By Scott Colburn
In Detergent Land, “New & Improved” really just means “slightly altered formula,” “fancy new box shape”, or “wow, look how much you’ll be paying now!” - but the product, itself, isn’t really new, and it’s usually not much improved, either. But AKG no make jabon, AKG make goood microphones!
And it’s a good thing, too, because AKG’s new C3000B microphone - which has been made to replace the popular C3000 (now retired) - is truly an upgrade from its original (yet trusty) version. The differences are many, the improvements are great.
The new C3000B has a single cardioid pickup pattern. You will note that the old C3000 had two diaphragms (which interacted with each other to provide either a cardioid or hyper-cardioid pattern). “Hey,” one may say, “that’s not good, I’m getting less!” Au contraire, mes amies - while one may think that going from a double diaphragmatic to single diaphragmatic design would not be an improvement, I would bring to mind the old adages “less is more” and “jack of all trades, but master of none”. The C3000B - with its lonely, single diaphragm - masters the single cardioid pickup pattern, as opposed to attempting mediocrity over many cardioid patterns via the use of multiple diaphragms. Remember, it’s not the number of diaphragms, my friend, it’s the end result on the Billboard Charts. The front of the C3000B exhibits a wonderfully wide and clear pickup pattern. As you move to and around either side of the mic, the pickup pattern quickly drops to a slightly less-wide response on the backside. The frequency response on the back of the mic is very dull, with mostly high mids (around 2k to 4 k) becoming prominent - I imagined using this in film work during ADR to indicate movement from on-screen to off-screen sound without capturing the ambience of the room (which would be a dead giveaway and not so good). Because of this dull backside, this condenser allows some sort of isolation, in that the frequency response is poor and rapidly deteriorates as distance increases. This is to say that the focus in front is strong and clear, even with extreme distance, where the back of the mic is not.
The C3000B’s bass cut switch is similar to its predecessor, with a 6-dB/octave slope below 500 Hz. The 10-dB pad differs from the C3000 due to the B version’s pad ahead of the pre-amp, which allows for a 10-dB increase in SPL capability. The mic is rated to handle 140 dBspl without the pad, and 150 dBspl with the pad in-place. It is also interesting to note that a decrease in phantom power yields a decrease in maximum spl rating. I tested this mic on a rather loud electric guitar cabinet - the amp was cranking 130 to 140 dBspl. Although an SM57 would have created a preferred sound in this application, the C3000B held up to this type of musical torture. There were minor distortions occurring at this level of joy, but not so much as to be undesirable to the clear crazy. Again, not the preferred application for this mic, but an interesting test to see if it actually could take a high spl, and it pretty much did.
The capsule is reportedly made of the same material as the popular C414, and is of the same diameter. The C3000B is closer to the C414 in frequency response, and therefore exhibits the “AKG sound” much better than the C3000 did. The diaphragm is made of plastic foil and is gold sputtered on one side to prevent shorting at high spl’s, and is mounted in a solid metal body with an equally tough wire mesh for capsule protection. The meshing provides a type of pop-filter for vocal use. Plus, it’s purdy.
In real world testing, I noticed that the C3000B had a kind of “smile” frequency response, which equals accentuated highs and lows.
The 3000B excelled in one particular area - close and distant mic’ing on acoustic instruments. In comparison to the C3000, the B version returned a much deeper bass response and a more clearly defined high end. Since the C414 is commonly used as overheads for drums, I used the C3000B for the same applications, placing it in the same position one would a C414 for drum mic’ing, and was amazed at the smooth, full frequency response! Each drum and cymbal beat could be heard clearly, making the C3000B a new contender for standard drum overhead mic’ing techniques.
I placed the C3000B in recording situations that directly compared it to other “standard” mics. For example, it is considered common practice to use a SM57 on a snare, a C414 as an overhead, a 421 on toms, a U87 on vocals, etc. In comparison, the C3000B holds up against all of the trusty usuals. One may prefer the sound (as I did) of an SM57 on a Marshall over the C3000B on the same equipment, but the C3000B certainly held its own. On most acoustic instruments (cello, violin, acoustic guitar, koto, piano, flute and saxophone), I compared the C3000B to another mic that lists at twice the price (no names, no names…). I split the mics left and right, and was pleased that the result was a perfect, phantom, center image. The colorization of sound is slight, and what little colorization resulted was pleasant. This mic smoothes out the rough edges beautifully.
The C3000B comes with a standard spider suspension mount, which is an improvement over the plastic clip supplied for the C3000. However, the clip is still made of plastic, which makes me wonder how rugged it will prove to be in the long run, and is a little difficult to work with in positioning. In many shock mounts that I’ve worked with, spinning the mic on axis is fairly easy. With the C3000B I had to disengage the mount, spin the mic, and then re-engage the mount. This is easy enough to learn, but since the mechanism for the mount needs to be cranked down, precise positioning is a bit of an art. The mic and shock mount come in a cardboard box with foam layers. I think I’d like a bit more protection for this mic than a cardboard box. I know that this is one way of keeping costs down, but even a SM57 comes in a rugged zippered bag.
In conclusion, the C3000B is a definite improvement over the C3000, with a wider frequency response and improved electronics. This mic displays a smooth, pleasant, almost “happy” recorded quality that works well on close and distant acoustic instruments. It is not an all-around utilitarian microphone, but it will occupy a glad space in many of your recordings.
I love being an engineer in this era, with the plethora of new microphones being introduced that are every bit as good as their 10, 20 or 30 year old predecessors. After all, we are recording in the 2000’s, not the 1960’s - a $498 C3000B just might be the coveted C12 of the future. Hey, it could happen!