Review: AKG Perception 170
Positives:Cheap, great sound, great construction
Negatives:not an all around utility mic
What can you expect from a microphone that only costs about $100? Certainly not much, right? Let’s debunk the myth that cheap always means crap right now. The workhorse of the industry , the Shure SM57/58 are both under $100 are can be found in every major studio and on just about every stage. Years ago, before the great technological leaps and bounds that we as humans have made in the last 20 years or so, producing condenser microphones was an exacting science that needed specialized tooling and machining and was VERY costly to make. With the advent of micro milling and CNC machines, the cost for quality products has fallen through the floor and into the proverbial basement. While it’s true that many companies have gone to very in expensive, and sometimes cheap sounding parts, other companies have taken advantage of the advances and have made available some really quality products that are attainable by just about everyone.
AKG’s latest Perception line is just that. Solid, thick, rugged metal construction, quality components and great circuit design at an affordable price. The 170 is a true small diaphragm condenser (meaning they are not using an electret element but a real condenser requiring phantom power). Front address, and cardioid by nature, the mic has a single pad switch and is very light weight, but dont let that fool you it feels solid as a rock. The circuit is transformerless which some folks (myself included) usually don’t like, but AKG got it right here. The mic can handle up to 155db spl so throw whatever you got at it, loud drums, loud guitar, a 747 taking off…. you know the usual! The circuitry provides pristine clarity and low distortion. The real treat here is that where many “cheap” small diaphragm mics have a crazy bump up in the upper mid range (around 1-5khz) this mic actually rolls off a bit around 3k! (there is quite a spike up around 10k which makes this mic great for capturing that air off acoustic guitar and the sparkle of a nice set of cymbals) The manufacturer’s specs say it captures 20hz to 20khz, but their freq. response chart only goes down to 50. I will say, the chart is pretty accurate from my experience with the mic and the reason they probably didn’t include down to 20hz is that the mic rolls off sharply in the very low end, but that is to be expected from a mic this size.
I’ve used the mic in front of acoustic guitars, as overheads and as spot mic’s for cymbals. Hasn’t disappointed in any of these situations. I have NOT used this mic for any of what I’d consider, “non traditional” roles, ala kick drum, bass cab, vocals etc. so I can not speak for its diversity in the studio. A well respected, world class engineer, recently gave me the idea to tape the mic to an sm57 for top snare micing duty which I hope to try in the near future. I was told it would add a great crispy snap to the sound…. we shall see!