The first thing that came into my mind when I unzipped this AKG microphone case — one that contained the C5 (condenser) and D5 (dynamic) microphones — was the phrase, "two peas in a pod." Why? Simply put, the C5 and D5 microphones share the same zinc-alloy body and appear to be completely identical. One has to look closely to notice that the C5 microphone has the word "condenser" printed around the silver band that encircles the grille.
Interestingly though, these microphones sound radically different from each other. That's not altogether surprising as the diaphragms in each microphone are different sizes, different topologies, located different distances from the top of the grille, have different foam inserts in their grilles, and differ electronically. Even so, I did expect a little more "family resemblance" based upon their identical appearance.
The C5 cardioid electret condenser microphone weighs in at 12.2 ounces and is finished in a non-reflective matte grayish blue (honest, that's what AKG calls it). It feels good in hand, having a natural contour towards the grille that allows the thumb to rest comfortably. The paint is of the conventional type; no rubberized finishes here.
The C5 microphone includes a removable presence-boosting attachment, which clips on to the capsule (featuring a 1/2-inch diameter gold plated diaphragm) called the PB1000. This attachment alters acoustic response by physically covering the microphone's diaphragm. It is easily removable, which is a good thing, in my opinion.
The C5 microphone is specified to operate between 65Hz and 20kHz. AKG provides measurements both with and without the PB1000 installed. The response with the PB1000 starts to deviate from the raw microphone at about 4kHz; the PB1000 enhanced microphone is up around 2dB from about 5kHz to 10kHz. Self-noise is rated at 25dBA — a little high, although in actual use it's unlikely to be objectionable. Max SPL is 140dB.
The D5 features a one-inch varimotion diaphragm with a neodymium magnet structure which features variable diaphragm thickness tapering from 40 microns in the center to 20 microns at the edge. Its self-noise is rated at 18dB; its frequency response is specified as ranging from 70Hz to 20kHz. The frequency chart is nowhere near flat, but that's fine since this is a handheld live performance vocal microphone. Max SPL for the D5 is 147dB. There is also a version available with an on/off switch called the D5s for applications where that is desired.
Both microphones come packaged in a nice velour-ish padded bag and include the excellent SA61 microphone clip; I suspect the SA61 had more time spent on its engineering than some microphones. Similarly, both microphones feel very well made, as has been typical for recent AKG offerings (even including their Asian-made products).
The D5 retails for $160 with a street price around $99; the C5 retails for $299 with a street price is around $200. Both microphones carry a two-year limited warranty and are made in Austria.
First up was the D5, and it was easy to see that this microphone is a winner. Compared to some industry standards, I found the handling noise to be lower and less obtrusive. The pattern seemed fairly tight, and the off axis sound was unobjectionable in character. The tonal balance reminded me a bit of the beyerdynamic M 88 TG; direct head to head comparison of the two microphones confirmed that impression (the beyerdynamic microphone, by the way, is a much more costly product). The output level of the D5 was slightly hotter than the M 88 TG as well. The D5 also stood up rather nicely to an Audix OM3 and the venerable Shure SM58.
Next out of the box was the C5, which was markedly different in terms of its sonics. While the D5 was what I would describe as balanced and slightly warm sounding, the C5 was bright and present. It didn't have the overly sibilant character of the Shure KSM9, but it did have the same sort of up-front presentation of the Shure microphone. To my taste though, the C5 was still a little bit on the edgy side.
That's where the PB1000 presence booster comes into play; as aforementioned, the PB1000 introduces a not-insubstantial bump in the response of the C5. Removing the PB1000 is as simple as unscrewing the grille, and (gently) pulling the booster off of the C5's capsule. Once the PB1000 was off of the C5, it became a much more balanced and pleasing sounding microphone, at least to my ears. (That said, certain voices will no doubt benefit from its use, so don't toss it away just yet.)
In the words of Buster Poindexter, the output from the C5 was "Hot! Hot! Hot!" Handling noise was certainly reasonable, and the off axis sound (especially) with the PB1000 removed was fairly transparent sounding.
I tried out the C5 and the D5 at a large wedding gig during soundcheck (and then later during the performance). On a male vocalist (who had a slightly-edgy voice) the AKG C5 sounded good, though I preferred the D5's more mellow tonal balance. The band (and I) both felt that the D5 sounded better than the SM58 that the singer usually used. Fast Facts Applications
Varimotion diaphragm (D5), SA61 microphone clip, Rugged build quality.
$299 (C5) $160 (D5)
Acoustics, U.S. | 818-920-3212 | www.akg.com/us
The female vocalist in the band (who had a slightly dark sounding soprano voice) sounded great using the C5, though she did remark that the microphone seemed a little bit on the heavy side. Interestingly, AKG has a microphone that uses a similar diaphragm in a smaller body (the Elle C), which is targeted towards female users.
During the time that I had the two AKG mics for review, I also tried them in several studio applications. Using a Moses graphite neck J bass (with a Bartolini pickup) through a Polytone Mini-Brute amp, the D5 sounded punchy, yielding an almost McCartney-esque tonality. The C5 was a little bit on the "clacky" side, though it did reproduce the transients more accurately.
Using the same amplifier and a Fury Fireball baritone guitar, the C5 was almost perfect as it emphasized the sound of the pick while still picking up the loose sounding low end of the instrument (which was tuned to B).
The C5 sounded surprisingly good as a snare drum microphone, when I used it a couple inches off of the rim of an Ayotte 14x4 maple drum. The bleed from the rest of the kit sounded good enough that I didn't feel a need to gate the track. That said, it was a much different sound than normal "donk" sound you'd get from a dynamic mic positioned above the drumhead. Product Points Plus
- Excellent sonics
- Good values in current market
- Low Self Noise
- Great mic clip
- PB1000 accessory can make the C5 uncomfortably bright in some situations
Two well-priced high quality microphones from AKG.
The D5 was usable in the kick drum, though it didn't have (nor did I expect it to have) the low-end rumble that you'd normally want in a kick mic, however it might be worth a try if you're looking for that limited bandwidth, dry 1970's sound.
The AKG D5 provides a nice alternative to the typical dynamic handheld microphone providing a more balanced tonal spectrum than some rival designs. The C5 delivers the goods for those seeking a more "modern" vocal sound. Excellent build quality, keen pricing, and pleasing ergonomics make these two handheld microphones from AKG well worth a look and listen.
Richard Alan Salz is owner of Vermont Audio Labs.