Everyone loves a story with a happy ending — and what could have been the end of high-quality audio manufacturing in Austria has turned into a tale of renewal and innovation. Following the Harman Group’s decision to close its AKG design and manufacturing facilities in Vienna in 2017, a band of former AKG engineers and executives decided to start again from scratch. In just 22 months, they formed a new company, Austrian Audio, acquired premises, research and development facilities (including one of the prized old AKG anechoic chambers, now integrated into Austrian Audio’s labs), and designed and completed eight new products, all of which were launched in Frankfurt at the start of April.
Details are sketchy at the time of writing concerning Aurora, a new test and measurement platform, and also the Hi-X50 and Hi-X55, two new sets of studio headphones. But about the others — two large‑diaphragm condenser mics and their associated accessories and support software — we know more.
Both mics are based around the CKR12 (above), a new capsule designed by the Austrian Audio team and entirely handmade in their Vienna factory by skilled techs with decades of capsule assembly experience. As the name suggests, the CKR12 tips its hat to the classic AKG CK12 capsule, but thoroughly updates the design, and employs patent-pending ceramic rings instead of brass; Austrian Audio claim the former have a much lower failure rate.
The more expensive of the two mics is the dual-diaphragm OC818 (on the left in the picture at the top of this item), whose multiple polar patterns can be adjusted in the traditional fashion via the selector switch on the mic body, or wirelessly via Austrian’s fifth new product: the OCR8, an optional transmitter/receiver that fits on the back of the mic. This allows adjustment of the pickup pattern to be made in 255 incremental steps, from highly directional figure-of-eight all the way to omnidirectional via cardioid settings, and the wireless control is effected via software, namely new product number six: PolarPilot, a free app for iOS and Android devices. Although the polar pattern control method is digital, the audio captured by the mic is never converted, remaining analogue at all times.
The OC818 also sports separate hardware outputs from its forward‑ and rear-facing diaphragms, and if the resultant signals are captured to two spare recorder channels, they may be post-processed to alter the effective pickup pattern of the mic after recording. The software used to do this is Austrian’s seventh new product, the free (and open‑source) VST/AU/AAX plug-in PolarDesigner.
That leaves Austrian’s other new mic, the OC18 (on the right in the picture at the top), which is a single-diaphragm, fixed-pattern cardioid version of its sibling. The OC818 and OC18 are being sold singly for £879$999 and £599$699, or as stereo pairs for £1579$1899 and £1149$1399 respectively (the OCR8 transmitter/receiver is £129$149). We hope to bring you a review of the new mics very soon.
Above, you can hear Kent Iverson, Head of Marketing at the newly launched Austrian Audio, talking exclusively to SOS in the frantic run-up to the brand launch at Musikmesse about what the new company tried to bring over from the AKG days, both in concrete terms (in this case, a key piece of R&D infrastructure) and also in a more general sense (people and design expertise). Take a listen...