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AKG C414 XLS vs. Shure KSM44a Apollo preamp

I am looking for a reliable workhorse microphone that will be used for 90% vocals. There will be both male and female vocalists focusing on pop and EDM. I will be running the mic through an apollo rack 8 and the room is nicely treated by gik acoustics. The problem is, I haven't been able to DECIDE which microphone to buy...and I can not afford both. I've narrowed it down to two, but I am open to other suggestions! I guess what I am really looking for is the microphone that will sound best on a variety of singers. I really appreciate the help.

Comments

audiokid Sun, 12/18/2016 - 21:28
Welcome to recording.org :)
What do you like about either of these or have you had a chance to compare them in live use?
I have always wanted a Shure KSM44 but not because I have used it personally. Because I know a few people who just love those for the same reasons you mention. Versatile and sweet sounding.

DonnyThompson Mon, 12/19/2016 - 03:42
There are various models of the 414 Series, with differing sonics, depending on the model number/letter extension, ( EB, P48, XLS, XLII, ULS, etc.) and the year(s) in which it was produced. While there is no "bad sounding" 414, there are certain models from certain years that sound "sweeter" than others; there are also certain models that are more (or less) hyped in the top end.

For example, the first few years of the 414EB series run, which was produced from '76 to around '80 (or so), had the original CK12 brass capsule, designed after AKG's original ( and highly coveted C12 capsule) ....and which, by later years in that run, moving into the AKG 414 P48, ( 1981/82) was changed to a Mylar-ringed capsule, and while it still sounded very good, it didn't have the same sound as the original 414EB.

All that being said, the 414 is a nice sounding mic regardless of the particular model extensions. It's considered to be a kind of Swiss Army knife of the mic world, because you can pretty much throw anything at it and it sounds great. Any pro studio will have at least one 414 in their locker.

But... there is no "end all-be all" mic. The sound will depend on your own voice's characteristics, the preamp stage that the mic is connected to, and the context of the vocals in the song in which you are using it.

Personally, speaking for my own voice, the 414EB is my first choice go-to for my voice, and I have several pro level mics to choose from - AKG 414-P48, Neumann U87, U89i, etc.

I don't think you can go wrong with any 414's. Whether or not it sounds better to you than the Shure KSM is something you have to decide for yourself. Have you thought about renting one of each and trying them each out in your studio?

Keith Johnson Mon, 12/19/2016 - 04:41
I'm with DonnyThompson on this...you should really try before you buy if you can.

My own version of the 414 are ULS and - although they generally do sound good to great on things I point them at - I can often find something 'better' for a particular source (my caveat here is that a lot of my work is instrumental)....obviously when it's going to be your 'go to' mic it kind of limits your options...but one word of warning is that the concept of the 414 being a 'universal' mic goes back historically to the earlier incarnations Donny has referred to and doesn't necessarily apply to the later models...even a cursory glance at the frequency response charts shows what may one may consider to be a significant change.

pcrecord Mon, 12/19/2016 - 06:01
I have 2 KSM44 and like them very much. Vocals overhead, acoustic guitars etc..
I've read that the 414 has a bit more highend due to it's conception aimed at tape recording at the time.. But I honestly didn't try the 414 yet. I'd like to have one mainly to have another flavor in my locker. These days, I like to use my T47 (Diy kit) specially with high pitch vocals because the high end is very sweet on it.

I'm with the guys, try before you buy !

audiokid Mon, 12/19/2016 - 09:42
pcrecord, post: 445865, member: 46460 wrote: I've read that the 414 has a bit more highend due to it's conception aimed at tape recording at the time.
+1

Just a hunch.
Taking into consideration , if you are using the Apollo preamp, the brighter character of the AKG 414 might not be a good match in this case, which is why you should try different microphones with the exact talent and preamp involved. That way you will be absolutely sure its the right choice.

Speculating to add more depth to our already excellent points from everyone here.
Being said, the AKG 414 could be a poor match for the Apollo pre because (contrary to what some call usable or excellent preamps) they are a bit edgy imho. When they get close to peaking you know it. Especially with female vocals with power (take special care on the gain staging as well). But! Unison could warm things up ;) http://www.uaudio.com/blog/unison-quick-tip/.

Never the less... This is why I suggested the KSM32. I always trust Ronan on his love for the KSM32. It came to mind right away.
The KSM32 has a character of a Ribbon mic which may fit your preamp/vocals match better. (Better at taking digital EQ as well).

I might look for a mic with warmer or more neutral tone as apposed to brighter character as also noted pcrecord - some mics were purposely brighter to allow the loss during the tape era? Don't know but this has been said about many mics today.



In any case, your preamp choice has a huge impact on how a mic will sound. (I also support the use of a good tracking comp in the front end)
http://recording.org/threads/preamp-choice-for-shure-ksm44.24723/

If you can't demo the mics... I would look for internet comments (always beware of support of purchase) on what mics people like most with the Apollo preamps/AD conversion, whom have compared them to other pres, in a more unbiased pursuit. That could help as well.

Please share your next move with us so we learn more about what you decided.

pcrecord Mon, 12/19/2016 - 12:11
audiokid, post: 445867, member: 1 wrote: Never the less... This is why I suggested the KSM32. I always trust Ronan on his love for the KSM32. It came to mind right away.
The KSM32 has a character of a Ribbon mic which may fit your preamp/vocals match better. (Better at taking digital EQ as well).
Having 2 KSM 44, it's been a while since I've tried the KSM32 on vocals. A few years back I found it was a bit too nazal for my voice but worked well with others.. Never tried it with my LA-610 !
Thanks for reminding me ;)

DonnyThompson Mon, 12/19/2016 - 14:41
pcrecord, post: 445865, member: 46460 wrote: I've read that the 414 has a bit more highend due to it's conception aimed at tape recording at the time..
audiokid, post: 445867, member: 1 wrote: Being said, the AKG 414 could be a poor match for the Apollo pre because (contrary to what some call usable or excellent preamps) they are a bit edgy imho.

Actually, the newer 414's tend to be brighter and "edgier" than the older models do. The 414 EB, along with its predecessors the original C414, - and back to its first roots as the C12 - all used the brass CK12 capsule, which made them warmer, and silkier on top than the later models, many of which were released after digital became popular. The P48 was the last 414 that had similar frequency characteristics of the earlier models, although it lacked the same silky top end that the older ones had. The newer series; the TLII, XLII, and XLS, were all released post-analog tape ( when it was still the standard), and tend to be "brighter".

I don't believe that there is such a beast as one mic that will sound great on everyone and for every application. It's too dependent upon the vocal characteristics of the singer, as well as with the preamp being used, to be possible. You can certainly get closer to that potential by buying mics that are of high quality, and using them with preamps that are also of high quality, so in a sense, you can hedge your bets a bit, and get closer to having a mic that can be used in many different applications; but it's impossible to choose just one mic and expect it to deliver the same way in every conceivable scenario. This is why most pro studios have mic lockers that include a variety of mics to choose from - Neumanns, Shures, AKGs, Mojaves, Cathedral Pipes, Royers, ADKs and Sennheisers... because the needs will change depending on who is singing, and what context the mic is being used in.

I don't think you'd go wrong with a Shure KSM, nor would you likely regret a 414, either. But the same thing could probably be said for a Shure SM7, an EV RE20, or a Neumann "whatever", or any other well-built condenser, dynamic, or ribbon microphone. You need to choose the mic best suited to the singer's voice, or, in your own case, your own voice and your own preferred style.

And... Preamps do make a big difference. Transformer-based, Valve-based - or models with neither - all have their own sonic character. You just need to find the combination that works best for you.

aironsun Tue, 12/20/2016 - 03:18
You guys are absolutely right! With so many different variables that could alter the sound, I think my best bet would be to find a place to try them out. I have read a number of reviews on both microphones with completely contrasting opinions. And its no surprise to me now given that they all use different preamps and have different voices.

audiokid made an interesting point on using UAD's unison technology to give the apollo pre a different character. With so many different pre-amp emulations, I'm sure one of them will strike the right chord with the microphone. Then again, I will see how the emulation holds up to some consoles I have practiced on such as the Neve 88RS and the API Legacy.
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