This article originally appeared in the December, 2017 issue of Pro Sound News. Innovations is a monthly column where different pro audio manufacturers are invited to discuss the thought-process behind creating their products of note.
DPA Microphones is known for developing small miniature condenser microphones used where the ultimate sound quality is of the utmost importance in environments that demand a lot from the mic in terms of durability, clarity and fantastic sound qualities.
Condenser microphone technology drives these pea-sized acoustic transducers, with DPA Microphones leading the pack in terms of achieving amazingly high performance in such small packages with its d:screet Miniature, d:fine Headset and other microphone lines. Recently, we have driven this performance level even higher with the development of a new ‘CORE by DPA’ amplifier technology, which minimizes distortion and provides an overall cleaner, more open and natural sound reproduction, from a whisper to a scream. Furthermore, it expands the microphones’ dynamic range, giving a larger range of undistorted sound.
While a small diaphragm microphone is not perceived by many to be able to reproduce the lowest frequencies due to its small size, it is actually quite the opposite. It reproduces these frequencies with very high accuracy just as well for the rest of the whole frequency range. This is partially due to the very small and lightweight diaphragm, and the small housing that does not disturb the sound field in which it is placed. The use of condenser microphone technology ensures unsurpassed transient response, but also calls for an impedance converter, also known as an amplifier.
DPA is already known and respected for its ability to deliver undistorted sound from the lowest low to highest high, but the new ‘CORE by DPA’ technology adds even more clarity and openness.
The DPA way of driving the electronics within the miniature mics is a heritage from the measurement industry, where linearity is a must in order to produce high-performing microphones. Therefore, DPA miniature microphones have always been based on a current drive where 1 mA must flow in the circuitry in order to obtain optimum working conditions. This is still the case with the new ‘CORE by DPA’ technology, as five times the amount of silicon has been added to the circuitry and thereby extended the linear range of the electronics and diaphragm system.
In general, DPA microphones do not compress the audio when levels are going up. This linear behavior has even been extended with the introduction of this new technology. While not expressed in the specifications of the new ‘CORE by DPA’ microphone types, these units are reported from high-end users in the pro-audio industry to have the same sonic characteristics as the legacy products. However, they have an even higher degree of openness, never before found in such small microphones, but typically expected from larger microphones.
Depending on the model, the dynamic range has been boosted by 6 to 14 dB. This equates to a doubling of dynamic range in the d:screet 4060 Miniature Omnidirectional Microphone from 100 dB to 106 dB, and an even bigger boost (four times) in dynamic range in other models, such as the d:fine 4066 Omnidirectional Headset Microphone, with a move from an already very respectable 97 dB up to 111 dB. This increase in dynamic range fits very well to the dynamic ranges found on modern digital wireless transmitters, so there is a much better match between the microphones’ ability to pick up low levels of sound, while still leaving room for the dramatic level changes when going from a whisper to loud sound effects, such as a gunshot. The transmitter can handle these sudden changes and so can the microphone; when the gain is set correctly, there will be no distorted or compressed sound.
It should be pointed out, too, that this rather large increase in dynamic range did not come at the cost of a higher noise floor. It remains the same as in previous DPA models at a very respectable 23 dB(A) for the d:screet 4060 and 26 dB(A) for the d:fine 4066. In fact, other than the enhanced dynamic range, none of the microphone specifications have changed at all.
DPA’s breakthrough ‘CORE by DPA’ amplifier technology platform took a lot of effort to achieve, as the complexity of the circuitry went up dramatically without any increase in either the physical size of the amplifier package or in its power consumption. Both goals were achieved with ‘CORE by DPA’ amplifiers easily fitting into existing microphone designs and with the same supply voltage requirements of 5 to 15 VDC. The design is truly remarkable in terms of what we achieved in a very small space.
Mindful of the fact that many of our users may not wish to instantly phase out their existing microphones and move to ‘CORE by DPA’ technology, the company has announced it has no immediate plans to discontinue legacy d:screet or d:fine products. Both legacy and ‘CORE by DPA’ versions have identical frequency response, sensitivity and sound pickup patterns. ‘CORE by DPA’ models can be added to a user’s inventory as desired, or as needed for more demanding applications. They will typically be quickly adopted in the film and theater industry, where consistency is a vital part of the production. For users with both ‘CORE by DPA’ and legacy DPA models, DPA is making it easy to distinguish between these very miniscule and compact devices, by adding a blue label on the microphone’s cable near the unit’s serial number. There’s also a very distinctive, yet discreet laser-engraved “core” on the microphone housing.
Since the beginning, DPA’s products have set the bar for performance, innovation and quality of workmanship. The ‘CORE by DPA’ technology represents yet another step in achieving microphone perfection. Watch for it to appear in other microphone lines offered by the company—including the d:vote Instrument Microphone series this spring.
René Mørch is the product manager for DPA Microphones.