From the archives: Food And The Art of Microphone Design

Written back in 1998…

When the very kind man from the Arbiter group invited me to Vienna to learn more about the history of AKG, I jumped at the chance.

After all, AKG mics had always been my first choice, from my early days with the hardy D190 to more treasured acquisitions such as my C12, C12A and Telefunken 251. As a long time user of the product, I was soon to realise how ignorant I actually was about the history of the company, the radical design philosophy and tradition of innovation, and in particular the influence of food on company and product development over the years.Food-and-the-art-of-microphone-design

For example, the company (founded in the ruins of war torn Vienna by physicist Dr, Rudolph Goerlike and business man Ing. Ernst Pless in 1947) found it hard to get cash from their early clients (ring any bells?) and their first major customer paid by means of a pig and some butter. The staff ate well that week, and to this day, food is kept on permanent display in the factory. By 1953, acoustic manufacture had overtaken film equipment and pork as the mainstay of the company so the name was shortened from Acoustic and Film Equipment (Akustische u. Kino­Gerate) to AKG (becoming AKG Acoustics in 1965).

The breakthrough product was the classic D12 dynamic microphone, first released in 1953 which proved ideal for vocals and tuba D12amongst other things, and continued in production for over 30 years. Film and broadcast clients required the highest quality available, and the legendary C12 was developed. Over the next forty years, AKG blossomed into one of the major microphone manufacturers worldwide and the highlights and breakthroughs were far too numerous to mention here but included were:



1960: Telefunken commission “compact” condenser mics for film use (the C12,with remote pattern box was considered unwieldy). The 250 (cardioid/fig 8) came in milk chocolate or broccoli flavoured enamel finish.

1962: The C12A with Nu Vista (from”nueva vista”, ­ a new vision) miniature tube is introduced,and becomes a forerunner of the C412 (1970)FET mic,which itself developed into the C414 in 1971. Several body designs were considered and rejected before the mic we know and love today went into production.

1968: First FET CMS (modular) C451 mics developed. Styling based upon a large cigar smoked after creative wine tasting session.

1970: Following a study into the acoustic properties of the hotel mini­bar, AKG develop the first portable reverberation chamber, the BX20.

1986: AKG buy Ursa Major and transform into the Digital Products Division, releasing the superb AKG ADR68K reverb.

1994: After huge expansion followed with problems in the Austrian economy, Harman international Industries Inc become 100% shareholders in AKG.

AKG-Logo-white1995: An inspired marketing session leads to the concept of the ‘LIQUIDTUBE’. Unfortunatly, Fosters Lager had the idea first. Coincidentally, AKG design the Solidtube budget valve microphone.

1999: New AKG logo, designed to reflect the importance of fruit to the development of the company.

One of the assets that AKG retain, perhaps the most valuable is Christina Burkardt, the hugely efficient and knowledgeable head of PR at AKG Vienna. She has produced a fascinating history of the first 50 years at AKG which is available from the company.


Read more on AKG mics under our ‘Soundbite’ article:
A Very Rough Guide to the AKG C12/C414

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