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  • Writer's pictureJames Meder

#MicMonday featuring the AKG 414

This #MicMonday is brought to you by the AKG c414b-uls large diaphragm condenser mic; seen here in front of songwriter Cal Sturges. These photos are from our sessions in May 2022 with my remote recording rig in San Jose, CA.

I was reminded of these photos last week when a musician reached out asking what mic I’d recommend for recording solo cello, in the $1000 range. I was quick to suggest a used AKG c414 xls✌🏼

***Nerd jargon ahead! Proceed at your own risk... ask questions in the comments!

Now I've previously recommended and posted similar mics available in this price range or lower; like the Neumann TLM102, Audio Technica AE3000 and United UT Fet 47 (all which are great!), but the 414 is different in that it has more tonal options. The c414b-uls version offers 4 polar patterns, 2 selectable high pass filter points (75 and 150 Hz) and -10 or -20db attenuation pads. The newer xls version has 9 polar patterns, 3 filter options and 3 pads... whoa! According to the AKG's website, "the c414xls maintains the sonic character of the legendary c414b-uls." Because of this, I'm referring to these mics as being the same, although they do differ electronically as mentioned above. ***Purists will note that the uls has a transformer balanced output, while the xls in transformerless.

This c414b-uls has a 1" edge-terminated gold sputtered capsule that flatters acoustic instruments. It's part of AKG's 'linear/neutral' microphone line referenced as ULS/XLS. I love using this mic on acoustic guitar, orchestras, certain vocalists, and drum overheads. It become the go-to drum overhead pick for many engineers during the 1990s - in part thanks to producer Butch Vig using them with Nirvana on Nevermind and with The Smashing Pumpkins on Gish.

Note in the photos I have 2 of these mics positioned very close together. One of the mics belongs to me and the other to Cal - we were experimenting with which microphone preamp best flattered Cal's guitar tone. One mic went to a AMS Neve 1073lb and the other to an API 512c. We also tried the mic with the built in microphone preamp on the Tascam 388 mixer/tape machine which is what we were recording to. After exhaustive listening tests, Cal preferred the sound of the API preamp. I can understand why Cal liked this combo - the 414 has slightly scooped mids between 1-4k and a gentle lift between 5-10k (set in the figure-8 polar pattern). I would describe the API 512c preamp as complimenting these frequencies and being exactly the opposite in character - thus revealing a very true-to-life representation of the acoustic guitar.

Also note that I was using these mics in figure-8 polar pattern along with an AEA r84 ribbon mic on the vocal(also a figure-8 mic). This setup helps to achieve really good isolation between the vocal and guitar with minimal bleed. The tight lobes of the figure-8 makes the mic very directional. Of course it always helps to record in a nice sounding room and consider what the rear lobe of the mic is picking up... because that'll add to the mic's tone as well!

I'd recommend this mic to anyone who wants to have options to 'tailor' their sound according to the room they're in. Too much reverb? Try a hypercardioid polar pattern and move the mic closer to the sound source. Want more reverb included in the sound? Switch the mic to Omnidirectional and move it away from the instrument until you start to hear the right amount of room you'd like to capture.

Thanks for your time and I hope you learned a thing or two. If there are any important details I left out, please feel to add thoughts to the comments below. Questions are always welcome!

Take care -James

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