AKG C414 XLII Condenser Microphone Review
The original AKG C414 design has been a popular microphone for studio recordings since the early 1970s. It was originally an update of the AKG C12 which only offered 3 polar pattern selections. The AKG C414 offered 4 polar patterns and became a staple in many recording studios. More improvements came along the way with XLR inputs instead of a fixed cable, a teflon-ringed capsule, better power handling, lower mic noise, and added gain to name a few.
AKG decided back in 2004 to update this popular condenser microphone for the 21st century and released the AKG C414 B-XLS and the AKG C414 B-XLII. In 2009 they updated it once again to allow for “in-between” polar patterns upping the number from 5 to 9 total polar pattern settings. Both the AKG C414 XLS and the AKG C414 XLII are solid condenser microphones but for this review we decided to focus on the design and specifications of the AKG C414 XLII. There are a couple differences between the two models that are worth highlighting, but let’s find out why these are such renowned studio condenser microphones.
The design of this revamped classic was inspired by notes and recommendations from leading sound engineers who have extensively used the AKG lines of studio condenser microphones. The circuitry has been redesigned and updated to give the C414 XLII the lowest possible self noise and high headroom for a wide dynamic range. The diaphragm is plastic foil with gold on one side to prevent shorting at high sound pressure levels (SPLs).
The microphone itself is of an all metal construction making it very sturdy. It is resistant to electrostatic and electromagnetic interference. The C414 XLII’s capsule is a one inch, twin diaphragm capsule with an elastic mounting system. This aids in minimizing structurally transmitted noise from any type of chassis vibration.
This microphone has a total of 9 polar patterns on it. Simply use the arrows on the microphone to select the polar pattern you want and a green LED light will indicate which of the 9 patterns you have selected. If you switch phantom power off on your interface or mixing console, the microphone will retain the last settings you had it on upon powering back up. There is also a lock mode so you can keep your settings in tact without them being adjusted by anyone.
In addition to the 5 selectable polar patterns (Omnidirectional, Wide Cardioid, Cardioid, Hypercardioid, and Figure Eight) you can also select 4 more patterns which are called intermediate patterns. These patterns provide you with a pattern that is in between each of the 5 selectable patterns.
The C414 XLII has a Preattenuation Pad Selector which allows you to increase the headroom in increments of 6 dB. This helps to prevent the microphone’s output level at low frequencies from overloading transformers inside your mixing console. Check your equipment to make sure your mixer, preamp, or interface can handle the maximum output level of the microphone without causing distortion.
You also have a Bass Cut Selector next to the Preattenuation Pad. This should be pretty self explanatory, but generally it reduces low-end distortion caused by footfall or wind noise interference. The filter slope is more than 12 dB/octave at the 40 Hz and 80 Hz settings and 6 dB/octave at the 160 Hz setting. The 160 Hz setting minimizes the proximity effect that may arise when close-in miking from less than 6 inches.
The C414 XLII comes packaged as a single microphone as well as a stereo set. If you order the single microphone, it comes shipped with a high quality carrying case which includes: a SA 60 stand adapter, a H 85 shock mount, a PF 80 pop screen, a W 414X foam windscreen, as well as a frequency chart and product information. The stereo set of C414 XLIIs also comes with a high quality carrying case which includes: 2 SA 60 stand adapters, 2 H 85 shock mounts, 2 W 414X foam windscreens, a H 50 stereo bar, and frequency chart/product information.
This microphone is really great for vocals and instruments where frequencies are on the higher end without being too overly harsh. It sounds really good on acoustic guitars as well. It’s not ideal for instruments like kick drums, electric bass guitar, or any instrument that needs a good low frequency response. The C414 XLII is going to be better in the higher frequency range. This is a bit limiting if you are looking for an all purpose microphone for multiple types of applications. For a more renaissance microphone I would recommend looking at the C414 XLS.
Beyond that, there is very little to be critical of with the C414 XLII. It’s a fantastic update on a very popular and still heavily used studio condenser microphone. The price might steer some folks away but when you consider the quality of this microphone and all the additional goodies that come packaged with the AKG C414 XLII, you are definitely getting your money’s worth. For folks looking to drop some money on a great vocal microphone with the ability to record other instruments, the AKG C414 XLII really delivers.
If you have any questions or comments about the AKG C414 XLII feel free to ask us in the comments section below. To pick up an AKG C414 XLII or AKG C414 XLS, be sure to visit us over at UniqueSquared.com.