Which AKG 414 should I buy?

Discussion in 'Location Recording' started by 9FtBluthner, Nov 24, 2007.

  1. 9FtBluthner

    9FtBluthner Guest

    [Note, I also posted this on the ProAudio forum; if against the rules please delete this one.]

    (Note: I'll only consider new mics.)
    C 414B-XLS is flatter - which I want.
    C 414B-SLII has a rise for vocals.
    Either can be bought in a matched stereo pair.

    I thought I had decided on the XLS matched pair, for $1,999 per four online sources.

    The problem is I just stumbled across that new 414 LTD at Guitar Center for a great price.

    AKG recently released a “limited edition” C 414 LTD which I believe is technically identical to the XLS, just some cosmetic difference and a couple hundred bucks more expensive because they are playing off the collector’s item thing.
    Unfortunately they are not available in matched pairs.
    Here's a link describing the 414 LTDs;

    Today I was in Guitar Center and noticed they had 414 LTDs on sale for $900, which is $300 below their usual discounted price of 1200. (retail is supposedly $1500.)

    So now I’m trying to decide how important it is to get a matched pair.

    AKG site SNIP: The matched pairs consist of two microphones that are within 1 dB to each other in sensitivity and also within 1 dB to each other in the range of 300 Hz to 8,000 Hz of the individual frequency response when used in cardioid mode and are selected from a large quantity of individual microphones using the described criteria by using a proprietary computer program. (end snip)

    Then I looked on Neumann’s site and their mics are not even available in matched pairs.
    So maybe getting matched pairs really doesn't matter that much.
    (Then again, perhaps it’s because Neumanns are made to tighter specs than the 414s.)

    I’m using them to record classical piano, a new 9’2” Bluethner grand, in my home, also acoustic guitar and voice.
    Today I just have a lowly Mbox, but will eventually upgrade to real preamps.

    So should I grab two of these (non-matched) 414 LTDs for $900 each tomorrow, or pay $200 more to get a matched set of 414 XLS?

  2. TheBear

    TheBear Guest

    if you dont think ull hear the difference between two non matched ltd's then go for it....but if ur picky about ur sound my friend...go with a matched pair.
  3. taxman

    taxman Active Member

    Perrsonally, I would avoid the "limited edition," just because I think it is consumer sillyness.

    With these mics you can make an informed decision. They come with a detailed printout of their actual test results. You could look at the results included in the matched pair, and look at the individual mics to see how similar they are. My guess is the quality control is so good that the individuals will look pretty darn close.

    So, if the price is right, then you could go with the limited editions.
  4. DavidSpearritt

    DavidSpearritt Well-Known Member

    Yes, I would also avoid the "matched pair" syndrome, which I think is mainly marketing. Matched when you buy them perhaps, but how long does this matching last while in use.

    I recently purchased a couple of 4006TL's and opted for two close in serial nos but not matched. The calibration charts are very close, and I am sure I can't hear a difference. After all, when one is on the violins and the other is pointed at the cellos and they are separated 600mm or more, then the advantages of matching are questionable.

    The AKG 414 is (was?) a great piano microphone. For your recording, I would buy the least coloured or eq'd models in the range.
  5. JoeH

    JoeH Well-Known Member

    I agree with you Dave; the matched pair thing is always a bit quesitonable for me, esp. if the specs are close enough. I have an old pair of 4006's (1980's B&Ks) that are just wonderful, and have been using them for orchestral work, main pairs, etc. for years. Then more recently I got a newer pair of DPA 4006 TLs that are, as you already know, another step above. None of them are very close to each other in serial #s.

    For collectors value, perhaps it's better to have sequential serial numbers than a matched pair per se? I have a pair of vintage KMi-84's, and they are numbered sequentially. They may have been originally sold as a matched pair as well, but considering the use (and abuse) they've seen over the last three decades, I doubt very much if they're all that close anymore. (And I rarely use them in a stereo pair anyway.)

    As for the "Collectors" edition of the 414's, they only way they're really going to hold or increase their value is for you to never use them, keep the packaging sealed, and put them away for 30 years. If you have the cash to make that kind of questionable investment, then go for it. Otherwise, take the advice you've been given here. :cool:
  6. rfreez

    rfreez Active Member

    One advantage with the stereo set is that you get a stereo bar (worth how much?) along. One other thing you're assured of is that the QC level will be one level higher, because, somebody is paid to pick out samples from the production run and test them for similarity.

    That said, the real point of this post is... i kid you not, i've seen matched pairs of XLS' go for $1400, new, with full warranty. I could not believe it myself, on the same ebay page, one guy is selling it @ $1400, and the next guy, @ $2000. Only, I can't find it right now, but believe me, I have seen them at the said price. But what I can find is this pair of XL2s selling at $1550, while sweetwater and the likes are selling it at $2200... $650 is a lot of change, don't you think?

    Anyway, if you are going going for the xls pair, you might want to keep your eyes open to save a pretty penny.

    BTW, in that space, you might also want to look at the Milab DC196, if you have not, already. A truly interesting mic.

  7. LittleJohn

    LittleJohn Active Member

    Just FYI, I am planning to use a pair of 414 B XL II mics for a Cello duet.
    I bought one a while back, and will buy the other closer to time when the project starts....
    I am not at all concerned that they are not matched pair ( in the marketing sense )

    I think the EQ curve that you note differentiates the XL II from the XLs is actually a good thing, but welcome comments or success stories around that. It works out well for vocals, and the Cellos are pretty close to that range of sounds. ( so I have been told )
  8. Simmosonic

    Simmosonic Active Member

    That's fine for AB, but what about coincident techniques?

    I'm all for matched pairs, why not? After all, I'd be a bit upset if the left and right channels of my mic preamps or AD converters were not matched as closely as possible.

    If I could, I'd go to the factory and match a pair of microphones for myself, so that I could decide what was close enough and where (because there's always going to be a compromise). But that's not possible. So I'm happy to pay someone else to do it for me, what's a couple of hundred of bucks in the big picture? If I then detect some kind of tonal difference between channels, at least I'll know that I've done the best I can with the microphone choice. I'll pay a couple of hundred bucks extra for that reassurance.

    There are enough variables already with this kind of work, who needs to worry about whether a pair of mics is properly matched or not? Solve *that* problem for a couple of hundred bucks.

    Pair matching remains relevant with brands like Schoeps and DPA, who still rely on a lot of hand-crafting to make their microphones. This hand-crafting is one of the reasons they cost so much, but it's also one of the reasons they achieve such excellent off-axis responses, which is possibly the main factor that sets them apart from the crowd. For Neumann, Sennheiser, Rode et al who are making their mics entirely by machine, matching is not much of an issue because they are all so close to each other when they come off the production line anyway. BUT none of those machine-made microphones are delivering the kind of off-axis responses that can be achieved with hand-crafting...
  9. BobRogers

    BobRogers Well-Known Member

    Not to hijack the thread (he said as he hijacked the thread) but what is the advantage of handcrafting? I guess I don't know a huge amount about mic manufacturing, but I'd expect this to be the kind of thing that machines do better than humans.
  10. Simmosonic

    Simmosonic Active Member

    Agreed... but apparently only down to a certain tolerance.

    As I understand it, the profiling/shaping of the condenser's back plate is a critical component in achieving a good off-axis response. You can program a computer controlled lathe or milling machine or whatever down to a certain tolerance, and that will give you a certain level of sonic performance. If you want to go beyond that level, you're back to doing it by hand with, I suppose, very fine sandpaper and/or a file...
  11. Cucco

    Cucco Distinguished Member

    It's almost, like in analog audio, the minor imperfections that make the difference?

    Just a thought - On Superbowl sunday, anyone who wanted microphones on the cheap from Ebay was in luck.

    I saw a Neumann TLM193 go for $600 in new condition, 3 C414s of varying age and vintage go for between $350 and $500 and a pair of the new, delux limited edition matched pair go for (IIRC) $1100.

    Seems while all these guys were off watching football, no one was bidding on audio gear! I scored a few awesome deals - one of the great benefits of not being a football fan myself...
  12. TheFraz

    TheFraz Active Member

    Looks like I got a year to save up for the next superbowl mic buying extravaganza.
  13. Simmosonic

    Simmosonic Active Member

    Hand-crafting in general will probably have more imperfections, resulting in larger differences between individual microphones; which is why it is still necessary to find matched pairs. The machine made stuff may not have the same overall quality, but the process guarantees consistency - any two off the production line should be close enough to be used as a stereo pair (provided they both pass the quality control process).

    I ought to add that I'm at the limits of my depth here about microphone manufacturing processes - the stuff about hand-crafting the backplate and its effect on off-axis response was told to me by a prominent microphone designer/manufacturer during a tour of his automated factory. If I'm wrong, I'll happily stand corrected.
  14. Simmosonic

    Simmosonic Active Member

    ...and I'm going to make sure I don't try to *sell* anything on ebay at that time!
  15. Simmosonic

    Simmosonic Active Member

    If the pair matching ever does become an issue to you, there is always the option of MS. This will spread any differences between the microphones equally across the stereo field, rather than L vs. R.

    MS with 414s offers a great range of coincident possibilities. With cardioid M capsule and 1:1 decoding, it's the equivalent to two hypercardioids at about 120 degrees (a good XY technique). With an omni M capsule and 1:1 decoding, it becomes two cardioids back to back. And with a bidirectional M capsule and 1:1 decoding, it becomes a Blumlein pair. IIRC, the 414 also offers some inbetween patterns, so the possibilities are excellent.

    But there is one thing to keep in mind: when using MS and summing to mono (radio broadcast, perhaps), the result will sound different than summing the equivalent coincident pair to mono...
  16. BobRogers

    BobRogers Well-Known Member

    Well, it was a darned good game.
  17. Cucco

    Cucco Distinguished Member

    But the commercials sucked.
  18. bent

    bent No Bad Vibes! Well-Known Member

    TP and the HB's were rockin' !


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