Monday, February 23, 2009

Unboxing and Observations on the AKG C414B-XLS

So I finally got one of my own, an AKG C414 B-XLS .

My fave studio mic of all time. I've used them for years, but never pushed the button on owning one.

That has now been rectified.

This wont be a review on the 414 per se, there are PLENTY of those floating around, but I will share some of my observations on this (beautiful) microphone.

What do you get?
First up, the packaging is a little slice of incredible. The flight case not only holds the mic, but also a travel pouch, the shock mount, a wind sock, and a two layer nylon pop screen. Included in the packaging is also a beginner's guide to recording (demonstrating proper mic placement for a variety of instruments), and a frequency response graph of YOUR specific microphone (I thought that was pretty cool).

Having played with a lot of the mics in the 414's price range (TLM103 and MKH416 for example) it was REALLY refreshing to see how well accessorized the 414 was.

But how does it sound?
Pretty damn good!
If you've read here before, my personal go-to large diaphragm condenser was the M-Audio Solaris. I still feel the Solaris is a shining example of a mid range microphone, and you get A LOT of mic for $300.

The 414 takes the game to a whole nuther level.

Again, I wont spend much time reviewing, but five polar patterns, three selectable low cut filters, and a three level pad make for a remarkably versatile microphone. This is also a professional reference microphone, and moving from the Solaris (again no slouch) to the 414 dropped my noise floor 6dB.

I don't think the sound of the mic is going to "wow" a lot of people, but that's sort of the charm of the XLS. It's a reference microphone, and is generally one of the most honest large diaphragm mics I've ever used. There's nothing hyped about this sound. This is not a "warm" mic ("warmth" of course being a harmonic distortion or inaccuracy some people find appealing). This is not really an exciting mic, but that really is the point. It's clean, very accurate, and as long as something sounds good in real life, it's most likely going to sound good on this mic.

It's very much like an SM57 in that respect. It's just very good at everything.

For us VO folk, I can't recommend this mic for everyone, but I would put it on your short list of pro mics to consider. I would definitely put it up against the TLM-103, the MKH416 , and AKG's sister mic the C414 B-XL II (supposedly designed for vocals).

However if you record more than just spoken word, this mic is sort of a no-brainer must-have...

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