The OC818 is Austrian Audio’s flagship large-diaphragm multi-capsule condenser microphone. Austrian Audio emerged in July of 2017 after the audio giant AKG Acoustics moved its offices from Vienna Austria. From that void, former AKG personnel set out to create a highly specialized company dedicated to providing both unparalleled sonics and innovative technology.
Analog high-pass filters (HPF) at 40 Hz, 80 Hz, and 160 Hz
Analog passive attenuation device (PAD) offering -10 dB or -20 dB reduction
High-quality OCS8 shock mount and suspension system
The OC818 comes with several other innovative features distinguishing it from the established studio workhorses. The microphone can be controlled wirelessly via the OCR8 Bluetooth dongle and PolarPilot app. Together, this gives you control of all the OC818 microphone features from your iPhone or Android mobile device.
Crucially, this allows you to remotely switch between the available polar responses: Bidirectional, super-cardioid, cardioid, and omnidirectional. The PolarPilor app allows you to seamlessly transition between each of these so you can access an impressive 255 possible polar responses.
Wireless capabilities can be extremely helpful if you have a traditional multi-room studio setup. The app could save you, or your intern, time running back and forth between the studio floor and the control room.
More importantly, it allows you to audition different polar responses without a time gap blurring your memory. The app also provides control over the HPF, PAD, and offers a 60-second clipping graphical indicator.
Austrian Audio is very clear that all of these changes are still occurring within the microphone’s analog signal path. Only the analog bias voltages are being controlled wirelessly. Therefore, there is no signal degradation by using this remote feature.
With Dual Output mode, you no longer have to commit to a single polar response while tracking. You can record both capsule outputs and adjust your sonics retrospectively within your DAW using the PolarDesigner Open-Source Plug-In. You can also use it as a fail-safe, like recording a direct injection (DI) track for electric guitars and re-amping them later.
An Audio Clip is Worth a Thousand Words
In audio engineering, we need to rely on our ears first and foremost. So what better way to review this microphone than with a shootout!
While there are plenty of options out there, it seemed fitting to compare the OC818 to the AKG 414 XLS. Austrian Audio states that they are not trying to recreate AKG products. Nevertheless, the AKG 414 XLS is a studio titan and an immediate contender for anyone shopping for a workhorse in the ~ $1000 range.
To provide the most accurate A/B shootout comparison, it is important to remove performance variability, differences in microphone placement, signal path distortions, and volume changes that would otherwise cloud differences. These biases were removed as much as possible for this shootout.
Another consideration is the rooms’ effect on the source recording. As I did not have access to an anechoic chamber, 4-inch Owens corning 703 panels were used to create a quasi-anechoic space around the microphone while recording (Austrian Audio does have an anechoic chamber which would have been nice to use).
With this, I had two reference tracks that could be played indefinitely without the variable found in multiple performances.
The two reference tracks were then presented to each microphone in a separate recording sequence using a Focal Solo6 Be 6.5 powered studio monitor. The microphones were positioned roughly 1 meter away from the speaker at a height equidistant between the woofer and tweeter.
A plumb bob and laser level were used to align the diaphragms of each microphone within ⅛ inch of one another in the X, Y, and Z planes.
By aligning the diaphragms in this manner, and doing separate recordings, I removed any bias from the microphone being in slightly different positions. It also removed any possible effect from reflections off one microphone or the other.
Recordings were made for both my voice and the acoustic guitar in cardioid, bidirectional, and omnidirectional polar responses. No other HPF or PAD was engaged.
The voice tracks were recorded in my home studio as the reverberation time is appropriate for podcasts or other broadcast applications. The acoustic guitar recordings were made in my more reverberant front room. While it may not have the best sound quality, the reverberance helped illustrate the difference between polar responses.
Once all recordings were done, levels were matched to -27.4 Loudness Unit Full Scale (LUFS). This unit of measure was used as it most closely approximates perceived loudness. We are therefore removing any bias volume may have, as we often perceive louder as better. Check out the results below!
Can You Hear A Difference?
My listening session after all these recordings was not quite what I expected. Both microphones sound more or less identical when monitoring from my well-treated room. In fact, I know I could not pass a blind shootout between them.
Frequency analysis of the cardioid recordings within Ozone 9 verified that they have a nearly identical response. The yellow line represents the AKG 414 XLS while the blue line shows the response of the Austrian Audio OC818.
In both cases, we see that the 414 has a slightly greater representation in the lower frequencies below 200 Hz and in the higher frequencies above roughly 12 kHz. This does not indicate that the 414 is better, rather it illustrates that the difference in frequency response is small and limited to ranges where our hearing is less sensitive.
That being said, there are other measures that may show more of a difference like transient response and total harmonic distortion. I didn’t have time to get into this, but frequency response is arguably the most important metric.
While this outcome may seem surprising, it is very logical. We are talking about two companies, with some of the greatest minds in microphone design, manufacturing a professional-level large diaphragm workhorse microphone.
After all, the microphones are also basically designed by the same brilliant collective mind given that Austrian Audio came from AKG.
The similarity between these mics is a testament to great microphone design and quality control. It also makes deciding between these two microphones easier as it really comes down to company opinion and other features, e.g. wireless connectivity.
The Austrian Audio OC818 is a fantastic microphone offering a unique and innovative set of features. This microphone is a top pick for anyone looking for a serious workhorse. Further, it offers wireless connectivity, Dual Output functionality, and the sonic designer plug-in which really gels with today’s DAW workflow.
Regardless, if you choose to purchase one of their microphones I cannot stress enough the need to upgrade to their OCS8 Shockmount. The standard OCH8 mic clip that comes with some of their packages is a recipe for disaster. Even after a thorough caution to my students, the mic was nearly jettisoned several times off the clip during placement and general handling!
It is also worth noting that I lost Bluetooth connectivity several times while making recordings with my acoustic guitar. This was not a fault of the microphone, OCR8 Bluetooth remote, or software. As the microphone and speaker setup were in a separate room from my listening position, I was really pushing the limit of Bluetooth streaming. So this is a consideration if you have a larger studio space to work in.
I also took the time to make Dual Output recordings. If you would like to play around with this feature, download the files and hear the difference directly from your DAW. If you try it out, let me know what you think!