In addition to the 4099 d:vote mic's DPA sent me to use for Christmas, they also asked if I would like to try out the new d:facto vocal mic. I had to think about it for about a millisecond before saying, “Yes please!” I had played with the d:facto a little bit at InfoComm and while the test there was hardly in-depth, I was impressed with how good it sounded.
The d:facto is a super-cardioid, pressure gradient, handheld condenser microphone. One of the biggest problems with many condensers on a live stage is that they tend to pick up everything. I’ve heard some condenser vocal mic's act like drum kit mic's more than vocal mic's. And when you’re trying to mic a vocal, that’s not a good thing. For Christmas, our worship leader was located right in front of the drum riser, which was flanked by the percussion riser and the woodwinds riser. If there was a chance for other stuff to end up in his mic, this was it.
I never really noticed much bleed in his mic during the rehearsals or the services. But it wasn’t until I went back and listened to the recordings that I was struck by how little bleed there was. Even during some loud segments, I didn’t hear a lot of drums there; a little yes, but not a lot.
Mark’s voice was very detailed and clear. The d:facto doesn’t have as much proximity effect as I’m used to with other cardioid mic’s; which was nice because I used less EQ on his channel. I always like to get the cleanest sound possible at the source, and EQ as little as possible, and this mic made it easy.
When you look at the frequency response and pattern traces of the d:facto, you are struck by the same things you normally expect from DPA mic’s. Ruler-flat response (in this case with a slight 3 dB rise at 12 KHz), and a really well-controlled pattern. Not all mic's will respond to all frequencies the same; DPA pays great attention to phase response, which leads to very well defined patterns. On a live stage, this can make you or break you.
Back to Mark’s voice; it took me a few minutes to tweak my multi-band comp settings and EQ to get it dialed in for his voice. Mainly, it was backing things off. As you can see from this EQ graphic, I’m not doing much with EQ at all. The deepest filter is -2 dB. We had no problem getting him to cut through the mix, and he seemed to enjoy the sound quality in his ears.
The current edition of the d:facto is wired only, and while not inexpensive at roughly $1,000, it is a great sounding mic. DPA have just unveiled the d:facto II, which is a refining of the original, and marks the introduction of a wireless handheld capsule. In February, it will be available for Shure style wireless systems, with Sennheiser coming in March (at least according to the website). No word yet on pricing for the d:facto II.
Is it worth it?
Well, that depends. Normally, I don’t like condenser vocal mic’s. However, if you really want a condenser, this is your tool. It sounds great, and the pattern control is exceptional. You can easily spend this much or more on other high-end capsules or wired mic’s, so I don’t think it’s out of the ballpark (at least in it’s class). Given that it can handle almost 160 dB of SPL before distorting, and will do what DPA mic's are famous for—making your singer sound like them—it might be just the ticket. It’s a mic I would not mind at all keeping in inventory.