Gear Icons: DPA Microphones
28.10.2021

Gear Icons: DPA Microphones

DPA microphones worn on head and on an instrument
Words by Sam McNiece

A look at the brand that specialises in small diaphragm, high quality microphones.

If you have been following us through our technical deep dive into all things post, broadcast and content creation, you should by now be fully aware of just how important microphones are in the context of these kinds of detail oriented, non-musical applications.

In fact, it can be argued that microphones do more heavy lifting in these kinds of critical applications than anywhere else, especially given the amount of responsibility we place on them as the arbiters of all things diction, intelligibility and sonic realism in the film/post-production/media space.

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It’s as integral to the overall production quality as anything happening on screen, which is precisely why we see such a prevalence for exceptionally true, exceptionally quick condenser microphones in the VO, presenter and foley spaces.

For these kinds of applications, transparency and neutrality are key as we attempt to document our audio with as much real-world detail as possible, imparting little in the way of sonic colouration or distortion and allowing for effective communication of our important program material.

When it comes to the sheer science of clarity and intelligibility, no one is more synonymous with this kind of accurate, crystalline capture than Danish microphone experts DPA and the brand’s impressive lineage of industry defining condenser microphones—with the brand gradually emerging as the de facto choice for all things lapel, headworn and boom mic.

DPA was originally founded by engineers, Ole Brøsted Sørensen and Morten Støve—who left Brüel & Kjær (best known as world’s largest manufacturer of sound and vibration measurement equipment)—taking their expertise in critical transducers like hearing aids and measurement microphones, and applying it to the world of vocal and instrument mics, starting DPA Microphones in 1992. In the relatively short time since, the brand has undoubtedly carved out a reputation in the space as a leading name for any application where cleanliness and purity of capture are paramount.

From professional news organisations to micing some of the best orchestras in the world, you’d be hard pressed to find an inventory list in any professional broadcast or film setting that doesn’t feature a DPA microphone of some description.

Their outstanding reputation for producing high quality, discrete and small form factor microphones is truly second to none, having even led to NASA using their products on the Mars 2020 Perseverance Rover, lending their peerless sonic clarity and remarkable directionality to the most critical of critical applications.

While their handheld condenser and clip on instrument mics are industry standards in their own right, there is little doubt that there is a special reverence reserved for the brand’s premium range of lapel and headworn microphones, with DPA emerging as the reigning gold standard in this category- a direct result of their exceptional research and development and continued advancement in the field.

Case in point: in 2017 DPA struck on some new design features that would improve on their already industry leading lapel and  mics, further minimising distortion and expanding dynamic range for a better overall sound, while also decreasing the overall unit size by 60%-something akin to splitting the atom in the eyes of TV sound techs and broadcast engineers worldwide.

The resultant CORE technology found in DPA’s line of miniature and subminiature microphones is nothing short of a revolution for discreet and presenter applications, providing a quality of capture previously thought unattainable in the context of worn microphone and doing so whilst going smaller (not larger) in footprint.

This idea of taking an already industry leading microphone, improving its already gold standard sonic capabilities and then reducing the overall physical footprint so drastically, is just the kind of ‘blue sky’ approach to R & D that have made DPA such a presence amongst the audio community, something that we are sure to see translate over to the ever-maturing content industry and its army of DIY engineers. One can easily envision a not too distant future where broadcast staples like DPA are seamlessly integrated into the broader creator workflow.

Their ability to instantly improve overall audio quality as well as their obvious upside in regards to sight lines, shot composition and more are worth the cost of entry alone, providing one of (if not the most) professional solutions for vocal capture and spoken applications out there at the moment. This perceived value only seems to increase the further we move from the relative safety of the home studio, with DPA providing some of the best remote broadcast and ENG solutions out there.

The brand’s MMA-A audio interface allows for a simple way to capture audio from DPA MicroDot equipped microphones, perfect for studio and outside broadcast applications alike. MMA-A can connect to Mac, Windows and iOS devices and is bus powered, to allow for a truly remote recording solution. Combining the interface with DPA’s wireless solutions, allows you to also record laser-sharp audio to your phone and even host a professional sounding Zoom call from literally anywhere. Using the MMA-A interface with DPA MicroDot products bypasses the need to use an adapter to input audio into the stereotypical ¼” or XLR ports, which minimises any chance of a bad connection and ensures your audio is crystal clear from capture to ADC.

While small-form factor microphones are undoubtedly at the heart of DPA’s public identity, rest assured there is much more to the brand than just body/headworn offerings and mobile solutions. The brand’s iconic 4006 omnidirectional microphone can be configured as you would imagine a conventional microphone to appear (a long cylinder pencil design), but the back end can be reconfigured, leaving you with a smaller device that performs in a similar fashion for discreet microphone placements in live settings. It’s this kind of forward thinking and scalability that makes them such a formidable and versatile tool across a variety of applications.

In terms of sheer usability, the 4060 series of DPA Microphones are a tour de force. They can be used as instrument microphones and for vocal capture with a range of kits that cover news capture, film, instruments and lavalier setups and which feature different pre-equalisation that suits those settings. These microphones, while small, deliver a quality sound that can withstand high SPL levels and be made to be near invisible if need be for broadcast purposes. The microphones are so light, when wearing a lavalier it’s easy to forget you’re actually wearing a microphone at all!

Perhaps one of their most interesting new offerings is the 4650 CORE binaural microphone set that captures sounds through your ears! Using your pinna as audio capture, the 4650 replicates what it’s like to hear sounds as you would hear them if you were in the room and can pick up clear vocals in a placement that leaves the face clear. This binaural audio capture technology is not new, but this implementation of it is very impressive. Take a listen below to hear what the microphones sound like when a person is talking normally and then puts a box over their head.

For onsite field recordings and interviews, it’s hard to look past their 4097 micro shotgun microphone. The supercardioid is highly directional in its audio capture and is equipped with a unique resistance to moisture, extreme temperatures and humidity, something seldom encountered in transducers of this type. This makes it great for recording onsite and not having to worry about the interviewer sweating on your microphone on a hot day, or worrying about a potential rainfall ruining a shoot.

Within modern broadcast and screen audio capture, DPA Microphones are already a staple, as their reliable sound and quality construction allow for consistent results across the board. For content creators looking to step up your game in terms of audio production, the brand has a stellar reputation in professional settings and given the importance placed on audio quality in regard to online content, can be the factor that separates your work from the rest. For this kind of instant level up, it’s hard to look past any one of DPA’s premium condenser options. The sheer amount of professional institutions that use them—from capturing audio on Game of Thrones to the Burgtheater in Vienna and everything in between-is the ultimate cosign and is testament to the brand’s reputation for excellence in the field.

Check out DPA Microphones through their Australian distributor Amber Technology.