Austrian Audio burst onto the music scene with its debut microphones, the OC818 and OC18, inspired by the renowned AKG C12 and C414 EB condenser microphones. Since their introduction, numerous audio content creators have been raving about their exceptional sound and features.
Given its substantial price tag of $1,250, I felt compelled to delve deeper into this microphone to understand the buzz surrounding it, and I was certainly not disappointed.
If you’re in the market for a microphone that combines vintage aesthetics with cutting-edge, future-proof technology, you’ll want to read our Austrian Audio OC818 review. Discover the unique features and surprises this microphone has to offer.
At a Glance
The Austrian Audio’s OC818 is a microphone that seamlessly marries vintage charm with state-of-the-art technology. Inspired by the iconic AKG C414, the OC818 stands out with its unique ceramic CKR12 capsule, delivering unparalleled sound clarity.
Beyond its impeccable microphone design and build, this microphone introduces innovative features like wireless polar pattern adjustments via the PolarPilot app and the game-changing Dual Output function.
While its premium price tag of $1,250 might give some pause, the value it offers is undeniable, positioning itself alongside top-tier microphones like the Neumann U87 Ai and the AKG C414.
Background of Austrian Audio
To fully appreciate the excellence of the OC818, it’s essential to trace the origins of Austrian Audio back to the creation of the iconic AKG C414.
The esteemed AKG C414 line of microphones began with the legendary C12 tube mic, which was produced from 1953 to 1960.
The C12 tube mic incorporated the notoriously intricate CK12 ‘brass ring’ capsule, giving it a remarkable sound and stellar on-and-off-axis response. This very CK12 ‘brass ring’ capsule was later utilized in the production of the C414 EB in 1976, marking the first model in the C414 series.
However, the intricate design of the CK12 ‘brass ring’ capsule posed significant manufacturing challenges. With a failure rate of roughly 65%, the factory sometimes managed to produce only a single microphone per day.
Due to these complexities, AKG opted to abandon the brass ring in favor of a Teflon ring to secure the membrane. While this method was more dependable, it couldn’t replicate the sonic excellence of the original brass-ring version.
Despite these manufacturing hurdles, several AKG engineers, in their spare time, persisted in exploring ways to emulate the unique sonic attributes of the CK12 ‘brass ring’ capsule using alternative materials.
When AKG was acquired by Harman International Industries (a subsidiary of Samsung Electronics) in 2017, 22 former AKG staff members, including those engineers dedicated to redesigning the CK12, founded Austrian Audio.
They went on a mission to reinvent the wheel and succeeded in developing a new capsule using ceramic instead of brass for the clamping rings. This ceramic material not only matched the mass of the original brass ring, ensuring a comprehensive frequency capture, but it also circumvented the electrical issues associated with the brass.
This innovative capsule was named the CKR12, paying homage to its predecessor, the CK12, and exhibited sonic qualities strikingly reminiscent of the original.
The CKR12 ceramic capsule became the cornerstone for Austrian Audio’s debut microphones, the OC818 and OC18, launched in 2019.
Design and Build Quality
One thing is certain: Austrian Audio’s manufacturing standards are impeccable. Their microphones are meticulously handcrafted in their Vienna factory, with no parts outsourced, ensuring consistent quality.
The microphone boasts an all-metal body and mesh grill crafted from a zinc-aluminum alloy, exuding both strength and durability. This metal mesh grill cage is designed to be as expansive as possible, aiming to produce an open and spacious sound. In fact, the “OC” in OC818 stands for ‘open condenser.’
With their roots in AKG, the engineers at Austrian Audio have infused the OC818 with a vintage design reminiscent of classic mics like the Neumann U87 and AKG C414.
Inside the OC818, you won’t find any mounting posts that could reflect and refract sound back into the capsule. Instead, the capsule is delicately suspended within the microphone by a rubber shock mount, reducing reflections and minimizing handling noise. Additionally, the built-in absorber diffuser at the base of the OC818 provides an extra layer of protection against unwanted reflections.
While the OC818 comes with a premium price tag, Austrian Audio ensures value for money by including a range of accessories. The microphone comes in a sleek, sturdy carrying case with secure buckles and protective foam inserts, making it ideal for transport.
The package also includes a spider shock mount (adding a second layer of suspension to the OC818’s internal shock mount), a sturdy mount with a mic clip, a 5/8” to 3/8” thread adapter, a foam windshield, and a mini-XLR to XLR cable.
Many microphone manufacturers try to cut costs by purchasing their capsules from Chinese factories. While these are more cost-effective, they often lack consistent response, especially off-axis. To achieve a flat frequency response on paper, these manufacturers rely on clever circuitry and heavily smoothed measurements.
However, this ‘flat response’ can become inconsistent when you move off-axis or apply EQ to the audio. Martin Seidl, the CEO of Austrian Audio, aptly remarked, “It’s very easy to make a mic that has a good frequency response at a measured distance on-axis. But show me one recording situation where you have only an on-axis source!”
Recognizing the importance of the capsule as the heart of the microphone, Austrian Audio’s engineers dedicated significant effort to perfecting their in-house capsule design. Thanks to its robust ceramic capsule and spacious housing, the OC818 boasts a consistent off-axis response.
Its accurate off-axis response ensures that audio remains uncolored even when speaking from various angles or distances, or when adjusting multiple polar patterns. This makes the OC818 an incredible vocal microphone for singers who can worry less about mic positioning and focus more on delivering a stellar performance.
The OC818’s consistent off-axis response also makes it ideal for recording instruments like pianos, where much of the sound captured from the strings is off-axis.
The OC818 delivers a modern sound that is nothing short of pristine, balanced, and pure. It offers remarkable clarity across the frequency range, often eliminating the need for extensive equalization.
While some microphones, such as the Neumann TLM 103, can sound clinical with subdued mids and overly bright highs, the OC818 stands out with its rich midrange, smooth and detailed high frequencies, and warm, tight bass.
With a sensitivity of 13 mV/Pa in cardioid mode, the OC818 captures the subtle nuances of instruments, like the delicate finger-picking of an acoustic guitar.
Its impressively low self-noise of 9dB means you can amplify the gain, apply heavy compression, and still achieve a crystal-clear signal.
Although it’s a condenser mic, the OC818 excels in off-axis rejection, making it a great choice if you’re recording different instruments individually in a band.
A testament to Austrian Audio’s meticulous calibration is that any two OC818 or OC18 microphones can be used as a stereo pair in cardioid mode, thanks to their finely tuned sensitivities.
On the front of the microphone, you’ll find three physical analog control switches: an attenuation pad, a high-pass filter, and a polar pattern selector switch.
The -10dB pad on the attenuation pad is designed to safeguard the OC818’s internal electronics by reducing the bias voltage to the capsule.
Meanwhile, the -20dB pad aims to lower the mic’s output gain to the downstream devices like preamps and audio interfaces, preventing clipping during the recording of loud sources.
A unique aspect of the attenuation pad switch is its gradual descent to -10dB upon activation rather than an immediate drop.
There are three settings for the high-pass filters. The 1st order filter at 160Hz provides a gentle roll-off, ideal for counteracting the proximity effect when you’re too close to the mic.
The steeper 2nd order filters at 40Hz and 80Hz effectively eliminate background noises, such as the low-end hum of air conditioners and fans.
Polar Pattern Selector
The polar pattern selector switch boasts five settings: figure-8, hyper cardioid, cardioid, dual cardioid (for use with the second output), omnidirectional, and a customizable preset mode, which we’ll delve into shortly.
While the Austrian Audio OC818 may resemble classic analog microphones like the AKG C414 or Neumann U87 Ai, it’s packed with subtle advanced technological features that cater to a contemporary artist or music producer’s workflow.
PolarPilot: Wireless Control of OC818
One of the standout technological features of the Austrian Audio OC818 is its built-in microprocessor control, which enables wireless switching of multiple polar patterns via Bluetooth using the PolarPilot app.
This ingenious idea drew inspiration from AKG’s C12 multi-pattern tube mic, which featured an analog wired polar pattern selector box for remote control adjustments.
Gone are the days when audio engineers had to dash between the control room and the isolation booth just to tweak the polar pattern settings on the microphone.
To tap into the OC818’s wireless control capabilities, you’ll need the OCR8 Bluetooth adapter, priced at $180. And yes, I know what you’re thinking: “Really? After shelling out a hefty $1,250 for the microphone, I have to spend an additional $180 for Bluetooth functionality?”
It’s a valid gripe and one that I hope Austrian Audio addresses in the future. Ideally, they’d either bundle the Bluetooth adapter at no extra cost or integrate a Bluetooth chip directly into the microphone.
Grievances aside, the setup is straightforward. Download the PolarPilot app on your smartphone, set the OC818’s polar pattern to Preset Mode (the rightmost option), plug the OCR8 Bluetooth dongle into the mini-XLR port on the mic’s rear, pair it with your phone, and you’re all set.
It’s crucial to note that even when using the PolarPilot app, the OC818’s microphone signal remains purely analog; there’s no digital conversion involved.
While the physical switches on the OC818 offer four polar patterns to choose from, the PolarPilot app expands this selection to a whopping 255 discrete polar patterns, granting you unparalleled control.
The app also lets you remotely adjust the attenuation pad and high-pass filter. Plus, there’s a handy clipping indicator logger that visually alerts you if the mic has clipped in the past 60 seconds.
Dual Output Modes
Another innovative feature of the Austrian Audio OC818 is its Dual Output Mode, a rarity in microphones. The Lewitt 640 TS is one of the few other mics boasting this capability.
This feature enables signals from both capsule diaphragms to be independently routed and recorded, producing a stereo sound. You’ll need to use a normal XLR connection cable for the front diaphragm and a mini-XLR adapter cable for the rear diaphragm.
Essentially, it’s like transforming your single OC818 microphone into a two microphones setup. This is particularly advantageous for recording acoustic guitars, as many guitarists typically employ two mics: one positioned near the 12th fret and another closer to the bridge.
It’s crucial to remember that when utilizing the Dual Output feature, the input gain for both the front and rear diaphragms must be identical. This means the gain knobs should align, not the main output dial.
The PolarDesigner is a complimentary open-source plug-in compatible with any stereo or dual mono output source or microphone with dual output, though it’s specifically optimized for the Austrian Audio OC818.
This plug-in allows you to shape different polar pattern responses across five distinct crossover bands in your DAW during post-production. It’s crucial to ensure that the audio was recorded in Dual Output Mode to a stereo track. Alternatively, you can combine the mono tracks into a stereo bus. To achieve this, you’ll need an audio interface with two XLR inputs to connect to the OC818’s dual XLR outputs. However, I do wish that Austrian Audio would also include a USB port for direct plug-and-play with a computer.
With this tool, you can transform your OC818 into a microphone with virtually any polar pattern. For instance, you might opt for a highly directional super-cardioid pattern in the higher frequencies while embracing a resonant omni pattern in the bass.
At first glance, the primary window of the PolarDesigner plug-in resembles a multiband equalization curve graph. But instead of tweaking volume levels for each frequency band, you’re adjusting the polar pattern. This approach might feel a bit unconventional initially and requires some getting used to.
The plug-in offers substantial flexibility with its frequency bands. You can modify the crossover frequencies, solo or mute individual bands for clearer listening, and even adjust the gain akin to a standard equalization processor.
A proximity control slider is available, allowing you to mitigate the booming effect when a singer is too close to the mic or amplify the proximity effect if the vocalist sounds too distant. While it might seem like just another low-shelf filter, Austrian Audio asserts that it genuinely models the microphone’s true proximity effect.
Another invaluable feature in the PolarDesigner plug-in is the ‘terminator control.’ This control enables you to minimize spill from other sources or accentuate the sound emanating from your primary audio source. It’s especially handy when recording in a band setting or with closely positioned instruments.
Lastly, the PolarDesigner plug-in boasts an ‘equalization control.’ This isn’t your typical EQ. It offers two settings: ‘free-field’ and ‘diffuse field.’ The ‘diffuse-field’ option aims to diminish muddiness from reverberations, while ‘free-field’ proves beneficial in a more muted room setting. While this feature might sound complex, it’s best understood through hands-on experimentation!
The Austrian Audio OC818 is not just another microphone in the market; it’s a testament to the relentless pursuit of sonic excellence.
Seamlessly blending vintage charm with modern innovation, it stands as a beacon for what’s possible when tradition meets technology. From its impeccable design and build quality to its unparalleled sound clarity, the Austrian Audio OC818 is a masterclass in microphone craftsmanship.
Its roots, tracing back to the iconic AKG C414, are evident in its design and performance, but Austrian Audio has taken it a step further. With features like the PolarPilot app through the mic’s microprocessor control, Dual Output feature, and the PolarDesigner plug-in, the Austrian Audio OC818 is tailored for the contemporary artist and music producer who demands precision, flexibility, and reliability.
While its price tag might be on the higher side, the value it offers is undeniable. Every aspect of the OC818, from its ceramic CKR12 capsule to its handcrafted build, screams quality. And while there are areas for improvement, like the separate purchase of the Bluetooth adapter, these are minor in the grand scheme of things.
In conclusion, if you’re seeking a microphone that embodies the best of both vintage and modern worlds, the Austrian Audio OC818 is a worthy investment. It’s not just a microphone; it’s a piece of art, a piece of history, and a tool that will elevate your audio production to new heights.
- Microphone Type: Condenser
- Polar Pattern: Cardioid, Figure-8, supercardioid, omnidirectional, and custom programmable
- Power Requirements: 48V phantom power
- Frequency Response: 20 Hz to 20,000 Hz
- Sensitivity: -37.7 dBV/Pa (13 mV/Pa) @1kHz
- Max SPL: 148 dB
- Self Noise: 9 dB (A-weighted)
- Output Connection: XLR (mic), Mini-XLR (dual out cable)
- Weight: 360g (0.79 lbs)
- Accessories: microphone clip
- Five polar patterns selector switch
- -10dB and -20dB attenuation pad
- High pass filter at 40, 80, and 160 Hz
- Dual outputs for recording each diaphragm separately
- PolarPilot app for remote control with the OCR8 Bluetooth Dongle (sold separately)
- PolarDesigner plugin for shaping different polar patterns
Austrian Audio OC818