Online content creators, gamers, and musicians looking for a USB mic to set them apart without setting their bank accounts back should seriously consider the AKG ARA. Styled with the air of a retro radio mic transformed for the future, the ARA can be proudly displayed on-camera; it’s the type of visual element that warrants insightful Internet comments like, “Good stuff. What mic is that? Looks super cool.” Since it has high-resolution conversion and two pickup modes, the mic delivers just as well in the sound department with quality and versatility.
In appearance and sonic performance, the ARA is closely related to AKG’s Lyra USB mic apart from some fairly obvious differences. The Lyra has a quite rectangular body, while the ARA opts for rounded edges. On the inside, Lyra’s A/D converter handles up to 24-bit / 192 kHz ultra-high definition, whereas ARA’s tops out at 96 kHz, and that’s nothing to sneeze at. When it comes to pick-up modes, there are four on the Lyra and two on the ARA.
Speaking of pickup modes, the two offered on the ARA are simply called “Front” and “Front+Back” to make it very clear what they do. The official polar patterns, as known by traditionalists, would be cardioid (“Front”) and omnidirectional (“Front+Back”). Front is recommended most often for applications such as solo podcasting, gaming commentary, voice-overs, and tracking vocals at home in a space that lacks acoustic treatment. At the twist of a dial, you can select Front+Back, which is preferred for face-to-face interviews, podcasting duos, and recording instruments along with plenty of room ambience.
Setting up the ARA requires no formal education. Just plug it into an available USB port—a USB Type-C to USB Type-A cable is supplied for Mac/Windows computers, though other cable adapters are available for use with iOS/Android mobile devices—and launch your app of choice, such as the included Ableton Live Lite music production DAW. No drivers, no assembly, no hassle. The mic’s integrated desktop stand, built-in shockmount, and internal diffusion help keep the sound clean, but you’re welcome to supplement it with acoustic treatment and even a pro boom arm or studio mic stand if you’d like.
Connect some headphones to the ARA’s 3.5mm headphone jack to hear yourself with no latency, meaning that you won’t be distracted by the sound of your performance echoing back in your headphones. Headphone volume is immediately and ergonomically accessible, as are controls for mic gain, capture modes, and mute. Don’t overlook the mute function, especially during livestreams!
There’s no shortage of USB mics on the market, but AKG has an accomplished past dotted with legendary microphones trusted in and out of the studio. It makes sense why one would trust AKG with a USB mic, too.
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