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A microphone is the first and most important point of contact between a sound that you want to record and the signal you are ultimately able to deliver. Like photography and film lenses, microphones will retain their value for decades and remain relevant to future technological advances in analog-to-digital conversion and digital signal processing. They can be used with multiple recording systems in the same way that most lenses can now be adapted to work with a wide range of different camera mounts and photo sensors.
It’s worthwhile to invest an appropriate proportion of one’s recording kit budget into the front end because a signal chain will ultimately have the sound of its weakest link, and the quality of your overall sound can, at best, re-represent what the microphone originally captured.
It is true that we now enjoy an extensive tool kit of affordable signal-processing hardware and software technologies that can work miracles in cleaning up a sound and removing unwanted artifacts (check out iZotope RX 3 and IRCAM Flux for example), but the quality of your microphone will always, fundamentally, determine the quality of your sound.
"A microphone is the first and most important point of contact between a sound that you want to record and the signal you are ultimately able to deliver."
For this reason, B&H is committed to carrying a wide range of microphones for different purposes and customers, including some of the best microphones that have ever been manufactured for enthusiast and professional applications. DPA Microphones (originally known as Danish Professional Audio) is a brand that designs and builds microphones of this kind.
DPA has been building microphones for live sound, recording studio, film, field, and broadcast applications in its manufacturing facility in Denmark since 1992, but the company's origins go back 50 years earlier to the company Brüel & Kjær, a manufacturer of microphones designed for making scientific measurements of sound and vibration. Brüel & Kjær’s long history and global reputation for building microphones of the highest level of reference accuracy and precision translates to DPA building microphones of the highest sound quality.
The company started by making front address condenser microphones. Since then, the product line has expanded to include miniature microphones designed to be worn by talent on stage and in film, headworn microphones for public speaking applications, boundary microphones for conferencing, podium microphones, microphones that attach to musical instruments for recording and live sound reinforcement, as well as handheld, shotgun, and surround sound solutions.
Though the DPA catalog can be a lot to comprehend, it becomes more manageable when you realize that many of the microphones are variations of one another with different polar patterns, boom lengths, sensitivities for different SPL ratings, boosted and unboosted frequency responses, body colors, stereo matched pairs, modular variations, and accessories for wearing or mounting the microphones in place for their intended applications.
This brand overview will look in greater detail at three of the company’s product lines: d:fine headworn microphones, d:screet miniature microphones designed to be worn on talent and hidden from site, and d:vote instrument microphones with a collection of hardware for mounting to instruments such as woodwinds, strings, and brass orchestral pieces.
The d:fine series of headworn microphones is designed for musicians, singers, public speakers, stage actors, fitness instructors, sportscasters, broadcast personnel, call operators, and others that need an inconspicuous and adjustable hands-free microphone. The mics come with a foam windscreen and makeup cover for incorprorating the microphone into the wearer’s outfit or wardrobe and protecting the capsule from moisture. Each headset includes DPA’s innovative ear-mounting system, at least one bendable ear hook that conforms to the curve of the talent’s ear(s) to keep the boom in place.
Depending on the application, the d:fine series comes in two different polar patterns (omnidirectional and cardioid), several different colors (Beige, Black, or Brown), different boom lengths (between 40 and 120mm), as well as single-ear and double-ear versions for different applications.
The single-ear version can be worn on either ear and is suitable for applications, such as a sports or newscaster delivering the news from a relatively stationary position, where the production team wants to film the talent from a side angle so that the shot doesn’t show the earhook or boom.
The double-ear hook version of the microphone, which can also be worn on either side, is meant for situations in which the talent is moving around the environment and may be involved in rigorous motion, such as playing out a scene on stage, or a fitness instructor taking a class through a series of exercises.
For situations that require a balanced, even polar pattern and for when off-axis rejection is not a primary requirement, the omnidirectional version provides the most even frequency response and can handle a maximum SPL of 144 dB. If picking up ambient noise could lead to problems with feedback loops, such as when amplifying the microphone through a live PA system, a directional cardioid polar pattern is also available. To further reduce the effects of unwanted low-frequency feedback, the cardioid polar pattern of the microphone rolls off at around 100 Hz with a 4 to 6 dB soft boost at 15 kHz.
To accommodate a wide range of both wired and wireless applications and to work with industry standard brands, the d:fine microphone series employs an interchangeable system of microphone connectors and adapters.
For studio recording, broadcast, and live sound reinforcement applications that require individually micing acoustic instruments such as upright bass, cello, viola, violin, guitar, brass, horns, saxophone, percussion, and woodwinds, DPA makes the d:vote line of instrument microphones.
These microphones feature a supercardioid capsule to reject off-axis noise, and are protected by a built-in windscreen and supported by an internal shockmount that serves to reduce the effects of handling noise. A flexible gooseneck allows the user or engineer to position the microphone optimally, and a universal range of hardware mounts makes it possible to attach a d:vote microphone to the edge of a saxophone’s horn, the bridge of an upright bass, the rim of a snare drum, or magnetically to the inner frame of a grand piano.
Each microphone in the series is voiced specifically for the instrument it is tasked with recording, with variations in frequency response, dynamic range from 95 dB to 100 dB, and maximum SPL level from 142 dB to 152 dB for instruments such as violin and snare drum, respectively.
Depending upon the application, the microphones can be connected by heavy-duty or lightweight cables to any industry-standard wireless microphone system connector or other standard audio interconnect.
The d:screet line of miniature microphones is intended for recording musical instruments and the human voice in situations where it is necessary to conceal or minimize the visual impact of the microphone in the boardroom, on stage, or in the scene.
The 4060 high-sensitivity (20 mV/Pa) and 4061 low-sensitivity (6 mV/Pa) miniature omnidirectional microphones come in four different colors (White, Brown, Beige, or Black), and are designed to be hidden in the subject’s clothing or hair. The omnidirectional polar pattern provides the best, most even frequency response as the actor moves, provided feedback noise is not a major concern or feedback loops can be detected and filtered out using external digital signal processing equipment.
In addition to the low-sensitivity and high-sensitivity versions, DPA also makes the 4062 extra-low-sensitivity version that can handle a maximum SPL of 154 dB; the 4063, a low-sensitivity (138 dB Max SPL) version that can be powered by a low-voltage direct current supply from a wireless microphone transmitter; and the 4071 version, which includes a low-cut filter at 100 Hz and a 5 dB soft boost between 4 kHz and 6 kHz. This last version is tuned to compensate for chest-mounting situations where the microphone is located physically below the level of the actor’s voice.
"...useful for situations where the talent’s clothing won’t allow for a lapel microphone, such as filming a scene at the beach..."
For situations in which directivity becomes a more important factor and it’s necessary for the lavalier to reject some off-axis noise, DPA makes the 4080 Miniature Lavalier Cardioid microphone and the 4081 Super Cardioid Microphone. Both feature a clip for attaching to different sources, while differing in the degree of directivity of their respective polar polar patterns.
The d:screet series 4060 line also features the option to be applied to an assortment of acoustic instruments, available in matched stereo pairs and in kits with a range of mounting accessories. The microphone cables can be adapted to connect to current wireless transmitters or can use a standard microdot to XLR connector for inputting into mixers and preamplifiers.
For conferencing, the d:screet line includes the 4060 Boundary Layer microphone with an omnidirectional polar pattern, which is specifically designed to achieve a 3 dB boost when placed on a meeting table. If multiple microphones are required to be installed in a room, DPA offers the SC4098 line of Miniature Supercardioid microphones with a maximum SPL of 136 dB, which are available as a 6" boom for ceiling installation or as a 12 and 18" boom option for installation into a conferencing table or speaker podium.
The 4090 high-sensitivity (134 dB max SPL) and 4091 low-sensitivity (144 dB max SPL) omnidirectional microphones can be used as a reference for calibration equipment as well as an instrument and instrument amplifier microphone, for example, when capturing the sound of an electric guitar.
The newest addition to the product line, and the one that I’m personally most excited about, is the d:screet Necklace Microphone. Available in Black, White, or Beige, this microphone employs DPA’s classic 4061 omnidirectional miniature capsule, which is the same as the one found in the lavalier versions that attach to a speaker’s clothing or hair, but with the added convenience of being able to be worn like a standard necklace.
Encased within a soft, durable rubber housing, this microphone is useful for situations in which the talent’s clothing won’t allow for a lapel microphone, such as filming a scene at the beach or when the microphone must be positioned underneath the talent’s clothing or costume. It’s also helpful when the talent has to mount the microphone themselves, since it doesn’t require special clips or tape to be applied. Like most of the other variations in the d:fine and d:screet series, the microphone can be used with a wide range of connectors and all major professional wireless microphone systems.
Kits are available for a wide range of applications. Some of the microphones feature selective boosts or cuts in the frequency response, such as the FMK4071 Film Microphone Kit, which includes an acoustic pre-equalization grid and boosts the presence of the signal over frequencies that otherwise may have been muffled because the microphone had to be mounted on the talent’s chest or concealed within clothing.
The Rest of the Collection
Beyond the three series described above, DPA also makes a series of world-class microphones for stage (d:facto Vocal), studio, reference, and field modular designs (d:dictate), and surround sound (d:mension).
The 4017B Shotgun Microphone will be of special interest to sound operators looking for a lightweight short-body shotgun microphone with exceptional directivity, reach, rejection of background noise, and sound quality. If you are in the process of purchasing a high-end shotgun microphone, such as those offered by Sennheiser, Sanken, and Schoeps, the 4017B from DPA should be added to your list of microphones to audition. A complete boom shotgun microphone kit is also available, which includes a Rycote windshield system and a shockmount that was developed specifically for the 4017B.
DPA’s microphones can be purchased individually or in kits with accessories for surface mounting, spacing on microphone stands, a variety of cabling options, protective wind screens, cleaning tools, and a protective foam-lined Pelican case for storage and safe transport. Depending on your application, DPA has a microphone that can help take your production to new dimensions.