AKG D12. The Best Bass Drum Microphone In The World?

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

1950's AKG Advert for D12

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.

1960's AKG D20 and D25 Advert.

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!


7 responses to “AKG D12. The Best Bass Drum Microphone In The World?

  1. Hello to all you miclovers out there !
    The D 12 originally was developped for vocals.
    I own an early example with the metal ring around the basket .
    Most of the time i preferred it for (guess) bassdrum and lowtoms, but meanwhile i like it more on basscabinets !

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Hi Martin I have a beautiful brand new Meazzi M-12 microphone which I bought in a music shop in Greece a couple of years ago. This was a D-12 variant and the shop owner, who used to work in the Meazzi factory in Milan in the early 60s, told me about the AKG connection and that AKG sent the components to Meazzi from Germany. I believe Meazzi also made the Echomatic which Hank B Marvin used to get his shimmering guitar sound around the same time.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. As a technician, I have a real love-hate relationship with AKG mics in general and the D12 and D19 in particular. Although they are robust to a point, the voice coil and diaphragm go brittle with age and when they fail, there are no spare parts to get them running again. This was OK when they were changing hands for a few tens of pounds, but I wince when I see them go for silly prices, knowing that the buyer may be investing in an expensive paperweight.
    They do sound great when working, but personally I will take an RE20 any day of the week.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Dominique Obaya

    Hi everybody ! I owned some D12 and used it on bass , acoustic double bass , big bass drum , horns , bodhran , Leslie cabin and ………vocals ! I loved this microphone very much , it was really a very good product from AKG like was the great D202 . I sell my last pair for a decent price to a young engineer . Today I use SCHOEPS mics …..


  5. Watching – again! – Michael Caine’s “swingin’ sixties” TV documentary ‘My Generation’ last night, I noticed that the mic(s) on the Radio Caroline (pirate) radio ship(s) were AKG D12s ..so *that’s* what gave them that ‘punchy’ sound of Kid Jensen(?), Tony Blackburn and so many others!

    AKG D12; the UK answer to America’s Electro-Voice RE20s!

    Liked by 1 person

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