D12VR Testing and Comparisons - UPDATED Nov 2022
Update Nov 2022: Re-done measurements of the mics after an error was found with the previous setup, giving erroneous results with the D12VR.
The AKG D12VR was released a few years ago, and since I started working on the original D12s I've wanted to see how the D12VR performed in comparison. I remember reading somewhere that the D12VR was based on AKG's last NOS D12, but can't find the source now.
Here goes. We'll start with some pictures.
It's worth noting that comparison between the D12VR and a D12 is difficult: any D12 you may find (with the exception of a NOS one I worked on recently) will have been kicked around various stages, studios, etc for the past few decades. The conditions will vary hugely, as will the sound. It might be the case that there's a D12 whose frequency response perfectly matches that of a D12VR, but there will be many more that don't match at all.
Here, I'll be sharing the on-axis frequency response curves of these mics, measured fairly close to the test speaker - a typical position for these mics. These curves aren't the ultimate comparison between these mics: I don't have the anechoic chamber required to pull off full polar data, nor did I investigate the effects of high SPLs: AKG mentions the D12VR uses the transformer from a C414, which might show up some saturation effects at high levels.
All that said, I do find frequency response measurements give a good idea of how a mic will sound, and it's an easy way to compare a few different mics.
First, I measured the D12VR (graph below). Since there's the option of passive mode (orange) or a selection of 3x active modes (graph colours correspond to the colours on the mic), I've included all of those. For comparisons with the other mics, though, I stayed with the passive mode.
In the passive mode, we can see that the low-frequency response is fairly flat, and seems to extend well into the lower bass. NB - my measurement speaker isn't much use below 35Hz, so I've chopped the data there.
The pink mode adds a 600Hz dip and -10dB of attenuation. Green adds a LF boost to that, and blue adds a treble boost as well. All of those modes will show lower signal levels than leaving the mic in its passive state.
Comparison - D12VR vs D12
First up, here's the D12 comparison. It's worth noting that, when it comes to D12s, the kHz range can vary hugely. I've seen some that are quite smooth and others that are very rough. In general, though, they have one thing very much in common: their bass response usually extends an octave lower than a typical dynamic mic, which have given D12s their legendary status.
Given the variability between D12s, I could easily believe that the measured curve for the D12VR was just another D12.
I will try to dig up the archive of D12 measurements to illustrate my point.
Comparison - D12 vs D112
Next, the D12 vs D112. We can see that the two are very different, and the D112 lacks the low-end "heft" that a good D12 can provide. The D112 tends to divide opinions for its usage as bass drum mic. Given the falling response below 100Hz, I'd tend to avoid it.
In my opinion, the D12VR is an excellent replacement for a D12. Does it sound the same as a D12? Perhaps. The question is: which D12? They can be quite different in the mid-high range, but the D12VR fits in well with the general response trend. The D12VR also matches the D12s excellent bass response, surpassing most dynamic mics in terms of bottom-end extension.
The fact that the D12VR is currently being produced means it should be around for a while, and while D12s can be very hit-and-miss when buying used, D12VRs should sound consistently good for many years to come.
I've been using my D12VRs for a few years, and have been very pleased with the results.