Wow. After doing a bit of research, I found that the C414 has gone through quite a bit of change over the years. This “C” series has been around since 1963, starting with the C12! Hard to believe. Here are the 4 most recent versions:
AKG C414B XLS. 2004.
AKG C414B XLII. 2004. More pronounced presence peak, giving the mic a more airy and open top end.
AKG C414 XLS. 2009.
AKG C414 XLII. 2009. Same as the B XLII. More pronounced top end.
As you can see, the older models had the “B” in there. There are a couple of noteworthy differences between the 2 older and the 2 newer ones:
Both the C414 XLS and C414 XLII offer 9 pickup patterns, which enable you to choose the perfect setting for every application.
The older “B” models only have a total of 5 pickup patterns.
There are also some slight cosmetic differences between them.
If you want a complete history, check out this really informative article that covers everything! Curing Condenser Confusion: An Audio History of the AKG C 414. They also include some neat sound tests as well! Great overall website. Highly recommended reading. While listening to the vocal samples, I found that the newest models (XLS and XLII) are extremely clear and noticeably brighter overall.
The C414 XLS is really versatile, given all of those different polar patterns. What you get:
Plus 4 intermediate settings, totaling 9. The green LED light over the switch lets you know of the pattern selected, and becomes red when the mic is overloaded. There are 2 more switches on the back:
Three pre-attenuation pads
Three low-cut filters
Overall, the mic is on the dark side and remains incredibly transparent with wide frequency response. It does well in a variety of applications, and the 158dB sound pressure level makes this perfect for miking extremely loud sources (such as kick drums). It isn’t really recommended solely for vocals because of its darker character but does do well anyway.
Very versatile. A workhorse mic.
9 polar patterns, which is basically unheard of.
The lock feature makes it so you can’t accidentally switch patterns unknowingly.
Sound reproduction called amazing and very rare.
Comes in a rock-solid case with shock-mount, windscreen, & pop-filter.
Smooth high end. Present but not hyped, beautiful, and not harsh. Bright sources don’t become horrible, and dark sources still have life to them.
You have to turn on phantom power before choosing a polar pattern setting. No set and forget. This may become problematic when you’re in a hurry and forget to check the settings, in turn recording something with the wrong pattern.
Pretty fragile, even more so than your average condenser. Handle with extreme care.
The phantom power from your interface actually powers on and off the LED. A minor nit-pick, but some people prefer to be able to physically turn off the mic itself.
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Who this mic benefits?
I’ve seen it endorsed for:
*Acoustic guitar and acoustic instruments in general*
What you will need?
48v phantom power via audio interface or preamp. Make sure you invest in a good audio interface for this guy. The main thing here is that you may need a better interface given that this thing is already pretty high up there in price. Some preamp/interface options for the C414 that I came across:
If you opt to go more affordable, the Focusrite 2i2 and the Steinberg UR22 are both fantastic. It has been said that the UR22 has better preamps than the 2i2, so it may actually be a better option for a mic of this caliber. I own the 2i2 and love it. Either of those 2 would work wonders though. Check out my Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 Review!
Also be aware of your room set up, as this mic picks up everything. You may actually want to have an audio engineer with you when recording with this.
More on the last point: This is a condenser mic and a super-sensitive one at that; It picks up everything. This means that you will need to isolate as much sound from the mic and block out the rest. What is a cardioid capsule?
Here are some ideas:
Record in a small space, such as a closet.
Turn off all Air conditioners, extraneous noise, as well as ambient noise. Do not record near a window!
Consider using Acoustic Studio Foam, line the walls with old comforters, use a CAD audio acoustic shield, or even record underneath a blanket! It sounds crazy but it works. Check out the video below to see the point illustrated quite humorously.
A great all-around workhorse mic with some minor problems. Will undoubtedly need some beefier preamp setups to sound it’s best, and may not be best in the hands of a beginner.
How does it compare to the 414 XLII?
Comparison in a nutshell:
AKG C414 XLS:bright, but more of a workhorse mic. It’s slightly warmer than the XLII. Would do well as your primary all-rounder.
AKG C414 XLII:even brighter. better for vocals.
If you prefer a slightly warmer sound, the XLS will do the trick. If you need a brighter sound, the XL II is your best bet. If you prefer a straight-up warm sound, the B-ULS model is probably the warmest out of all of them.
The only real difference between the XLS and XLII is that the XLII has a slight lift on the top end, making it a bit better for vocals overall. If you listen closely to the male vocal samples above (in the link provided), you can hear an ever so subtle brighter character in the XLII.
If your budget allows, I would probably go with the C414. As for which?
C414 XLS = Darker, slightly warmer. More of a workhorse mic. Would be great as your all-rounder.
Stu is determined to help you make sound decisions, and strives to deliver the best and most in depth content on the internet! In his spare time, he likes to fish, paint, play guitar, pray, rap, make beats, take photos, record videos, graphic design, and more. His sense of humour, coupled with a knack for excellence and strict attention to detail are what allow him to stand out in an crowded industry.