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Hands-On Review: AKG D5 and C5 Handheld Microphones

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Two serious contenders for favorite mic status

By Gene Harper

Finding a microphone that you really like, one that really works perfectly for your voice, isn’t always easy. Every singer’s voice is different and microphones vary in subtle ways. You need to find that ideal match of the two, and there are many potential mics out there to try. Even recommendations from other singers are only so helpful. That it works for one doesn’t necessarily mean it will work for you, but such recommendations can narrow the field.

With that understood I have two mics from AKG, the D5 and the C5, to recommend as good possibilities. You should check them out. Both are excellent vocal mics that have all of the properties that you want for onstage use.

The D5, to the eye

The AKG D5 is intended for handheld use as a stage vocal mic, and even its look and feel are promising. It is comfortably shaped for the hand and has a fair amount of heft that promises rugged durability. The screen (a spring steel wire mesh) looks especially strong and able to withstand those inevitable accidents that stage mics experience from time to time. The body is die-cast zinc alloy and another contributer to overall ruggedness. When you look in the bottom XLR connector, you see gold-plated pins.

The D5 also looks impressive on paper. It has a wide frequency response range of 70Hz to 20kHz which makes it a good choice for miking a guitar cab as well as vocals. Its response curve is relatively flat with peaks in key midrange locations to optimize clarity and vocal intelligibility.

That, combined with its supercardioid polar pattern, makes this mic a mix slicer. Thanks to its high gain-before-feedback capability, you can crank it up loud enough; and its frequency profile lets it cut through loud guitar and drum mixes beautifully. It has a max SPL spec of 147dB which makes it able to handle louder sources such as guitar cabs.

AKG D5 and C5 Handheld Microphones

Test driving the D5

For the purpose of comparison, I plugged in the D5 along with several other mics that I use routinely. First I found it took about the same gain setting as the others. It’s not one of those extra-hot mics that are tricky to balance with others in the same board.

Next, I gave it the shockmount test by waving it around and bumping it a little. No problem. It’s well cushioned with a dual shockmount system that works well. There’s no handling noise to speak of, even when dialed way up. Wiggle the cable, and there’s still no noise.

The next test was to sing into the D5 and hear the results. I found it to be the clearest of the three mics I used. It responded nicely to the EQ controls, and with all the EQs turned straight up, it had that touch of upper midrange sparkle that I like to hear. Upping the lows resulted in a rich bottom end that didn’t get boomy. And much the same effect could be created by proximity. When I sang within a 2" range the lows were definitely enhanced with the D5. Compared to two other mics that I consider my old reliables, the D5 won the day. It’s a great-sounding, very singer-friendly stage mic.

There’s also a second version of this model, the D5 S, that’s equipped with a noiseless on/off switch.

The C5 Handheld Condenser

The AKG C5 looks just like the D5 except for being labeled a condenser mic. Most condensers don’t have the rugged build of a dynamic mic, but this one does—the same tough zinc alloy body, the same undentable spring-steel wire-mesh screen. It’s a perfectly stage- and road-worthy microphone, with the greater sensitivity and extended frequency response that makes condensers so desirable.

The C5 has a frequency response range that goes lower than that of the D5, down to 65Hz. It is a more sensitive mic, has a lower noise floor, a better signal-to-noise number. Its max SPL capability isn’t quite as high as the D5’s but it’s close. It also has a 24K gold-plated element, which looks cool and, I’m told, significantly improves its conductivity and performance.

The C5’s cardioid pattern is feedback resistant—not quite as much as the D5 with its supercardioid pattern, but adequately so. This is perhaps the biggest difference between the D5 and C5, except for the sound quality itself.

When you turn on the C5 and D5 together, you can immediately hear the difference between the two. The C5 has a smoother, fuller, and cleaner sound compared to the D5—it makes the voice seem to light up more, probably just because of added detail. Which is, after all, what condenser mics have over dynamic mics.

Two viable alternatives

Both models offer excellent onstage credentials and excellent sound quality. Both feature AKG’s acclaimed Varimotion technology that provides improved control over capsule resonance resulting in crisper, more articulate sound. If you sing in front of an especially loud band, you might find the D5 a more appropriate choice. If you have a few more bucks to spend and the highest possible sound quality is a priority, you’ll lean toward the C5. If you are equipping a number of singers, a mix of the two types might be reasonable. Both are great onstage microphones so you can’t go wrong whichever you select.

Features & Specs

D5 Dynamic:

  • Supercardioid polar pattern
  • 70Hz to 20kHz frequency range
  • 2.6 mV/Pa (-52 dBV) sensitivity
  • 147/156 max SPL
  • 18 dB-A equivalent noise level
  • 76dB signal/noise ratio (A weighted)
  • 3-pin XLR connector (gold-plated)
  • Zinc alloy casing
  • Spring-steel wire-mesh screen
  • Varimotion multiple thickness diaphragm
  • Length: 7-1/3"
  • Weight: 12 oz.

C5 Condenser:

  • Cardioid polar pattern
  • 65Hz to 20kHz frequency range
  • 4 mV/Pa (-48 dBV) sensitivity
  • 140/145 max SPL
  • 25 dB-A equivalent noise level
  • 69dB signal/noise ratio (A weighted)
  • 24k gold-plated element
  • 3-pin XLR connector (gold-plated)
  • Zinc alloy casing
  • Spring steel wire mesh screen
  • Power requirement: 9 to 52V phantom power
  • Length: 7-1/3"
  • Weight: 12-1/5 oz.

Tags: Microphones

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