These are two classy, good-looking USB microphones, either of which would be great use for recording DJ podcasts, for livestreaming, radio shows, even recording vocalists or instruments. The Lyra is more versatile, but it’s also bigger and heavier, while the Ara is smaller, sleeker, and more modern looking. Both are recommended.
First Impressions / Setting up
Want a microphone that you can plug directly into your computer, no audio interface required? Whether it’s to use for a DJ podcast or radio show, to use as a livestream mic, or even to mic up a singer or instruments to record a part of your own productions, for many people, a USB mic that plugs directly into a computer is a good choice.
If that’s you, then you have probably stumbled over mics such as those made by Blue Microphones, whose Yeti in particular has defined this market for a long time. But there are other choices, too, and the AKG Lyra and Ara are two such choices from the same company. In this review, we’ll look at both of them.
The more recent of the two, released towards the end of 2021, is the Ara. It’s a smart, slim design, that clamps into its own heavy U-clamp on a heavy base. Its mixture of plastic, rubber and metal feels high quality, and you can unscrew the base to attach it to a standard microphone stand slot if you wish. It comes with a USB-C to USB-A lead (the USB-C end attaches to the mic).
The Ara has a headphone socket for monitoring, a Front (cardioid) or Front & Back (figure of eight) mic pattern switch, and a push-to-mute function. There’s no mic level adjuster. The audio interface is 24‑bit/96kHz, and the mics themselves are back-electret capsules, taking their power from the USB.
Meanwhile the slightly older bigger brother, the Lyra, is a wider, more rectangular design, with a distinctly retro feel. Of similar construction, it is a bit bigger, with chrome accents on the mic grill. Again, it can be stand mounted if desired, and an EU thread adaptor is included in the box.
This one also has a USB-C socket with an USB-C to USB-A lead included, and there is a headphones socket, headphones volume control and mic mute like with the Ara. But unlike the Ara this also has a mic gain knob – and a full six back-electret mic capsules. These mean you get a choice of four settings: Front and Front & Back, like the Ara, but additionally, “Tight Stereo” and “Wide Stereo”. There are LEDs on the front of the mic to show what’s been selected. Again, the audio interface is 24‑bit/96kHz.
We tested the mics on a MacBook and an iMac, and on both occasions, the mics were immediately recognised upon plugging in, which is what you’d expect for class compliant devices.
Over the past few weeks, we’ve used both of these mics in different ways.
We used the Ara as the main mic on a course filming session in a music studio, with our tutor, James Hype. We tucked it on the production desk in front of two people, and it picked up both James and our tutor as they discussed the content of the course, set to “Front” – so basically it was acting as a mono mic. That said, if you wanted to use it, for instance, as a podcast mic on a table with two people facing each other to be able to mix in stereo, Front & Back would be a good choice.
Our video editor commented that the mic was “really very good”, and was completely happy with the quality of the audio, which was natural sounding and full. The only issue was a rumble picked up from the desk itself when James was typing on his keyboard; this was fixed with some low frequency EQing, but worth bearing in mind with any desktop mic that this kind of thing is to an extent unavoidable, unless you have the mic isolated from the surface your keyboard (or DJ gear) is on.
Set up livestreams like a pro: DJ Livestreaming Made Easy
Meanwhile, I’ve been using the Lyra as my main desktop mic in the Digital DJ Tips studio. I’ve been using it on all my Zoom calls, and a couple of times it’s been hastily grabbed mid livestream when presenting our weekly shows on Facebook and YouTube, because of some issue or other with our usual lav mics.
What I like about this one in particular is that you have all kind of variations when it comes to what actual mics you use; one setting I liked was “Tight Stereo”, which is just the front mics, but in a stereo configuration – great for two people side-by-side in front of the mic (and indeed, this might have been the better mic for the filming session mentioned above, for that reason, but space was as a premium in our luggage, and this is the larger of the two).
Both mics have similar acoustic characteristics which makes sense as I believe they have the same actual mic capsules. That said, we did spot that the Ara has a maximum sound level of 120dB, the Lyra’s SPL being 129dB – in practice, this means they’d both be fine for most instruments as well as voice.
In both cases we detected very little hiss or extra background noise. They’re basically condenser mics so they do appreciate a quiet environment to work at their best, but as long as you have that, they’ll perform well for you.
The Ara would be fine if you want something a bit smaller, and are happy with the choice of basically mono or stereo audio, whereas the Lyra adds extra options, making it more flexible. As a one-person desktop mic, the Ara is the best bet, but as a more universal all-rounder, the would Lyra make more sense.
They are actually pretty close in price, so it’s going to come down to what you actually need from a mic, personal preference with regard to styling, and what size suits you and your studio best.
Read this next: A DJ’s Guide To Microphones
If you present radio shows, livestreams, DJ podcasts, or just have a lot of meetings online and care about excellent audio, a good mic is a must, and these are both good mics. The fact that we had the confidence to use both professionally and intend to continue doing so speaks volumes about them. Recommended.