AKG Acoustics have recently launched two new live sound vocal microphones — one capacitor and one dynamic — intended for the professional and serious semi-pro markets. The aim is to combine sound quality with robust construction, low handling noise and better than usual resistance to feedback.
Paul White
Both the C5 capacitor microphone and the D5 dynamic model feature a tough spring steel wire mesh basket finished in black, atop a cast zinc alloy body. An unusually resilient internal shock-mount system minimizes handling noise, and the output is on the usual balanced XLR connector with gold plated pins.
The cardioid pattern C5 model uses a capsule set in a gold-sputtered housing, which AKG claim protects it against moisture and humidity. There's also a removable presence boost adapter in the form of a plastic cap on the end of the capsule, designed for increased intelligibility in the upper mid-region. If the mic has too much presence for your taste, this may be removed. A frequency response of 65Hz to 20kHz is quoted, but the response seems to be around 10dB down at 20kHz, with a slight presence bump at around 10kHz. So, the high end isn't as extended as you'd expect from a studio capacitor mic.
No mention is made of whether the capsule is a permanently charged back-electret type or a traditional capacitor design, but as it can operate from phantom power as low as 9V, I suspect it uses back-electret technology. It has a sensitivity of 4 mV/Pa, which is similar to other live mics and less sensitive than most studio microphones, enabling it to handle SPLs in excess of 140dB. The A-weighted signal-to-noise ratio is 69dB, which is more than adequate for the close-miking applications that this model is designed for, and the weight is a comfortable 345g (12.2oz).
The D5 dynamic model (available with or without switch) looks outwardly very similar to its capacitor counterpart and includes what AKG call their new 'Laminate Varimotion multi-thickness diaphragm technology'. This claims to provide a smooth frequency response, which in turn allows high gain levels before feedback. I couldn't find any further information on the diaphragm construction, but the name and design brief suggests that it is some type of lightweight laminate structure, which may well improve the damping of the diaphragm and so suppress unwanted resonances.
Unlike the C5, the D5 has a tighter supercardioid polar pattern and claims a useful frequency response of 70Hz to 20kHz, which seems extraordinarily high for a dynamic design (although the response curve suggests it is down by 15dB or so at 20kHz). There's a broad presence peak above 5kHz to improve intelligibility, but this is more of a plateau than a hump and so shouldn't sound too aggressive. The D5 is less sensitive than the C5, at 2.6mV/Pa, and can tolerate a correspondingly higher SPL of over 150dB. So, death metal vocalists who like to bounce the mic off their tonsils are not going to scare it! At 7.3 inches long and around two inches in diameter at the widest point of the basket, the mic weighs 340g (12oz), which is just five grams less than the C5. Both mics include a vinyl carrying bag and stand adaptor.
Test results
Given that these mics work on very different electrical principles, they actually sound surprisingly similar. Compared with the LD1011 back-electret mic that I normally use for gigging, both AKG models have noticeably more low end when used up close (the C5 has a little more than the D5). At normal close-miking distances, I'd say a low-cut filter would be needed, as the bass end is just a bit too generous. Other than that, the tonality is classy and smooth with none of that grating high end that you get from mics where the presence peak is too fierce. I found little subjective difference between the top end of the C5 and the D5 (though this will vary from singer to singer) and the feedback rejection of both mics was excellent, as was the low handling noise. Other than the need to tame the low end proximity rise with EQ or low-cut filters when working very close to the microphone, the sound achievable from both models was very natural and it's hard to choose between them. In fact, if you're in the market I'd suggest you try both and see which suits your voice best — they're both very good live vocal mics and their resistance to feedback makes them particularly strong contenders.  


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