DPA 4003 Omnidirectional Microphone
A Pro’s Point of View
Jim Merod
9 March 2001

DPA 4003Specifications

igh-voltage (130V) condenser microphone
Extremely accurate linear frequency response
Frequency range: on-axis: 10Hz – 20kHz +/- 2 dB
Operation: pressure
Max. SPL: 154 dB peak
Acoustic modification accessories: near-field grid
[DD0251] + diffuse-field grid [DD-297]

DPA Microphones
Gydevang 44
DK-3450 Allerød, Denmark
Tel: +45 48 14 28 28
Fax: +45 48 14 27 00
email: info@dpamicrophones.com
Web: http://www.dpamicrophones.com/

The DPA line of high-performance microphones, formerly known as Breul & Kjaer, emerged into prominence among studio professionals and audiophile recordists as a direct result of superior performance under every imaginable kind of recording circumstances. It is not extreme to say that DPA/B&K microphones are legendary among recording engineers devoted to the cleanest possible musical signal pick up – to immaculate recorded sound. Since a good number of audiophiles have turned into amateur recordists, the search for a single pair of microphones to begin that activity, a distinguished if also potentially expensive choice, takes on considerable importance for the budget and of course success. With the gracious help of Marc Bertrand at TGI North America, distributor for the DPA line of microphones, I spent months discovering how extraordinary a matched pair of DPA 4003 microphones truly is. Suffice it to say that these are like no one other microphones I’ve ever used. The distinguishing marks that set the 4003s apart are (a) accuracy of sound retrieval and (b) ability to perform at a high and flawless level under difficult (and sometimes impossible or improbable) conditions.

My initial impression of these microphones was formed many years ago when a close friend, with a near-professional dedication to superior recordings, bought a used pair of 4003s. There is nothing to enchant the eye about these slender, medium-capsule dynamos. They resemble miniature, low-profile rocket ships. The look is understated and elegant, no fancy swivels or pivots. Like a reserved Oxford don, seeming dour and without charisma, the 4003s charm you with results.

That first impression was powerful. I used a single pair of 4003s to record a large jazz orchestra. One is, of course, recording the room and its ambience. There is always a joke at work in such recording work. You intend to record instruments, musicians, and music. That is your obvious goal. Nothing could be more self-evident. You are, in fact, recording sound as it is reflected through space. In sum, you are recording a room or a hall: sound-in-space, with all the glories and pitfalls such sonic complexity offers. No problem. The 4003s delivered spectacular results on that first occasion. They continue to do so now.

A matched pair of world class microphones call to mind a long history. I think of Wilma Cozart Fine’s three track Mercury recordings in the ‘50s. Of Jack Towers, in Fargo, North Dakota in 1941, recording the Ellington band with a then state of the art (now primitive) two-mic setup. In other words, the uses of two microphones well-placed in an ambient field are endless. The chances of capturing mediocre sound are also pretty good. The odds of setting it all up in such a way as to capture spectacular sound vary with the inverse disproportionate ratio of an oxymoronic invariant that, diced with garlic, leads you back to the place you began. My point is blunt enough: choose the best microphones you can and take your chances. Learn the space you are recording in and learn the polar characteristics of your microphones. In this work, experimentation is to be encouraged.

I submit that DPA’s 4003 microphones are as good as you can get. These microphones have solved problems I’m not sure other microphones could have handled. Case in point: I was recording a piano during a live performance. The 4003s found themselves indignantly descending from their appropriate, carefully selected placement…down, slowly, inexorably, toward the waiting piano strings beneath their watchful listening.

The problem was a faulty fastener that allowed the swivel to loosen, whereupon the mic stand’s arm slowly dropped, inch by painful inch, the microphones finally nestling among the piano’s strings. No one would ever choose such mic placement. No one who cares about recording quality could possibly enjoy observing the descent, yet there was nothing to be done. The pianist was digging in and the audience was digging in with him. One sat and watched and assumed the worst.

It did not happen. The capacity of the 4003s, with their exquisite nose cone acoustic modification in place, tricked the ear and tricked the recording itself. There is literally no way to tell, on hearing the several moments of apparent sonic disaster, that the mics were moving from where they should have remained to a much too intimate spot within the piano strings. Nothing recorded after the descent appears in any way different than what was recorded before it. Amazing as that seems, what we know about the proximity-effect rejection ability of omni-directional microphones notwithstanding, this stellar result in fact occurred.

In other words, the 4003s solved a bizarre and unanticipated problem by virtue of their design characteristics. I am sure we can look at the polar pattern frequency graphs that DPA has drawn and infer the reasons. But the non-technical facts speak loudly, perfectly, eloquently. These microphones not only capture musical beauty, they solve difficulties in the field. One is tempted to call them miniature dragon slayers. I have never heard a more accurate microphone that is likewise musical, invariably able to make gorgeous sound every time they are used in any configuration and placement.

As a matched pair, these microphones are state-of-the-art instruments: clean, open, detailed, nuanced, with a sense of sound staging and physical depth that is spooky. Used as piano mics, they sing like no other I’ve heard. If you prefer tube warmth, you can marry their extreme accuracy to a tube mic-pre and have the best of both worlds. As drum overheads, they are perfect.

I have attempted to describe what these microphones reveal in a variety of uses and configurations. The 4003 are sonic instruments never at odds with themselves, their environment, their objects of capture, or their user. The sonic modification grids that come with these mics make them even more flexible and bullet-proof. DPA lists the 4003s under the rubric "standard microphones" to distinguish them, I suspect, from large diaphragm microphones. There is nothing "standard" about the 4003s. They would be, in any other microphone line, the flagship model. For me, they represent everything that any recording engineer could want in an omni-mic – everything that the search for a great recording seeks.























































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