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ADK Vienna and Hamburg Microphones
Reviewed by Dan Richards

Over the years I've used most of the mics in the ADK Audiophile Series, and mic after mic I've been impressed. For quality mics made in China, ADK has proven itself to be king of the hill. I've had a chance to test and use both the ADK Vienna and Hamburg microphones, and they've done such an excellent job I thought a review was in order. Unlike the familiar harshness and hyped upper-mids of many of the Chinese-made mics, these are much smoother and have a quality sound, even when used over numerous tracks.

Since so many people have been asking about the difference between these two mics, let's cut to the chase. They sound a lot alike. I imagine many people wouldn't even be able to tell the difference. They are voiced almost identical. The Vienna sounds like a Hamburg that has a little bit boosted around 2-4K and 12-15K. Meaning, that you can get a Vienna to sound just like a Hamburg by cutting a few dB at or around those frequencies. And since cutting EQ dB's is usually the desired way to go — as far as I'm concerned, if you have a Vienna then you can also get the sound of a Hamburg out of it. But you can not get a Hamburg to sound like a Vienna as easily. And I would never recommend a mic that someone had to boost the EQ to get a desired sound, especially when many are not exactly running the highest-end EQ's.

The Hamburg actually does have a German type of color and sound. But the Vienna does not have a neutral Austrian sound. [ For some insight into the German and Austrian sound, see the recent article, The Les Pauls and Stratocasters of the Microphone World. ] The Vienna sounds like it was made in Hamburg and about 100 kilometers outside of Hamburg on the road to Vienna the truck broke down. The truck might have made it to Berlin, but that's about as close as the Vienna mic gets to Vienna, Austria. The Vienna has a brighter sound, but it's still got that German color and "sheen" to it. Which still makes it a damn good sounding mic, and in general the one I recommend between the two.

I don't in any way want to take away from the excellent sound quality of these two mics. But on the whole Vienna/Hamburg thing, if ADK is on the road from Hamburg, Germany to Vienna, Austria with these mics, the Vienna should have been called the "Berlin".

A word of caution when using these mics: The Vienna and the Hamburg have tapered-shaped bodies. From a practical use perspective in the studio, I'd consider this a design flaw that ADK should address. The problem is with the way they sit in the shockmount. If you have them in the upright position with the capsule on top then there's no problem. But try and suspend the mic in an upside down position [ for various applications such as drum OH's, toms, behind the bridge of an acoustic guitar or just because you like to use mics in that position — like I often do ] and the mic can easily slip out from the shockmount.

The Vienna and Hamburg sit in the shockmount upright like an ice cream cone. It's the same cone shape that allows a paper cup to sit upright securely in a plastic holder. But try and set a paper cup upside down in the plastic holder — and the cup falls to the floor.

A straight body allows for an even grip of the mic in the shockmount — because pressure is applied evenly. A tapered body is a poor design because the pressure within the shockmount is mostly on the part of the mic with the greatest circumference — while the section lower on the mic with lesser circumference has very little to no pressure. This makes using a tapered-body mic at angles fewer than 90 degrees on the mic stand unstable allowing the mic to move out of its position or slip entirely out of the shockmount.

In a recent mic test session [ where all the mics were positioned upside down ] we had a Hamburg that was being set into position — with no XLR cable attached — slip out of the shockmount. Fortunately, lighting-fast ninja reflexes caught the mic before it smashed headfirst into the hardwood floor

The Vienna and Hamburg both come with a -10dB pad switch and a -3dB roll-off switch @ 100Hz, and a very respectable SPL rating of 140dB with the pad engaged. The overall package is attractive and well-presented, and includes a slender flightcase, shockmount, mic, and vinyl mic case. Both the Vienna and Hamburg are also available in LE stereo kits featuring silver bodies with Brel &Kjr spectrum-analyzed matched pairs in flight case.

An advantage the Vienna and Hamburg have over popular mics in their class, such as the Studio Projects C1 — which is a popular mic that I have recommended often for years in this price range — is that both these ADK mics work equally well on vocals and instruments. I have recommended the C1 as a vocal mic only, and have always felt it was a poor acoustic [ especially stringed ] instrument mic. The Vienna and Hamburg raise the bar. There's also a smoother and better mid-range on these mics than most people would expect for mics with a street price of around $250. These mics have a litte bit of color to them, but not too much. So far both these mics have performed well — better than expected — on male vox, female vox, various acoustic guitars [ dark and bright ], guitar amps, and drum overheads. In every case there's a nice, smooth presentation in the upper midrange — which is usually where most Chinese-made mics fall short.

People often ask for recommendations of mics that work equally well with vocals and acoustic guitar. Mics with both those attributes are few and far between and virtually non-existent in this price range. The ADK Vienna and Hamburg record both vocals and acoustic guitar equally well, and for that alone they deserve high praise.

In tests using a Millennia HV-3D microphone preamplifier, the Vienna and Hamburg only need +22.5dB of gain in order to achieve an optimum recording level for a medium-level vocal performance. Meaning, that the good news for users, regardless of the quality of mic preamp, is that these mics don't require a large amount of gain, which results in less overall noise from the signal chain to the recorded track.

Having used nearly every Chinese-made budget mic on the market over the past few years, I would recommend either the Vienna or the Hamburg as the best all-purpose large condenser mic in their class. And along with the MXL V69 which we've also reviewed, we've found the ADK Vienna and Hamburg to be the best large diaphragm condenser mics in their price range.

For anyone who is interested in either the Vienna or the Hamburg and isn't sure which way to go, I recommend that you pick up the Vienna — for the reasons I stated above. I feel that with the Vienna you can basically also have the performance of the Hamburg — with just a little bit of EQ cutting. But with the Hamburg you can't really get the performance of the Vienna. Still, either mic is a great choice, and you can't go wrong with either one in this price range.

I had initally thought that perhaps ADK had released something of a "salt and pepper" team in the Vienna and Hamburg, but I don't feel that's the case. If you have either of these mics then buying the other model is not really going to increase your sonic arsenal. In fact, if you have either the Vienna or the Hamburg, and you want another mic, I'd recommend you buy the same model mic so that you'll have a matched pair. You'll get more mileage out of a pair than one of each.

More info on the ADK Vienna at www.adkmic.com/specs/Vienna.html

More info on the ADK Hamburg at www.adkmic.com/specs/Hamburg.html




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