AKG Elle C Microphone

As in many industries, pro audio manufacturers often get caught up in an endless cycle of new product development and when the stars are properly aligned, incremental improvement is the observed result. When they are not so well alligned, it’s just old wine in a new bottle. While this tiresome, it’s also understandable, for as a culture we’ve been taught to seek out the newer, the better, and the faster.
Other than in the arena of wireless microphones, which truly have seen considerable technological improvement over the years, ask yourself how different handheld vocal microphones are from those of 20 (or more) years ago? With a few exceptions, not that different at all!
AKG’s new Elle C is, on the other hand, actually something new and it’s not because of startling developments in microphone construction, bold technological advances in material science, or revolutionary audio performance. No, the Elle C’s improvements lie in its clever product design and focused target marketing. This may sound as if I’m picking on AKG, but I assure you that I’m not! I believe that AKG may be on the forefront of a new trend in professional audio, woman-centric products.

The Elle C cardioid electret condenser microphone from AKG Acoustics GmbH (A Harman International Company) of Vienna, Austria brings with it a new concept. Why not create a microphone that is optimized for female vocalists? With that in mind, the microphone is physically smaller and lighter. As a point of reference the Elle C weighs in at 260 grams (9.2 oz.) while the similarly specified AKG C5 condenser microphone tips the scale at 345 grams (12.2 oz.).
The Elle C is available in two distinct finishes, the high gloss metallic finished Elle C Silver (which I received for review) and the pearl white finished Elle C White. I had a chance to see the Elle C White at the Pro Light & Sound show in Frankfurt, and can say that the pearl white finish is equally stunning.
In addition to being physically scaled down (compared to conventional microphones) in order to be more ergonomically friendly, AKG claims to have tuned the Elle C’s capsule to better match the harmonic content of women’s voices.
The Elle C microphone includes a removable presence boosting attachment which clips on to the capsule called the PB1000. With more than a superficial resemblance to a low flow water restrictor that you might find in your shower head, the PB1000 alters the acoustic response of the capsule by physically covering the microphone’s diaphragm. This device is also included with a few other AKG microphones.
The Elle C microphone is specified to operate between 60Hz and 20kHz. AKG provides measurements both with and without the PB1000 installed, the response with the PB1000 starts to deviate from the “naked” microphone at about 2Khz. From there on up, the response is quite different than the unaltered microphone’s curve showing a 5dBA rise at 7kHz among other differences.
Self noise is rated at 25dBA which is a little higher than other handheld condensers such as the similarly priced Shure SM86 (which is rated at 23dBA). In actual use however, this difference is unlikely to be audible.
The high gloss metallic finish of the Elle C Silver I received for review was impeccably applied, looking and feeling expensive. It was was, however, rather reflective which could present a flaring problem during a video shoot and it was also a little slippery, especially compared to the rubberized finishes that seem to be in vogue these days.
The microphone comes packaged in a nice nylon cordura tube, and includes a very well engineered microphone clip (along with European spec microphone thread adapter) and an external foam windscreen.
The KSM9 retails for $339, but street price is around $250, it carries a two year limited warranty. For those that care about such things (as I will readily admit that I do), the Elle C is made in Austria.
In Use
The Elle C can almost be regarded as two different microphones due to the action of the PB1000 appliance. Although I’m sure that there are applications in which the PB1000 will offer an improvement, I found that the Elle C sounded much more natural with the PB1000 removed.
Make no mistake, the Elle C is not a dark sounding microphone by any stretch of the imagination. As the specifications show, even without the PB1000 it’s up about 4 dB at 8.5 kHz which is helpful for a vocal microphone.
As is the case for many handheld condenser microphones, the Elle C delivers a hotter output than the standard ubiquitous dynamic microphones that are likely encountered. I didn’t find handling noise to be an issue with the Elle C, which speaks well of AKG’s elastic suspension capsule mounting system. Also pleasing was the Elle C’s relative freedom from the dreaded p-pops, likely due to the internal (easily removable for cleaning) foam filter. I didn’t have an opportunity to utilize the provided external windscreen during an outdoor gig, but a quick in-studio test revealed it to be relatively transparent, although I’m not sure how it would hold up to gale-force turbulence.
I put the Elle C through its paces during the pre-concert soundcheck of a female folk/rock singer. Compared to the Shure Beta 58’s that are typically used at this venue, the Elle C sounded more detailed, with a more extended high-end. Sibilance wasn’t a problem, and the overall sound was natural with just a slight touch of upper midrange brittleness.
Utilized on a male vocalist (admittedly a tenor) the AKG sounded good, though perhaps not as authoritative as a beyerdynamic M88tg, but certainly well within the range of acceptable.
As I had expected, insertion of the PB-1000 resulted in a sonic step backwards making the microphone sound somewhat strident. One thing you should realize is that the microphone ships with the PB-1000 already installed, so be sure to unscrew the microphone’s grille and carefully pull the PB-1000 off of the capsule. Once you’ve done this, my advice would be to properly dispose of it, but all kidding aside, you will want try the microphone both ways.
While some vocal microphones have taken pains towards minimizing the proximity effect, the Elle C performs as traditionally expected, fattening up very nicely at close distances.
During the time that I had the Elle C for review I also tried it on a variety of in studio applications. On a vintage Fender Vibrolux fed by a Paul Reed Smith CE24, the Elle C sounded bright, controlled, and airy. With its 140 dBA SPL rating, the AKG had no problem handling the amp even at near-painful levels.
A slightly “white” character could be noted whilst auditioning the Elle C on percussion instruments such as shaker, guiro, and triangle. I’ve found this to be somewhat typical of electret condenser microphones. On normal vocal usage this manifests itself as the kind of “crisp and clear” upper midrange response that Bose products aspire to produce.
Unlike many other inexpensive condenser microphones, the Elle C was surprisingly good at resolving low level detail, and its off axis response was quite a bit cleaner sounding than other microphones in its price range.
Just for fun, I put the Elle C above a Premier Jazz drum kt. It sounded punchy and clean, better than I was expecting. If you didn’t have a pair of dedicated microphones available the Elle C would do fairly nicely as drum overheads.

The Elle C provides the contemporary “hi-fi” condenser microphone sound in a pleasing package ergonomically well suited for female performers. Low handling noise, freedom from plosives, and (of course) good looks, make the Elle C an excellent choice for vocalists looking for a compact and lightweight handheld condenser microphone that delivers quality audio performance.
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