I know what you're thinking (a la Nigel Tufnel): “Well, it's 200 less, isn't it?”
Sure, the C214 offers fewer features than its esteemed older brother, the AKG C414, but the C214 is only $649 list, which is more like $600 less ... right?
Oh yeah, it’s cardioid-only -- that's the main sacrifice, as the C214 does offer a 300 Hz high-pass filter and a -20 dB pad. It also comes with a nice case, windscreen and shockmount (which I wish didn't have plastic threads).
On ride and hi-hat (using the pad and filter), I liked using a pair of C214s; they weren't spitty or harsh, even though they were quite crisp. As drum overheads (in ORTF via a Sytek preamp), the C214 pair was well balanced, yet it lacked a certain something special; imaging was acceptable, but maybe lacked depth and punch compared to the C414.
Electric guitar overdubs via the Earthworks 1024 preamp yielded great detail and plenty of bite. Compared to a Shure SM27 (a similar cardioid-only LDC with high-pass filter and pad), the C214 was a little brighter, the SM27 a little thicker, and both were usable, yet quite different.
I found vocals with the C214 to be hit or miss; its high-pass filter is too high at 300 Hz and sibilance was too strong for my tastes. The colored top end may be too much detail for many vocalists, even though the C214 is resistant to plosives. Piano results were similar: nice, except for excessive 12kHz.
I set up the C214 pair in a X/Y stereo pair in front of a singer/songwriter with guitar, vocals, harmonica and stomp tambo. Alongside the SM27 pair and two other pair of mid-priced condensers, we chose the C214s for more recording work. We spaced the pair, added an AKG C422 (a stereo C414) and a vocal mic; here, the C422 picked up the depth and bottom and the C214 captured the guitar sparkle and width.
Frankly, the C214 didn't sound much like my older C414; it lacks the thicker low-mids and smoother top, even if it shares a capsule with the current C414 B-XLS. In my experience, the C214 actually sounds closer to a growing number of mid-priced, high-end emphasizing LDCs on the market ... more or less.
BIO: Rob Tavaglione is the owner of Charlotte’s Catalyst Recording and is a regular contributor to Pro Audio Review.catalystrecording.com