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AKG Acoustics C 900, July 2002


Introduced last winter, AKG’s newest Emotion performance microphone
is the C 900 condenser vocal mic. It closely resembles the handheld dynamic mics in the Emotion Series and shares the
same tapered body and matte finish, the latter a feature that helps
keep the mic in the performer’s grip. In fact, the C 900 looks similar
enough to the Emotion D 880 dynamic that AKG has added a thin gold ring
below the windscreen to distinguish it. As with most electret
condensers, it runs on a range of phantom power from 9 to 52 volts.

The first thing I do with any new vocal mic is unscrew the
windscreen to inspect the capsule. The C 900 comes with the PB 1000
presence adapter installed over the end of the capsule, resulting in
about an octave of 4dB presence boost centered around 7 kHz. Without
it, the C 900 is relatively dull and, while AKG calls the PB 1000 an
accessory, I can think of many applications where this added response
would help. Be aware, however, that repeatedly removing and replacing
the PB 1000 makes it all too easy to misplace this dime-sized plastic
device. The PB 1000 was originally added to the C 1000 when that mic
was redesigned a few years ago, and it seems reasonable to guess that
the C 900’s capsule is derived from the C 1000’s. My suggestion for
users of both mics is to leave the PB 1000 installed and forget about
it. And, if you like the C 1000, this is a road version that can double
as a great project studio mic.

Users familiar with the C 535—AKG’s popular live performance
condenser for vocals and acoustic instruments for the past two
decades—will want to know how the C 900 compares to it. Having
spent many years pointing speakers at a certain Canadian chanteuse, I
can say that I have an intimate relationship with the 535. On-axis, the
535 is fairly flat, with response tilted slightly toward the highs and
with a peak around 7 kHz.

The response of the C 900 is more contoured than the 535. The 900
has a pronounced proximity effect, which broadcast engineers will
love. Live sound engineers will quickly learn to roll off the 900 with
a highpass filter and possibly also cut some lows. Singers who enjoy
the extra power that proximity lends to their voice in the monitors
will find the 900 attractive. This mic will stand out in any mix
without adding much equalization.

The region from 630 to 800 Hz stands out a few dB, while the rest of
the midrange is smooth. A slight dip around 1,500 Hz helps accentuate a
gentle peak around 4 kHz. With the presence adapter installed, the
boost at 7 kHz is similar to that of the 535, but rolls off more
quickly, making the 900 a better choice for loud stages, especially
with a drum kit behind the singer. Although there’s less 10 kHz,
there’s nearly as much 13 kHz.

At 120° off-axis—the angle most susceptible to feedback when double wedges are used—the 900
exhibits better pattern control and is about 4 dB less sensitive from 1
to 6 kHz than the 535. Monitor engineers know that cardioid mics perform better with a single wedge
directly off-axis. At 180°, the 900’s advantage over the 535 is
narrowed down to the 2kHz region. I should point out that the 900 costs
a third less than the 535.

Comparing the condenser C 900 to a dynamic mic like the Shure
SM58 is not fair, though instructive. The 900 has a bit less
“bite” at 1,500 Hz and from 3 to 6 kHz, but provides more
“air” around 14 kHz. With the presence adapter installed,
there’s also more 7 kHz. If you spend a lot of time EQ’ing your
favorite dynamic vocal mic, then the C 900 might get you there faster.
Monitor engineers will like it because at 120° off-axis, the 900’s
rejection is several dBs better throughout most of the upper mids, and
that advantage extends beyond 4 kHz for sound arriving from directly

Like a few other newer condensers, the 900 has more output than
typical vocal mics—as much as 10 dB—so it will seem much
louder in comparison, unless the gain is trimmed back. It really stands
out from others when used with in-ear monitoring, where its contoured
sound provides presence and warmth that make vocals stand out in a

Puzzled by its sound, I wound up A/B’ing the C 900 with a dozen
other condensers and dynamics. In my opinion, the 900 is a cat that
thinks it’s a dog. Some singers and sound engineers have found that the
change from a dynamic to a condenser vocal mic is too drastic. With a
list price of $250, the 900 is affordable, competes favorably with
higher-end dynamics and is more likely to convert users of dynamic
vocal mics than users of other condensers. Soundwise, it’s midway
between what you’d expect from either: A condenser that acts like a
dynamic. For those who haven’t made the switch from a dynamic because
they haven’t found one they liked or could afford, the C 900 is the
vocal mic they’ve been waiting for.

AKG Acoustics,