Audio, Pentacles

How to make a 300 EUR S-Mic 2 sound like a 1800 EUR microphone

DPA Microphones d:dicate 4018

What’s the difference between a €300 Deity S-Mic 2 and a €999 Sennheiser MKH 416? Not much in terms of sound characteristics and accuracy. The S-Mic 2 comes close enough to confuse sound engineers. But then again, there are much better microphones than the MKH 416.

The DPA Microphones d:dicate 4017 and 4018 (which is much, much smaller) are a lot better. That explains why they’re used by classical music sound engineers like the “Ton Meister” from Deutsche Grammofon to Decca and Sony Classics. And if you’re shooting a documentary or a feature film, you’ll also want to ensure you’ve got the best possible microphone for the job.

Many of the professionals in these environments use the d:dicate series microphones because of their accuracy and – what I heard so very clearly when I tested the 4017 and 4018 – their silky smooth sound quality. This characteristic is hard to describe but very discernible when you hear it – certainly when you compare recordings done with a MKH 416, an S-Mic 2 and the d:dicate 4017.

Because the price of the d:dicate 4017 is way out of my league, I thought it would be nice to try make the cheapest of the three, the S-Mic 2, closer to the 4017 in post-production, for example by adjusting the EQ.

Needless to say, this is bound to fail to some degree. However, the S-Mic 2 is a good microphone, so I did find a combination that makes it sound much closer to the d:dicate 4017 than it is now.

And the good news is that you can replicate my Logic Pro X settings in any other serious DAW to make the S-Mic 2 sound closer to the d:dicate 4017 bar the silky smooth quality that is unique to this mic. That smoothness is entirely due to the materials used by and the engineering DPA Microphones is capable of.

The equipment I used includes Rycote mounts for the microphones, VOVOX Sonorus Direct S cables and an Apogee Digital Element 24 audio interface.

Instructions to get closer to a d:dicate 4017 on a shoestring budget

For indoors recordings, you actually need to adjust the S-Mic 2’s response in three areas:

  • Equaliser settings
  • De-reverb
  • De-ess (this step is optional).

For outdoors recordings, you only need to adjust equaliser settings.

Any DAW worth its money will offer you at the very least an equaliser. A De-Esser will come with some of the best, while a reverb filter will usually require you to buy a plug-in.

For the De-Ess and De-reverb filters, I used iZotope RX 7 Advanced, but I believe the basic version of RX 7 includes those two as well. The De-reverb step can also be done with one of iZotope’s Exponential Audio Reverb plug-ins. For this tutorial, I kept myself to De-reverb because I think more people will use that one and also because I’m not at home yet with Exponential Audio’s many, many features.

DPA Microphones d:dicate 4017

The instructions sheet I created uses the latest version of Logic Pro X and its Channel EQ, which is a simple equaliser. Using the settings I applied will make your S-Mic 2 sound pretty close to the DPA Microphones d:dicate 4017.

However, the silky smooth quality that you hear when using a real 4017 and which is so nice to hear cannot be replicated by any post-production intervention.

Find the instruction sheet here:
Instruction sheet