How to Choose the Perfect DPA Headset Microphone
For years, live sound and broadcast professionals at Sweetwater have trusted the quality and performance of DPA headset microphones. When selecting the right headset for any given need, the choices quickly become more complex than simply choosing a color. Other details such as polar pattern, capsule, and armature should inform your buying choices. To streamline this process, we offer this DPA Headset Buying Guide to assist you in finding the perfect DPA microphone for your production rig.
First off, DPA headset microphones broadly fall into six categories with additional considerations such as color, dual-ear support, and in-ear monitoring as optional extras. These categories are laid out in the chart below, and we’ll look at the distinctions between each model and optional extras in the paragraphs below.
Classic, 44, or d:fine Series?
Three platforms that deliver stellar mic stability
Anyone who’s worked in large-scale live theater in the past decade has almost certainly come across DPA’s classic 4088 and 4066 headset microphones. That’s because these mics are the de facto standard for Broadway musical production. The 4088 and 4066 have sterling reputations for exceptional sound and heavy-duty armature. While perhaps not as low profile or as comfortable as the d:fine series, the 4088 and 4066 are capable of withstanding grueling onstage action and rapid costume changes.
Another option, DPA’s d:fine series combines superior comfort, sound quality, and support. This modular platform lets you customize your microphone with options like single- or dual-ear use, adjustable boom lengths, and a choice between the newer flat capsule or the classic cylindrical capsule (more on that to follow). Sweetwater Sales Engineers have found the d:fine series to be extremely popular with presenters, broadcasters, and anyone concerned with keeping their headset out of sight.
Debuting between the classic and d:fine series is DPA’s new 44 series. Essentially an alternate take on the classic series with many similar features, 44s are one-size-fits-all headsets with two adjustable points (boom length and up/down) plus a PVD coating that lowers light reflection in front of a camera. Unlike classic 40 headsets, 44-series parts like the detachable boom can be easily serviced and replaced by users; this means 44s are a great pick for high-volume operations that expect their microphones to see frequent or daily use.
DPA Headset Series at a Glance:
- Classic headsets feature thick armature for extreme mic stability
- 44 series expands classic design with more adjustment points, self-maintenance options, and a glare-reducing coating
- Low-profile d:fine headsets are more comfortable and less visible
- Each series is available in omni or directional polar patterns
Omni or Directional?
Picking the perfect polar pattern for your application
DPA headset microphones come in two different polar patterns: omni (omnidirectional) or directional (cardioid). Your intended use of the headset has a lot to do with which pattern you choose. Omnidirectional microphones have an extremely open sound and expressive low end, which render your voice in a far more natural and flattering way than a typical cardioid microphone. Omnidirectional microphones also pick up some ambience, and, in some cases, a single omni mic can even capture two voices in an interview-style setting, which is why they’re popular for broadcasts and recording.
At the same time, the broad polar pattern of omni microphones can get you in trouble onstage. This omni style tends to pick up the sound of mains and can contribute to feedback. For live sound, you’re probably going to be better off with a directional/cardioid microphone that gets aimed directly at the talent’s mouth. A directional headset isn’t quite as open as an omnidirectional headset, but it does provide better isolation for live sound reinforcement, so it’s an obvious choice for theater and presentation.
Polar Patterns at a Glance:
- Omni is ideal for broadcast and recording applications
- Omni sounds truer to your natural speaking voice
- Omni capsules are more forgiving about mic placement
- Directional capsules are perfect for sound reinforcement
- The popular directional cardioid pattern blocks ambient noise and decreases the risk of feedback
Flat or Classic Capsule?
Two great approaches to getting amazing sound
When it’s time to choose a capsule style, it’s important to note that both the newer flat microphone heads and the traditional cylindrical capsules are excellent for a wide range of applications, and both work fine for broadcast, theater, presentation, and music. Their similarities vastly outweigh their differences, but there are a few differences worth noting.
DPA introduced their cylindrical capsule design with the classic 4088 and 4066 models. These capsules are generally considered the superior choice for musical performance largely due to their 13kHz presence peak, which allows voices to cut through the dense live or pre-recorded instrumentation. Some presenters also find the presence peak adds intelligibility to speech. A removable grid protects against moisture and makeup, and the omni version (the 66 capsule) also includes a Soft Boost and a High Boost acoustic grid so you can further tailor your microphone’s frequency response. A cylindrical capsule is also available for the d:fine series. These are essentially classic round capsules mounted on a d:fine boom. The d:fine 66 and d:fine 88 are two examples of this style.
The flat-head microphone, first introduced with the d:fine series, has found favor with broadcast services and public speakers largely because its extremely low profile practically disappears next to the wearer’s skin. Unlike the cylindrical capsule’s shaped frequency response, the flat capsule is extremely neutral. The flat capsule isn’t as popular for musical applications, but its flatter response is an excellent fit for presentations, broadcasts, and most on-camera use.
d:fine Capsule Types at a Glance:
- Choose from classic 66/88 or modern flat microphone capsules
- Classic capsules include a 13kHz bump to cut through dense music
- Low-profile flat heads are great for speech and on-camera use
- The 66 capsule features Soft Boost and High Boost grids for a more tailored sound
- Removable grids protect both capsule types from moisture and makeup
Get the Options You Need with d:fine
One of the d:fine series’ biggest assets is the customizable features. For most applications, a single-ear model offers a low profile while remaining firmly in place, but, for more active productions, you may want to choose a dual-ear model. For those in broadcasting, DPA also offers d:fine broadcast headsets that include ultra-discreet in-ear monitors built into the earpieces. There are single-ear, dual-ear/dual-earpiece, and dual-ear/single-earpiece versions of the broadcast d:fine, so they’re easy to tailor to your preferences and needs.
d:fine Configuration Options at a Glance:
- Choose from single-ear or dual-ear options for added stability
- Broadcast models feature one or two integrated in-ear monitors
- Microdot adapters available for every popular connector type
- Color options include black, brown, and beige for most setups
- Omni, directional, 66, and 88 capsules are available in any configuration
The d:screet Option –d:screet Lavalier Microphones
When a headset mic simply isn’t the best call, you’ll want to use a conventional lavalier. If premium sound quality is still your top priority, then you’ll want to check out DPA’s d:screet series. Available in omni and directional configurations, d:screet lavalier microphones are easy to mount to lapels, buttonholes, and other articles of clothing.
The Microdot Advantage
A final reason to choose DPA as your headset brand of choice is the Microdot system. What makes Microdot unique? It’s a future-proof wireless system. In the event you change wireless systems, you can simply purchase a new wireless adapter for your DPA headset instead of spending hundreds of dollars on an entirely new headset. DPA’s Microdot adapters are built collaboratively with top wireless brands including Sennheiser, Sony, Shure, Audio-Technica, and Line 6 so you can trust you’re getting well-made parts with reliable performance. Newer d:fine headsets, the classic models, and the 44 series all use standard Microdot terminators, which helps audio pros know DPA headsets are a sound investment built with your needs in mind.
What to Look for in a DPA Headset Microphone
- Polar Pattern — Directional is great for live sound, but, if you’re recording or broadcasting, omnidirectional may be better
- Stability and Comfort — Single-ear models have a lower profile and greater comfort whereas dual-ear models stay more firmly in place
- Application — Flat capsules are excellent for speech, but classic cylindrical capsules are better for music
- Visibility — Both capsule styles are discreet, but flat capsules are slightly smaller and harder to see
- Monitoring — If you plan to use in-ear monitors, then you may want to consider a d:fine broadcast model
DPA Has the Right Mic for You
There are countless DPA headset microphone configurations available. If you can think it up or tell us what it needs to do, then chances are that your Sweetwater Sales Engineer can order the perfect headset microphone for you. So don’t hesitate to give us a call at (800) 222-4700.
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