When it first appeared in 1953 the AKG D12 was presented as a high quality, general purpose musician’s microphone. Suitable for instruments and vocals. As such, it very rapidly gained popularity. (A bit like a Shure 55, but without the chrome and the stylish good looks!)
AKG Advert from the late 50’s
With the growth of multi-track recording in the 1960’s the D12’s particular ability to handle low frequencies at high SPLs was soon acknowledged and increasingly it gravitated to bass drum duties. By the time I started recording in the mid-70’s it was the bass drum microphone of choice for most recording studios. (Certainly on this side of the Atlantic.) Apart from the D12 itself, there were a number of similar (theme and variations) microphones from AKG including the D20, D25, D30 etc. Slightly different frequency responses, shock mountings and filters.
In 1978 the AKG D12 was reissued as the AKG D12E and now came with an XLR socket.
AKG D12 E Technical Specifications
A couple of weeks ago I sat down to write this blog post on the AKG D12 and had intended, as usual, to illustrate with some suitable recorded examples…….. Now here’s the problem.
If I am commissioned to record a fabulous Stradivarius violin, or a superb Steinway piano, my intention (as you might expect), would be to reproduce the sound of that instrument as faithfully as possible along with the acoustics of the studio or concert hall. The same might be true for a great saxophone, a terrific trumpet or a classic guitar through a vintage amp.
However, in the world of rock’n’roll drumming things are very different!! It would appear that pretty much the last thing anyone wants to hear is the actual sound of the bass drum!
After some preliminary research I soon discovered that all the drummers I know ‘treat’ their bass drums in some way or another, ranging from bits of tape, damping rings, Moon Gel, special heads, cushions, pillows and even a duvet! Many of these bass drums also require considerable amounts of EQ whatever mic you choose …… and then it depends what sort of music you are recording. A great heavy metal bass drum sound doesn’t really work for jazz! Consequently I haven’t recorded any examples as it seemed completely pointless, and would probably demonstrate more about the drummer’s taste in soft furnishings than about the qualities of the microphone. I think that all I can say is that the AKG D12, and its close relatives, will put up with any amount of SPL and respond well to whatever EQ you throw at them!
Whether or not the D12 is / was the greatest bass drum mic in the world, who knows? Maybe? It has appeared in front of more famous bass drums than most!