The Neumann Killer Has Arrived, and it’s from Austria!

Austrian Audio OC18 (click to enlarge)

Any day I get to test a new microphone from a new company is a good day.

Today is even better, because I’m trying out the OC18, one of the signature models from Austrian Audio.

For those of you who’d like to skip to the conclusion, here’s my verdict:

The OC18 is more than a microphone.

It is a statement. A statement that puts Austrian Audio on the map. 

The OC18 is a sublime ode to tradition, to mechanical engineering, and to uncompromising craftsmanship.

As far as I’m concerned, the Neumanns, Sennheisers, and Lewitts of the world have been put on notice!

DEEP ROOTS

You may not have heard of Austrian Audio, but you’re familiar with its lineage. Ninety-nine percent of its employees come from the Akustische und Kino-Geräte Gesellschaft m.b.H., better known as AKG.

AKG itself is a subsidiary of Harman International Industries Inc. That’s the company behind Harman Kardon, JBL, Studer, Lexicon, and many other brands. 

In 2017, Samsung Electronics bought Harman in an all-cash transaction, valued at about $8 billion. 

After the deal was done, Harman wanted to cut 650 jobs across the globe to continue its focus on the infotainment and automotive sectors. One of the victims of this policy was AKG’s home office in Vienna. AKG production moved to Eastern Europe and the Far East. 

Anechoic chamber

On July 1st, 2017, a core team of former AKG personnel (management as well as engineers) emerged from the takeover, and formed Austrian Audio. This team was responsible for the development of most of the AKG products in the past twenty years. They made a deal with Harman to buy as much AKG equipment as they could, from office furniture to machinery. Even the anechoic chamber was part of the purchase. 

Right now, the people at Austrian Audio are focused on developing best-in-class, professional audio equipment. As we speak, they’re selling a new suite of hardware and software for audio analysis, testing, and measurement that’s based on the tools they use each and every day. In April they’ve also released two microphones that have recently made it to the United States.

CONTINUING THE TRADITION

These new microphones are based on the famous C12 capsule. According to experts, this is one of the finest and most complex microphone capsules ever made. The C12 is known for having very precise polar patterns throughout the entire frequency range (it could produce 9 different polar patterns).

The original C12 was hard to manufacture (it had a failure rate of 65%), and much of it had to be done by hand. During its ten-year run only 2,500 were made, which comes down to one a day.

Austrian Audio’s CKR12 capsule is traditional in terms of acoustics, but thanks to new materials and an innovative (and to be patented) production process, the assembly is much faster and easier. This no doubt keeps the price down.

Where most makers of C12 clones use a metal-on-plastic interfacing, the CKR12 capsule uses a black ceramic-on-ceramic interfacing of the capsule halves. Ceramic is stiffer and more temperature and humidity resistant. It also has a higher density, which improves mechanical isolation. This makes for a more modern, consistent, and reliable microphone.

The capsule is suspended from three flexible rubber grommets that serve as an internal shockmount. And did I mention that every microphone is 100% made in Vienna? Take a look.

The OC18 I got to test is a large-diaphragm capacitor microphone, featuring a fixed classic cardioid pick-up pattern. The more expensive OC818 features multiple patterns, dual outputs for recording its forward-facing and rear-facing capsules independently, and optional Bluetooth wireless control. The 818 is a marriage of tradition and innovation, but for my purposes it has too many bells and whistles. 

Both mics feature the proprietary handmade ceramic CKR12 capsule, and both models have a pad with -10 and -20 dB settings, as well as a high-pass filter. The Equivalent Noise Level (self-noise) is 9 dBA. In contrast, my very own Gefell M930 Ts has a self-noise level of 7 dBA, just like the Neumann TLM 103. The Sennheiser 416 has a self-noise of 13 dBA.

The OC18 comes in a sturdy carrying case with a mic clip and a spider mount, plus a foam windscreen. The body of the microphone is made as a single piece and has a distinct, stylish look which I find pleasing to the eye. Everything about this microphone tells you that this is a professional piece of gear. Are you ready to hear what it actually sounds like?

TIME TO TEST

Before I share a sample with you, there’s something you need to know. I’m not a musician or a sound engineer, but a voice-over. I’ve been using microphones professionally for over thirty-five years to record commercials, industrials, audio books, guided tours, and eLearning programs. I am going to evaluate the OC18 from that perspective.

Here’s what I look for in a voice-over microphone: 

  • minimal voice coloration (Does it make me sound like myself?)
  • tight pick-up pattern (cardioid or supercardioid)
  • excellent rear rejection
  • controlled proximity effect (bass boost)
  • low susceptibility to sibilance (shrill “S”-sounds) and popping
  • low self-noise
  • value for money

 

Secondly, a word of warning.

Evaluating a microphone based on what you see and hear online is an exercise in futility. If you’re in the market for a new mic, you want to know what it sounds like in your studio using your voice, your acoustics, and your preamp. You don’t need me or some bearded dude using his recording chain and booth, sharing some compressed audio you listen to on your computer speakers. It ain’t fair and it ain’t right.

Having said that, I know you’re getting more curious to find out what the OC18 sounds like in the limited setting of my VO studio. The audio you’re about to hear is “unfooledaround with” (meaning no compression or other sweeteners), and recorded with an Audient iD22 preamplifier. No pads were engaged.

For fun we’ll do an A – B test. The OC18 against my Gefell M930 Ts which I consider to be the best voice-over microphone I have ever tested.

Here’s microphone A:


 

And here’s microphone B:

For the connoisseurs, this was recorded in WAV format, 24 bit, 48,000 Hz and converted to MP3 so it would load quickly. Click here if you’d like to hear the samples uncompressed. I purposely recorded something in Dutch so you wouldn’t be distracted by the content (unless you speak that language, of course).

YOUR IMPRESSION

The question is: How would you describe the difference between mic A and mic B? Is it striking or subtle? 

Which one do you think sounds best, and based on what?

Is that your objective or subjective conclusion? 

At this point I can tell you that one microphone costs $699 and the other $1,647.73. Did you hear a $948.73 difference? More importantly, would a client be able to tell?

Leave your remarks in the comment section, please.

Technically speaking, the OC18 has pads and switches the M930 doesn’t have, but as a voice talent I have no need for them. My iD22 already has a high-pass filter and I’m not going to expose my mic to loud noises any day soon. 

Looking at my criteria for a good voice-over microphone, both mics convincingly tick most of the boxes. Based on specs alone, the OC18 is a clear winner. It’s an all-round performer which will do as well on stage as in the studio.

Considering you’re getting a stellar C12-based, hand-built capsule, the $699 price tag is beyond reasonable. Remember: a Neumann TLM 103 -always a crowd favorite- will set you back about $1,100. I have used the 103 many times, and to me the OC18 sounds more open, balanced, and clear, without being clinical. It is a very user-friendly microphone, even for beginners, and it’s backed by years of audio expertise.

Some critics have mentioned that the form factor makes it hard to place the flat microphone in a generic shock mount. Well, as you can see from the picture at the top of this review, I was able to put the OC18 in a Rycote InVision shockmount system without any problems.

SUMMING UP

Back in 2012, I think I was the first to introduce the voice-over community to the CAD E100S. While this is still a fabulous microphone that offers excellent value for money, there have been some quality control and corporate communication issues at CAD. That’s why I’ve become hesitant to recommend the E100S wholeheartedly.

The OC18 on the other hand, is a different animal. Yes, it’s from a new company, and it was just released. It comes from a small but incredibly knowledgeable and dedicated team that is sought after by other brands who hire Austrian Audio to test their products.

Next to their anechoic chamber, Austrian Audio has a climate chamber where they can simulate the entire life-cycle of a product in a compressed time frame. You bet they’ve subjected their microphones to the most rigorous of tests, before putting them on the market. 

Mark my words, the OC18 is going to be a worthy successor of microphones like the classic AKG 414. I’m sure it will find its way into many voice-over studios across Europe, the United States, and Canada. 

Austrian Audio is being distributed in the U.S. by Momentum Audio Sales in California. Many thanks to Director of Operations Reezin Lovitt, for providing me with a test model, and to Kent Iverson from Austrian Audio to make the introduction. If Sweetwater is your store, you’ll be happy to know that they have the OC18 in stock. Keep in mind that you can test drive several microphones from Sweetwater, and keep the one that makes you sound like your best self.

The opinions expressed in this article are my own, and as with any review on this blog, I did not seek nor receive any compensation for it. 

Oh…. I almost forgot.

Microphone A was the OC18 from Austrian Audio!

Paul Strikwerda ©nethervoice

PS Be sweet: Share, Subscribe and Retweet!

Send to Kindle

About the author

Paul Strikwerda

is a Dutch-English voice-over pro, coach, and writer. His blog is one of the most widely read and influential blogs in the industry. Paul is also the author of "Making Money In Your PJs, Freelancing for voice-overs and other solopreneurs."

by Paul Strikwerda in Articles, Gear, Reviews

24 Responses to The Neumann Killer Has Arrived, and it’s from Austria!

  1. Christian Rosselli

    Paul –
    Thank you for this stellar review. I was at AES in New York yesterday and was hoping Austrian Audio would be there but they weren’t. Really impressed with the sound – it’s a lot more open and balanced- not as bright as the Gefell but again it’s all subjective. I’m torn between this mic, the CAD E100s and the Lewit 540 S.

    Hope you are well.
    Christian

    [Reply]

    Paul Strikwerda Reply:

    If only you could get all three in your studio, and do a side by side…

    [Reply]

  2. Jordan Reynolds

    Great review, man! The mic sounds great for the money. It’s more open and natural sounding compared to the Gefell – which has a more focused, bottom heavy tone to it. Both sound great though. Just different flavors :).

    [Reply]

    Paul Strikwerda Reply:

    I agree with you. The Gefell remains in my studio, but if I were in the marker for a new mic, I’d go with the OC18.

    [Reply]

  3. George Whittam

    Thanks for introducing even ME to a new mic!
    Nice to see the true AKG mics can live on with a new name.
    I wish the top end around 5000hz was flatter, like the CAD e100s, but that’s what EQ is for.

    [Reply]

    Paul Strikwerda Reply:

    You’re very welcome. It doesn’t happen every day that I get to introduce a new mic to the man who’s one of the most trusted experts in our community! Thanks for all you do to raise our level of professionalism, George.

    [Reply]

  4. gary

    Honestly, I was hoping that the OC18 was B. I didn’t think they were even close. “A” honestly jarred me a little with how harsh it was around h’s. It seemed “spitty” in many places. I thought B was much smoother and sounded more like an actual voice.

    I listened to all the files multiple times and even went to your soundcloud. “A” was rough.

    Stick with that Gefell. It’s much more flattering for your voice. At least in Dutch 😉

    Thanks for the review though.

    [Reply]

    Paul Strikwerda Reply:

    Thank you for listening so closely, Gary. I am sticking withe the Gefell. The OC18 had to go back to the distributor.

    [Reply]

  5. Michael Baer

    Well, as someone who happily uses a Gefell M930 (no Ts though, not sure how that differs, frankly), I was surprised to find that – on your samples – I preferred the OC18. To me, the Gefell was a bit heavier in the low-mids, not unpleasantly, but the OC18 was quite uniform and with a very nice timbre.

    Thank you for the introduction Paul, that mic is now on my radar.

    Mike

    [Reply]

    Paul Strikwerda Reply:

    Hi Mike, I explain the Ts part in my review of the Gefell microphone. I’m still surprised that so many colleagues have never heard of the Gefell brand. Why do you think that is?

    [Reply]

  6. Watcher

    In my honest opinion, I knew exactly which was austrian audio due being very flat. Although great offering coudnt hang with gefell m930ts and difference isn’t just subtle. But for the price it’s great. Looking forward for more higher end mics from austrian audio

    [Reply]

    Paul Strikwerda Reply:

    Thanks for chiming in. Just so you know, I usually delete comments from people using a pseudonym, so, watch it.

    [Reply]

  7. Rick Lance

    Hi Paul… love it when you do one of these reviews!

    My thoughts…
    Although what I heard from your A/B test samples was very similar to each other… as expected.. I still prefer the Gefell on this sample, on your voice. I thought it sounded a bit fuller and more “present”. Having said that, I’ll have to throw in another variable I heard. Your performance on sample A (OC18) … although I had no idea what the hell you were saying… sounded a bit more “laid back” then the one on sample B. Which may have added a bit more presence to your voice. I’m sure you’re aware of this and tried to maintain the same performance level but it just adds one more consideration to hearing samples online. Can’t argue with the OC18 quality, though… and the price!

    NOTE: I use a Neumann TLM 103 almost exclusively these days on my work. At times though, I hear a slight sibilance issue. I have tried that Mic on some lower range female voices and the sibilance issue was so bad I had to change to another mic for them. I’ve also found that the 103 often sounds better on my voice than it does on other deep male voices in my frequency range…. go figure! This has been mentioned by some clients of mine as well.

    Thanks again for your article and info!

    [Reply]

    Adam Behr Reply:

    I agree with Rick.

    I actually preferred the Gefell on these samples (and I understand a smattering of dutch but more written than spoken).
    Part of my reasoning is because I prefer mics that have a more alive and forward sound and from AKG. I would sound way better on a C12 than 414.

    In fact the super-clinical 414 is what the Oc81 reminded me of, which is a very complimentary comparison, but less so for my voice. This is why I use a Tul F47, and have an M-audio Sputnik too (which has compared very favourably to Neuman U47 and AKG C12.

    All goes to show how personal mic choices are. My guess would be that the OC18 would be a great choice for the C414 crowd and I’d love to see how it sounds for character/animation work too. Thanks so much again for your expert and great review Paul! Baie Dankie end Dank u wel!

    [Reply]

    Paul Strikwerda Reply:

    As you know I would love to get my hands on the Tul F47! I just invested in some video equipment, so the Tul has to wait. Maybe a South-African Santa can help me out in December!

    [Reply]

    Paul Strikwerda Reply:

    I have to agree with you Rick. I don’t have the equipment to record two mics at the same time. That’s why you hear a slight variation in my delivery. I also wanted to prove that it’s not only the microphone that makes the difference, but the way the text is spoken that can influence people’s opinion.

    [Reply]

  8. T Diaz

    A totally subjective newbie assessment here based on nothing other than listening to the 2 samples: My vote is the OC18 because it gives a warmer sound to your voice.

    [Reply]

    Paul Strikwerda Reply:

    Thanks for listening! I love the variety of opinions in the comment section.

    [Reply]

  9. Mike Lee

    Thanks for the heads up on this Paul. My issue with the 103 is it’s “too”sensitive or should I say moreso in an unnecessary way for my VO needs. This is an interesting mic no doubt. Curious tho, would you choose it over the E100S? (a longtime CAD – fan here, including E100s user from time to time). Also, the A/B certainly doesn’t reflect badly on the Gefell. Both sound nice…the Gefell, to me, a little more forward. Are you still using that mic? – or what would make you roll with the OC18 over that one? Cheers, Mike

    [Reply]

    Paul Strikwerda Reply:

    The answer to your first question is YES. I find the OC18 more flattering for my voice than the E100S. Compared to the Austrian Audio, the CAD sounds a bit sterile. The OC18 is not a supercardioid, so I have a bit more freedom of movement as a narrator. My studio is well-isolated, but if it weren’t, I would pick the CAD over the OC18.

    The Gefell is still my go-to microphone that has made me thousands of dollars. It’s become a good friend, and I don’t abandon my friends.

    [Reply]

    Mike Lee Reply:

    Appreciate your observations Paul! I’ve pretty much been on a 416 for a couple of decades at this point on most stuff —
    while my 103 is pretty much dormant for reasons mentioned.. I recall A-B’ing the Gefell vs 103 long ago and finding ’em nicely similar (to me) . Might be fun to check one out again and see if my ears deceived me. BTW, somewhat off-topic – I seem to recall you liking a pair of Eris E8s for monitors. I ‘cheaply inherited’ some pricey Focal 8″ from a studio liquidation awhile back but had been using the Eris prior to that. Thinkin about firing em back up as a second reference option – Focals a bit too bass oriented for that purpose to me. Ah the gear rabbit hole… always a nice diversion: ) Cheers! Mike

    [Reply]

    Paul Strikwerda Reply:

    I’ve got the Eris e5’s in my studio. Not too big. Not too small and very reasonably priced. I bet these monitors also influence the way we perceive the sound of our microphones.

  10. Matt Forrest Esenwine

    Great review, Paul – I’m going to need to keep this mic in mind when I upgrade my studio (hopefully) next year!

    [Reply]

    Paul Strikwerda Reply:

    You really should. I think you’ll like it. I really admire the fact that the employees believed so much in this company that they all chipped in to get it going.

    [Reply]

Add a Comment

Do NOT follow this link or you will be banned from the site!

%d bloggers like this: