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22 May 2011

DPA's new 2006C Reference Standard mic: first impressions

RIGHT NOW I’M contemplating baked beans. Not even Heinz beans or HP beans, but large tins of the cheapest catering-grade baked beans where the sauce is thin and sour.

The reason is I’ve just shelled out for a pair of DPA 2006C omnidirectional mics. They’re part of DPA’s new Reference Standard series of interchangeable preamps and capsules.

The DPA 2006Cs are phantom-powered yet quite small at the same time. This makes them candidates for a part in a new headworn recording setup that I’ve been thinking of for a while. The specifications might help explain why they were chosen.

Self-noise is rated at 16dB(A). This is lower than any other mic you could conceivably stick on each of your head and escape having stones thrown at you in public, with the exception of some using remote capsules, of which more later. Sensitivity is high at 40mV/Pa. The frequency response looks mirror-smooth apart from a 3dB boost at 14kHz:

DPA 2006C frequency response graph

The DPA 2006C can cope with temperatures ranging from -40 °C to 45 °C and a relative humidity level of up to 90%, making it suitable for all-year-round outdoor use in Britain. The mic is just over two inches or 58mm long, and 19mm wide. Yet it feels quite hefty and solid at 60g/two ounces.

DPA 2006C mic

The capsule can be removed and replaced by any other from the Reference Standard range. These include cardioid, wide-cardioid, shotgun and the more expensive MMC4006 omni capsules. The mic is so nicely machined that it’s oddly satisfying just screwing and unscrewing the capsule from the preamp, until you remember you’re supposed to record sounds with it.

DPA 2006C mic capsule and preamp

Each mic comes with a foam windshield and one of DPA’s own mic clips. These are absurdly expensive when bought individually but the clip does make it easy to hold each mic against the side of your head, so that the capsule is somewhere around your temple.

Here’s what it sounded like on Merton High Street yesterday. The river Wandle flows through a culvert in front of a supermarket, and you can hear it trickling past:

To my ears the sound is rather more detailed than what I’d expect from the headworn Shure WL-183s that I use. Traffic rumble is strong without being harsh and high-pitched noises are well-defined too. Here is a slightly quieter environment, recorded from a footbridge spanning the river Wandle in Earlsfield:

Neither of those situations show off the DPA 2006C’s low self-noise, but perhaps they give some idea of the mic’s overall character when used in fairly typical outdoor urban settings. Thomann’s are now selling the DPA 2006C at below the recommended retail price.

There are alternatives for headworn enthusiasts seeking high quality mics with sub-20dB(A) self-noise. Models made by Neumann and Sennheiser allow their capsules to be mounted remotely by connecting the capsule to the mic preamp with a length of cable. But they’re expensive, and the cable for the Neumann KM100 series doesn’t seem easy to track down.

Fortunately, Rode provide a more affordable option with their NT6 cardioid mic, with which you can swap the cardioids for Rode’s NT45-O omnidirectional capsules, although you’ll need to buy the latter separately. With those it’d work out at around £635 a pair.

More later on mounting and powering the DPA 2006Cs so they make a high-quality, discreet and versatile headworn stereo recording setup.