Technology

Field Test: DPA 4006-TL Microphone

CLASSIC OMNI REISSUED SANS TRANSFORMER 10/01/2005 8:00 AM Eastern

I'm a biased, happy camper with my original 21-year-old pair of B&K 4006s, still in constant use here (and still available, by the way). They've saved the day on more than a few occasions. Still, it was quite a thrill to get a new matched pair of 4006-TL microphones from DPA for review with sequential serial numbers.

The 4006-TL is a small-diaphragm (16mm) phantom-powered, front-address omnidirectional mic, with a stated frequency response of 15 to 20k Hz (TL version). With its black stealth-like body and silver capsule, the 4006-TL ships in a padded black plastic carrying case with a standard DPA mic clip, a foam windscreen and three different diffusers for various applications.

THE REAL SKINNY
Seven different frequency responses and directional characteristics can be created acoustically — without any electronic phase shift, noise or distortion — by changing the grids or mounting an element over the capsule. The stock silver diffuser grid that comes mounted on the mic (DD0251) is recommended for standard spaced omni stereo recordings of large ensembles. For more intimate and upclose recordings, use the silver trapezoid (DD0254) diffuser; when creating distant/diffuse field recordings, try the black grid (DD0297).

Additionally, optional nose cones (UA0777) are available for completely flat omnidirectional work. Rounding out the accessories are three sizes of ball-shaped acoustic pressure equalizers (in kit form as the APE-L6). Used for both spatial and spectral equalization, these passive acoustic processors use diffractions on the ball's surface to modify the sound field around the microphone's diaphragm.

Another notable feature is the -20dB pad, a tiny push on/off switch discretely hidden inside the male XLR connector at the end.

REAL-WORLD USE
In my initial testing recording solo acoustic guitar (a vintage Gibson LC 1933) using the pair as spaced omnis with the near-field trapezoid diffusers, the 4006-TLs provided imaging and detail that was almost three-dimensional in character. Transients, plectrum sounds and harmonics were clearer than I've heard before, and the stereo soundstage was rock-solid, letting me drop the vocal track right in the middle. In mixing, the final guitar tracks did not need EQ.

A movie soundtrack shoot using the 4006-TLs for room tone and overhead pickup of harpsichord and solo violin proved just as wonderful as the guitar session — it was almost too easy! As much as I prefer cardioids for tight, close-in recordings, omnis can still work in this application. Mainly, there's no proximity effect for intimate sounds, enabling close-miking of vocals and acoustic instruments without the low-end bump. In addition, the 4006-TLs seem to have an extra-fine degree of detail, especially on the harpsichord — no doubt due to the lack of an output transformer and improved electronics.

For large choral and orchestral work, the distant/diffuser grids yielded a sought-after sound, giving me a smooth blend of an adult choir and orchestra in a moderately reverberant church. With the 4006-TLs as my main spaced omni pair and an ORTF cardioid pair on the choir, I had to do very little touchup/soloist miking. The overall blend was smooth, silky and powerful, retaining all of the ensemble's clarity and detail: deep bass from the men, unfailing tracking of the soaring sopranos and more of that almost three-dimensional instrumental pickup.

The 4006-TL's low end seems clearer and tighter than on the original's. The mics were deadly on an African percussion ensemble, effortlessly handling an 18-inch tribal drum — which no one thought would be recordable — with depth and clarity. (I wish I had more time to test some pipe organs!)

UPGRADE THE OLD OR EMBRACE THE NEW
With the clever inline pad switch, front-end diffuser options and transformerless preamp design upgrade, the 4006-TLs are smart, welcome improvements to the same essential microphone design that folks have trusted and used for more than 20 years. Just as the original 4006s raised the bar for serious recording back in the early 1980s, the 4006-TL takes it up more than a notch, making it a worthy upgrade from the original or as a new purchase.

At press time, DPA is offering a transformerless upgrade for original 4006 users. For $499 USD, existing owners can have their beloved 4006s updated to the TL version.

While losing none of the original's best features, DPA made subtle changes for the better, giving anyone who's ever needed a microphone like this even more reason to consider the upgrade — or a pair of new 4006-TLs. I'll bet you get another 20 years out of them.

Price: $1,799 each; matched pairs add $180 per pair. The mic also comes in a stereo kit (model 3506) with all accessories, a stereo bar and a hard-sided locking Samsonite briefcase. All are phase-matched and come with an individually serialized calibration chart, showing frequency response, noise and sensitivity specs.

DPA Microphones, 303/823-8878, www.dpamicrophones.com.


Joe Hannigan runs Weston Sound & Video in Philadelphia.