Since the dawn of magnets, engineers and musicians alike have searched for warm-sounding, durable and affordable microphone technologies. Well, search no longer-the AKG C 4000B has arrived.
Priced at $848 (including AKG H 100 spider-type shock mount and W 4000 wind/pop screen), the C 4000B is an electret condenser design offering switchable omnidirectional, cardioid and hypercardioid patterns to handle various recording/sound reinforcement applications.
The C 4000B has a 1-inch double diaphragm pressure gradient system with a 6-micron-thick, gold- sputtered mylar membrane for optimum transient response. The capsule is placed in an internal suspension cradle to provide shock isolation and damping of low resonant frequencies caused by structural-borne noises. A heavy wire grille, a second sheath of fine wire mesh and internal 3mm-thick screen protect the capsule from subtle wind and breath-generated “pops” without undesirable high-frequency attenuation.
All high-impedance circuitry is polyurethane-coated and placed underneath the capsule to allow for the highest tolerance to humidity. All electrical contacts within the C 4000B (including the XLR connector) are hard gold-plated for resistance to corrosion. A -10dB pad switch increases the undistorted maximum sound pressure level handling to 155 dB. The C 4000B also offers switchable bass-cut (highpass) filtering providing 12dB- per-octave roll-off below 100 Hz.
The C 4000B’s specifications indicate that AKG has not compromised quality to make the microphone affordable and acoustically exceptional. Stated frequency response is 20 to 20k Hz +/-2 dB. Dynamic range is spec’d at 137 dB (A-weighted) with a signal to noise ratio of 86 dBA referenced to 1 Pa. The mic’s self-noise is 8 dBA when compared to the DIN 45 412 scale.
IN SESSIONFor my critical listening and evaluation, I designed a set of simple parameters. Using a matched pair of mic preamps and a multitude of different “control” microphones, all tracks were recorded to discrete channels completely dry and then combined with the final mixed music tracks for vocal comparisons. Recordings were made simultaneously across two microphones. I used three different microphones of different manufacture and caliber, from large-diaphragm studio condensers to shotguns, as well as the old standby AKG C 414. A variety of different styles of musical instruments as well as spoken dialog were recorded in an attempt to cover as broad a range of recording scenarios as possible.
The first thing that I noticed was the C 4000B’s overall transparency when compared to the other microphones. When recording close proximity voice-over against a small shotgun-style condenser microphone, the C 4000B showed just the slightest increases or highlight of high/mid-frequency boost somewhere around 3 kHz, with little to no audible difference or coloration within the low frequencies.
Scrutinizing the mic under the conditions of vocal recording-comparing the C 4000B against the AKG C 414-I found that the C 4000B provided a much fuller- sounding and warmer capture of the performance with an extremely well-rounded low end and a more contoured high-frequency response, whereas the 414 left my ears feeling a little bit crisp and less rounded. Working the C 4000B’s $848 price tag into the equation, I was convinced that the C 4000B is an excellent value.
In another recording situation, the C 4000B was used to mike acoustic bass. The recording was made with a completely dry print to tape, and only minor compression was applied to the playback, producing an extremely detailed presence as well as a considerable amount of punchiness and character. When this recording was compared to a recording made simultaneously with an $1,800 studio mic, the result was astounding. The C 4000B provided an almost identical acoustic footprint to the much more expensive mic.
The AKG C 4000B is both an exceptionally detailed and affordable microphone with amazingly true sonic clarity, rugged construction and almost no coloration of sound (except for a slight amount of sheen in the high end), capable of capturing a very broad range of acoustic and electric signals. If you have the means, I highly recommend adding a pair to your ensemble.
AKG Acoustics, U.S., 1449 Donelson Pike, Nashville, TN 37217; 615/360-0499; fax 615/360-0275; www.akg-acoustics.com.