DPA will launch its brand new 4017C microphone at IBC 2013. We bring you an exclusive review of the mic from Dubai-based sound recordist David Thirion I had the pleasure to test the new DPA 4017C-R microphone just as it is being released at this IBC. It is a newcomer from the famous and acclaimed […]
DPA will launch its brand new 4017C microphone at IBC 2013. We bring you an exclusive review of the mic from Dubai-based sound recordist David Thirion
I had the pleasure to test the new DPA 4017C-R microphone just as it is being released at this IBC. It is a newcomer from the famous and acclaimed DPA 4017 Shotgun family. I thought perhaps the best way to test it was to take it along with me on a sound job and compare it with my good old trusty companion the MKH 416 from Sennheiser.
My set up on this gig was my Sound Devices 664 mixer/recorder, my two Lectrosonics wireless systems and these two microphones.
First of all, both the microphones are from the shotgun family. They both have interference tubes and both have superb cardoid polar patterns. The fundamental differences between the two are that the Sennheiser principle is an RF condenser and the DPA is a pre-polarised condenser. Even if they are not based on the same transducer principle, I carried on with the test because at the end of the day, both are designed for the same applications such as fixed positions at sports facilities, broadcast, studio recording and, as in my case, for ENG/film booming.
So whats the first major noticeable difference? The size of the microphone is the first thing that impresses you.
An astounding 15.3 cm for the DPA compared to 25 cm for my 416! We are talking a significant reduction here. Extremely friendly for rooms with low ceiling and or in limited space applications. Also, because of its shorter size, it brings the microphone capsule nearly 10 cm further down, which means that we are closer to the talents mouth to capture all of that crisp and clear sound. And do not forget that by dividing the distance by half between the capsule and the source, you increase your signal by 6dB! Pretty clever idea from DPA, I would say. It allows them to increase the sensibility without bringing any electronics into the equation but just by applying basic sound physics laws.
Again, this mic is so compact because DPA has removed the filter but in the first place, I rarely use the filter provided with a mic. I tend to use the one on my console. For me, the compact feature, therefore, is more important than the filter and so immediately, this mic had a friend in me.
The next important consideration for me was the weight of the microphone. I tend to work on the field all day long, so microphone weight is something I really need to take into consideration. Booming is still one of the most common techniques to capture sound on a set and at the end of it, you really want something light
In this again, the DPA outdoes the 416 by far! 165g for the 416 and 68g for the DPA. Believe me, it makes a difference when you are fully extended on the boom (most often, you cant just think about the mic but you also have the suspension and bonnet to consider). Since the microphone is smaller, the Rycote wind shield system will also be smaller and, therefore, reduced in mass.
But since we are on the subject of the Rycote system, I must add that the DPA 4017C-R comes with a Rycote suspension kit. I have to admit though that I was disappointed on this count. The wind cage itself is fine, as per the wind jammer but I wasnt happy with the shock mount. They were not doing their job properly.
The solution here is a modified Rycote Modular Windshield Kit with a short angled XLR connector at the mic end made by DPA. The kit is provided with custom made Rycote suspension Lyres to achieve maximum suppression of handling noise as the lighter the microphone, the softer the suspension needed.
The rubbers used for the system are very soft and flexible resulting in lots of movement from the mic within the cage, creating unwanted mechanical transmissions when it should in fact be there to reduce them.
So the regular, less compliant black Rycote Lyres will be the ideal alternative. The lyres are very easy to switch and we can potentially configure the 4017C-R to our preference. These lyres can be purchased at around USD 30.
Lets now go to the actual performance of the microphone. In one world, I would describe it as Beautiful. Since I previously had the pleasure of using its predecessor, the 4017B, I was pretty sure it would be beautiful.
In terms of directionality, it hasnt changed. It is the same capsule and the same interference tube. Previously, DPA had already done quite a bit of research on its 4017B model to achieve a microphone that would be very transparent but that would still have an excellent rejection of sounds coming from both sides and also, from the back. So, not really any major
But what was remarkable was that the previous model didnt have much self-noise already. Now, they are coming out with a preamp with even lesser self-noise. It was really impressive.
When I used the microphone for the first time, I didnt really appreciate it because I was doing some interviews in a busy open office with the continual low rumble of phones, keyboards, chit chat, printers and all of the other rigmarole associated with an office ambience. It is only when I recorded at home in a very calm environment to carry on with my test that I realised that my trusty Sennheiser companion created more self-noise than the DPA 4017C-R. If you push it quite high, you could really start to hear a slight hiss in my headphones while with the same level on the DPA line, it was clean as a whistle. I was gutted
but amazed at the same time because it didnt strike me that much with the previous model.
So once again, the excellence and professionalism from the Danish company shone through. If I am not mistaken, the result of less self-noise would increase the dynamic range of the microphone. This is another plus from the C version. Dynamic range is usually limited by the imperfections from the electric system from the microphone itself. But since we have such a low self-noise in this case you notice a richer response straight away to a large range of sound pressures before clipping. It really is striking with full headphone sensation.
You can understand now, why this microphone has been used in live opera recordings. Even if you would normally use two omnidirectional microphones to produce a nice A-B stereo system, I would be very interested to try it with two of these DPA 4017 C-R mics. I was certain we would be surprised by the results.
So, to conclude, DPA came out strong once again. The fact that all DPA microphones are tested and assembled by hand in Denmark shows that they take great pride in their products, and seems to reflect their dedication to the professional audio community. They managed, somehow, to make one of the finest shotgun microphones already out there on the market even better.
Dont get me wrong, I still love my dear Sennheiser MKH416 mic but boy, I would love to add this DPA mic to my collection!