Sound Bites: AKG C451

AKG produced a tube ‘Colette’ (interchangeable capsule) microphone in the 1960s called the C28A, shortly followed by the C28B and Nuvista (miniature tube) version, the C28C. As standard these were supplied with a cardioid capsule called the CK1S – the S suffix indicating a mid/high boost of 4-6 dB to give added presence – or the CK28.

AKG C28

These are truly good sounding mics and use the same output transformer and similar topology as the legendary AKG C12 and Telefunken 250/251. Indeed, marry a C28 with a brass CK12 capsule and you’ll get a ‘poor man’s’ C12. Good examples remain outstanding bargains for anyone looking for a vintage tube mic on a budget.

Alongside the C28, AKGG produced a smaller pencil mic called the C60/C61, using the ubiquitous AC701 tube, as found in the classic Neumann M49 and M50. These too were supplied with removable variations on the CK1, which were the same as used on the C28 and therefore interchangeable. I’ve never been fully convinced by the C60/C61 although they have their fans. Personally, I prefer the C28.

AKG C61

With the development of reliable and relatively quiet FET technology, AKG introduced the C451 in the late 1960s – the solid state successor to the C28/C60 using the same capsule thread. C451s could be used with a variety of capsules; CK1 (cardioid), CK2 and CK22 (omni), CK4 (figure of 8) CK5 (a CK1 housed in a pop filter) and CK7 and 8 (short and long shotguns). One, or a pair, of C451s could therefore cope with a multitude of tasks allowing a sound engineer to carry a relatively small kit to deal with pretty much any job. In addition, the ‘Colette’ arrangement allowed the mic body to be housed at a distance from the capsule and a range of extension tubes and cables were available. Most of us have seen television footage from the 1970s of performers singing or playing into a mic capsule on the end of what looks like an extremely thin chrome mic stand. These are C451 capsules mounted on extensions – compact and relatively inconspicuous but top, top quality.

The C451 came in a variety of models and enjoyed a range of accessories, over and above the extension tubes. The C451 had a European 3 pin DIN connector whereas the C451E had an XLR (with AKG mics, the lack of suffix indicates DIN and an E suffix designates XLR. Very occasionally mics were fitted with less common connectors, so be

careful). As well as interchangeable capsules, 10bD and 20dB pads were available to fit between the capsule and mic body. AKG later produced the C451EB which incorporated pads and filters in the mic body in the form of small switches.

AKG C451E

 

 

The C451 was replaced in the 1980s by the C300 series of ‘blue line’ mics and a higher end C460 ‘Ultra Linear’ range which had a lower noise floor but retained the design and operational advantages of the Colette system (as still used on most Schoeps mics). It is important to note that capsules are not interchangeable between C300, C460 and C451 although an adaptor was made to fit the C451 series of capsules to C460 mic bodies. I suspect that the C451 was discontinued because of the cost and complexity of manufacturing the nickel ‘button’ capsule diaphragms, as AKG moved most of their capsule design to plastic or Mylar (coated plastic) construction in the early 1980s. Sadly, original AKG CK capsules are too all intents irreparable these days because of a lack of spares so take care if buying a used mic on-line (or from a fair-weather friend).

 

Personally, I think the C300 lacks the personality and detail of the C451 and perhaps others agree as the C300 and C460 mics never achieved the widespread popularity and respect of their illustrious predecessor – I have always owned C451s and various capsules and still do; I love the little beasts.

Some years ago, AKG reintroduced the C451 as the C451B, a similar microphone but with a fixed cardioid (plastic) capsule. These remain excellent value and I am surprised that every serious recordist doesn’t own a pair – the C451 is one of my most frequently used mics,

C460 with C451 capsule adaptor

covering everything from snare to hats to acoustic guitar and even vocals (with a CK5 – as apparently used by Barry White amongst others). Indeed, I personally feel that a good C451 is essential for every well-stocked mic cupboard and a good used original represents outstanding value for money – I guarantee it will be used day-in, day out.

AKG C451 with CK5 Capsule

 

Groovy, baby…

AKG C451B

See more on our AKG Classic Catalogue entries, including:

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