AKG Condenser Microphone Use
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AKG Condenser Microphones: When To Use Them And Why.
Courtesy of Daniel O'Connell of Griffin Public Relations & Marketing
AKG explains the ins and outs of large-diaphragm condenser microphones and why the AKG line
of large-diaphragm condenser microphones is unequalled in the world.

Large-diaphragm condenser microphones have taken center stage in music recording in recent years, thanks to their unique sonic qualities and versatile characteristics. No other manufacturer of large-diaphragm condenser microphones offers as large and comprehensive a line, or knows as much about them, as AKG Acoustics, the world leader in microphone transducer technology.

"The large-diaphragm condenser microphone is extremely popular for a lot of applications, and for very good reasons," explains Kevin Madden, Market Development Manager at AKG Acoustics. "The large-diaphragm condenser microphone traditionally qualifies as one whose moving diaphragm mass is no less than one-inch in diameter, versus the approximately half-inch or smaller diameter of small-diaphragm condenser microphones. A large diaphragm; made of conductive mylar, acts in the same way that a drum's head does when hit: it resonates. In the case of a large-diaphragm condenser microphone, the fundamental resonance is at around 800 Hz. Above that you get modes where the resonances vibrate in an unstable manner, which in turn creates a kind of distortion--a very musical distortion because of the even spacing of these modal areas. This is not unlike the way a tube distorts, which is very musically flattering for a lot of sounds. That's the basis of the attraction that so many musicians, engineers and producers have for large-diaphragm condenser microphones, even though it may be slightly under the threshold of perception."

The large-diaphragm condenser microphone has its limitations. For instance, sounds above 10 kHz that approach from the sides, tend to be more colored than those below that range that hit the diaphragm head-on. Thus, large-diaphragm condenser microphones aren't always the first choice for miking situations such as large symphony orchestras. Those upper frequencies can cause phase cancellation and other acoustical anomalies resulting from reflectivity within the capsule housing.

The large-diaphragm condenser microphone's unique sonic characteristics are unmatched in other applications, such as vocals (particularly female voices), pianos and stringed instruments. Large diaphragm microphones have a lower "self noise". One of the special characteristics is the fact that the large-diaphragm condenser microphone has a higher capacitance capability--metaphorically speaking, a "larger sail in the wind to catch sound," as Madden puts it - to catch quieter passages in applications like vocals and solo acoustic instruments. Also, the large-diaphragm condenser microphone has more resistance to the proximity effect--the "bump" that all-directional microphones experience at some point in lower frequencies. "That 'detour' in the sound pattern gives large-diaphragm condenser microphones a wider range, so that the bumps at lower frequencies are smoother, and the low end in proximity much fatter sounding. The proximity effect on these microphones is much more forgiving."

Large-diaphragm condenser microphones can work in any number of applications, including percussion and drums. It's simply a matter of placement. "Large-diaphragm condenser microphones are particularly sensitive to plosives--sharp bursts of air that push the microphone's diaphragm against the backplate and cause electronic distortion, "essentially shorting it out momentarily," explains Madden. "Large diaphragms themselves are able to withstand enormous amounts of sound pressure. Typically, SPL limitations are a result of the following electronics. Often, that's the distortion you're hearing--not acoustical distortion but electrical distortion or plosives. AKG's large-diaphragm condenser microphones are built to higher specifications, which allow for situations like that. For instance, with a -20 dB attenuation pad on the microphone, the AKG C414's can handle up to 160 dB with less than 0.5 percent Total Harmonic Distortion [THD]. That's less than half the amount that's audible to human ears."

The entire line of AKG large-diaphragm condenser microphones, including the C12VR, the C414B/TLII, the C414B/ULS, the SolidTube, the C4000B, and the C3000, offer these characteristics. All provide users with the greatest degree of versatility and flexibility available in large-diaphragm condenser microphones. "With one of our large-diaphragm condenser microphones correctly placed on the sound source (usually about six to eight inches and directly on-axis, for vocals), the sound is incredibly accurate yet still warm with the coloration that you simply can't get from equalization or other electronic means," says Madden. In addition, the AKG SolidTube, C4000 and C3000 microphones have integrated internal pop filters, making them that much more versatile in any recording situation. "And AKG large-diaphragm condenser microphones are true large-diaphragm units--a full one inch of moving mass Mylar right up to the edge of the diaphragm," Madden points out. "Each microphone in the AKG series of large-diaphragm condenser microphones has its own special characteristics. The C12VR is our vintage reissue of the venerable C12 microphone. The C414B/TLII (transformerless) and the C12VR offer the classic AKG EQ curve, with resonant boosts between 5 and 6 kHz and again between 9 and 11 kHz. The ULS has the absolute flattest frequency response for a large-diaphragm condenser microphone on the market today. These microphones have recorded thousands of classic tracks, including scores of famous female vocals, which they're particularly good at capturing. They get that 'breathy' sound that's in demand for vocals. An individual acoustic side effect specific only to AKG large diaphragms is the slight dip of 1.5dB at about 2 to 2.5kHz. This has an effect of minimizing "nasalness" in vocals or smoothing out undesirable sharp upper midrange in some sound sources. The AKG line of large-diaphragm condenser microphones is simply the best there is on the planet for this type of microphone. After 50 years of making them that good, we've learned about all there is to know about how to use them. Part of the AKG mission is to help users get everything they can out of our products, so that their projects can be all that they can be."

AKG Acoustics microphones and headphones are manufactured in Vienna, Austria. AKG Acoustics, U.S. markets the full line of AKG Acoustics microphones and headphones for recording, concert, sound reinforcement, commercial sound and broadcast applications. AKG Acoustics, U.S. is part of the Harman International family of companies.

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