Buying a Budget Microphone

AKG Precision 220

Back in the good old days of the 1990’s when I bought my first microphone, I went to a large music store (Sam Ash), asked the clerk for advice based on my needs and budget, and, promptly bought the first microphone he recommended. It was a Shure dynamic microphone that I still use today. So, you might understand why, when I decided to supplement my dynamic and ribbon microphones with a large diaphragm condenser mic, I drove 50 miles to a large music store. I know. I should have just looked on the Internet, but, I was in a nostalgic mood (actually, I just wanted to go for a drive).

This was a big mistake. I went to, shall we say, an “Instrument ” Center. Apropos, since I play said instrument. I told the expert in the recording department that I was interested in the AKG Perception 220, a microphone in the below $200.00 range that has garnered great reviews. It is modeled on a much more expensive Neumann mic. To keep costs down it is made in China, but, it is engineered in Germany and meets AKG’s strict quality control standards. The clerk, ahem, excuse me, expert, immediately tried to up-sell me (saying, “Not that I’m trying to up-sell you, but…).

To add insult to, well, you know what, he said that brand X was better “if you have the money”. I bit my lip because I wanted to say, “Unless you are the owner (which I doubt) I am sure I earn more than you do.” I replied, I have the money. However, it is a hobby and don’t necessarily want to spend more. Pardon the cliches, but it went from bad to… yes, you know.

He next asked what I would be recording. I said, vocals and guitar. He queried, “acoustic guitar?” And, I set him straight. “Both acoustic and electric.” Well, you would think that I had taken a dump on his floor. He cried, oh no! You can’t record electric guitar with a condenser microphone! I then told him I recorded electric guitar with a ribbon mic that is even more sensitive. He then lectured me further, as if I was doomed to perdition for doing so. By the way, the sales literature for the AKG Perception 220 says that it is “perfect for guitar and bass amps”. It has an attenuation pad that you can use to reduce the decibel level by 20 db if you are miking a very loud and powerful amp, like a Marshall stack. By contrast, I only use a 15 watt Fender in my studio. Furthermore, engineers far more knowledgeable than I have used ribbons and condensers on electric rock guitar – Eddie Kramer (Hendrix, Led Zeppelin) and Alan Parsons (Pink Floyd) come to mind.

I was immediately reminded of when another moron – I’m sorry – wage slave, at a big music store wanted to offer me $50.00 as a trade-in on a 1970’s Gibson Howard Roberts ($3,500.00 retail) because he couldn’t tell an archtop from warping. But, I digress.

I asked my learned friend about the store’s “guaranteed low price” and he said that they would match any legitimate price for new stock found on the internet. I let him check the computer and ask his manager. When he returned he assured me that the microphone could not be bought for less than their advertised price of $149.99. I bid him farewell, went home and ordered it from Amazon for $128.17 including shipping on a Saturday and had it in hand by Tuesday.

I honestly don’t know how brick and mortar stores expect to stay in business. Unless they start to compete on superior customer experience, i.e. knowledgeable sales people, demonstrations of equipment, etc. they will soon disappear. I will follow-up soon with my impressions of the Precision 220.


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