DPA 4099G Microphone
A DPA 4099G mounted on a Guild F- 50.
This month, we’ll take a look a cool little microphone I think PG readers should know about: the
4099G from DPA—a company that’s well known
in the recording and live community for its high-end mics. Part of the 4099 line of musical instrument mini-supercardiod condenser mics, which
includes the 4099S (sax, brass and clarinet),
4099T (brass) and 4099V (violin and mandolin),
the 4099G is designed for guitar, dobro, and the
like. I’ve used it on many sessions recently, and
it’s become a staple of my acoustic recording rig.
Let’s get the price out of the way up front. With
most other DPAs going for thousands, this one
can be found for a $599 street price.
The 4099 series’ mic sensitivities and mounting
clips vary, depending on which model you use.
Interestingly, this is designed as a live application mic, but I’ve found it’s very useful in the
studio. Most live acoustic users would use this
in conjunction with a pickup system. The 4099G
system is mounted on a clip attached to a flexible gooseneck that snaps to the body of the
guitar. The connector is a proprietary MicroDot,
which then connects to an XLR adapter/belt clip.
We all know that even the best internal pickups have sonic shortcomings, and I’ve found
that blending with a 4099G (preferably placed
around where the fretboard meets the soundhole) offers a more natural sound. Of course,
there are issues with open mics and monitors
or PA systems, but DPA designed this mic for a
large amount of gain before feedback. The flexible gooseneck lets you push the mic in close,
where you get more direct guitar volume.
Testing… One, Two
Wisely, DPA also offers an optional DAO4099G
double cable, which includes a 4099 connection
with a 1/4" pickup jack connector in one dual-cable run within a nylon sock. You can also use
their DMM0007 universal surface mount to run
the cable along your guitar. Of course, these
will cost you more money, but they are worth it
if you want to keep your lines clean. When running into a wireless system, DPA recommends
using a low-cut filter at 80Hz in the transmitter
to avoid handling noise. The mic itself has an
80Hz low-cut filter and, frequency-wise, it runs
up to 15kHz. The max SPL before clipping is
142dB, so it can take some serious volume. My
only gripe is that it’s got a little bit of self-noise,
especially when your preamp is cranked up. But
I’ll take the tradeoff for what it delivers sonically.
I use it in combination with other mics in the
studio. I’ve gotten some killer acoustic sounds
using the 4099G with a pair of Earthworks
QTC-1s a few feet out and a few feet apart. It
also sounds great using a Royer R121 ribbon
on the body. The DPA offers a strong, clean
center image, and the slight 2dB boost at
10-12kHz adds great sparkle on pick and finger
presence. I used it on nylon. All instruments
sounded better with the DPA in the mix than
without it, which is a strong selling point to
me. Like any other mic, the amount you blend
it in will determine how strong the character is.
But I find that the 10-12kHz boost helps acoustic parts find their place in a dense mix.
The small footprint means it doesn’t get in
the way of my other mics, and it also moves
if the player moves. When recording myself, I
tend to sit in an odd position. I sit my acoustics up high on my knee and pointing up in
the air a bit, so the DPA stays right with me
on the center image at all times. It’s a minor
but important touch that I appreciate.
I found the best results were achieved as
DPA recommends, sitting it just where the
fretboard meets the soundhole. But also I
like the fact that I can sit with headphones on
and move it around, play a bit and listen, and
keep moving it until it hits the spot. In the
studio, I can add a bit of extra gain with the
preamp (which will bring up that self noise),
but pushing it closer to the guitar also gets
more direct response.
It’s curious to me that I’ve found so many
uses in the studio for a mic designed for live
use. I’ve spoken with a few other respected
engineers who use it in the studio as well,
so I’m certainly not alone there. Overall, the
4099G is simply another sonic tool, albeit a
small-profile, high-quality one. Personally, I’ve
always been frustrated with most live acoustic
guitar sounds. I’m looking forward to taking it
out live soon, but until then, it’s got a permanent home in my studio.
Rich is a Grammy-nominated engineer and mixer who has
worked with artists ranging from Al DiMeola to David
Bowie. A life-long guitarist, he’s also the author of Pro Tools
Surround Sound Mixing and composes for the likes of Fox
NFL, Discovery Channel, Nickelodeon and HBO.