Paul White tries out AKG's versatile new back‑electret, fixed cardioid microphone.
Over the past couple of decades, recording gear has continued to fall in price while improving in quality and facilities. In one way, microphones are the exception, because it's still hard to better the performance of those old studio classics. Even so, the cost of owning a good‑quality capacitor vocal mic has plummeted in the last two decades. The home recording revolution is partly responsible for this, because the wider marketplace means mass‑production techniques can be applied, and the ensuing manufacturing‑cost benefits get passed along to the user.
AKG have their own in‑house plastic‑moulding plant and tool‑making facility (essential for their headphone manufacture) which allows them to replace a laboriously assembled metal sub‑chassis and other small parts with intricately moulded pieces that can be mass‑produced very cheaply. Looking through the basket of this mic suggests that the capsule support is one such moulding. There are still some stages of the crucial capsule manufacture that have to be done by hand, but in practical terms it's now possible for a capacitor microphone to retail for little more than you'd once have expected to pay for a dynamic model.
The Complete Package
The latest offering from AKG is the C2000B, a back‑electret capacitor with a fixed‑cardioid pattern. It can run from any phantom power source in the range 9 to 52 volts and has recessed switches for bass cut and 10dB pad. Unusually, for a microphone of this price, it comes complete with a very nicely engineered H100 shockmount, though no case or cable is included. A simple twist action clamps the shockmount to the mic quite securely, but the mic body design also incorporates a slight lip that prevent the mic from sliding out of the adaptor when inverted. A small touch, but one that could just avert disaster.
All the performance figures are well on the good side of acceptable for this category of microphone — the sensitivity is a very typical 20mV/Pa, the unweighted EIN (Equivalent Input Noise) is quoted as 30dB (20dB A weighted) and the frequency range professes to cover 30Hz to 20kHz, though the response plot referred to in the spec sheet wasn't provided with the review model. There is a rise of around three or four dBs in the response between 8 and 12kHz, which provides a nice airy tone without introducing any obvious harshness, and the bass response is well extended.
Physically, the mic is robust with a cast metal housing, a tough single‑layer mesh wind screen and an attractive 'metallic champagne' paint job. The styling fits in with the latest generation of AKG mics, right down to the recessed red stripe around the body. The output is via a gold‑plated XLR connector, conventionally wired, while the capsule itself features a diaphragm that's gold sputtered on one side only, apparently to prevent diaphragm‑to‑backplate shorts during very‑high‑SPL use. Though the C2000B looks like a typical large‑diaphragm mic, the active area of the capsule is smaller than you might imagine — around half an inch, from looking at the capsule housing. This doesn't mean the mic has a small sound though, and for non‑close‑up work smaller diaphragms generally mean a cleaner off‑axis response.
I would imagine that most project studio owners will buy the C2000B primarily for vocal use, though AKG also recommend the mic as being suitable for almost any acoustic instrument application from acoustic guitar to grand piano, as well as claiming it to be ideal for percussion such as cymbals, bongos, congas and even snare drum — though you obviously wouldn't use it as a kick drum mic. There's no reason at all why this mic shouldn't perform adequately in all these alternative applications as the majority of good vocal capacitor mics also handle these other situations more than competently. As a rule, smaller diaphragm mics make slightly better general‑purpose instrument mics than large‑diaphragm models. Certainly there were no problems with the obligatory acoustic guitar test.
As a vocal mic, the C2000B has nice, transparent top end while the body of the voice comes over solidly without unduly emphasising any nasal characteristics — often a detrimental effect of cardioid mics. I compared it with several other vocal mics I had available at the time and felt that its tonality placed it somewhere between a Rode NT1 and an Audio Technica ATM4033, although it was still noticeably different to each. It was less middly than the Rode and perhaps a little more solid than the ATM, but please note that these comparisons are only of overall tonality and are not meant to imply a quality difference.
The C2000B's susceptibility to popping was little different to any of the other mics I compared it against, and given its extended bass capability, use with a separate pop shield is highly recommended. As with all sensitive mics, there's a degree of low‑frequency handling noise (again this may be exaggerated by the good LF response), though using the shockmount should help avoid problems when using a stand placed on a less‑than‑solid floor.
The inbuilt high‑pass filter operates from 500Hz downwards with a 6dB/octave response, the idea being that it counters the proximity effect when the mic is used really close (under four inches). It does this admirably, but as soon as you move away from the mic with the filter switched in, the sound becomes extremely thin, so good mic technique is essential. If you simply need to exclude low frequency vibrations, then using a filter on the desk channel or preamp cutting below 100 to 150Hz would almost certainly produce more satisfactory results. In general, I'd say the low cut filter provided was better suited to live work than studio usage and, in any event, by the time you've put a pop shield in place, few studio performers will get closer than four inches to the mic.
As expected from a cardioid mic, the sound becomes less bright as you move off axis, and if you address the rear of the mic, the sound is extremely bassy. This is perfectly normal behaviour, though you need to be aware when using a cardioid mic that any heavy room ambience picked up by the rear of mic will come through very coloured, so in some environments, an omni will produce a better tonal balance.
Acoustic instruments sound fine through this mic, with a nice balance of solidarity and definition, and the maximum SPL handling of 150dB (pad in) means that few sources should be too loud to deal with. Overall this is a versatile and attractively priced mic, nicely made and with a classy, well‑defined sound that includes just a hint of flattery.
- Polar pattern: cardioid.
- Frequency range: 30 to 20,000Hz.
- Sensitivity at 1000Hz: 20mV/Pa (‑34dBV).
- Maximum SPL for 0.5% THD (0/‑10 dB): 140dB/150dB.
- Equivalent noise level: 20dBA.
- Signal‑to‑noise ratio: 74dBA.
- Preattenuation pad: ‑10dB, switchable.
- Bass cut filter: 6dB/octave below 500Hz.
- Electrical impedance: 200Ω.
- Recommended load impedance: >1000Ω.
- Power requirement: 9 to 52V phantom power to DIN 45596/IEC 268‑15.
- Current consumption: <2mA.
- Diameter: 53mm (2.1 inches).
- Length: 159mm (6.3 inches).
- Weight: 325g (11.5oz)/950g (2.1lbs)
- Excellent shockmount included.
- Good build quality.
- Solid, detailed sound.
- Low‑cut filter a little aggressive for some applications.
A good choice for the project studio owner who wants one good mic that can turn its hand to anything.