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DPA 4466 and 4488 Headworn Microphones

John McJunkin • October 2021Road Tests • October 11, 2021

The new headsets are offered in omnidirectional (4466, shown) and 4488 directional versions

DPA’s history reaches back to 1992, when Ole Brøsted Sørensen and Morten Støve departed Danish measurement microphone manufacturer Brüel & Kjaer to form their own new company. Sørensen and Støve brought the renowned pedigree of these highly accurate measurement microphones into the modern age with the development of the 4006 omnidirectional recording mic. Since then, DPA has merged with Danish hearing aid manufacturer Muphone, and the advances made in the miniaturization of hearing aid technology have enabled the creation of increasingly smaller, high-quality microphones.

DPA has offered a line of headset microphones for quite some time, and in early 2021, introduced the new models 4466 and the 4488, which are omnidirectional and directional, respectively. These mics incorporate DPA’s CORE technology and feature improvements in the physical headset mechanism. Both of them also include improved versions of DPA’s 5mm capsule, an omnidirectional unit in the case of the 4466, and a directional capsule in the case of the 4488. I spent time with both of these microphones and found myself impressed.

Certain previously seen attributes are still present in these microphones, including DPA’s MicroDot connection system, and the clever, elegant (and Red Dot design award-winning) headset design. In addition to introducing the CORE technology, the mics also now feature physical vapor deposition (PVD) coatings.

The omni 4466 (left) and directional 4488 capsules are only 5mm in diameter, but offer high performance

Specs

DPA launched its CORE technology in late 2017, partially as a means of improving performance of the microphone element itself to keep pace with advancements in wireless systems resulting from a shift to digital technology and overall increased quality. In general, the technology was intended to expand the dynamic range over which the microphone can exhibit very low distortion. As DPA explains it, the technology “improves how the impedance converter (preamplifer) interprets the miniscule membrane movement within the capsule and electrically converts it into an electrical signal.” They claim an increase in range of 6-14 dB SPL in which distortion is limited to less than 1% THD. The obvious perk here is that higher SPLs can be captured with less distortion than previously. And that improvement is also heard in the lower SPLs that earlier DPA headset microphones could handle. This equates to higher quality transduction across the entire SPL range.

These new mics also offer increased physical durability of the capsule, making them sturdier and more resistant to the elements. The ingress protection (IP) code established by IEC standard 60529 establishes the degree of protection provided by electrical enclosures to intrusion, dust, accidental contact and water. The first digit of the code number refers to solid particle protection, and the second digit to liquid ingress protection. The 4466 and 4488 microphones have both earned an IP58 rating. The solid particle rating of 5 indicates that the ingress of dust will not interfere with the function of the mic, and the liquid ingress rating of 8 means that the microphone can be submerged in one meter of water for up to three hours without permanent harmful effects. This translates into the real world by way of resisting blowing dust and various liquids, including rain, spray, and the perspiration of the person wearing the microphone. It’s a solid rating, and grants the user some peace of mind in terms of the durability of the mic. The mic’s non-reflective PVD coating makes it aesthetically unobtrusive and also increases the resilience of the physical mic itself. Both mics are currently available in black or beige, and DPA has announced that a brown version is coming soon as well.

DPA publishes a frequency range of 20 Hz to 20k Hz for both mics, along with sensitivity of 6mV/Pa (ref. 1V/Pa), ±3 dB @1k Hz. The reported equivalent noise level for both is 26 dB (A-weighted, ref. 20μPa), and distortion of less than 1% THD for SPLs of 134 dB RMS and 137 dB peak. Dynamic range is stated as 111 dB, with a max SPL of 144 dB (to maintain less than 10% THD). The mics’ required power supply is 5V minimum, 10V maximum, as regulated by DPA’s adapter, and current consumption is typically 1.5mA. The mics will function over a temperature range of -40°F to +113°F and in relative humidity of up to 90%.

Headsets are offered in beige, brown and black variants

The Test

I had the benefit of comparing both of the new DPA offerings directly with a legacy DPA 4166 that I’ve incorporated for spoken word for the past three years. I’ve always been very pleased with the signal provided to me by the 4166. I’ve never had to equalize much — mostly just notching frequencies that had a tendency to feed back, as the mic has always been used in relatively close proximity to the front of house speakers. The signal had been clear and intelligible, as has always been my experience with DPA mics. The question before me was whether the increase in quality touted by DPA in the newer CORE-equipped mics was sufficient to warrant the expenditure of acquiring them. MSRP — with MicroDot termination — is $770 (4466) and $840 (4488).

My comparison was not scientific, because I did not actually measure performance, but the comparison was very much apples-to-apples — literally plugging the newer mics into the bodypack transmitter that’s always been used by the speaker with the 4166 we’ve used all along, with literally the same identical processing (light compression and the same equalization curve). To my ear, the intelligibility was greater with the newer mics. The speaker is perhaps a small amount louder than average, rarely reaching a level that could be described as a shout. I had never heard much in the way of distortion from the 4166, but the CORE-equipped mics provided a signal that was noticeably more intelligible. Moreover, this intelligibility did not come from an increase in the frequency range in which sibilants and fricatives are generally found. The result? It simply sounded like better, faster transient handling, resulting in an overall reduction in distortion, just as DPA has asserted.

To determine the user-friendliness of the physical headset, I simply handed the unit to the speaker without an offer to help him configure it. To DPA’s credit, he had absolutely no trouble getting it adjusted perfectly. He did ask me about the proper placement of the mic capsule and if it should be different for the directional version versus the omnidirectional. I provided some guidance in that vein, and he was easily able to get the mic element where it needed to be. It should be stated that this speaker is not versed or trained in technology at all. He reported that the headset was very comfortable and that he would be able to wear it for extended periods.

DPA have found themselves on the short list of mic manufacturers who consistently provide quality gear and push to advance the technology. The 4466 and 4488 microphones represent this mindset. The CORE technology truly does raise the bar, and is worthy of consideration, whether for a new application, or even for an increase in quality for an existing application. I definitely recommend taking these into consideration.

At a Glance

DPA 4466 and 4488

Comfortable, high-performance headset mics in omnidirectional and directional variants.

PROS: High quality audio; excellent, award-winning design; durable, reliable build quality.

CONS: Not budget-conscious; confining to MicroDot connector

 

STATS

  • Polar Pattern: 4466 (omnidirectional); 4488 (directional)
  • Capsules: 5mm condenser capsules with CORE by DPA technology
  • Available Terminations: MicroDot, TA4F Mini-XLR, 3-pin LEMO or Mini-Jack
  • Colors: Beige, brown, black
  • Max SPL: 144 dB
  • MSRP: 4466, $770; 4488, $840
  • Pricing: $770 to $840, with Microdot termination
  • Manufacturer: DPA Microphones
  • More Info: www.dpamicrophones.com
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