Audio, Editor's Choice 2019, Reviews

DPA Microphones d:screet 6060, supersmall, super quality

DPA Microphones’ d:screet 6060 CORE subminiature microphones are 3 mm in size, but if you close your eyes when monitoring a recording with one of these you’d swear you’re using a studio microphone the likes of a Neumann. I tested one of these tiny mics and it offered an unbelievable clarity, with as much detail in the low tones as much bigger and more expensive mics.

A recent recording project at the Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles by Deutsche Grammophon, with conductor Esa-Pekka Salonen and the Los Angeles Philharmonic, used Schoeps and DPA microphones, so there’s not too much reason – actually, none – to doubt the quality of the Danish company’s products. But exactly how much better they are is always interesting to discover.

Owning the original sE Electronics sE2200A, a V7 dynamic mic from the same company and a Sennheiser MKH416, I thought it might be nice to see how DPA’s microphones stack up. And because the d:screet 6060 is their newest model, I was very curious to know how that one might perform. Although it’s tiny, its build is impressive with a stainless steel housing that’s been coated with PVD (Physical Vapour Deposition). The modular adapter system fits most professional wireless systems. The capsule has a cap that can be removed for cleaning. The supplied cap corresponds to the low-boost grid of the 5 mm versions.

The d:screet 6060 has CORE on board, a new technology that drives DPA’s miniature microphones. CORE was already used on 5mm mics, but it has been shrunk down to fit into the company’s subminiature mics, like the 3mm 6060. I don’t know if CORE is responsible, but the 6060 certainly has a very low noise floor (only 26 dB(A)) – DPA claims it’s lower than any other 3mm capsule on the market and I found that it’s better at capturing high sound pressure levels without distortion as well.

DPA’s d:screet 6060 is small enough to wear on your forehead with an audience not noticing it’s there, at least when there’s no camera taking a closeup. In opera and musical recordings, it’s totally feasible to hide the d:screet 6060 in the first hairline of the character. The only thing that’s awkward – for the performer – is the glue or tape with which it has to be fixed in place.

The 6060 comes with a flimsy-looking 1.6mm diameter cable, but flimsy this cable is not. First of all, it transmits the sound that comes out of the d:screet 6060 without any apparent impact of the RFI environment my work area is.

And DPA did the same as what Bubblebee did with their Sidekick In-Ear Monitors: they use Kevlar for reinforcement. I didn’t try to put my teeth into it, but I wasn’t particularly gentle with it and that wasn’t going to be a problem either.

On the plug end of the cable, there’s a very long strain relief built-in. At the microphone end, there’s a tiny one that is integrated into the mic housing. A disadvantage is that the Kevlar inside makes the cable want to straighten itself away from a tight wrapping.

The adapter I requested to go with the test unit was a MicroDot to Neutrik XLR plug. That was, not surprisingly, a high-end NC-MXX model with gold-plated pins – the same one as the one that’s fitted on Mogami and Vovox cables.

The d:screet 6060 is an omnidirectional microphone. That’s a microphone that is sensitive in all directions and angles. It means you won’t have to worry about sound colouration when recording off-axis as there simply isn’t an axis to worry about. An omnidirectional mic does not suffer from proximity effect and is not as sensitive to wind, pop or handling noise, either.

The listening experience

And indeed, even in an environment with a lot of background noise, the voice of the person wearing the 6060 was still quite intelligible. The only time the quality of the sound was muffled and not at all very pleasing was when I stuck the 6060 on a shirt using tape. That, however, is entirely normal and can be fixed very easily with an EQ correction in post (take a look at this video here: https://youtu.be/t7z83h45GXU.

Besides, when used as a lavalier, a special rotatable clip is available. That 360° clip allows the mic to be mounted in eight positions, chosen in 45° incremental steps, so that muffled sound can be avoided in most circumstances.

When used on the forehead or as a replacement for a studio microphone, the captured sound was incredibly brilliant, not harsh, not muffled but clear and transparent, with detailed lows and undistorted highs even close at clipping volume (try whistling into a mic at 15cm from the capsule and listen to the results and you’ll know why I’m impressed).

One thing that I listened to very carefully is how the 6060 captured my sibilants because in some news studios there seems to be a trend to place a lavalier in a location that makes de-essing in post no longer necessary. The downside, however, is that most sibilants go missing entirely with the intelligibility often going down the drain – what the mic can’t capture, can’t be recovered later.

Even in the muffled position, the DPA still recorded some sibilance – enough to keep the intelligibility intact.

Conclusion

DPA’s subminiatures like the d:screet 6060 are IP58 certified, which means they can be used when it’s damp outside. Their cover and housing come with a water-repellent nano-coating, in addition to a hermetic sealing of the amplifier at the core of the mic and dual gold plating of the diaphragm.

The 6060 is an incredible mic in every aspect – size, quality of build, sound capturing capabilities and sound quality. Its basic price is €430 ex VAT and ex converter plug or extra options. That may seem on the expensive side, but given that you can use this high-end microphone as a studio mic, a lavalier and a stage mic, it’s actually not all that much.