Podcast-in-a-box: AKG Lyra desktop USB microphone review

My podcast dreams may be in limbo, but that won’t stop me from helping you bring yours to life. AKG is a part of the Harman group of brands, and sells some fairly high-value audio equipment in India. I first saw the Lyra microphone on Amazon for a relatively good price, so I simply had to see what it was all about.

Those who like retro designs will find the AKG Lyra to be right up their street. Image: Tech2/Tushar Burman

What is it?

The AKG Lyra is a desktop, USB-interface condenser microphone that’s ideal for video conferencing, podcasting and generally useful wherever a microphone is required. As a condenser type mic, it’s extremely sensitive, which can be good or bad, depending on your environment. The USB-C interface ensures it’s universally compatible – even on mobile devices like an iPad – and keeps your desktop looking clean. It’s a bit of an overtly retro design, but that might be to your liking, depending on what your desk looks like.

Features: Fully-loaded

The features and controls of the AKG Lyra truly make it a one-stop shop for amateur podcasters. Chief among these is the multi-pattern nature of the Lyra. This means you can choose to pick up sound only from the front, the front and back, as a narrow stereo band from the front, or a wide stereo band from the front. So, whether you’re alone, interviewing someone across the table, or doing a group call with a bunch of people behind you, the Lyra has you covered. There’s a standard 3.5 mm stereo jack at the bottom, allowing you to monitor your mix, or simply listen to the audio output of your device from a single location.

The USB-C interface ensures it’s universally compatible – even on mobile devices such as an iPad; note 3.5 mm stereo jack. Image: Tech2/Tushar Burman

There are convenient knobs for all functions of the Lyra – one on the front for the headphone/audio volume, and two on the back for microphone gain (its sensitivity) and pattern selection (front, front/back, narrow, wide stereo). There’s also a prominent ‘MUTE’ button up front with a red backlight, so you can be doubly sure that you’re not transmitting kitchen sounds on your work Zoom call. The microphone itself is mostly plastic, but is mounted on a heavy metal stand with a rubber mat beneath, ensuring it stays stable on a desk. It pivots on its axis by way of two knobs that allow one to loosen, angle and tighten down the position of the mic. The stands also rotate, so it’s fairly easy to find a nice, ergonomic position for the Lyra.

Performance: Clean sound, sensitive pickup

I’ve used the AKG Lyra for a few months now, hauling it with me on work trips so I didn’t miss any podcast pilot recordings. By way of being a USB device, I didn’t need to carry any other equipment with me; any computer or in my case, iPad, works fine with the Lyra. It is, however, somewhat power-hungry. You won’t be able to use it with a mobile device unless you can somehow supply the additional juice through a powered USB hub. This is how I ran it with my iPad – via a powered USB-C hub. It’s also fairly heavy; I measured a substantial 919 gm on my scale. Coupled with the heavy stand, it’s an awkward item to travel with, but travel I did.

As a condenser-type microphone, the Lyra is understandably sensitive, so if your application is podcasting, you will need to have a quiet, preferably treated room to record in. For me, even a slow-moving ceiling fan was clearly audible when recording with the Lyra. Microphone gain, as a result, was set to less than 25 percent of the range. The flip-side to this sensitivity is that you can have the mic conveniently out of your way on the desktop, and just speak in its general direction for loud and clear conference calls. I’ve also come to appreciate the mute button up front, so that any outside sounds that would otherwise be picked up while I’m not speaking, can be cut off.

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Ergonomically, one might find the placement of the pickup pattern and mic gain knobs at the rear of the unit a bit odd, but I think this is a smart decision. Ideally, once you set the gain, you shouldn’t need to mess with it too much. The same goes for the pickup pattern, unless you’re in a situation where you start off alone and then are joined by others to record with. The mute and volume knob up front are sensible, as they’re likely to be used more.

I also tested the AKG Lyra on a desktop computer through Nvidia’s ‘Broadcast’ app that uses GPU resources to clean up audio and reduce echo, and found this to be an ideal, convenient use case. The mic stayed comfortably away from my face on the desk, while picking up audio loud and clear, with no background noise or extraneous sounds.

Verdict: An ideal feature mix for recording, conferencing

The AKG Lyra is a good package. The included stand is high quality and makes placing the unit on the desk easy. The multiple pickup patterns ensure that it will adapt to any sort of recording environment, and it looks good to boot. The only downside I can think of is the odd shape and weight, which makes it unsuitable for field work. The AKG Lyra was listed at Rs 7,499 on Amazon, at time of writing. If you don’t need all the features, or care for the looks, you can look at another Harman product – the JBL CSUM10 microphone, which we’ve also reviewed, here.



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