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akg 414 cleaning

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I recently purchased a pair of older AKG 414 B-ULS. I had used this pair of mics on two previous recording projects (classical music) and I really liked them, so eventually I bought them. I sent them to an authorized AKG repairman to get them checked out. He claims that one of the capsules is dirty, and both should be replaced at a cost of $400 each. I'm concerned that this would really change the character of the mics. I asked him about cleaning the capsules and he said that it can't be done. However, just reading a bit on this forum, it seems that at least some capsules can be cleaned. Would it be possible to get my capsules cleaned?

He also mentioned that the current AKG capsules, at least the ones that he has, are identical to the original capsules in my mics and that changing them would not make them sound like new 414s (i.e XLS) which I do not like nearly as much for my application. I'm a little skeptical about this, but I really don't know.

When I used them before, I did not notice any appreciable difference between the mics, but they were rented out in the period of time between when I used them for my project and and later when I bought them. I did not critically listen to them when I bought them, because I was already very familiar with them, and I'm certain I could return them at any time. I just sent them off to get them checked for any problems.

Thanks for any advice!

Yes, capsules can be cleaned, but only if they are not too dirty! Sounds a bit odd I know. The AKG design does not suffer from contamination as badly as the Neumann capsules. It really depends how dirty they are. Had you used the microphones recently, and were you happy with them? Do they have any noise floor problems?

To add to and also correct some notions about condenser mic capsule cleaning:

ALL capsules if exposed to dust and other airborne contaminants will eventually need to be cleaned. However, the audible or electrical effect of that contamination will vary from capsule type to capsule type.

AKG's CK12 types- from oldest to current- will potentially dirty up just as much as Neumann capsule types. But the total breakdown and loss of capacitance will happen sooner on some Neumann types, due to the proximity of the two normally highly insulated conductive surfaces, and the arrangement of electrical connection.

Your 'Teflon' CK12 is just as cleanable as any other AKG, Neumann, or whatever other brand of gold-sputtered capsules you may have laying around. The repair person is incorrect in that regard (if he actually said so in the first place). In professional hands, a high-quality condenser capsule that is contaminated can be returned to factory specs in most cases without any detrimental audible effects, and often substantial savings over purchasing a replacement capsule.
Maybe the repair person just did not feel comfortable enough in his technique.

Finally, regarding capsule replacement and its sonic consequences: A replacement capsule, even one that is identical in design to the original it replaces will sound audibly different (unless you are not very observant or don't care about subtleties.)  So it is always a good idea to try capsule restoration first and replacement last- especially when the sound of the original capsule was particularly pleasing.

Thank you for this information. The last time I used the mics was in November. At that time I noticed no problems. They might have been a little noisier than the much newer XLII pair that I compared them to, but I far preferred the character of the sound of the older mics. There was a really big difference. I'll try to find someone else to clean these capsules. Is it appropriate to ask for recommendations on this forum?

Thank you again, I am a novice recording engineer but a very experienced classical musician with a pretty detailed perception of sound, at least for my instrument.

Yes, it is totally appropriate to inquire about services on this forum (I am taking myself out of competition, of course):
This is always a reliable source for information on such matters.

The only taboo: pricing and value discussions, because unscrupulous individuals have repeatedly exploited the forum's authority by trying to add a stamp of approval to their often outlandish pricing with claims like: "as can be verified by the prices mentioned on Klaus Heyne's Mic Lab" (see details in 'Ground Rules').


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