AKG has a long-standing reputation for being at the forefront of microphone technologies for more than 60 years. Founded in Austria in 1947, AKG, short for Akustische und Kino-Geräte, has expanded to include headquarters in Germany and the US. One of the newest microphone lines released by AKG, the Perception series, was released in 2005. The entire series was re-vamped and released in 2008, and the result is an amazing line of mics able to capture anything you want.
Differences Between Mics
The least expensive microphones in the line are the Perception 120 and 170. These microphones can be found for $100 each at most recording equipment suppliers. The 170 is the only small diaphragm condenser in the group, and the 120 is the only mic with a USB option. The Perception 220 shares the low cut filter and 20 dB pad offered by the 120, but incorporates a one-inch diaphragm which provides a more accurate interpretation of the sounds picked up. A Perception 220 can be found in most stores for $180. The true power of this line gets introduced with the 420, bringing the features found in the smaller models and adding to it with a second diaphragm, allowing for switchable patterns. Each 420 Microphone can be found for $250, including a case and shock mount. The only mic in the series that we were unable to get a glimpse of was the newest member, the Perception 820 Tube. While the Tube may be of the highest possible quality, the 420 will most adequately describe the results found in all other microphones in the Perception line.
With the switchable polar patterns, off-axis recording is going to have a loss in level depending on your pattern. Regardless of the pattern however, the mic has a relatively short range proximity effect. This can be seen as both an advantage and disadvantage of the unit. It can greatly increase the intimacy of a singer’s vocals depending how close they want to get, but it can lose a low of low end when recording something at a distance. It is really something that comes down to a personal preference, but I think it does great on both male and female vocals.
The Perception 420 has slightly different frequency responses depending on the selected polar pattern. Even though they are almost identical in response, I enjoy using the omnidirectional pattern over the cardioid. The omnidirectional pattern is pretty flat in response until about 5 kHz, where it creates a slight dip followed by a boost of the slightly higher frequencies. This is useful for removing some of the natural sibilance in the singers voice. The cardioid pattern provides a more even response, however adds a 2 dB boost around 2 kHz and above. This boost is virtually unnoticeable during use though.
The figure-eight pattern is a truly interesting feature of the Perception series microphones. While trying to emulate the style of a ribbon microphone, the response chart is less stable than most ribbons. It is a great attempt though, especially when you can’t quite afford a decent ribbon microphone. The chart reacts similarly to the cardioid chart, but includes a dip around 150 Hz.
So far, the Perception 420 has proven to be a great microphone for all types of vocal recording, both male and female. It adds a warmth to male vocals that sounds almost tubed, even when run through the basic XMAX preamps of my audio interface. It also does a great job of micing up guitar amps without muddying up the sound, both when played clean or with distortion. While there hasn’t been a chance to mic up any acoustic instruments yet, we look forward to testing it out and letting you know how the AKG Perception 420 does.