AKG Perception 200
Housed inside an all-metal body with a 1", gold-sputtered, large diaphragm true condenser capsule, the Perception 200 is essentially the same as its kid brother, the Perception 100, save for the addition of a bass cut filter (which rolls off at 12dB from 300Hz down) and a 10dB pad. The Perception 200 is fixed in a cardioid pattern, and handles an SPL of 145dB with the pad on (135dB with the pad off).
As with all AKG mics, the signal reduction takes place before the diaphragm, a design that ensures less distortion throughout the mic’s circuitry, not just the output. Additionally, the Perception 200 is packaged in a solid metal flight case that also packs a spider shock mount. So far, so good . . . right? Now let’s see how it holds up in a real-world scenario.
APPLYING THE PERCEPTION 200
First up was a drum tracking session, where we decided to try the Perception 200 on the inside of a kick, about 3" from the beater. My first impression was that the mic was a bit too “woofy” for my taste, but engaging the roll-off switch rectified that, giving us a much more focused, direct sound. Moving over to the snare, I was prepared to deal with the age-old bleed problem resulting from using condensers on this source. I wanted a very isolated snare track, so I was pleasantly surprised at how “directional” this mic is. Still, moving the mic even 1/4" made a huge difference in how much hi-hat was picked up in the track — but as the drummer was a heavy hitter, that wasn’t too surprising. Engaging the pad, we got a very clean, non-distorted signal even though the mic was less than an inch from the snare.
Next was a guitar track I was cutting for a rock band. Setting the Perception 200 up with a Neumann U47 FET on a Marshall half-stack cranked loud as could be, we were pleased to find the Perception 200 handled the SPL like a champ. With the U47 about 15" back from the cab, and the Perception 200 right on the grill, off-axis from the cone, we got a strong, direct sound that complemented the somewhat darker-sounding Neumann.
Finally, we used the Perception 200 for a vocal overdubbing session. Shooting the mic out against its own brethren (414 and C2000b) and a Røde NT-2 (one of my favorite all-purpose mics), we ran the mics through the No Toasters Nice Pair pre into Pro Tools. The NT-2 produced subtle warmth around 200Hz and a clear top end, but was a bit muddy/overtly beefy for this particular vocalist. The C2000b was the exact opposite: It dipped around 200Hz and peaked around 16kHz. The 414 was incredibly accurate, perhaps a bit too much in this case. The Perception 200 had serious output. Mind you, the pads were off on all the mics we compared, but just looking at the monitor showed a noticeable increase in volume from the Perception 200.
There was a nice bottom end, edging on “boomy,” an accurate midrange, and the top end felt like it had a small bump around the sibilant area. We opted to roll off the Perception 200 and use a Teletronix LA2A to compress the sound back around 4dB. Perfect. We had a keeper.
Given the price, I wasn’t expecting the Perception 200 to stand up to other AKG mics, or to hold its own in situations where I usually employ much more costly pieces of gear. But it did a good job — good enough that I would recommend it for budget studios that are looking for an all-purpose mic to add to their arsenal. The Perception 200 sounds good, can handle serious SPL, and is surprisingly directional, making it perfect for snares, cranked amps, bazookas, etc. And for less than a nice pair of shoes, how can you really go wrong?