- by Vince Lepore
in Road Tests
Recently, DPA Microphones has introduced several new lines, some of which are re-engineered updates to classic, timeless mics such as the 4011, and others that are entirely new product categories, such as the d:vote series of affordable instrument mics. I checked out its newest offering, the VO4099-DKIT2 collection of seven models for drum miking applications.
The VO4099-DKIT2 comes in a rugged, DPA-branded Pelican case. Inside, each mic is stored in its own soft-sided pouch. Having them all contained within a Pelican was a nice touch when carrying around such a large assortment of mics. Also included is an assortment of accessories such as clips for the 2011’s, retention clips for the 4099’s to hold them in their various mounting hardware, and windscreens. Aside from these amazing microphones, the accessories are also something to behold. In total, the kit contains the following:
(5) VO4099-lo mics with DC4099 drum clips
(1) SM4099 mic stand mount
(5) Microdot extension cables and XLR adapters
(2) 2011C compact condensers with stand mounts and windscreens.
As with all DPA mics and accessories, the construction quality of the 4099’s and 2011’s is superb. There were also some nice features that I hadn’t seen on other DPA mics in the past. The company has made improvements over the past few years, which have paid off for both microphones. For example, the 4099’s cable is detachable from the gooseneck, and I noted that the Microdot extension cable itself was a bit more rugged than some older DPA mics I own. In fact, I had to go back and look at my own, somewhat older 4099’s, which do not have a detachable cable. Considering the type of use and abuse my mics get in a live setting, these heavier cables are a welcome addition, and I like the fact that the cables are easily replaceable if they do get damaged. However, 4099’s are not as robust as a Shure Beta98 or an Earthworks DP30C, so I always feel as though I need to handle these more gently than other comparable drum mics.
Both the 4099 and 2011 exhibit excellent specifications for mics in their respective price ranges. The 4099 is an electret condenser with a supercardioid polar pattern and an exceptionally flat frequency response aside from a slight 2db to 3 dB boost centered around 10k Hz. Even at 90 degrees off-axis, the 4099’s frequency response remains remarkably flat through 10k.
DPA offers low-sensitivity and high-sensitivity models of the 4099. The mics in this drum package are the lower sensitivity model, with a sensitivity of 2 mV/Pa, handle a max SPL of 152 dB and have a dynamic range of 95 dB. The higher sensitivity model is intended for strings, acoustic guitar and other lower-SPL sources.
Part of the d:dictate modular series, the 2011C consists of the MMP-C compact mic preamp and the MMC2011 twin-diaphragm cardioid capsule. The d:dictate modular series is a re-engineered version of the famed 4011 series, with various capsules and preamps at different price/performance points. The MMC2011 in the kit is the more affordable cardioid capsule, while the MMC4011 is the high-end reference standard. Typical of all DPA mics, the 2011C has a flat response with a modest HF boost centered around 12k Hz. The sensitivity is 10 mV/Pa with 146 dB max SPL handling. The 2011C is very compact for a modular mic, making it easy to position in close-miking situations.
An interesting aspect of the 2011C’s dual diaphragm design is that the mic’s acoustic center is not at the tip of the capsule. DPA uses an interference tube to give the mic its directional characteristics, which pushes the acoustic center 36mm back from the capsule’s tip. This is critical when used in a stereo configuration, as I came to find out. The 2011C can also easily be combined with different modular elements of the d:dictate series. This mix/match approach provides much additional flexibility. Adding an upgraded body or a few additional capsules, provides a seamless upgrade path for each component.
I put the drum mic package into use during a couple of sound checks and services at my church with a DiGiCo SD10 console. Listening to each mic during line check, I immediately noticed differences from the mics we use every week. I started by turning off my gates and flattening channel EQs. Due to the 4099’s low sensitivity, I added some additional gain, especially on toms, and I noticed that the frequency response seemed more subdued in the low-mid and low-end. If I wanted the toms to have the thick low-end I’m used to, I’d have to add it at the channel EQ. I’m fine with a flatter, more neutral response, and I liked the sound of the 4099’s on toms right away.
Compared to a cardioid mic, the added side isolation of the supercardioid polar pattern was noticeable, and it fooled me into thinking I had left the gates on. I had similar thoughts about the 4099’s on the snare drum. Having moved from a pair of SM57s, the snare sounded a bit brighter and snappier, although again, I felt like I lost a little bit of body in the low mid-range, which was easily recovered by a small boost on the channel EQ. I definitely appreciated the space I saved around the snare by moving from a pair of 57’s to a pair of 4099’s.
The 2011C’s were fantastic as an X-Y pair on overheads, reproducing the kit’s subtle detail and nuances with ease. It did take me a while to figure out how to set up the X-Y pattern because of the odd acoustic center of the mics. During my first attempt, I wasn’t exactly happy with the pair’s stereo imaging. After more research on DPA’s website, I found their technical note about the capsule’s interference tube and acoustic center. Once I had this figured out, I adjusted my X-Y pair to have the microphones cross at the right spot, and the imaging improved significantly.
One of my favorite things about this package of mics is its versatility. Other drum mic packages are one-trick ponies, only suitable for one thing; miking drum kits. What DPA has here is something different altogether. Due to the 4099’s flat frequency response, flexible gooseneck, diverse mounting hardware and versatile Microdot adapter system, these mics can be used for a wide variety of different applications. As for the 2011C’s, I also tried them on violin and cello during a rehearsal and performance, and they performed beautifully on both instruments. In the case of the violin, the 2011C was used on a tall boom above the violin; for the cello, a short boom with the mic pointed just above the bridge about 18 inches from the instrument. I’ve used the high sensitivity model of the 4099 on various acoustic instruments over the years, but I wanted to experiment with the 2011C’s for this review.
My only real complaint about this drum microphone kit is the lack of dedicated kick and hi-hat mics. The kit came with seven mics total, so my immediate inclination was to use two of the 4099’s on snare top and bottom, the other three 4099’s on toms, and then the 2011C’s as an X-Y overhead pair. So where were the kick drum and hi-hat mics? I guess I could have taken a mic off the bottom head of the snare and used it for either kick or hi-hat, but it felt like the kit was missing something, and it wasn’t another 4099 that I was longing for. I’d like to see a dedicated kick mic from DPA — something purpose-built that wasn’t just another 4099 mounting mechanism. That would have taken this kit to another level, and it wouldn’t necessarily have to break the bank either. I’m certain that either a 4099 or a 2011C would be great on kick drum, but as I was demoing these mics in a live show environment, I wasn’t able to do that experiment.
Overall, I found that the DPA drum microphone package was everything I expected from this world-class manufacturer. The mic’s construction quality and sonic characteristics are outstanding, and the flexibility of both the 4099’s and the 2011C’s make the package much more than a drum mic kit. These mics are useful in many diverse applications, making this package a very appealing investment.
At a Glance
Drum Mics — and More
The VO4099-DKIT2 not only offers a convenient, great sounding solution to drum miking, but also provides versatility on other instruments when not used in percussion applications.
DPA Microphones VO4099-DKIT2
- Stellar performance
- Versatile 4099’s can be used on many sources
- 2011C’s are a great affordable entry in the d:dicate modular system
- Various mounting accessories are included; more can be added later
- Not enough mics to cover an entire drum kit
- High quality comes with a high price
- Additional accessories (cables, Microdot connectors, etc.) are pricey
- Mic Principle: Condenser
- Polar Response: MMC2011, cardioid; VO4099-lo, supercardioid
- Frequency Response: 20 Hz to 20k Hz
- Street Price: $4,899
- Manufacturer: DPA Microphones
- More Info: www.dpamicrophones.com