DPA recently introduced the 4099 series of instrument microphones. The company has a stellar reputation with live, recording, and broadcast professionals for capturing a natural, realistic sound. I still own some measurement microphones by Brüel & Kjær — DPA's legendary progenitor — and have used the B & K 4021 microphones on piano and string sections with incredible results.
I welcomed the opportunity to use DPA's new cost-effective 4099 Series of performance microphones, made in Denmark for an array of musical instruments. The first four models are the 4099 Guitar, 4099 Sax, 4099 Trumpet and 4099 Violin (each priced at $599). The 4099 Series is designed with the professional musician and his or her sound in mind; as such, it brings a more affordable high-end product to the marketplace.
In itself, the 4099 microphone is a lightweight, miniature, super-cardioid condenser. Each 4099 in the series comes in a case incorporating a windscreen, shock mount, gooseneck, and an instrument- specific mount. Also included is a 3-pin XLR adapter, belt clip, carrying pouch, and storage case. The 4099 is designed with either of two different microphone sensitivities; normal for the guitar, sax, and violin versions which handle 142 dB before clipping, and a high SPL version for trumpet which handles 152 dB before clipping.
The windscreen protects against wind noise, and the integrated shock mount virtually eliminates handling noise. The length of the gooseneck is fully adjustable to allow for the greatest flexibility in finding an instrument's sweet spot. The mounts can be adjusted to fit virtually any size instrument within their respective families, and, once fitted to an instrument, it can be taken off and on without losing the adjustments. The 3-pin XLR adapter can be used with or without the included belt clip and is offered in two versions: the DAD4099 which is standard with the 4099 offering balanced output, and an 80 Hz low-cut filter or the optional DAD6001 with flat response, which is geared towards use on instruments that produce frequencies below 80 Hz.
All 4099 mics are terminated with a proprietary MicroDot connector, and more than 35 connection adapters to wireless systems are available from DPA. The supplied XLR adapter allows the 4099 to work as a standard 48V phantom-powered microphone. A belt clip located on the XLR connector can be removed and replaced with an enclosed ring to use directly in stage boxes or mixing consoles.
I had the opportunity to use these mics on several occasions, and my sound company — ACIR Professional — also used them on various shows. I was immediately impressed with the design of the 4099's mounting accessories. By squeezing two clamp knobs to expand the clip, you simply mount it on the instrument and release; each clamp fits the contour of its intended instrument sound source. The ability to easily adjust the height and lock the clip for remounting in the same position works very well. Importantly, the 4099 microphone mounting system is designed to be very instrument-friendly; it never mars the finish of an instrument. Everyone I worked with while using the 4099 Series commented on how easily it mounts.
The gooseneck is a proper length to adjust and flexes in all directions to achieve the desired angle to the instrument. It appears rugged and stable when adjusted and never needed to be readjusted, regardless of the musician's movement. The cable, like all-miniature microphone cables, is light but strainrelieved properly; with normal use, it should hold up well.
The mounted windscreen is very well designed, too. I have used Countryman Isomax mics for years on strings, and the windscreens always fall off and create wind problems during performance if not taped onto the cable. The 4099 windscreen is extremely secure and provides exceptional elimination of popping sounds.
Using the 4099 Series on strings, trumpet, and sax, I found them to be excellent-sounding, similar to what I have experienced with all DPA products. They reproduce a natural sound with nice richness, clarity, and presence. On one occasion in which the 4099 was used on a sax for solos and the horn section was miked with other microphones, I would have preferred to use the 4099 Series on everything, simply because of the pleasant detail it provided to the instrument. And again, when using the DPA mic next to the Countryman, I wished I had more of them for the string section.
I would definitely buy these mics. The DPA 4099 Series of microphones are high-quality products that will find a wide range of use in professional live sound. According to the company, there are plans to expand the line for additional instruments and applications; that's good news. If you are looking for a well-designed product with sonic excellence, you should consider the DPA 4099 instrument microphone series.
Tom Young, longstanding mix engineer for Tony Bennett, is a regular contributor to Pro Audio Review.
SECOND OPINION: On Acoustic Guitar: The DPA 4099 G
by Ty Ford
I am an acoustic guitar player. I like the sound of my guitar.
My current solution for playing in amplified environments is a K&K Pure Western Mini. It is the least clacky-sounding pickup system I have heard so far; there are no batteries and no controls — just plug it in and go. Using a mic on a stand simply lowers the gain-before-feedback (GBF) envelope. And then, if you move around much, the guitar sound will change. For a truer representation of what the guitar actually sounds like, systems comprised of a pickup and an internal mic have generally been the solution. But having an open guitar mic in some venues is asking for trouble, especially if a PA and monitors are being used.
Having said all that, if you already have some sort of pickup in your acoustic and are looking for a way to buffer the clack away, listen to the DPA 4099 G ($599 list). A mini super-cardioid condenser mic mounted on the end of a mini-gooseneck, the 4099 G's cushioned, adjustable bracket allows mounting on pretty much any acoustic guitar. This electret mic requires phantom power unless you run it though your wireless system without an XLR.
I first tried the DPA 4099 G in my studio, and I really liked it; it allowed my Martin to sound just like my Martin. There was some self-noise (23 dbA) due to the small size of the diaphragm, but recordings with the 4099G really did sound just like the guitar itself.
My next trial was at the Baltimore Songwriters Open Mic Night at Tyson's, a venue in downtown Baltimore. Like many of these kinds of live settings, it's a long, rectangular front room with a minimalist PA and a couple of mics. Ken Gutberlet, the director of the night's events, allowed me to attach the 4099 G to his Martin. The bracket works rather easily once you get to know it. I think it should reach out over the face and back a little farther to allow a better grip, but the bracket did stay on. There's a handy belt hook on the XLR, but the cable from the mic/gooseneck assembly is rather long, requiring you to do something with the excess.
We tried to go fully with the 4099 G, and it wasn't much fun. The main PA speaker was above and behind the performance position; it was far enough out of the way that a couple of Shure SM58s and acoustic guitars with pickups didn't have any problems, but even fiddling with EQ, getting the 4099 G up in the mix put us on the edge of feedback or even into it.
Next, I went to the Ram's Head in Annapolis. This was a much bigger room with a solid PA. With help from house engineer Chris Hartman, I plugged in and went for it. While the results were better, we did our little experiment with no monitors or other instruments. As I was calling out loud to Chris, the 4099 G was picking up my voice pretty easily (hey, it's a microphone).
At first, Chris and I thought the mic sounded a little thin. We reoriented the mic so that it was pointing more toward the sound hole and not so much at the face of the guitar. At that point, the sound became rich, yet not boomy. I did notice that moving the mic closer to the face of the guitar did not significantly increase low-end response.
If you are a solo instrumentalist in a fairly quiet setting with PA speakers a good distance from the playing position, I think the best live sound solution is to use the 4099 G to add a small amount of sound to your acoustic guitar's pickup sound.
Ty Ford has been reviewing gear for PAR since its first issue. www.tyford.com
EDITOR'S NOTE: As Ty reveals in his review, a blend of the 4099 G and a guitar pickup is preferable in many situations where sound reinforcement and good acoustics are compromised: environments where most of us find ourselves working on a regular basis. Below, DPA offers some guidance regarding 4099 G placement and applications that we feel the end-user will find to be valuable when considered alongside Ty's discoveries. — Ed.
"A good starting point for (4099 G) placement, one that achieves the most balanced sound, is where the fret board meets the body, typically above the 12th fret. Every instrument is different, and a bit of placement experimentation will assure that one finds the optimum location to achieve the most pleasing, musically accurate sound. For maximum volume, point the mic more to the sound hole and position the mic as close as possible without restricting the mechanics of playing the instrument. With close placement for maximum level (within three inches or so), a small amount of low-frequency EQ (roll-off) may be desirable to achieve the most natural tone.
"A blend between your guitar's pickup and the 4099 G is typically recommended when monitors and/or poorly placed main speaker reduce the level that can be obtained before feedback occurs when using the 4099 G alone. A proper blend of the two (pickup and 4099 G) will typically provide excellent gain before feedback while still maintaining a very natural guitar sound."
— DPA Microphones