Free the Voice

by David “Squeege” Weigant

The DPA d:screet 4071 omnidirectional microphoneDPA’s d:screet 4071 is another great addition to their microphone toolkit

This time around, DPA Microphones sent me their d:screet 4071 omnidirectional miniature microphone to run through its paces. The 4071 is an update to DPA’s 4061 model, a workhorse praised for its sound quality that gets a lot of use on higher-end theatrical productions. The 4071 has a couple of updates designed specifically to boost sound quality for speech and singing vocals even further. They’ve included an acoustical low-cut into the capsule to help eliminate frequencies below 100Hz. They also included a boost in the vocal presence frequency range to compensate for the loss of those frequencies that occurs when mics are placed on the body. 

I used the mics at the spring musical at Las Vegas Academy of the Arts (a performing arts magnet school in Las Vegas), a production of the musical Aida. I got two beige mics for the show, but they are also available in black and white for different needs. The demo units came with MicroDot connectors and adaptors from DPA’s line of accessories to fit the locking 1/8-inch jacks on our transmitters. 

First impressions showed that the 4071s seem to have the same basic construction as the 4061 and 4060 microphones, sharing their durability. DPA has also upgraded the strain relief on the microphone as well as added reinforcement around where the capsule connects to the cable. We didn’t test this strain relief as I believe in “better safe than sorry” and added the traditional strain relief by looping back the cable over the strain relief on the connector and securing it with a Hellerman Sleeve. 

Cast members of Las Vegas Academy’s production of Aida, wearing DPA d:screet 4071 omnidirectional microphones in a custom headset. A noticeable change to the mic is that the mic cap screen is not removable. The screens were firmly attached on our demo units. This is a very different configuration than with the removable high-boost cap on the 4061. That cap can give you a 10 dB boost at 10k, but affecting the frequency at 4-6k is a little more finicky. In order to achieve their 5 dB boost from 4-6k, an exact placement of the cap is necessary. And to keep this exact placement, DPA secures the mic cap in place. As many of us have schedules for cleaning mic caps on long-running shows, this might become an issue with make-up clogs and sweat out situations. So extra care in any cleaning is a must. For Aida, the crew did have to carefully clean some makeup off the screen of the cap, but it was not a big deal for us. 

For this performance testing, we put the 4071s on custom-built headsets. The goal for this rock-style production was to get extra gain out of mounting them in this way. Two of the lead actors were carefully selected so that we could allow the difference between the stock microphones and these demo units to stand out just a little without distracting. This also allowed us to do some direct comparison easily during our initial EQ sessions and in the runs of the show. All of the vocal microphones utilized the custom headsets.

Right out of the box, there was a dramatic difference in what we had to do in EQ’ing to get the sound that was wanted out of the mics. No doubt this was partly due to the fact that the high school’s house mics were not the same quality as the DPAs (budget constraints do not normally allow for mics of DPA quality to be used in their shows). But even the DPA mics only required very slight adjustments. I suppose I had become used to this, so it was fun to see just how surprised the students were when they saw how little work the DPA mics needed to get them sounding great compared to the stock mics they were used to using on shows.

The 4071s provided good vocal properties, too. The vocal presence boost in the mics allowed a nice crispness to come out without adding the hard sibilance that can too easily come along for the ride in an EQ section. And of course the 4071 has the clean sound properties I am accustomed to getting from DPA Microphones. The excellent clarity straight from the element is what anyone would expect from DPA. 

Overall, the 4071 performed very well during our demo. We found a small problem with the mics picking up wind noise as actors ran offstage saying lines that required some re-blocking to solve. This was never an issue with the stock microphones and points to the much higher sensitivity and frequency response from the DPA mics. We experimented and decided that it was our custom headsets for the 4071s that were causing this issue, and not an issue with the mic or other pieces of the signal chain. We didn’t think this would be an issue if the mics were mounted directly against the skin. 

I can easily say that this mic is a great extension of the toolkit that DPA provides the sound world. If you already look to DPA for your wireless microphone elements, I am sure that you will find that this mic is a great choice for a lot of voices and applications. And if, like this school, you haven’t listened to these mics—well, go do that. You may be as surprised as they were at how big a difference they make.