I’ll just go ahead and say it up front; I’m a fan of DPA mic’s. It’s pretty rare I hear them on something that doesn’t sound good. In fact, I can’t think of a time that happened. So there. With that bit of bias out of the way, let’s consider our current test subjects, the d:vote series (or the 4099 as they used to be called). DPA has moved to trying to name everything d:something, which I suppose is OK; I just hope they don’t run out of clever words.
The d:vote line of mic’s is interesting; it’s actually one mic, and a bunch of different mounts. By appending a letter to the end of 4099, you get a different clip. For example, a 4099C comes with a cello mount. A 4099B comes with a clip for a double bass. They have mounts for the aforementioned bass and cello, plus drums, piano, sax, brass, guitar, violin (would also work for a mandolin), and a universal strap mount. There are two things I love about the d:vote mic’s: First, they sound great. Second, you can easily put them on a wide variety of instruments by changing mounts. If you have a limited budget but need to have the ability to mic different kinds of instruments (perhaps not at the same time), you could buy one or two 4099s and a bunch of different mounts.
I’ve tested the 4099G on guitar before (and you can read about it and hear it here), but this was the first time I was able to try it on cello. I’m a sucker for a well-played cello. Many years ago, I worked at a church that had a great cello player, and I loved what that melancholy instrument added to the sound. We used it for a few songs primarily, a very beautiful rendition of O Come Emanuel (all instrumental with cello lead), and Future of Forestry’s The Earth Stood Still.
Our cellist was touring with Future of Forestry up until the day before our services, so he knew the number. He also had a pickup installed in his cello which gave me a unique opportunity to record both and compare them. As we talked, he told me the main reason he uses a pickup is to get superior isolation on a live stage. And that makes total sense; it’s also backed up by what I recorded.
It Sounds Like a Cello
In the solo sections of O Come Emmanuel, the stage was quiet enough that the d:vote worked perfectly. However, once the volume went up, the pickup became the better choice. For the services, I patched both mic’s into the same channel, and used the Digico’s Alternate Input feature to switch back and forth between them. This way, I got the best of both worlds.
Listening to the d:vote was a wonderful experience. The sound was full and open, and sounded like a cello, just louder. I feel like I can hear the drag of the bow across the strings more and there is considerably more high-end (as shown in the spectrum still below). That high end really airs out the sound and I really like it. The pickup was considerably tighter, though it sounded a bit electronic. It should be noted that he ran the pickup through some effects pedals, which are adding a bit of reverb.
The spectrum shot shows what I heard, and what I did live. With the pickup, I added a bit of low and high end to the pickup to help it match the d:vote. The 4099 was flat (save for the HPF), and sounded great. With a little more time, I may have tweaked the EQ a bit, but the player wasn’t able to be there before show day, so it was “mic and go.” And that’s something I find DPA mic's consistently excel at.
In the sound samples, I took them right after the A/D conversion. The only thing I did to the recordings is put a high pass at 120 Hz (using Waves RChannel), which is what I would do live. You’ll hear a little reverb on the pickup version, but I decided to leave the d:vote tracks dry. I put longer samples on here to make it easier to compare. This sample is of the solo cello part because it shows off the qualities of the mic the best. When the stage gets louder, the drums and percussion bleed in quite a lot, though in fairness, the player was sitting directly in front of both. A little physical isolation would have helped a lot, I suspect.
I forgot to take a picture of the mic on the cello, but it looked a whole lot like it does in the DPA product shot above. The mount is ingenious, and never moved. It took literally 10 seconds to put on the instrument, and was easy to tweak.
How About Congas?
We also tried them out on congas, since I had the mounts. We normally mic our congas using a pair of AT Pro37R mic’s on a stereo bar. That doesn’t sound bad, but it can be a challenge to get them in the right spot. The d:vote’s use a clever rubber clip on mount that simply grabs onto the rim of the head and doesn’t move. My percussionist was skeptical, but he commented after the services were over (so that’s 4 rehearsals and 4 services) that they never moved even a little.
They are super-easy to position since the boom is very flexible, and once locked in, they’re set. Because they’re so close to the heads, there was less bleed than we get in our normal set up. For the sound samples here, I again took them right after the A/D conversion, and put a high pass at 120 Hz.
The differences are pretty subtle, but I hear better transient response with the d:votes. The Pro37Rs sound a bit muffled in comparison, but not terribly so. While the 4099s are more expensive, they are much easier to set up, position and they are not nearly as visually distracting as a mic stand with a stereo bar and two mic’s.
As I said, I like the mic’s. While not inexpensive, at around $500 list, they’re not stupid expensive. And if you need a mic system that can adapt to various instruments, there is nothing better. Two 4099s and a collection of mounts would make you prepared for just about anything.