Abbey Road Microphone Collection - The AKG C12

Abbey Road Microphone Collection - The AKG C12

"The C12, a valve operated condenser, was a marvelous mic", said George Martin. "It was very sensitive and could pick up things with great clarity from quite a distance away - it was a very "hot" mic as the Americans would say."

AKG’s C12 is one of the best-known tube condenser microphones in history. The original CK12 capsule is widely considered to be one of the finest condenser microphone capsules out there. The AKG C12 Capsules were made by hand and were far more intricate than those fitted to equivalent Neumann mics in the 1950s (Neumann U47 etc), incorporating more than 120 individual parts. These are colloquially known as ‘brass’ capsules due to the brass housing, although the coating of the capsule itself is sputtered gold.The microphone requires an external power supply with a remote pattern box.

The most common use of the AKG C12 mic on Beatles' sessions was as a bass mic, and it was in this capacity that it made the biggest contribution to the group's recordings. When Geoff Emerick first stepped in as The Beatles' engineer in 1966, he recorded bass guitar with the AKG D20, just as his mentor Norman Smith had done. However, by the time the sessions commenced for Sgt. Pepper, Emerick had developed a preference for the C12, a mic that other EMI engineers had been using on bass since the late 1950's. While in the past these engineers had usually placed the mic a foot or so from the bass amp, Emerick began experimenting with alternate placement, around the time of Sgt.Pepper, in order to achieve a different quality. 
"On Pepper, we did most of the bass as overdubs", he recalled. "We would reserve reserve a track for the bass and Paul would stay behind and we'd overdub the bass. We would place his amp out in the middle of Studio 2, and I would use the C12 to mic it, sometimes it would be set on Figure 8, and I would position it 4-5 feet away, occasionally as much as 8 feet away from the amp. I would sometimes use a second mic even further away and then combine the signals; I wanted to capture the 'roundness' of Studio 2. It gave a very slight coloration, which was quite nice. You can hear it on some of those Pepper tracks - the bass has a different quality..."

For the remainder of the group's sessions at Abbey Road, the C12 would be the primary choice for recording Paul's bass - although this was often supplemented by Direct Injection. The C12 did serve other purposes on Beatles' sessions, and was frequently used to record both strings and piano. It was used in Studio 1 on the orchestral session for A Day In The Life, and Something. The C12 can also be seen in photos from the Let It Be sessions at Apple Studios.

Still considered a classic to this day, the microphone proves immensely popular amongst both classical/film and pop engineers alike. Abbey Road has several of these models in its collection and they are considered a bit of a work horse allrounder, being used on everything from orchestral outriggers to pianos and doubles basses to vocals. Surely a staggering testament to a stunning microphone that’s over half a century old.

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