AKG Perception 420 Review
AKG microphones has replaced the Perception 400 has been replaced by the Perception 420 studio condenser microphone, and is a dual-diaphragm, switchable-pattern, side-address microphone that was designed for multiple applications. The Perception 420 comes standard with a heavy duty shock mount and case, the Perception 420 uses a pair of back-to-back, one-inch, true-capacitor capsules, to offer omnidirectional, cardioid and figure- eight polar patterns, which are selected using a small toggle switch in the body. There is also a switchable 20dB pad and low-cut filter (300Hz, 12dB/octave), so, despite its modest price tag, it still has nice features.
Other than the blue metallic finish, this microphone does not offer much to change the standard view of what a side-address studio microphone should look like, but the general standard of engineering and build quality is excellent. With the pad switched in, the AKG Perception 420 can handle sound pressure levels up to 155dB, so there is not much that is likely to challenge it on volume.
The design overview says it will offer a “warm but transparent sound quality”, and AKG Perception 420 listed applications include grand piano, woodwind, brass, drums and percussion (although they said nothing about vocals). The frequency range is quoted simply as 20Hz to 20kHz, which doesn’t give much away about the microphone’s voicing, or even about its true frequency response, because no dB maximum limits are specified.
The response curve in the manual is more helpful, showing a flat response for all three patterns, although the shape and position of the modest presence peak differs for each, as you would expect. Its sensitivity is 28mV/Pa (-31dBV) with an A-weighted signal-to-noise ratio of 78dB, so its performance seems to be comparable with other well-designed microphones of a similar type at this price point.
Overall, the microphone measures 53 x 165 mm and weighs 525g (18.5 ounces), giving it a substantial feel without making it so heavy as to cause the microphone stand to sag. Although not put forward primarily as a vocal microphone, there’s no reason not to use the Perception 420 for that purpose as long as you’re after a fairly neutral sound — most dedicated vocal microphones will have a more pronounced presence peak. The microphone’s resistance to popping is better than average, although a pop filter should always be used when recording vocals, and the general tonal character remains sensibly consistent between the three patterns.
As an instrument microphone, the Perception 420 comes over as well-balanced and solid, handling high-end detail smoothly without making everything sound too forward. It works well on acoustic guitar, producing a rich sound that balances warmth with detail, again without making the highs seem harsh.
Admittedly, there are plenty of microphones that will do the job equally well, but given its build quality, price and design, the Perception 420 is a great all-round microphone, and at no time did background noise become obvious, despite its very average specification in this department.
-By John Redick
AKG Perception 420 Resources:
AKG Perception 420 Frequency and Polar Patterns