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The history of professional recording is long and storied, and contains hundreds of fantastic mics that have made their impact on the industry in one way or another. Some, however, have made a more significant mark than others, and it’s these mics that are truly able to stand the test of time.
For every kind of recording set up and sound source, there’s a legendary mic. Vocal mics, for example, have the inimitable Neumann U47 large-diaphragm condenser mic to call their own. For radio broadcasting, the rich sound and reliability of the Shure SM7(B) has become the industry standard ever since its first release in 1973. But what about recording acoustics? What mic set the standard for that?
The sound that defined decades of acoustic recording was, in point of fact, an AKG mic. To be specific, it was the AKG C451, a modular small-diaphragm condenser microphone. First released in the late 1960s, this AKG 451— along with the Neumann KM84— was instrumental in creating the sound for acoustic guitar for decades. Now this AKG condenser mic is back in the form of the AKG C451B, and it’s better than ever. Find out just how in our AKG C451 B microphone review below.
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20Hz – 20kHz
135 dB SPL (up to 155 dB SPL with pad)
When you want the best sound, you need the best microphone for the job. AKG made that clear when they released the AKG C451 Condenser Modular System, a system that consisted of preamp bodies, interchangeable capsules, accessories, and more. The combination of the C451 E phantom-powered preamp and the CK1 cardioid capsule became a fast favorite for acoustic guitarists, and that sound has been the industry standard ever since.
The original C451 had a smooth upper-end bump that allowed acoustic instruments to move from muddy to sparkling clear, and was a fantastic overhead mic on snare drums or cymbals as well. However, with the dawn of the digital age, presence peaks became less popular and mic manufacturers worked on engineering mics that did away with them. But that wasn’t the end of the AKG condenser microphone, and the 451 mic was redesigned and rereleased in 2001 as the C451 B.
The AKG 451B redesign was motivated by the discontinuation of the CMS (Condenser Modular System) series in the 1990s. The new 451 microphone is said to have nearly identical acoustics to the much-beloved CK1 capsule of the original C451, as well as a more rugged and reliable design. You can read on to see just how well this newer version holds up to the original.
The impact of the original C451 on the recording industry can’t be overstated. It’s with this legendary sound in mind, and a clamor from long-time fans, that AKG began the process of redesign in 1990. The redesigned C451E preamp has lower self-noise, thanks to modern technology and more precise machine assembly.
This microphone has a 3-micron gold-sputtered diaphragm in an electret design that’s designed to be almost completely reject handling noise. The AKG C451 B also has highly sophisticated electronics that are complex but durable. With its light diaphragm and all-metal body, this mic has sufficient protection against RF interference. It also feels compact and sturdy, and is manufactured and assembled in Vienna, Austria.
While the original C451 was legendary for its sound alone, it did come with a lot of loose parts that made it difficult to use on the road. The redesign focused on creating a compact mic with all the features of the original. This included integrating the pre-attenuation pad and roll-off switches into the body, where they were previously screw-in accessories. The capsule has also been permanently attached to the body, allowing the new mic to withstand a 6-foot drop test and other temperature and humidity changes as well.
The redesign helps with the mic longevity, but in terms of sound how does the AKG C451 B hold up? The answer is, just like the original. It has a neutral, smooth midrange and a gentle presence boost at 5kHz that flatters any acoustic instrument. It also has fantastic clarity, allowing guitars to stand out in the mix without overwhelming the other instruments. The new microphone isn’t exactly a one-to-one replica, and has a slightly more “modern” sound when compared to the original. However, on the whole, it’s a fantastic redesign, and is well worth the investment if you’re missing the classic C451 sound.
We’ve mentioned it once, we’ve mentioned it a hundred times, but the results are clear: where the AKG C451 B really shines is with the acoustic guitar. The original C451 defined the sound with its CK1 capsule, and the redesign is no different. Guitars on this mic sound “sparkling” and fresh, with a clarity that’s bright without sounding grating. It’s fantastic on other instruments as well, giving cymbals and shakers presence, and working well with strings, piano, horns, and percussion.
C451 aficionados may have mourned with the discontinuation of the original set, but AKG has proven with the C451 B that it’s back and better than ever. Whether you use the C451 B alone or in a matched set (known as the C451 B/ST), you’re sure to find a recording experience that’s lively, present, and reliable.
The AKG C451 B brings the original C451’s fantastic presence boost and rich sound to a whole new audience. The redesign is compact, durable, and sounds nearly identical to the original. They’re easy to position, have a clear, smooth sound, and are built to last whether you’re on the road or in the studio. Find the best deals for the AKG C451 B Microphone here.