Making a Scene Reviews the Warm Audio WA-14
The AKG C414
The AKG C414 was introduced in the early 1970s and it sound was centered around an all-brass “CK12” capsule. The CK12 capsule featured a versatile polar patterns selector that made the C414 a versatile tool in the studio. It was known to have a very smooth and rich high-end which endeared it to many engineers and studio throughout the world. This microphone was used on many of the hits that were produced in the 1970s and 1980s.
Over the years, AKG decided to improve the design of the C414 and most notably was the introduction of the nylon capsule which replace the early brass CK12 Capsule. This change was driven by the lower cost of producing the nylon capsule over the cost of producing the Brass one. The result was a more neutral sound, but many engineers complained they missed the unique high-end character that initially made the C414 Popular. Over the years, AKG made several changes to the C414 that helped to improve the model and it is still considered a must have in many world class studios. Though the early 70’s Brass capsule are still highly coveted, but they can be temperamental and fragile.
This is NOT a Clone
Warm Audio is known for their high quality reproductions of vintage microphones, preamps, compressors, etc. Though the word “Reproductions” may be a disservice to what Warm Audio is actually does. With the WA-14 Warm audio wanted to recreate the sonic character of the early 70’s brass capsule C414 but also incorporate some modern advancements that make the WA-14 robust workhorse.
The first thing that you notice with the WA-14 is the fact that it is bigger and a bit bulkier than the AKG C414. The original AKG has sharp angles in it’s design as opposed to the Warm Audio WA-14 which is more rounded and smooth. On the outside you have a switch that allows you to change the polar patter from Cardioid, Omni to Figure 8. You also have switch that gives you the ability to engage either a -10db or -20db pad that allows you to use the WA14 on high spl sources like guitar amps and Close Mic’ing of Drums.
Warm Audio’s largest focus was on recreating the original CK12 brass capsule and spent years of research to develop their LK-12-B-60V brass capsule. This capsule to not only recreate the sound and character of the original CK12, but also incorporate modern advancements that allow them to produce it in large quantities. To accomplish this they incorporated a modern CEK-12 backplate which was not part of the original design of the CK12, but this single addition gives them the ability to mass produce this capsule cost effectively. Like the CK12, the Warm Audio version is also an edge-terminated capsule where the electrical lead is attached to the edge of the diaphragm, rather than to the center like many cheaper large diaphragm condensers. Despite any modern additions, the O-ring and housing of the LK-12-B60V are all-brass with no teflon parts. The diaphragm is 24k gold sputtered 6 micron, NOS Japanese PET film (mylar). The WA-14 also contains a USA-made custom premium Cinemag transformer and a fully discrete signal path. The LK-12-B-60V is manufactured at their own Sub Company “Lens Kondensator” which also helps keep costs low to the end users. You have to love a company that has high quality capsule manufacturing in house.
The Bottom Line
Any engineer will tell you that having a good Mic Locker is essential if you are looking to run a recording studio. If you are looking to build your own home studio, you have to keep an eye on the bottom line when it comes to purchasing new gear. You want to get the best sound quality your budget can handle. A vintage AKG C414 can run you into the thousands and quite honestly can be hard to justify for most musicians and home based studios. The Warm Audio WA14 at $499 retail is more in line with most studio budgets.
Now I am not going to tell you that you are going to get the sound of a 1970’s AKG C414, but I will tell you that you are going to get close enough to justify purchasing the WA14! When I bought the WA-14 (Yes, I purchased and Own this mic) I did it because of what the WA-14 was on it’s own merits, not because it was any kind of a “clone”. Warm Audio goes to extraordinary lengths to bring classic tone and sound to the home studio without compromising on build or quality components.
The WA-14 just shines on any source where you need a good crisp high end without getting harsh and biting. On the whole I would say the WA14 is a bit warmer than the original AKG C414, which can be a good thing. On the Acoustic Guitar the sound is well rounded, warm and open at the low end, with a special kind of shine that makes your ears perk up, on drum overheads the cymbals have this nice creamy sparkle and overall openness to the whole kit/room sound. If you have a female vocal that you want to cut through the mix without being harsh, this might just be the microphone to pull out! With it’s 3 polar patterns and Pad Switch the WA 14 will quickly become one of your go to microphones when you want something to get special sparkle and warmth.
Now, I have to say that I have purchased several Warm Audio products for “Midnight Circus Studios“. I actually own at least one of each of the microphones they make. I also have their 1176, couple of WA-412 Pres and their WA 273 Preamp. From my first product that I purchased to the latest I have been impressed with the quality and attention to detail Warm Audio uses in both design and construction of each of it’s products. Each time I have added a new product from Warm Audio, I believe I have taken another step up in quality in my studio. I honestly believe that there may come a time where the Warm Audio products will become as highly coveted as the products they were patterned after.