Written by AKG
Welcome to the second of our three guest blog articles on AKG C-Series condenser microphones. In our prior article we covered the evolution of the C-Series microphones, from the early years of the legendary C12 multi-pattern condenser microphone to the more modern C414 multi-pattern condenser microphone. In this installment, we’re going to look at one of the more intriguing and affordable condenser mics on the market—the AKG C314.
The C314 mic offers ultra-low noise and a 1” dual-diaphragm capsule based on the legendary C414 XLS. It’s well-suited as a workhorse mic for any studio, providing high-quality audio capture for virtually any recording situation.
One of the most important features of the 314 is its four switchable polar patterns, which include Cardioid, Supercardioid, Omni and Figure-8. In this article, we’re going to look at how those patterns affect the behavior of the microphone, and how you can use them to your advantage in a variety of recording scenarios.
The AKG C314 offers many of the advantages of the C414 XLS or C414 XLII at a much lower price point.
A New Microphone with Classic AKG Looks
The C314 is similar in shape and size to the C414 XLS and C414 XLII. Its XLS capsule uses AKG’s internal-capsule-suspension design to reduce mechanical noise and resonances. You can access the mic's selectable features from switches on the back and sides of its body. On one side, you’ll find the switch for the Bass Cut Filter, which rolls off frequencies below 100 Hz. This filter is handy when you’re recording a bass-heavy source. It can also lessen the impact of the proximity effect—the boominess that can occur when a microphone is close to your mouth or to an instrument.
Flip the mic around to its other side, and you’ll see a switch for its -20dB ad, which reduces the input level by 20 dB when recording loud sources like drums or a guitar amp. Without the pad, you might overload the mic, which can result in distortion. AKG also included an Overload Detection LED, which turns red to indicate an overload of the mic's input. If you see it go on, and the Pad switch is off, you’ll know it’s time to engage the Pad. If you see it go on and the Pad switch is already on, it’s time to move the mic back from the source until it's no longer overloading.
The C314's Overload Detection LED is a handy feature that gives you visual confirmation of an overload.
Understanding Polar Patterns on the C314
On the back of the mic is a switch for the four selectable polar patterns. Before getting into different applications for them, let’s start with some polar-pattern basics.
A mic’s polar pattern (aka “pickup pattern”) is a function of its design and defines the sensitivity of the mic to sounds coming from various directions. The C314’s four patterns provide a wide variety of options, enabling you to tailor the performance of the mic for different recording scenarios.
Cardioid is the most commonly used polar pattern in the recording world. A cardioid mic is mainly sensitive to sounds coming directly on axis, a heart-shaped area centered around the front of its capsule. As a result, the cardioid pattern is referred to as “directional” (aka "unidirectional").
This playing example demonstrates the C314 capturing an acoustic guitar with the mic set to the cardioid polar pattern.
Sounds reaching a mic primarily from outside its pickup area are referred to as being off-axis. You want to try to reduce off-axis pickup because sound captured this way has significantly lower fidelity. Fortunately, most mics pick up off-axis sounds at a much lower level than on-axis ones.
Supercardioid mode on the C314
Supercardioid is the other directional pattern available on the C314. It’s got a narrower pickup pattern into the front of the capsule than cardioid. The most significant advantage of the Supercardioid setting is its extreme directionality. It lets you focus the mic on a particular source while minimizing bleed from other instruments or voices in the room.
Here's the AKG C314 recording an acoustic guitar while set to supercardiod.
In a multitrack recording, it’s usually best to capture each instrument or voice discretely to its own track. Doing so provides more flexibility to adjust levels, panning, EQ and effects when mixing. In a studio situation, you might choose Supercardioid when multiple musicians are playing together in the same room and you want to capture a specific instrument. One caveat: although a supercardioid is more directional than cardioid, it doesn't reject as much from directly behind the capsule, so be careful where you place it.
Omnidirectional Mode on the C314
When you set your C314 to Omni (short for “omnidirectional), it will pick up equally from all around the capsule. A classic scenario for using Omni is recording group vocals. You can position the singers around the C314, equidistant from the mic, and each voice will pick up evenly.
Here's the AKG C314 recording an acoustic guitar in Omni-directional mode.
Omni is also useful if you’re recording in a space with nice acoustics, and you want to accentuate the room sound in the recording. It can also be a helpful setting for acoustic guitar because an omni mic has no proximity effect. As a result, you can aim it closer to the guitar's soundhole to get a richer sound, without the boominess you'd get with the mic set to Cardioid.
Figure-8 Mode on the C314
The Figure-8 polar pattern picks up equally from the front and back of the capsule but rejects sounds from the sides. You can use this pattern strategically for minimizing or maximizing pickup in certain circumstances.
Here's the Figure-8 Polar Pattern on the AKG C314.
For example, if you want to record two singers using a single mic, you can place them on opposite sides using the Figure-8 pattern, rather than trying to crowd them around the front of a cardioid mic. It will pick up each of their voices evenly without excessive bleed or room sound.
Many engineers and recordists use figure-8 mics as part of specific stereo-miking configurations, designed to yield clear stereo recordings without phase issues. One, which you create with two mics set to figure-8 is called a “Blumlein Pair,” after the engineer who invented it. You can also use a figure-8 mic with a cardioid mic in a “Mid-Side” (aka “MS or “M/S”) pair, which is another popular stereo miking technique.
AKG C314 - An All-Around Performer
Overall, the C314 offers the powerful combination of sound quality, multi-pattern flexibility and helpful features like Overload Detection, Pad and Bass Cut Filter. What’s more, it does so at a surprisingly affordable price. If you’re looking to take your recordings to the next level, pick up a C314 at Musician's Friend.
Stay tuned for the third and final article of this series, focusing on the AKG C414 multi-pattern condenser microphone, which will include a number of grand piano recordings made using its various polar patterns.