Updated on Apr 08, 2021
The AKG P120 Project Studio Condenser Microphone is one of the most affordable & best XLR microphones built for home studios that we’ve ever worked with. It's also one of the best AKG microphones on the market. Often when working with condenser microphones at this price range, the quality doesn’t seem to fit in a home studio, which is why we normally opt for a dynamic mic (particularly if only recording vocals). However, the AKG Project Studio line has put some really impressive condenser microphones on the affordable market, and with the versatility, these mics can offer, it’s worth consideration.
The reasons we often choose dynamics over low-end condenser microphones have a lot to do with the self-noise levels & sensitivity. Self-noise will come through as a hissing white noise in your audio, which will limit the quality of your mastered track.
The AKG P120 has a self-noise level of 19db, compared to its older sibling, the AKG P220, which has a self-noise level of 16db. And both of these compared to the more expensive Rode NT-1, which has a self-noise level of 4db.
Dynamic microphones, however, don’t face the same issues, which is why we often recommend them for recording vocals. But dynamic microphones don’t have the same capabilities as a condenser, for example, they can’t get nearly the level of accuracy or transient response from your audio input. Recording guitar, for example, may not sound the same, even on dynamics specifically built for instruments. There are trade-offs each which way you go, however, it’s definitely worth reading this review to see what factors matter most for your needs.
The AKG P120 Project Studio Condenser Microphone comes from a line of top-notch affordable studio mics. AKG microphones are some of my favorites when it comes to affordable studio mics, and the quality of the build is highly impressive. A lot of budget mics are at risk of shorting because of the poor electronics and may break easily when mishandled.
The AKG P120 is built to be extremely durable, and I’ve had 0 issues with the electronics. It comes with an Attenuation Pad, which will limit the input signal from loud sources and prevent overloading the electronics. On top of this, it's an extremely durable microphone. The rugged metal body of this condenser mic offers a level of quality we typically find on similar microphones in the $200+ range.
Another component we look for is the light-weight diaphragm, which allows for better accuracy of the input. The AKG P120 has a great diaphragm weight, and from the tests we ran, the accuracy pulls through.
The AKG P120 Project Studio Condenser Microphone is absolutely best for home recording studios. The sound accuracy and versatility offer the ability to record both vocals and instruments, which can be widely useful in the studio.
Now, you can definitely use it for streaming, or as a gaming microphone. One advantage I would say it has over a dynamic is that you don’t need to be right there in the mic. You can sit back with your controller, fidget around in your chair, and still record your audio.
Lastly, you can use this as a performance mic. You may have seen the AKG P220 advertised on our site for those looking for the best mic for acoustic guitar, especially when performing live. While I haven't tested that out on this model, I get the sense it would do a similarly great job. The wide-range frequency & rapid transient response are key towards capturing the full depth of our guitar.
One of the first differences I noticed between the P120 and the P220 was that this model does not come with a shock mount. The AKG P220 comes boxed with a spider shock mount, which reduces handling noises by absorbing the shock waves. This can be particularly useful when your recording environment is not big and spacious.
Beyond that, we’re going to be facing the expected downsides from using an affordable microphone in the studio. Granted, unlike some lower-end podcasting/streaming mics, the P120 was built for studio use, and as with the others in the project studio line, it’s a clear show of effort. However, we’re still going to be facing issues from the self-noise. This one factor alone will reduce the credibility of your audio. There are things we can do to remedy the issue, like recording about 5 seconds of white noise before recording our audio and using a digital audio workstation to use that sample to remove similar sounds on the track. However, that type of functionality will only get you so far, and often when trying too hard to clean up, you may end up ruining your own audio. A better guide on how to reduce microphone noise comes from Church Sound Tips: How To Get Rid Of Microphone Background Noise.
For many, it’s hard to find a good and quiet space to set up a studio, and so you run the risk of getting massive amounts of background noise in your audio. This is one of the biggest factors we have to consider when comparing low-end dynamics and low-end condensers.
Condenser microphones are built to be extremely sensitive. That’s the only way they can get that superior accuracy on your sound waves. This can work against you, however, if you don’t have a good space to record in, whether it’s background noise or too much echo. Removing echo from your audio is not going to work, and so it can corrupt the whole track.
Dynamics, however, often block out noise from all sides of the capsule, only picking up what’s inputted directly through the front. This is why they make such popular performance mics, as that prevents feedback. This can also work in your favor when you can’t meet the criteria above.
For alternative microphones to the AKG P120, we’re going to consider better microphones for this price range, or better microphones at a little higher of a price.
If you’re interested in a dynamic microphone instead of a condenser, we’re going to recommend you look at the Shure SM58 Dynamic Vocal Microphone. I’ve used it, as have many others, when in a pinch. You may be interested in our in-depth review of the Shure SM58 Dynamic Vocal Microphone here.
If you’re looking for a condenser microphone at a slightly higher price range, then the AKG P220 might make an excellent fit in your studio. It has a lot in common with the P120, but the self-noise and sound quality are much improved. You may also be interested in our in-depth review of the AKG P220 Project Studio Condenser Microphone here.
Overall, the biggest takeaway from this is that for a $99 condenser microphone, it definitely shines. For many, it's going to make the perfect entry-level studio microphone. The shape, look, and feel will offer confidence, and the accuracy will offer quality. It has its caveats, that was expected in this price range, but for such a versatile microphone, we're pretty pleased.
Posted on Sep 14, 2020
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