The DPA 4097 is a new supercardioid microphone, designed for easy operation and is recommended for choirs.
The main question: Did it live up to the hype?
Physical Design, Look
When we first took the DPA 4097 CORE Supercardioid Choir Mic out of its packaging, we were impressed. The stand design does a better job managing the appearance of the microphone, than many of its competitors, with comparable designs. The base is sturdy, and the stand is small, and the mic itself measures just under two inches.
“Natural” is a great word to describe it.
As a result, it was easy to ignore the equipment and focus on the choir, which is exactly where we want people to focus.
The mic stand also has a great system for concealing the cable run from the boom to the floor, allowing the user to snug the run directly against the stand to prevent an unsightly cable mess.
Unlike competitors, the cable run for the DPA 4097 is not falling multiple feet to the floor and disrupting the visual.
We also used the accessory wireless adapter, to run the cable directly into an available wireless beltpack that we had, eliminating the cable run across the floor. This seems like it has a lot of practical potential, especially for Christmas productions that would see a choir need to come on and off stage, as this would be easy for a stagehand to quickly place and strike the mic.
Getting a Sound
DPA suggests this mic was built to be quickly deployed to get a great sound quickly, and we found that to be exactly true.
In our environment at Crossroads Community Church, the choir sings along with our praise band.
Our choir mics at Crossroads need to contend with loud stage ambiance - bleed from the drums, the guitars and their amps or wedges, and the lead vocals in the choir monitors.
With many mics, it can be hard to get the choir to a level that offers clarity, without suffering feedback and without coloring the rest of the sound, with an ambient wash. This DPA mic was up for the challenge.
We set up one 4097 in the center of our two-row, eight-person choir, being careful to respect the angles as indicated on the pickup pattern diagram so everyone would be in range. We also placed the monitors and choir director in the null range to minimize their bleed. The drums do use a shield across three-quarters of the front, but in our normal choir mic setup, they add a considerable amount of noise.
When we turned up the choir mics, before touching our audio mixing console effects sections, we found that we already had great gain before feedback. The choir was easily brought into the mix, without needing to make rigorous EQ cuts and altering the sound to manage problems.
Mixing the Choir with DPA Mic
Without having to manage the inefficiencies of the mic design, we had great creative control to shape the sound, how we wanted. Before we did, we listened to the sound to hear how the wash was impacting.
“Natural” is a great word to describe it.
We found that the choir, who were in the ideal pick up spot, were indeed loud and accurately captured. So too was the ambiance. Similar mics from my experience, often add a muddy, low-energy tone to the ambiance. As a result, when mixing a choir prominently, they can change the character of those other sounds.
A clear vocal from the lead singer, for example, can become edgeless when another choir mic is mixed with it. The ambiance captured here with the DPA 4097 felt compatible with the sounds for the drums, guitar and lead signers on their own mics. The drums did not lose their punch, thanks to both the great pickup pattern and the sonic quality of the capsule. The bass guitar sound was also clear and accurate, even though we preferred to roll off this sound for our mix. This felt like the closest I’ve had to having a close mic on the choir.
After our initial listen, we made a few adjustments to our EQ, and experimented with placement to make sure that we were getting the best sounds. It was a fun process, since we could focus on the musical qualities, without spending time having to cover for issues.
In final review, the marketing material that I read is right on. This was easy to use and natural sounding, in the best way. We had a great time mixing our choir with our band, and when we had them sing a special without the band, every member shined through clearly. This would be a great addition to any choir’s tool chest.