There are a lot of companies out there making their business by importing cheap Chinese capsules, throwing them into budget casings and then selling them for bottom line price tags. On the surface their small price tags make them appear to be a bargain but when you compare their quality (both sonic and mechanical), they aren't such a good deal after all. For some reason I had always believed that ADK was one of these companies but after using their products for several months now, I realize how wrong I was.
ADK handcrafts microphones with modern electronics that replicate the sonic timbre of the classic Austrian, Danish and German microphones of yesteryear. According to ADK, its methodology is based on the Henry Steinway idea to marry the craft of woodworking with the theories of physicist Hermann Helmholtz. ADK morphed this idea into the model of a continuous feedback loop between artists, sound engineers, and design engineers ultimately resulting in the ADK Custom Shop. ADK Custom Shop currently has facilities in Belgium and the U.S. with plans to add Canada and the U.K. shortly.
In addition to microphones, the ADK Custom Shop offers a microphone preamp and a compressor/limiter that each employ a unique modular platform allowing the user to easily swap discrete op-amps and transformers. I was grateful to have a couple of channels of CLA-1 compression to use along with the Vienna II-AU and Hamburg II-AU mics for the review period.Features
Studio, broadcast, post production, sound reinforcement
Australian-designed capsule; British Oxford transformer; Phillips Norelco Uber-FET; made-in-the-USA; two position attenuation pad (8 dB and 16 dB) and two position high-pass filter (100 Hz or 160 Hz)
MSRP $1695 each
Visually, the Hamburg II-AU and Vienna II-AU mics are identical, the only difference being the model number printed on the front of the mic. The mics have a beautiful matte nickel finish reminiscent of a classic Neumann microphone. They are cylindrical measuring 2 inches by 8.25 inches and they can be purchased individually or as a stereo pair. Both the stereo pair and the individual mics ship in a briefcase style carry case that protects the mic and carries all of the accessories. The stereo pair case carries the two microphones and a pair of standard mic mounts and a pair of shockmounts. The single microphone case carries the microphone, a standard mic mount, a shockmount, a foam pop filter and a gooseneck-style pop filter.
The ADK Hamburg II-AU and the Vienna II-AU microphones feature two-way attenuation pads (8 dB and 16 dB) and high-pass filters (100 Hz or 160 Hz). They each have a typical equivalent noise level (A-weighted per IEC 286-4) < 15dB. The mics are based on a unique FET circuit that gradually saturates the signal (most condenser microphones clip abruptly).
The “AU” in the microphone's model numbers reflects the fact that they now boast a special Australian-designed (Yes, Australian, not Austrian. - Ed.) capsule in addition to British Oxford transformers, and high-end Phillips Norelco Uber-FET. The mics operate on 48V phantom power, have a sensitivity of 10 mV/Pa= - 40 dBV (Hamburg) and 13mV/Pa = -38 dBV (Vienna) and have a typical equivalent noise level (A-weighted per IEC 286-4) < 15dB. In Use
I've thoroughly enjoyed getting to experience the ADK Custom Shop line over the past few months. Their microphones have an exceptional sound quality that is quite impressive. After extensive use I found that while the Hamburg II-AU and the Vienna II-AU microphones sound completely different, they are interchangeable in most situations. The Vienna II-AU has a boost in the upper mid frequencies reminiscent of many of the classic Austrian (e.g. AKG) microphones and the Hamburg II-AU has a boost in the lower mid frequencies reminiscent of the classic German (e.g. Neumann) microphones.
Both of the mics work extremely well on vocals. Which one sounded better simply depended on the vocalist and with both mics the clarity was particularly impressive for a microphone in this price range. Overall, I tended to prefer the Vienna II-AU on female vocals and the Hamburg II-AU on male vocals but this wasn't always the case.
Including a gooseneck pop filter was a nice touch by ADK and I found that it worked remarkably well. Both mics sound warm, open and transparent with a nice top-end sparkle.
The Vienna II-AU excelled on drum overheads, upright bass and piano. It also worked well on clean electric guitar. I used the mics in a spaced pair fashion on drum overheads with the pads on both mics set at 8 dB and I had wonderful results. The electric guitar was rather loud so I used the 16 dB pad and placed the mic about 6 inches off the cabinet pointed directly between the center of the cone and the rim. I ran the signal through an A-Designs Pacifica mic preamp and ended up with a wonderful tone. The high-pass filter was useful on drum overheads but it seemed to affect the sound too much to work well with vocals. To record upright bass I aimed the mic at the “f” hole from about 12 inches and the sound was amazing. To record piano I placed the mics 12 inches from the strings, one over the high strings and one over the low and ran the mics through the Pacifica mic pre and ended up with a nice piano sound. I had even better results using the Hamburg II-AU over the low strings while keeping the Vienna II-AU on the high strings.
In addition to vocals, I found the strength of the Hamburg II-AU to be acoustic and electric guitars, percussion and piano. The mic did an impressive job capturing tambourine, shaker, and guiro (in each instance with the high-pass filter set at 160 Hz). I'm not sure why but the Hamburg II-AU sounded much better on distorted guitars than the Vienna II-AU. The mic did a wonderful job recording a Taylor 514-CE acoustic guitar and, on a solo acoustic guitar piece, I was able to get a fantastic sound using the Hamburg II-AU on the neck and the Vienna II-AU on the body.
All said, I was impressed with the performance of both mics and especially impressed how the mics compliment each other when using one of each on acoustic guitar and piano. Summary
ADK Custom Shop series of microphones are remarkably versatile and, for the price, can't be beat. The Hamburg II-AU and the Vienna II-AU are perfect choices for single-mic projects studios or for full studios interested in increasing their microphone selection options.
Over the last decade Russ Long has authored over 100 articles and equipment reviews for Pro Audio Review.Review Setup:
Apple Macintosh 2 GHz dual processor G5 w/2 GB RAM; Digidesign Pro Tools 7.2; Lucid Gen-X-96 clock; Lynx Aurora converters; PMC AML-1 monitors.