With the rise of streaming, the market of USB microphones has absolutely exploded. It’s been exciting to watch as both quality and variety have skyrocketed. Today, we’re looking at the AKG Lyra USB Condenser Microphone. It’s an especially interesting option since the AKG name carries a pedigree from years in the audio game becoming one of the leading brands for audiophiles worldwide. Does the Lyra live up to AKG’s reputation as an industry leader and, more importantly, does is compete in today’s crowded microphone market?
- Current Price: $149
- Microphone Type: 4-capsule Condenser
- Mono/Stereo: Mono, Stereo
- Polar Pattern: Front, Front+Back, Tight Stereo, Wide Stereo
- Frequency Response: 20Hz-20kHz
- A/D Resolution: 24-bit/192kHz
- Max SPL: 129dB SPL
- Connector: USB-C, 1 x 1/8" (headphones)
- Power Source: USB bus power
- System Requirements: Mac, iOS, Windows, Android
- Dimensions: 9.7" x 4.23"
When AKG reached out to me about their new microphone, I was excited. The blossoming that’s taken place in this space has been exciting to see. As a musician and budding audiophile, I’d used several AKG products personally and had been impressed. The AKG K7XX headphones from Massdrop were some of my all-time favorites for gaming, for example. Leading the Children’s Ministry at my church, I made the decision to purchase a bundle set of AKG handheld microphones for worship and had loved their warmth. But what would an AKG streaming mic sound like?
That’s a bit reductive, though. USB microphones are beloved by streamers for their easy, plug-and-play connectivity but their usefulness isn’t limited to that. If you travel or switch machines, investing in a good USB microphone is also a wise option if you need to record or make calls. Their mobility and independence from middle-man devices like audio interfaces is their biggest asset.
The Lyra is quite a unique looking microphone. It has a very vintage aesthetic with its perforated grille and boxy design. The shape won’t be everyone’s cup of tea but I have a soft spot for vintage recording gear and quite like the overall look.
Like the original Blue Yeti, it breaks its controls between the front and the back. Since the Lyra acts as a soundcard, passing through the audio from your PC, the knob on the front is for your system volume. Underneath, is an indicator telling you what polar pattern you’re currently using and a mute button. I initially found this confusing because the knob’s placement leads you to think it’s connected to the polar patterns. In fact, there’s a separate knob on the back for that, as well as a microphone gain switch.
It’s functional, but I don’t like it much. Splitting the knobs between the front and the back means one of two things: a lot of groping around blindly for the right switch and hoping you don’t adjust your recording level by mistake, or picking the mic up and creating an obnoxious amount of handling noise.
That’s another area that proved very troublesome for the Lyra. It picks up everything. There is no way to touch or adjust this mic without that coming through loud and clear. Using the desk stand, every single bit of noise transfers right through. Mouse movements. Setting your hand on the desk. I’d even be willing to be your listeners could pick out what type of switch you use in your mechanical keyboard. This is a mic that 100% needs to be on a boom arm and isolated from everything around it.
That said, the actual recordings its able to produce are quite good in the right environment. The capsule is able to capture audio at 24-bit/192kHz, which AKG calls UltraHD audio. It’s certainly high resolution and can capture audio with high fidelity and a very natural sound. I was impressed by how well it captured the bass in my voice even when recording a foot away. Usually, I position microphones close to my mouth to elicit the proximity effect but that’s really not necessary here. It can sound great at a much more comfortable position and even off-camera if you’re running a face came.
On the other hand, the Lyra did have a tendency to sound sibilant and added some sharpness to “s” sounds when positioned more closely. This can be alleviated with a foam windscreen, which also helps with plosives, but it will need to be purchased separately.
The Lyra features four recording modes: Front, Front and Back, Tight Stereo, and Wide Stereo. Their naming is unique but the modes are familiar. Front is your cardioid mode, perfect for a single streamer talking directly into the mic’s face. Front and Back, well, front and back and suited for interviews. Tight Stereo is more traditional stereo, left and right recording. Wide Stereo is closer to an omnidirectional mode and intended to add depth and room ambiance to your recordings. A headphone jack is built into the bottom for zero-latency monitoring to make sure your levels are right at all times. It’s a versatile little mic - just don’t make changes mid recording. Changing your polar pattern comes with a nice ker-chunk noise right in the middle of your track.
At $149, the AKG Lyra is a good mic with a unique look that just feels too expensive for the market today. For only $99, you could get the HyperX QuadCast, which has a similarly great recording quality as well as a much quieter switching mechanism. For $20 more, you could pick up the Blue Yeti X, which is the most versatile streaming mic on the market today. It’s hard to imagine anyone being disappointed with the Lyra, but unless you can’t live without its appearances, it’s hard to justify choosing it over the many cheaper options already available.
- Unique, vintage look
- Great recording quality even at greater-than-average distance
- Multiple recording modes add versatility
- Lots of handling noise
- Not a fan of the split controls
The product described in this article was provided by the manufacturer for the purpose of review.