News Broadcast
feature broadcast

DPA Microphones: Expand and educate

Jon Chapple 10 March 2015
Kate Bush, Before the Dawn tour, 2014, DPA Microphones

In December 2014, Denmark’s DPA Microphones received an influx of cash from global private equity firm Riverside Company. Riverside was also an investor in German loudspeaker company Teufel and American audio company Blue Microphones.

CEO Christian Poulsen stated at the time: “DPA is based on strong innovation and new product development, and enjoys a good reputation in the market. With Riverside as our partner, we are convinced that DPA will be able to reach its full potential.”

In an increasingly competitive marketplace, and one in which budgets sometimes prohibit the use of high-end technology, DPA is using the investment to adapt and improve its products – and messaging – and to do what DPA does best: experiment.

DPA, first founded in 1992, has reorganised the way it presents its product lines – and the marketing around them – to target different areas of customer use. Products are being divided into three main groups: the vocals and performance market (lead by DPA’s d:facto vocal mic); body-worn microphones; and a line of microphones for the installation market.

Christian Poulsen, DPA MicrophonesThe body-worn range is getting special attention, especially given its applications for broadcasting, which Poulsen (pictured right) believes is a major area of future growth for the company. “Whether a newscaster is using a lavalier in the studio or its a body mic worn by an actor on location, they fulfil similar needs and they’re all connected to wireless systems,” he says.

Last year, DPA developed a new d:screet necklace microphone, which began with a conversation with the team behind the Danish version of Big Brother. How do you get good sound from a cast of unpredictable, everyday amateurs – sometimes without clothes, sometimes with – isolated from technical assistance? The show’s engineer came up with the idea for a necklace microphone, which DPA subsequently put into production.

“It turned out to be much more than a Big Brother microphone. Even the new CEO of Microsoft doing his Steve Jobs-style keynote speech wore the microphone under his sweater and it sounded perfect.”

To promote the d:screet necklace, DPA came up with an ad campaign offering the mic for free to the best 100 ideas for using it (see DPA Microphones necklace mic competition: The winners!).

“There are so many ideas, you can’t imagine some of them,” laughs Poulsen. “One of them was to put it on a dog going hunting. It’s been the most successful campaign we’ve run ever, because it was so involving and inspiring for people.”
DPA has just released a new microphone from its d:fine line which features in-ear monitors.

The new headset microphone, launched at the end of February, is targeted at broadcast hosts and guests and is already shipping.

“We did it with one of the Danish television stations, because they wanted earpieces to get sound from the producer,” says Poulsen, “Not high-quality sound, but able to hear what the producer is saying. They had been using some other earphones with a transparent tube, so you look like an FBI agent. But with these new d:fine headsets (pictured below right) you can’t see that they’re wearing an earpiece, because all the cabling is going together with the microphone as well.”

DPA dfine in ear on model in tv studioAdapting to change
DPA Microphones d:fine headset micDPA has also found itself in the installation market, supplying microphones for translators for the EU Commission. Last year, the translators refused to go back to work unless they had new microphones and, after much trial and error, ended up going with DPA’s d:vote instrument mics.

“So now we have made a complete line of installations microphones,” says Poulsen, “It’s not an area that we originally wanted to go into, but it’s a super-profitable, nice market. But it is very different selling microphones there than in other markets.”

The company has always aimed to remain adaptable. One of the DPA’s strengths has been its readiness to work with artists and engineers to develop and optimise gear: the d:facto condenser mic, for instance, created from a collaboration with the engineers of The Voice of Denmark, who discovered that television vocals required a higher frequency base than live performance. Engineers had been adjusting EQ to compensate for it – DPA decided they could do it all in the microphone.

Last year, DPA was asked to do a custom microphone for Kate Bush’s tour, which incorporated the 4018 d:facto capsule into a headset. The process of creating a headset mic for the perfectionist Bush (main picture) was laborious – and expensive – but Poulsen believes it is this kind of ongoing experimentation that drives the company forward.
“I don’t even know if we’re going to put that headset microphone into production or not, but we always learn something. You want to do some projects because they’re fun and educational.”

Indeed, education for the audio industry has become an important in initiative for Poulsen: to that end, DPA has created a ‘Microphone University’ on its website. The company is in the process of expanding that content in an attempt to turn it into a premiere audio knowledge resource.

“We have found that beside direct searches on a certain product, our Microphone University has by far been the most sought after part of our website,” says Poulsen,

Professors from sound recording schools in the US and Europe and have incorporated their feedback and knowledge into the upgraded education site. The revamped Microphone University will also have video of DPA technical presentations and demos which, until now, have only been available only as in-person presentations by DPA staff. Poulsen hopes the new site will be available before spring.

DPA Microphones d:vote 4099 on double-bassWhere’s that sound coming from?
“We’re seeing a very interesting trend in recording right now,” continues Poulsen. “Even big symphony orchestras are moving toward putting microphones on each individual instrument. And it’s amazing when you listen to it: just adding 10 per cent of the sound from those close mics makes such a big difference to sound quality.”

This trend is of particular interest to DPA, whose d:vote microphones have been designed for close, high-quality instrument recording. As part of its ongoing education campaign, DPA will instruct users in the best use of the d:vote mic in relation to their particular instrument.

DPA Microphones d:vote 4099 on Dobro guitar“We’re trying to take each instrument at a time and find out where exactly the sound comes out and how do you capture each individual aspect of the sound,” says Poulsen.

“If you use an omnidirectional microphone, it picks up the entire sound of the instrument. When you switch to a directional microphone, you need to know exactly where to put it.

“One of the places we are exceeding the competition is the off-axis response of our microphones. All of a sudden, the off-axis response means much more than you think when you discover that sound doesn’t come out of a violin or guitar from just one place. Sounds come from the strings, from the body, from the opening in the instrument.”

With the completion of DPA’s education site, we’ll all be able to predict where the sound will come out of any instrument. Predicting DPA’s next innovation might be more of a challenge.

www.dpamicrophones.com

(Neal Romanek)

author twitter FOLLOW Jon Chapple
Similar stories