Product Review: DPA SMK4061’s…Small Mice, BIG Sound
If it’s at all possible to fall In love with a mic (I hope my wife doesn’t take this personally) – I have to say that I love these mics.
For those of you who have never heard of DPA Microphones, they are not new to the world of microphones. With over 25 years of experience, they specialize in hi-SPL condenser mics that are ideal for close micing situations.
In their words, their philosophy is “to provide microphones without coloration.” They also claim that their microphones can be used on virtually any instrument because of their “naturalness.” Although I wasn’t able to fully test this claim, I was impressed with the instruments I did use the mic with. When I checked out their list of users I found an impressive roster that included Jay Leno, the Imperial Theatre in Tokyo, the British Company Theatre, the Sydney Opera House, Disney and the San Diego Symphony.
As a worship leader of a church, I am constantly looking for new ways to improve the quality of the sound reproduction for instruments. I’m not one who reads tech sheets. I have to experience it for myself. I don’t really care how many people are using the product. I have to convince my ears.
When dealing with varying levels of expertise, availability and consistency of sound personnel the quality of the microphones we use become vital. I may not have an engineer that knows how to fix the sound of a lesser quality mic using the elaborate EQ of each channel. The more accurate the sound reproduction from the mic, the easier it is for them to do their job.
Particularly challenging are micing live acoustic instruments, like acoustic pianos, and getting enough volume without feedback in a full band environment. I must admit that I was initially skeptical that the mics would either pick up too much and be unusable or that they would distort or clip due to high sound pressure levels. I was surprised to find that we were able to achieve both great sound quality and volume from DPA’s SMK4061 stereo mic kit with no clipping or distorting.
The SMK4061 stereo mic kit has been designed for live and recording applications, specifically for acoustic piano. Along with the two hand-selected 4061 mics come a variety of accessories for mounting, including both magnetic and adhesive mounts and a pair of boundary-layer mounts that allow for a range of nearly invisible mounting options. Lid up or closed, these mics capture the instrument with musical accuracy and detail.
For those of you who are tech heads, the 4061 are omnidirectional miniature condenser mics. When I say miniature I mean miniature, like the size of a pencil eraser. The mics have a frequency response of 20Hz to 20kHz with a 3 db soft boost from 8-20 kHz and wide dynamic range of 97dB. But what makes these mics ideal for live situations is the fact that the max SPL before peaking or clipping is 144 dB and the total harmonic distortion is less than 1% up to 123 dB SPL. In layman’s terms that means great sound reproduction in close micing situations with no clipping or distorting. Amazing!!!
In our particular situation, the piano we were placing the mics in was a formerly white Yamaha C-7 that was previously owned by Natalie Cole. I say formerly white because we changed the color from white to black. Needless to say, the sound of the piano alone is incredible. We placed one mic near the upper octave sound hole about a quarter of the way up the sound board from the keyboard. The other mic was placed on the opposite side of the sound board to pick up the lower two octaves, all according to DPA’s recommendations.
We experimented with lifting the lid and closing the lid. We found that when we had a choir near the piano it was best to close the lid. Otherwise, we left the piano opened on the smallest prop.
I was initially taken back by how small the mics were. However, the SMK4061’s were able to duplicate the pianos natural rich tone better than any mics we’ve tried to date. The close distance to the frame allowed us to capture a full thick bodied mid-range sound. I also noticed that the piano had a nice sharp attack or pop sound with the placement we used.
I can’t explain how emotionally satisfying it was to hear the Yamaha C-7 sound so great. We were also surprised at how much volume we got out of the mics without having to push the gain structure. This meant that we had plenty of headroom to push the mics without reaching feedback. We were extremely happy with our results.
DPA recommends that the 4061’s can be used on any string instrument such as guitar, violin, cello, bass, harp and viola. They also recommend the 4061’s for drum toms, snares, speaker cabinets and saxophones. We attempted to use the mics in other applications such as flute and nylon stringed guitar, but the mounting that was provided wasn’t practical for our particular live application. We did experience one minor problem with the mounting hardware. The mounts were great in terms of ease of placement, but we did detect a rattling noise that was from the vibration of the plastic clips against the mics. It was an easy fix and we were able to overcome it by changing the placement and reattaching the mic clips.
If you’re looking for a micing solution that gives you great sonic reproduction, strong output without distortion and clipping with minimal EQ’ing – the SMK4061’s are a solution I would highly recommend. Overall, we were so impressed by the SMK4061 that we had added them to our permanent collection of mics. If you’re looking for more information on these and other products from DPA, visit their website at www.dpamicrophones.com They also have some great resources on mic placement and usage.