Technology

AKG C 214 Condenser Microphone Review

FIXED CARDIOID VERSION OFFERS VALUE AND VERSATILITY 2/01/2009 7:00 AM Eastern

The C 214 features a fixed cardioid pattern, highpass filter and 20dB pad.

The AKG name brings to mind a number of legacy mics — such as the C 12, C 414 and C 451 — and there isn't a lightweight in the bunch. Of course, the company also manufactures a variety of well-respected headphones, as well as wireless and installed sound products. Most recently, AKG unveiled a new condenser mic designed for the recording and live sound markets. The new C 214 is versatile and affordable, offering the user options and accessories to alter the mic's performance. It ships with the H 85 shock-mount, W 214 foam windscreen and a sturdy carrying case. The mic has a fixed cardioid pattern, 20dB pad and a highpass filter that cuts the bass by 6 dB per octave, starting at 160 Hz. The pad lets the mic handle up to 156dB SPL — or 20 dB less when the pad isn't engaged.

The C 214 is designed, engineered and built in Vienna, Austria, and as promised, it lives up to AKG's quality standards. The mic, case and shock-mount are all top-notch. I especially liked the shock-mount, which has a simple design and seems nearly indestructible. The mic is made of an all-metal die-cast body and is coated in a scratch-resistant finish. The recessed switches are solid, yet you can easily move them with a thumb or fingernail. There's no “in-between” feeling on these; when you change the switch position, you know exactly what's on and what isn't. The 1-inch, edge-terminated capsule is mounted on an integrated suspension and housed in a double-mesh grille, promising high-RF immunity with little impact on acoustic performance.

In the Rhythm Section

I first heard the 214s used as a spaced pair on an acoustic guitar. The mics were run through a Neve VR console's preamps directly to 2-inch analog tape. The guitar part was heavily strummed and produced a lot of low-frequency boom, which I could easily address by engaging each mic's high-cut filter. Immediately, the part sat down in the mix, and the drums, bass and keys needed no further EQ. The top was smooth and not jangly or cutting. I used a single 214 on a loud guitar cabinet with a Shure SM57, and it made a nice partner mic for this application.

I next tried the pair in an X/Y configuration as overheads on a drum kit. The cymbals rendered very well with a nice stereo image and exhibited no strident wash when they were hit hard. The attack of the toms also sounded great; however, there wasn't a lot of overall extreme low end present as verified by the frequency diagram, which is dead-flat below 500 Hz with a roll-off starting at 75 Hz. I tried the mics on toms (top and bottom), engaged the pad and they took the level without a hiccup. The closer I got to the bottom of the low tom, the more I could play with the proximity to get the low end that I needed. Later in the session, they worked well on hand percussion, taking the bite out of a shaker, even when the part was played hard. The 214 also sounded great on bells and other transient-producing toys.

Reliable Performance

The 214 came up short on a female vocal, sounding a bit thin. In this situation, I would prefer a mic with more of a bump in the low end. However, this mic generally inspires confidence. It's sturdy and easy to place/position in the mount, and it sounded great in a majority of situations. Of course, the C 214 isn't all things in all applications, but it excels for acoustic guitar, guitar amp, hand percussion and around a drum kit. Some audio forums hail the 214 as the “affordable 414.” I balk at such comparisons because I find them too simplistic. The 414 comes in a number of differently priced incarnations that excel in a variety of applications, so I think it's unfair to make such claims. However, if you said that the C 214 lived up to the AKG standard for making a quality product that is priced fairly and is comfortable wearing a number of different transducer “hats,” I'd wholeheartedly agree.