DPA has done it again. With the release of the SMK4061 Stereo Microphone Kit ($995) there is now a way to record piano (and many other sound sources) at the level of quality you’ve come to expect from a DPA product at a price within closer reach.
Studio, broadcast, post production, sound reinforcement
Two DPA 4061-BM omni mics; multiple mounting options; hand selected and sensitivity matched; (also available: SMK4060 mic kit)
The new SMK4061 Stereo Microphone Kit is a flexible and cost-effective piano miking solution perfectly suited for both live and studio work. The package combines a pair of DPA 4061-BM omnidirectional miniature microphones with a variety of mounting accessories. The 4061-BM is the black version of the 4061.
The DPA 4061 is acoustically identical to the acclaimed DPA 4060 but the sensitivity is adjusted to 6 mV/Pa. The microphone’s noise floor is 26 dB(A) re. 20 µPa and, if used properly, it can handle sound pressure levels up to 144 dB SPL before clipping.
Included with the package’s mounting accessories is the BLM6000 Boundary Layer Mount, which can be used in conjunction with a 4061 (or any of DPA’s miniature mics) to place the mic on a reflective boundary such as a piano lid, floor, wall, ceiling, etc. This enables the microphone to capture the area’s ambient sound. The sound captured from this pressure zone miking technique has a higher sensitivity, intelligibility, and clarity compared to the sound obtained from a traditional miking technique. Therefore it acts somewhat as an acoustical “zoom” to the sound source. The included DMM0007 soft rubber holder allows miking of all kinds of instruments, from acoustic guitar to grand piano to drums. This holder allows the mics to be mounted in the best-sounding position using special non-marking adhesive discs. Also included in the kit are two DMM0011-B magnet mounts that can each mount two miniature microphones, two BLM6000 Boundary Layer Mounts, five DUA050 foam windscreens, and two DAD6001-BC adapters with belt clips. These adapters provide power for the DPA miniature microphones via standard 48 volt phantom power.
I initially put the 4061s to work while recording a baby grand at the home of the MuzikMafia’s Jerry Navarro. I ran the mics through the Langevin Dual Vocal Combo (which I used to slightly boost the top end). I ended up with a nice piano sound. Since the piano was a baby grand it didn’t quite have the bottom end that I’d like, but the imaging was amazing and the DMM0011 Magnet Mounts made mic placement simple and quick. Ultimately, Jerry and I were pleased. The following week I had the opportunity to use the mics on David Briggs’ 9.5-foot Baldwin grand piano while recording artist/pianist Clare Brown at Nashville’s House of David studio. Again, I was more than pleased with my results. This time I recorded the mics through the A-Designs Pacifica with no compression or EQ. On another song that didn’t require piano, I cranked up the gain, added some compression, and found that the piano created a wonderful stereo drum reverb chamber.
I experimented with the included boundary layer mounts by mounting them inside the completely open piano lid. I found that this pressure zone technique had a bit more mid-range and was slightly “nasally” compared to the sound I achieved with the magnetic mounts. This was not what this session called for, but – depending on the song – I could see this being used frequently.
While the SMK4061 Stereo Microphone Kit was designed with acoustic piano in mind, I found that it worked extremely well in a wide variety of situations. I had good results using the microphones along with the DMM0007 Universal Surface Mount to record acoustic guitar. I used one of the included non-marking adhesive discs to attach the mic mount to the body of a Taylor 514-CE acoustic guitar. (In all honesty, I was nervous about using it, but it truly was non-marking.) I experimented with several different placements and found that I ended up with the best results when the microphone capsule was in the center of the sound hole directly behind the strings. I ran the mic through my Pendulum Audio Quartet II with a slight dip at 350 Hz, a slight boost at 15 kHz, a hint of compression, and I ended up with a superb sound that was rich and full without being at all boxy. When needing a stereo sound I used another one of the Universal Surface Mounts to mount the second 4061 on the body closer to the bridge. I ran this mic through my Gordon preamp with no processing and ended up with an amazing sound. Included in the SMK4061 kit is a wide assortment of mounting and windscreen options, which allow the microphone to adapt to virtually any recording or live sound situation.
I had good results using the boundary layer mounts on the floor of my studio to capture drum ambience during a tracking session. Running the mics through a pair of Gordon mic preamps and a pair of Empirical Labs Distressors created a drum sound larger than life.
The DPA 4061 is an exceptional microphone and the SMK4061 stereo pair is perfectly suited to record the piano (and practically anything else). If you haven’t experienced the high resolution and performance of DPA microphones, you owe it to yourself to give them a listen.
Over the last decade Russ Long has authored over 100 articles and equipment reviews for Pro Audio Review.
Apple Macintosh 2 GHz dual processor G5 w/2 GB RAM; Digidesign Pro Tools 7.1; Lynx Aurora converters; Lucid Gen-X-96 clock; PMC AML-1 monitors.