AKG C414-XLII Performs in Belgium

User Report: Latest version of recording microphone treats vocal and instruments with kindness
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LIEGE, Belgium
The C 414-XLII from AKG is the successor of the C 414 B-TL II. It is a large-diaphragm condenser microphone with 48 V phantom power.

When the original C414 was born in 1971, it became a legend among sound engineers. What does this “modern” version of a legend have to offer?

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I want to start by mentioning the accessories that come with the microphone because it is really what struck me when I first opened the C414-XLII case.

The C414-XLII comes in a small hardshell case. Everything a user needs is inside the case: the microphone, a shockmount, a windscreen and even a pop filter.

Yes, you heard me right; all of these extras are included in the package. That is a pleasant surprise when you open the box.

Second surprise is that these accessories are well-made, not low-quality products.

I have microphones that cost several times the price of the AKG C414-XLII that do not have that many accessories.

The Microphone

The AKG C414-XLII is a side-addressed, large-diaphragm condenser microphone. As usual with AKG, users can expect a well-made and robust microphone.

The body of the microphone has two sides which have switches. On the first (with the gold grid), you’ll find the pickup pattern switch. Five main pickup patterns are offered to the user: omnidirectional, wide cardioid, cardioid, hypercardioid and bidirectional/figure 8. A green LED indicates the chosen pickup pattern. The clever thing here is that there are four more, intermediate pickup patterns that are “in between” the main pickup patterns positions.

All switches on the microphone can be locked for trouble-free use.

On the second side (with the black grid) are two sets of switches; the first is a low-cut, the second is the curve of the low-cut filter. Once again, a green LED will show users what was selected. The low-cut filter presets are 0 Hz, 40 Hz, 80 Hz and 160 Hz. Attenuation curve presets are 0 dB, –6 dB, –12 dB and –18 dB.

Another feature is an overload LED.

The stated dynamic range is 152 dB. This will let you use the C414-XLII as an overhead microphone.

The capsule of the microphone has a slight presence boost at around 6 kHz to “enable lead vocals and solo instruments to be placed even in a dense mix,” according to the manual.

In Use

I first used the C414-XLII to record some voice-overs in a pretty dead-sounding vocal booth. What became immediately clear is that the AKG microphone is not neutral. When compared to a Neumann TLM103 usually used in that vocal booth, the AKG mic offered more character.

I find it positive to be able to offer something a “little special” as an alternative; on the other hand, the C414B-XLLII did not fit all the voices that came in for the test. It brought some “body” to those who had “narrow” voices.

I also used the C414-XLII on female singers. The AKG microphone did not suit one singer’s voice so it was left aside; for another the C414-XLII won the comparisons easily.

I also used it at a music ensemble recording. I did not have two so I could not put together a stereo pair for testing; however the AKG microphone bailed me out anyway. The stage was small and crowded with musicians. I wanted to put a spot mic on the percussion and drum kit on the back of the stage but there were so many musicians around the percussions there was no place for me to put my spot mic.

In came the C414-XLII with all of its switches and customization possibilities. I squeezed the microphone stand just between the drum kit and the percussion kit. I changed the pickup pattern from cardioid to wide cardioid and filtered some lows to prevent overload.

I had my spot mic — not physically placed at the ideal position, but the C414-XLII performed its task perfectly thanks to its versatility. This would not have been possible with a fixed pattern microphone.

Is the C414-XLII the perfect microphone for every job? No, but it should perform adequately on all the jobs you’ll have. Here in Europe, the C414-XLII is sold at around 800€ (app. $1,049 street in the United States). At that price I don’t think you’ll find another microphone that will give you as good results with so many possibilities and with so many accessories.

Could the C414-XLII be the microphone one could take on a desert island? I surely would.

Pascal Zander is a senior sound engineer with RTBF.

For information, contact AKG in California at (818) 920-3212 or visit
www.akg.com.

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