Review: AKG Ara
A new dual pattern USB mic from AKG that’s tailored for spoken word.
AKG has launched a new desktop USB microphone called Ara. Aesthetically the Ara bears the same visuals as the Lyra which AKG released a few years back – a fairly feature-rich USB mic with four capsules for lots of pickup patterns and maximum versatility.
The Ara is a simplified version of the Lyra aimed at vloggers, podcasters, live streamers and gamers – basically all manner of spoken word applications. The mic supports audio resolution up to 96kHz/24-bit, a maximum SPL of 120dB, and has a 20Hz-20kHz stated frequency response.
GET SET, GO
Setting up the Ara was literally as easy as plugging it in using the supplied USB C cable. Select it as the output device in your computer’s audio settings to use the 3.5mm headphones jack at the base of the mic. The lower knob adjusts headphone volume and can be pushed to mute/unmute the microphone monitoring through the output.
My immediate impression of the tone of the AKG Ara was how much it sounds like a dynamic mic; smooth and un-hyped trebles with a radio-friendly focus on the midrange to gently push a voice into focus. As a podcasting mic the tone of the Ara won’t disappoint. Add a touch of high end to taste if you want to bring out more clarity.
The Ara is capable of two pickup patterns: cardioid and omni, or as it’s written on the mic, Front and Front & Back. The cardioid (or Front) setting is directional enough to reject a lot of the ugly room reflections in my small workspace resulting in a clean presentation of my voice. The closer you get, the more proximity effect you introduce – which works to great effect until you’re a few centimetres away and plosives become a problem. Backing off further from the mic will make a voice blur into the room reflections quickly so unless your walls are covered with treatment, don’t keep it far away.
Twist the knob over to Front & Back and Ara switches to an omnidirectional pickup pattern. If you have a table full of guests seated around a table just plonk the Ara in the middle and hit record. Although you won’t get the polish of having individual close mics on each presenter, it’s a nice feature to get you out of a bind.
NEED TO KNOW
Dual Pattern USB Microphone
The Ara’s height makes it a showpiece of any home or studio desktop and at a more functional level, it actually means the diaphragm is closer to your mouth which results in less roominess and a more intimate sound. There’s a decent weight to the microphone base which has a soft padded layer underneath to stay planted on your desktop. Unscrew the circular section of the base to reveal a thread for attaching the Ara to a regular microphone stand. Being able to tilt the mic up and down is handy should you want to go from recording your voice to, say, an acoustic guitar, all while sitting behind your desk. The blue screws on either side of the yoke mount can be tightened to hold the mic at the right angle.
As a USB mic for everyday applications such as Zoom or Skype video calls or even gaming, the Ara will take your audio quality up a few notches over your computer or laptop’s built-in microphone, and look very cool doing it. Making recordings with Ara is where it’ll excel. Aside from spoken-word uses, you may find it performs commendably even on sung vocals or instruments should you need a quick run ’n’ gun setup. While not as versatile as its Lyra sibling, Ara is a great USB mic all rounder with enough flexibility to manage a number of uses.