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My studio is looking to add a pair of small diaphragm condensers to our "closet". Probably the two biggest uses they will have will be as overhead/room mics or for acoustic guitar/instruments. But they should as versatile as possible.

I have used both the AKG C1000s and Shure SM-81s in the past and have not really liked either on overheads or much else due to the former's papery nature and the latter's bright, noisy harshness. Mind you in both cases the pres were not up to par.

I have been looking at the Neumann KM184s, AKG C451bs, oktava MC-012s and also the SE-3 FET.

Thanks in advance for any repsonses.


ghellquist Mon, 06/13/2005 - 11:47

marknrox wrote: How do you know if they are not the original Oktava's? I've seen 3 different MK 012's.

I believe the difference should be very easy to spot once you know where to look.

The Russian original is (supposedly) marked OktaBa MK-012A-01 (not quite a B, it is a Russian letter), while the Chinese are marked Oktava MC-012.
The Russian ones comes with a metal holder, the Chinese with a plastid holder.

Check this site


anonymous Mon, 06/13/2005 - 12:56

stickers wrote: the 451s should be a brighter mic than the sm 81. I find the sm 81 to be mellow. I use the sm81 and studio prjects c1 on acoustic. the 81 for body and the c1 for upper frequencies.

everything's mellow compared to a C1.

I haven't used them, but I hear good things about (and actually hear good sounds from) Audio Technica 4051's all the time.

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stickers Mon, 06/13/2005 - 16:29

I wasnt comparing the sm81 to the C1. I was comparing the 451 to the SM81. The 451 has a boost in the highs that the sm81 does not. Ive heard both and the freq. responce graph shows this as well. OF COURSE I KNOW THE SM81 is mellow to the C1, thats why i record acoustic with both to get 2 different tones.

anonymous Mon, 06/13/2005 - 17:25


I've used just about all of the mics you mentioned. The AKG 451's, the Neumann KM-184's, and the Octava's are all good. They have different tones, with the 451's and the 184's being a little hyped in the top which is nice when needed. An alternative to the 184's would be the older KM84's by Neumann. They are hard to find but they sound great. I much prefer them over the km184's.

My favorite SD condenser's are my pair of Schoeps CMC6 bodies with the MK4 capsules. The MK4 are cardioid...I've never tried any of the other capsules but I'm sure they sound amazing also. These mics blow the others out of the water. I'm sure that the DPA mics are comparable also though. These are not hyped, but extremely accurate in a flattering way. The sound almost jumps out of the speakers at you. This pair of mics would be one of the last possessions of mine that I would sell period. They cost a little more than most of the others but it is well worth the cost.

KurtFoster Tue, 06/14/2005 - 09:12

I like the 451s. I have 4 of the older ones, a matched pair and two single variants. The new ones aren't exactly the same but they still sound pretty good. Both the 451's and the Neumann 184 are standards.

I agree with JB that the older Neumann KM84's are killer but try to find a pair that someone wants to sell. Good luck!

The SE mics are reported to be very good but I haven't heard them yet.

Studio Projects C4s (packaged in matched pairs) are very versatile and affordable and they sound pretty good. They come with cardioid and omni capsules, sshock mounts all in a neat flight case.. A very flexible package. I had a pair here for a while and I used them quite a bit, choosing them even over the 451' s I have in some cases. Steets for under $400

Absolutely flat and not hyped in the highs, the KEL HM1 has found it special easy to reach spot in my mic cab. I thinks this mic is phenomenal in it's quality vs. price ratio, My ears have difficulty discerning between the HM1 and my Neumann U87ai on vocals. $99, free shipping and if you don't like it you have 21 days to return it for a full refund.

anonymous Tue, 06/14/2005 - 12:04

The AKG 451s and the Neumann KM184s are both fairly bright, edgy mics, much like the Shure ones your used to, but arguably better. The Josephsons are smoother and have more depth, but are also fairly bright, they compare more with the older Neumann KM84s.

DPA, Shoeps, Earthworks makes some of the best small diaphram condenser mics. Alot of this depends on the source and preamps, but you get my drift, some of these mics that may sound harsh could be dramatically improved through a good preamp.

On the darker end of the spectrum there are NT5s and Oktavas (The REAL ones). These mics are on the cheaper end. I believe the AT mics mentioned already are also in this league - I could be wrong, I haven't heard them. Studio projects mics are reported as a good buy as well.

If you are considering other types of mics (Kurt suggested KEL HM1) you should also look into ribbon mics, which, if you really really hate bright, edgy sounds, could be worth it.

anonymous Thu, 06/16/2005 - 11:22

Thanks everyone for the replies - I definitely appreciate the knowledge. I don't know if anyone else has anything to say about the C42s, but for the money and from the description they look like the best option for us. I was slightly concerned about going the route of the 451s if they are 'brighter' than the SM81s. Particularly because we are a digital only studio.

The Schoeps and DPAs definitely look tasty but we would have to wait a bit to get those.

Thanks again.


anonymous Sat, 06/18/2005 - 12:52

I haven't heard the DPA 4011, but it's on my short list for a next upgrade beyond the pair of KM-184's I have now.... along with Schoeps CMC6/MK40 (or 41), and the Gefell M295.

However, the OP listed mics that were all under $1,500 a pair, and the DPA's are way out of that league. Last time I checked, a pair of 4011's ran something like $3,700 USD, at least here in the U.S. That's one reason I might end up with Schoeps or Gefell (M295) instead... they're only incredibly expensive, instead of insanely expensive.

anonymous Sun, 06/19/2005 - 20:28

sdc's choice

See my own personal Small Condenser Shootout here:

C4's beat a good field. The THE mics might be worth a try. My KR capsules (not the sdc) have the best off axis rejection of any mic I've ever used which makes a huge difference in many circumstances.

The c4 is a good mic period, not just "for the money". I wish I could have tried the Josephson. I have a pair of z30x earthworks now - and they are mics for special circumstances: mainly, they are spot mics. Your lows go away after 6-8 inches form the source. However, their rejection is amazing, and their timbre is totally objective and uncolored. They take spl for days. Because of this they are fab for acoustic when someone has to sing at the same time, or close micing a drum. I think of them almost like a dynamic mic, only flat and smooth. They would work for live vocals too, with a pop filter.

I would say the choice depends more on your room and what you record. The c4 makes that choice a lot simpler since you get a omni and a cardioid capsule.

I keep a sound file of every mic in the studio with voice and drums recorded the same way. I record each new one, and listed to all the others next to it - and the c4 still holds its own as a great general purpose mic. The Octava is fine too, but its slightly scooped and slightly harsh character compared to many others makes the c4 an obvious choice for an additional hundred bucks for two.