In this review, I’ll be taking a look at a new USB microphone from AKG – the Ara. USB microphones tend to be catered towards podcasters, but I’m curious to see if the Ara can hold its own in music recording. Let’s take a look.
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Final verdict on the AKG Ara
The Ara is a very capable USB microphone with both cardioid and omnidirectional polar patterns. I can’t necessarily say that it’s the best at anything, but it does its job very well – especially for the price.
What I like
- Two polar patterns.
- Fairly versatile.
- Great cost to value ratio.
What I don’t like
- Nothing worth noting.
Polar pattern and frequency response
The Ara is a dual-pattern USB microphone with a purported frequency response of 20 Hz – 20 kHz with an output impedance of 16 ohms. AKG has not provided any graphs of the frequency response, however, so the alleged ’20 Hz – 20 kHz’ spec is essentially useless information.
For the most part, the microphone’s response is open and more neutral than I was expecting it to be. Having both cardioid and omni polar patterns makes the Ara a slightly more versatile contender for its target-audience.
I’d like to point out that these are labelled as “Front” and “Front & Back” on the rotary switch, which is somewhat misleading, seeing that my immediate assumption was that “Front & Back” implied that the polarity was a figure-8 pattern. It’s not figure-8 but omni, and AKG should maybe reconsider their labelling.
Regardless, the “Front & Back” (omni) mode is especially useful for podcasting with two speakers placed on either side of the microphone.
This microphone is definitely usable when it comes to recording vocals. I noticed little to no noise when testing it out, and plosives were received quite well.
I would never use this for live vocals unless it was in a small-scale broadcast scenario. If you’re in a band wanting to use it for a show, good luck getting the board operator to put up with running a 50′ USB-C cable to the desk. I don’t even think they make USB-C cables that are that long.
Totally fine, I wouldn’t necessarily pick this microphone under most circumstances, but for beginners it can definitely muster up some pretty usable results. Although, you might have to apply some drastic EQ if you’re trying to get some more sheen and sparkle.
I liked the results I got using it some distance away from my amp. Again, not my first choice, but the Ara is more capable than you would expect.
Sigh, I tried recording bass with it and the results were muddy and fell short of anything worth keeping. Best to stick to direct input if you’re recording bass on a low budget.
While AKG has listed the Ara as having a max SPL of 120 dB, in practice it doesn’t seem to be so. If you are going to try to record drums with this microphone, place it further away from the drums to avoid any nasty digital distortion. I got a decent sound out of it, but I did have to fool around in post to get it sounding alright.
The microphone is well-built and is fairly stylish in its design. On the microphone are two dials, one to switch between polar patterns, and another to control headphone volume and the mute function.
On the bottom of the microphone is a USB-C port and an 1/8-inch jack to connect your headphones to.
Compared to other USB microphones
While the Ara might be the perfect USB microphone for your needs and budget, here’re a few other options to consider as an alternative.
AKG Ara vs Lyra
While the Ara and Lyra are both AKG microphones, they are a bit different. The Lyra has more options in terms of polarity as well as higher resolution and a slightly higher max SPL. That being said, while the Ara is more limited, it’s more affordable and just as versatile of a microphone as the Lyra.
AKG Ara vs Audio-Technica AT2020USB-X
While the Ara’s switchable polar patterns are to its benefit, I think the AT2020USB-X is ultimately a better microphone. It’s a solid cardioid mic, but it is much more versatile than the Ara, and generally sounds better to my ears.
AKG Ara vs Blue Yeti
The Blue Yeti is a classic choice when it comes to USB mics, but I’ve never truly seen the appeal. The Ara comes with Ableton Live Lite, and has two separate polar patterns, so I’d recommend it over the Yeti.
AKG Ara vs Rode NT-USB
The Rode is just a cardioid USB microphone, so for those of you looking for a bit more flexibility in usage should look into the Ara. Otherwise, they sound about as good as each other.
Who is the AKG Ara best suited for?
The AKG Ara is best suited for novice music producers, folks who like tracking demos on the go, and folks interested in a reliable podcast microphone.Buy AKG Ara at: SweetwaterAmazon
You can also watch this video by my colleague Fabio where he puts the AKG Ara USB condenser microphone to the test.