In Vienna, Austria, in May 1947, Dr. Rudolf Goerike and Ernst Pless began Photophon to manufacture cinema projectors. Eventually, the company name was changed to AKG (Akustische u. Kino-Gerate), which translates as acoustics and film equipment.
Goerike’s innovative approach to microphone capsule design led to the 1953 release of the D12, the world’s first single-diaphragm dynamic cardioid microphone. The D12’s high-SPL handling, tight pattern and excellent low-frequency response made it a popular choice with audio engineers for decades to follow. Also in 1953, AKG engineer Konrad Wolf developed the C12, the first true multipattern microphone with remote pattern control, which featured a dual-backplate design with 10-micron diaphragms and internal shock-mounting, so elastic suspension was required. The mic was re-branded by Telefunken as the M251 and as Siemens’ SM 204. The C24 stereo version of the C12 was created in 1959.
The availability of reliable, quality Field Effect Transistors (FETs) in the 1960s opened the door for replacing tube mics with compact, solid-state models. The year 1969 saw the launch of the first modular capacitor microphone (CMS system), including classic small-diaphragm models such as the C451, CK 1, etc. In 1970, AKG's Karl Peschel took the CK 12 capsule from the C 12A Nuvistor tube mic and paired it with FET electronics, resulting in the C 412. A year later, adding a second bass roll-off position and a fourth polar pattern created the C 414 combo. From 1974 onward, engineer Norbert Sobol supervised the C 414 design, adding numerous improvements and features along the way. With well more than 100,000 sold, the C 414 remains a popular choice whether in earlier versions or the latest models—now updated with LED displays and a fifth (wide-cardioid) pattern.
AKG’s leadership in technology was not limited to microphones. The company debuted the first supra-aural headphones (model K 50) in 1959; 1970 saw the debut of the BX20, the first portable professional reverb; and the multidiaphragm K240 headphones in 1975, which still remain in production today and used in studios everywhere.
From The Beatles’ watershed performances in Shea Stadium in 1967 to Aerosmith, the Rolling Stones, Frank Sinatra and today’s most progressive and successful artists like Jay-Z, Missy Elliot and Kayne West, AKG microphones and headphones have provided great-sounding technologies to support the most demanding and creative projects. And more than 60 years after its founding, AKG’s devotion to excellence remains unchanged.
There is no doubt that Thomas Alva Edison (1847-1931) played a major role in the development of recorded sound. In addition to holding patents for more than 1,300 inventions, such as incandescent lighting, the stock-ticker, fuses, electrical distribution systems and the kinetoscope “peep-show” viewer, Edison’s landmark patent (USA #200,251), filed on Christmas Eve 1877, eventually gave rise to an entire industry—even though the cylinder format that he developed was comparatively short-lived.
According to legend, Edison replayed the words “Mary had a little lamb” on the prototype “phonograph/speaking machine.” This first device was crude, using a diaphragm with a sharp point to etch variable-depth indentations in tinfoil wrapped around a hand-cranked cylinder. The recorded sound was replayed by a lighter diaphragm/needle combo tracking those same grooves. The cylinders were not removable, although Edison proposed removable foil sheets that could be reproduced by creating masters from plaster of Paris molds.
In later patents, including the British BP 1644/1878 in late 1878, Edison proposed dozens of other phonograph concepts, including using discs rather than cylinders, wax materials rather than tinfoil, double-sided discs, electromagnetic recording/playback, electroplating and pressing manufacturing/replication, and even an amplification system based on compressed air. However, Edison was late in filing for Stateside protection on these claims and his U.S. patent was refused, leaving these concepts unprotected.
Meanwhile, Alexander Graham Bell unveiled its Graphophone based on removable wax-paper cylinders; Edison countered with his 1888 “Perfected Phonograph,” which used a removable solid-wax cylinder. Other than making archival recordings, the main use of the Edison recorders was for transcription. All of this changed around the turn of the century, when molded cylinders became a reality and suddenly the market for music recordings opened up. Eventually, the popularity of cylinders began to fade (although Edison made them until 1929), and Edison reluctantly debuted his first commercial disc phonograph in 1912.