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Review: DPA D:Vote Instrument Mics

Even if we’re only talking about musical reproduction, the diversity of sound that we wish to capture and recreate is incredibly wide and varied.

Even if we’re only talking about musical reproduction, the diversity of sound that we wish to capture and recreate is incredibly wide and varied. Arguably, it is broader than any single microphone solution could encompass. Yet it appears that DPA has developed a one-microphone solution that works admirably well across a huge landscape of sonic sources: the d:vote Series of miniature small-diaphragm condensers accompanied by a comprehensive array of mounting choices and applications.

It all starts with the 4099 capsule, available in high or low sensitivity, attached to its replaceable foam windscreen, suspension mounted (also replaceable) and connected to a 5.5-inch flexible gooseneck. The 4099 supercardioid condenser element is designed for close miking, evidenced by a considerably large line of direct- to-instrument mounts for drums, acoustic guitars, horn bells, acoustic basses, cellos, violins, mandolins, accordions, pianos and so on, plus a standard mic stand 3/8-inch threaded clip and universal clips, too.

The goosenecks have a Microdot electrical connection and optional extensions, connecting firmly to the clips/mounts by a smart little retention collar that prevents sag, allowing the matching of any gooseneck to any mount and clip. Each mic comes with a thin 1.6 mm cable (about 4 feet long) that is surprisingly sturdy and tangle-resistant. A thicker 2.2 mm cable is available in various lengths for live/onstage work. I’ve used these same Microdot cables with DPA’s d;screet lavaliere mics for literally hundreds of TV broadcasts and they hold up amazingly well.

These cables connect to (you guessed it) a plethora of termination options: standard Microdot to XLRM connectors with belt clips, XLRs with either a built-in high-pass filter or midrange attenuator, or seemingly any brand of wireless transmitter on the market.

As I didn’t know exactly where to begin with these 4099s, I just threw them up on an Americana-flavored live rock recording session. First I tried out drum applications with 4099s on outside kick, snare top and overheads in a spaced pair. The snare reproduction was the most indicative, with a very natural frequency balance, good isolation from high-hat/ cymbals and open, uncompressed dynamics. It wasn’t as beefy and punchy as the SM57 right next to it, but it was definitely more of a realistic recreation. The overheads proved to be a little bright in nature, pleasantly shiny and crisp, with nice imaging and a lack of mud or excess fat. Outside kick seemed a little more “poofy” than punchy, but its SPL was handled with only a trace of strain.

Supplied with a horn bell clip, trumpet proved to be easy to capture via d:vote. The cleverly-designed clip stays in place (allowing performer movement) without a trace of damage to the bell. Acoustic guitar was similar, in that once the body clamp was fastened with the mic pointing at the neck-meets-body, performer movement was allowed without disastrous tonal changes. The tone was just a little bright, very focused and, again, seemed more naturally realistic than many other mic choices.

My testing had me thinking that orchestral spot miking would be the ideal app for these 4099s; their natural sonic reproduction would be preferable, the various instrument mounts would guarantee flexibility, and the thicker cabling would be advantageous while valuable instruments would receive no clamp-induced harm. Without any orchestral recordings on my calendar, I turned to acoustic bass for some verification.

Sure enough, the bassist, versatile journeyman John Shaughnessy, loved the 4099. The string-mounted adapter actually suspended the mic off the strings (back below the bridge), eliminated handling noise, allowed freedom of movement, caused no intonation problems and gathered a sound that was amply full, not too chubby or hyped, all with a mid-range quality that pulled out note definition and a whole lot of slap. Shaughnessy called the tone “very natural,” admired the lack of self-noise (at 50 dB of gain) and reminded me how much he liked to subtly move about without problems.

My final tests with upright piano confirmed my observations. It was tricky, but I got the magnetic piano mounts to stay put on the semi-metallic soundboard/frame: this was not simple, as it was vertical at 90 degrees to the floor in an upright to achieve a spaced pair, high/low miking technique. It may not have been as visceral and chesty as a pair of LDCs (or ribbons), but the reproduction was so very honest with no hype whatsoever. Pianist Jason Atkins said the sound was “super and natural; it sounds like what I hear at the bench.” Frankly, the realism was stark enough to reveal the slight honk and “un-grandness” of my lil’ Yamaha. Check out these audio clips of my work with Jason for further insight.

Having passed the “enough options to be a system” test and the sound quality test, the question boils down to cost. A d:vote mic with a cable, mount and XLR connector sells for $619, direct from DPA. Additional clips are around $35. The only expensive accessories are the wireless adapter and connectors, which are about $100. With this in mind, I can clearly recommend a fleet of d:vote Series products for the acoustic music recordist. With a very large budget and lots of time, one could find mic choices to slightly outperform the d:votes at many positions within the orchestra or ensemble. However, there is no single mic model that could outperform the d:votes at all positions, especially if we consider the d:vote Series’ distinct advantages at exacting placement, diminished leakage and freedom of movement for the performers. Multi-microphone kits are offered, along with sturdy cases.

Many, many apps are ideal for the 4099s: marching bands on wireless RF, drum lines and pep bands in the stands (on RF), jazz ensembles, bluegrass and folk groups, performers out in the audience (avoiding feedback via ideal placement and low gain), and instrumentalists who can benefit from bringing their own mic to sessions (just like Shaughnessy who felt that the d:vote portability, tone and pricing were very attractive).

DPA has been known to excel at realistic and organic sonic reproduction with their small diaphragm condensers and lavalieres for quite some time now. The d:vote Series appears to continue that tradition of excellence as it opens up even more applications with considerable convenience, flexibility and durability.

DPA Microphones