Test Drive: AKG Perception Microphones

THE PERCEPTION 120

With a retail price of $230 and a street price of about $120, the perception 120 is the least expensive of the three new models. It’s a side-address large diaphragm condenser with a fixed cardioid polar pattern, and claims a 20 Hz to 20 kHz frequency response. Its zinc alloy body and grill have a metallic blue tint to them, and it ships in a padded cardboard box with no shock mount, although it does include a stand adapter. According to the specs, it has a sensitivity of 22mV/Pa and a maximum SPL of 150dB with the pad switched in, so it’s unlikely you can give it anything in the volume department that it can’t handle. In addition to that -20dB pad switch, the 120 also has a low-cut filter (300 Hz, -12dB per octave), which works well to eliminate proximity effect.

perception120polar

The Perception 120 replaces the now discontinued Perception 100. The primary difference between the two of them is that the 100 used a one-inch (25 mm) capsule, while the 120 uses a capsule that measures two thirds of an inch (17 mm). As a result, the low-end response drops off sooner but the frequency plots of both models are quite close down to 150 Hz, and as we know there’s very little useful voice information down there anyway. In addition, the sensitivity of the 120 is slightly higher, although so is the self-noise (it’s 22dB-A for the 120 versus 16dB-A for the 100).

The 120 reminds me somewhat of the slightly less costly Audio Technica AT-2020 that I recommended for my sub-$500 voiceover kit (see the July 2007 issue of RAP). Overall it sounds fairly flat and perhaps a little compressed. It has a high-end that is clean with a bump near 10 kHz for a bit of detail and, on women, for a bit more presence. The self-noise is higher than I would like, although I don’t think that’s a problem for most close-miked voiceover applications. The 120 is sensitive to plosives however, so you’ll want to keep a quality pop filter handy, and plan on buying a shock mount as well. Given all that, it sounds good for both male and female voice talent, and would seem to be an excellent VO mike for voiceover newbies on a budget.