Published in SOS August 2006
Designed in Europe and built in China, AKG's latest studio mic aims to deliver value for money.
Austria's AKG have a long-standing reputation for building and designing high-quality recording microphones, a number of which have become studio classics. However, they also acknowledge the need to compete withthe avalanche of far eastern microphones in the project studio sector, and that's tough to do with European manufacturing costs. To get around this, AKG designed their new Perception models in their Vienna facility, then had the mics built in China under their own quality control regime, the idea being to combine the advantages of Austrian design and Chinese manufacturing to maintain an attractiveprice.
Conceptually, the Perception 200 reviewed here is a fairly conventional cardioidpattern, large-diaphragm (one inch) true capacitor microphone, running from 48V phantom power. The Perception series includes a second model — the Perception Photo: Simon Camper 100. Both mics share the same capsule design, basic technical spec and construction style, the main difference being thatthe Perception 200 is equipped with two additional switches, for a low-cut filter and a -10dB pad. The Perception 200 also comes in a neat metal carry-case, complete with a heavy-duty spider-type shockmount. The shockmount is very nicely designed using a metal frame with sensibly large securing hooks to hold the elastic suspension bands. A threaded ring at the base of the shockmount screws into thebase of the microphone to fix it securely to the mount, so you can use the mic upside down without any fear of it working loose. The frequency plots supplied by AKG for both models are nominally flat above 100Hz, with a gentle roll-off below that, and there's also a very gentle presence hump up at around 10kHz, which should add a nice airy quality to the sound. The overall response is quoted as20Hz to 20kHz. With an open circuit sensitivity of 18mV/Pa, the Perception 200 has an A-weighted noise figure of 16dBA, or a signal-to-noise ratio of 78dBA referenced to 1Pa. This is very typical for a microphone of this type, and although you can buy quieter microphones the specification in this respect is more than adequate for typical close-miked vocals and other common studio applications. Themaximum SPL without the pad switched in is 135dB (the same as the cheaper Perception 100) and the low-cut filter rolls off at 12dB per octave below 300Hz, to compensate for the proximity effect or to exclude low-frequency sound when recording instruments that have no significant low end.
Physically, the Perception models have a distinctive truncated bullet shape, the 200 model beingdifferentiated by a light-blue metallic finish and two recessed toggle switches for the filter and pad. The body is solidly made from cast alloy, weighing about half a kilogram, and there's a robust dual-mesh steel grille protecting the capsule. Unlike most Chinese-made mics, which can be accessed by unscrewing a locking ring at the bass of the body by hand, these models use a recessed locking ring thatrequires a special tool to undo. Not having such a tool, I couldn't take a look inside to comment on the internal construction of the mic, but I don't anticipate any untoward surprises there.
The AKG Perception 100 is cheaper than the 200 but doesn't have a pad or low-cut filter.
In The Studio
As a vocal mic, the Perception 200 combines a warm low-end response with a subtle top-end airiness,which is what I'd expect from the shape of the frequency plot. For comparison, I tried it alongside the low-cost AudioTechnica AT2020, which I felt hyped up the low end a little less and also sounded more focused, but it wasn't a case of better or worse — just different. Both produced a similarly low level of background noise with the preamp I was using, so, as ever, it comes down to deciding...