, I just want to thank coutant.org, barryrudolph.com, and the AKG Library Product Archive for helping me find info on this very unique microphone!

2 comments:

  1. http://www.myspace.com/methodechampenoiseJuly 30, 2008 at 1:00 PM

    http://www.akg.com/site/products/powerslave,id,246,pid,246,nodeid,2,_language,EN.html
    ...i just aquired a pair of these,one not working,mine have a red switch with a red screw on the off position and a black screw at the on position.30-16,000 khz,flat across the midrange...totally dig the design.havent had a chance to use it yet,but im betting snare bottom might be a good trick,or on a twin at the back,both out of phase of course with top or front mics.i have a pair of akg se 300 b's with cardiod ck-91 capsules i bought in europe...cant record without em.i like those goofy little clip on drum mics they had too...they can only take one hit though.cheers!

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  2. Yeah that sounds about right. Out of reviews I've caught on this thing about 50% are probably still in working condition.

    Bottom snare sounds like it would work. Playing with mine, I wonder if it would sound good on high-hat...

    Thanks for the comment, Methode!

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