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AKG C411 Internal Install and Custom Cables

Rating: 23 votes, 5.00 average.

I have had a few questions about this, so thought it worthwhile outlining exactly how this rather unusual (but excellent) transducer can be installed on your mandolin, guitar, or fiddle.

Unlike the majority of soundboard transducers, the C411 is not based on a piezo element, but on an electret element - the same concept as used in back-electret condenser microphones. It sounds quite different from a piezo element, and can best be described as warm, without 'quack'. The downside is that it is not intended for internal install (you are supposed to stick it on externally with a putty-like substance) and it has very specific power requirements.

The full spec is here.

The model you need for this install is the C411PP (Phantom Power adapter included).

Actual internal installation is straightforward. The transducer is attached to the underside of the top and in this case, I used a Tapastring Vintage Jack to avoid modifying the mandolin.

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Some concerns have been expressed that this relies on a 1/8" mini TRS jack. These connections are notorious mostly because they are used on cheap consumer electronics! The quality of the components used is very poor. So is reliability. This is categorically not the same thing at all. Using top-grade SWITCHCRAFT mini-jacks, these connections are tough as nails... hard as rocks. Chuck Norris would be envious. These are pro-grade connectors through-and-through.

The simple method (and one I'd recommend if you have a decent mixing console with good EQ) is simply to adapt the existing cable. You need to cut it, however, and soldering skills are required. This is what it looks like when a Switchcraft mini-jack is added - with the Phantom Power adapter on the other end.

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All you have to do with this is plug into your regular mixer XLR mic input, with phantom power turned on. It will actually work fine on a range of phantom powers... certainly no problems on +18v or +24v as provided by many 'Acoustic Guitar' amplifiers.

Because the regular cable is quite thin (but tough) it is often best to use heavier grade for longer cable runs. Unlike piezo transducers, these are fine with long cable runs. Just use a regular XLR-XLR cable to extend as necessary.

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Provided your desk (or acoustic amp) has phantom power + good EQ, this may be all you need.

If you don't have those, then a separate, special preamp may be required. The Headway EDB-2 plays well with this transducer.

You can run it two ways.

1) Using the internal 9v A/B power direct to the transducer element. This requires a custom cable. Here's mine:

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I made this using the aforesaid Switchcraft Mini-TRS jack, and a Neutrik-REAN 1/4 regular jack.

Note: You have to set the switches (there are a lot of them!) on the Headway right... 9v to Tip.

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This frees up the XLR on the headway so you can use that to 'blend' in sound from say, an AT PRO 35/ATM350 or DPA 4099.

2) You can also go straight into the Headway XLR connector (with +18v turned on - more switches!) using the first cable shown. This also works extremely well.

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This is a very versatile setup, and although I am the first to say that no soundboard transducer is ever quite as good as a nice mic, this really does a pretty good job! None of that horrible harsh, piezo quack at all.

Bringing the Headway in does bump the price up (a lot) and to be quite honest, if you have a decent desk, or a good acoustic amp (I use a Fishman SA220) you may not need it. It is fine straight into the XLR input on those, as it is into many other good acoustic amps and compact PA systems.

Similarly, it is fine into pretty much every modern digital console via the XLR's. These have incredibly sophisticated EQ built in, plus (often) auto feedback suppression and great reverbs.

If you are on the road, and possibly encountering rather bad systems, then the Headway will give you the 'local' control you need.

The C411 is not the most common transducer out there, but it sounds very good indeed, and in my view, is well worth a try if you ever have to 'plug in'.

Keep picking and have fun

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