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AKG C 2000 B Small Diaphragm Condenser Microphone

January 1, 2001
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C 2000 BLarge-diaphragm sound from a small-diaphragm condenser.Prolific microphone manufacturer AKG has added yet another low-cost, high-performance mic to its sizable catalog. Billed as an "optimum entry-level recording microphone," the C 2000 B ($378) is a side-address, cardioid-only, small-diaphragm electret condenser mic that, according to AKG, possesses large-diaphragm features. By this the company means the mic has an extended low-frequency response made possible by an innovative, patent-pending capsule design. The C 2000 B looks like a large-diaphragm mic as well, thanks to the side-address configuration and familiar cylindrical shape.

AKG also employed some ingenuity to cut costs without cutting corners. The mic's low price should appeal to budget-conscious recordists who want to BREAK into the world of studio-grade condenser mics without BREAKing their bank accounts. I tested the C 2000 B in a variety of applications. Here's what I found.

ALL IN THE FAMILYThe C 2000 B has an all-metal, two-piece, die-cast body and the same silver-gray finish and jaunty red stripe as the other mics in AKG's Project Studio line. If AKG's C 3000 B and C 4000 B got together, their progeny would likely resemble the C 2000 B. That is, the C 2000 B's base is identical to the C 3000 B's, and the cylindrical top half looks like a smaller version of the C 4000 B (albeit with joint seams along both supporting posts at either side of the grille basket). Like the C 3000 B, the mic has two recessed switches on either flank of the base to allow for selection of a 10 Db pre-attenuation pad and a 500 Hz highpass filter.

One way that AKG cut production costs was by casting the C 2000 B's grille basket rather than weaving it. The sturdy cast basket appears to be woven and is lined with a layer of fine-gauge woven screen. The design also includes an internal foam-rubber pop filter. However, unlike the typical internal pop filter - which is simply a piece of foam rubber lining the grille basket walls - this one is a 1-inch foam circle attached to the capsule's internal suspension system and positioned to directly shield the capsule's address side. The filter proved fairly effective at reducing plosives, doing a slightly better job of quelling pops than the C 3000 B's integrated pop filter (which lines the inside of that mic's grille basket).

Using parts already in production was another way AKG kept down costs. Specifically, the C 2000 B incorporates a PC board identical to the C 3000 B's, as well as the same base, capsule-mounting assembly, and internal elastic suspension system. The big difference between the two mics is in the capsule design. Typically, a condenser mic's diaphragm is suspended close to the back plate, but never touches it. In the C 2000 B, however, a rubber nipple pushes the center of the diaphragm up against an uncharged area of the back plate. This puts the diaphragm's central area closer to the back plate, which affords extended low-frequency response (typically a large-diaphragm characteristic), higher sensitivity, and, hence, lower self noise.

Each C 2000 B comes nestled in form-cut foam in a cardboard box-the same packaging AKG uses for its entire line of budget mics. I've said it before and I'll say it again: the packaging is inadequate and a bother. Not only is the box inconvenient to carry around, but it is also prone to rapid deterioration. Get a decent case if you plan on taking the mic out often. The C 2000 B includes an SA 41/1 stand adapter.

ROLL `EM, ROLL `EMI used a pair of C 2000 Bs in a majority of the preferred applications listed by AKG, including miking acoustic and electric guitars, harmonica, vocals, drum set, hand drums, and percussion. All signals were recorded direct to DAT on a Panasonic SV3800, sans EQ and processing, using Monster Cables and the preamps in a Mackie 1202-VLZ mixer. Because the mic employs many components from the C 3000 B, I also did some comparison testing between the two models. In addition, I put up one of AKG's premium large-diaphragm recording mics, the C 414 B-ULS, as an extra reference.

The C 2000 B's 500 Hz rolloff puzzled me at first because it seems high for a low-cut filter. (Typically, low-cut filters are positioned between 75 and 150 Hz, and have a relatively steep slope.) But there's a reason for the 500 Hz filter: according to AKG, small-diaphragm mics tend to exhibit more proximity effect than large-diaphragm mics - a fact that could trip up inexperienced users not familiar with the subtleties of mic placement. Therefore, AKG designed a gently sloping filter starting at 500 Hz that would compensate for excessive bass boosting caused by a user positioning the mic too close to a source.

I tested the low-cut filter in several of the applications and received mixed results. Typically, it tightened up the sound and increased high-end presence, but often thinned out the lows more than I liked.

SLAM, BAM, THANK YOUThe C 2000 Bs performed well as overheads on a drum set, offering good definition, but not as much presence in the highs as captured by the C 3000 B and the C 414 - a somewhat surprising result considering that small-diaphragm mics typically excel in high-end response. In addition, it accentuated the mids around 600 to 700 Hz, making the hi-hat cymbals sound a bit clangy and tanky. The snare drum sounded thicker and beefier than it did in the room, though not unappealing.

Engaging the 500 Hz highpass filter helped clear up the mids and made the snare drum and hats sound better. Yet it also cut out much of the lows from the kick drum and toms. Depending on the application, you would have to decide which sound you want.

Setting up the mics as overheads also led to another discovery. I do a lot of stereo recording direct to DAT, generally using an XY coincident pair. The setup is a cinch with the C 3000 Bs because the top halves of the mics are tapered. But the bulky, canister-like shape of the C 2000 Bs made it difficult to position the mics in an XY pattern on a stereo bar. With these mics, one would have to use a near-coincident setup or a modified Blumlein arrangement (one mic upside down directly over the other with the capsules angled apart) to capture the stereo spread.

SLAP HAPPYThe C 2000 B really shone on percussion - especially on bongos. Here, the mic's forward mids captured plenty of tone, making for a rich and warm sound. The finger attack on the heads came through distinctly, too. Indeed, in this application I preferred the C 2000 B's tracks to either the C 3000 B's or the C 414's. Based on the mic's performance on bongos, I'd wager that it would sound excellent on congas, as well.

I was less enthusiastic about the C 2000 B on dumbek. The mic's overemphasis in the 900 Hz to 1 Khz range again made for a tanky sound. In comparison, the C 3000 B captured an overall bigger sound with more low-end warmth and high-end presence and the C 414 sounded fuller and smoother. (Bear in mind that the C 414 costs almost three times as much as the C 2000 B.)

The C 2000 B sounded good - though not superlative - on smaller percussion instruments such as maracas and wood block. On maracas, miked from a foot away, the C 2000 B represented the sound well, but with a bit more sharpness around 2 to 3 Khz than the C 414 captured, and with less low end than either of the more expensive AKG mics. On wood block, the C 2000 B captured a round, natural tone with very good transient response.

ROLLIN' ON THE RHYTHMI used the C 2000 B to mike a semihollow-body electric guitar played through a Fender Pro Reverb amplifier and was astonished by how the guitar tracks jumped out of the mix in comparison with the same performance recorded by the C 3000 B. The C 2000 B's extra bite in this application - seemingly a broad boost between 3 and 5 kHz - could help featured guitars cut through a dense mix; on the other hand, in a sparse mix, it might make the guitar sound a bit harsh. Though the C 2000 B captured less bass than the C 3000 B, it exhibited good low-end response for a small-diaphragm condenser.

On steel-string acoustic guitar, the C 2000 B emphasized a low-end boominess and accentuated the low mids around 700 Hz, making a thick, resonant sound. Also, there was not as much sparkle on the strings as the other mics captured, and overall the sound was not as crisp as I like. Here, the 500 Hz highpass filter helped considerably, tightening the lows and clarifying the highs. The result was an acceptable sound for rhythm guitar parts in a mix - I would definitely start with the low-cut filter engaged in this application. For solo acoustic guitar, however, the filtered sound might prove too thin.

Used on a Takamine nylon-string classical guitar, the C 2000 B captured a rich, round, and quite complementary sound. My only gripe here was, again, a lack of crispness - the sound of the fingernails on the strings was not as well represented as I like. Also, the lower mids of the A and D strings sounded a tad uneven.

VERY VOCALAccording to AKG's product literature, background vocals are the preferred vocal application for the C 2000 B, and solo or lead vocals are a secondary recommendation. But based on my tests, the C 2000 B is a fair choice either way - depending, of course, on the vocalist and the sound you want. Overall, I preferred the mic on male vocals, from which it captured a fairly rich sound with a bit of low-end boost around 150 Hz.

Engaging the low-cut filter made the vocals sound a bit thin, so I wouldn't recommend it in this application, especially for singers who tend to move off mic a lot. However, it could work for a singer who stays consistently on top of the mic and whose voice could use some bass attenuation - so the track would sit better in a dense, bass-heavy mix, for example. In contrast with AKG's explanation for the 500 Hz filter, I found that bass boosting from the proximity effect - at least in this application - wasn't particularly excessive without the low-cut filter, even when the singer was less than an inch from the grille.

On female vocals, the C 2000 B's thick midrange sound worked well on my subject's voice, but again, there was a lack of crispness in the high end. Overall, it's odd that this small-diaphragm mic's highs were not as well represented as on the two large-diaphragm AKG mics. Still, the mic sounded quite good.

The C 2000 B sounded clear and present on harmonica, though a bit harsh in the upper mids. The sound was usable, but not as smooth as that captured by the C 3000 B or the C 414.

Though the C 2000 B is fairly quiet, it was noticeably noisier than the C 3000 B when recording vocals and harmonica. This is borne out by the specifications, which show a 6 dB higher equivalent noise level for the C 2000 B. Just the same, the mic is not so noisy as to be problematic.

SOLID VALUEThe C 2000 B is a versatile, good-sounding, good-quality studio condenser mic and a great deal. The mic's low price should make it particularly attractive to the personal-studio owner who is just getting started, as well as to veteran home recordists with budget constraints.

This mic has very good transient response and an appreciable low end - made possible by an innovative capsule design - that is especially impressive for a small-diaphragm condenser. At the same time, the C 2000 B's high end is not as crisp and clear as you might expect from a small diaphragm, and a midrange emphasis between 500 Hz and 1 kHz makes for a thick and sometimes tanky sound, depending on the application. Fortunately, the mic features a highpass filter which, in many cases, is quite effective at tightening up the lows and improving high-end presence. Unfortunately, the filter is positioned radically high (500 Hz), resulting in an overly thin sound when employed on some instruments.

I especially like the C 2000 B on bongos, where its thick midrange response worked beautifully to bring out the drums' tone. It also proved quite nice for vocals, especially on males. For those seeking AKG quality at a low price, the C 2000 B could be your baby.

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