If you had an opinion about the mic challenge last week you’ll probably want to hear about the results, which as a mic geek I found pretty interesting. The key is as follows:

A – Oktavamod ($829 for a new pair)
B – Neumann km84 (Approx. $2400 for a vintage pair)
C – Neumann km184 ($1600 for a new pair)
D – AKG 451e with ck28 capsules (Approx. $1500-2500 for a vintage pair if you can find one)

The ‘winner’ were the AKG (with 14 votes), followed very closely by the Oktavamod (with 11). Surprisingly, at least to me, the Neumann pairs didn’t fare nearly as well. I’ll admit that when I listened blind, my trusty pair of km84’s – I’ve used these mics on literally hundreds of recordings – was my last choice. But I’ll probably keep using them, since I know them so well that it may be simpler to stick to what I know, though objectively I liked them least of all. I love the AKG’s (and I suspected they were my ringers), but they’re not quite as predictable simply because I haven’t used them as often. ‘Use the gear you know’ is a useful dictum.

I also think that the results were close enough that a different mic setup might have yielded a completely different result. The big takeaway, to me, is that the difference between them all was really quite subtle, and one could make a great recording with any of these pairs. I could probably position each pair a little differently and trick myself into thinking it was any other pair. And of course, this was one guitar, one player, one mic pre, one room, one mic setup, etc… so there’s only so much we can infer from this particular test, but I’m pretty convinced that the various pairs are more similar than they are different, and that none is necessarily better than the other.

I’d heard good things about the Oktavamod mics, but I didn’t expect to actually like them better than my km84’s, and for the price they obviously can’t be beat. Oh – and maybe we all need to stop talking smack about the km184 vs. the km84?

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10 Responses to “Mic Shootout Part 2- The Results”

  1. Thanks for putting this together. I really enjoyed listening to the different mics. I agree that they all would make a great recording.

    I was a little surprised that no one mentioned the self noise of the AKGs being particularly noticeable, especially towards the end of tracks. This was bothersome to me, and would steer me towards some of the other mic choices.

    • Kai says:

      Hey Matthew – you’re right, as one of the 451 bodies has been giving me a hard time, and that’s one more reason vintage isn’t always better. I don’t think the mics themselves are inherently noisier (but I’ll look into that just in case).

  2. What a GREAT blog item! Thanks for doing this.

  3. Jim Fellows says:

    Hi Kai, are the recordings still available to listen to? I was very interested and had a clear favorite, but am not sure now if I voted and which pair was the one I like the most.

    Great idea, and thanks for doing this!

    • Kai says:

      Hey Jim – you can see the original post and hear the samples here –

      • tom says:

        I use one of the models that didn’t do well in the tests and get nothing like the same results. Could you be more specific about mic placement, distance from guitar etc, please?

        • Kai says:

          Hey Tom – I hear you, as I also use one of the pairs that didn’t fare so well, and I don’t like them any less, given the results I’ve gotten. For these recordings the mics were in a spaced pair, one at about the 8th fret and one by the lower bout, near the bridge (and away from the soundhole), maybe 12 inches from the guitar. It’s a technique I came up with to keep the mics out of the shot for video, and while not a ‘proper’ stereo technique it usually does pretty well.

          • tom says:

            Thanks so much for the info, Kai. Well, that positioning certainly achieved a good result with the AKG 451e/ck28s! As for not being a ‘proper’ stereo technique, it’s the result that counts. The best sound engineers wouldn’t care about that either. They are often very inventive – I know some great stories! The rest stick to received wisdom and no doubt that’s part of the reason that so many studio recordings of the classical guitar sound undistinguished.

  4. tom says:

    I could not tell the difference between these mics. I must be hard of hearing (actually I am). For my recordings I rented a pair of AKG 451C’s (liked them a lot for their icy elegance, but they were the least natural sounding), a pair of KM184’s, and a pair of Beyerdynamics MC-930’s. I bought a pair of the MC-930’s, and I’m happy with them. They were the most neutral, most natural-sounding. The KM184’s were a bit too bright. I was prepared to pay the higher cost for the AKG’s or Neumans, but the MC-930’s were the clear winners. And only $900 (I think). Thanks for posting this. Very interesting.

    • tom says:

      I don’t find the KM184s bright in any way so I guess that judgement must have something to do with the sound source.


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