DPA 4011 , 2011 & 4099 Condenser Instrument
By Audrey Leyenhorst
Danish mic-makers DPA Microphones certainly have a reputation that precedes them – not many manufacturers can say they ’ ve literally got their product on Mars , but the Curiosity rover is indeed equipped with DPA mics . Unfortunately , however , I am not an authority on Martian location recording , so instead I ’ m testing some of their pieces used for more Earthly purposes .
So , for this review , I have a trio from DPA ’ s instrument mic lineup – the 4011 cardioid condenser , the 2011 twin diaphragm condenser , and the 4099 supercardioid clip-on instrument condenser . Right off the bat , I was kind of blown away by the fact that in the case of the 4011 and 2011 , they actually come with different , interchangeable options for the mic ’ s built-in preamp – the primary two options are the MMP-A Standard , which the company describes as an “ ultratransparent , transformerless preamp with active drive for impedance balancing ( pictured with the 4011 capsule ); and the MMP-C Compact preamp , which is a shortened version of the MMP-A that by contrast is not transformerless ( pictured on the 2011 ).
However , there are also the MMP-ER ( rear cable ) and MMP-ES ( side cable ) preamps as well , which are extremely compact with their own XLR cable run as well , clearly designed for situations where discreet placement is paramount , or perhaps something like a choral hang . For the majority of my usage with these while I had them , I used the combinations that are pictured above ; but that ’ s just a quick shared feature I wanted to point out before looking at these more closely .
4011 The 4011 is definitely the DPA instrument mic I ’ ve seen and heard of the most in the wild , and is one that pulls out all the stops . With a full frequency range of 20Hz-20kHz , a vast dynamic range of around 121dB , and a 159dB SPL peak , the level of detail this mic affords is stunning and wholly lifelike , and it can handle a lot of sonic punishment .
In the drum sessions I brought these mics to , I ended up using a pair of these as my overheads to great satisfaction . Especially because it was a hard rock band being recorded , I wanted to see how these could handle the crispiness of wailed-on cymbals and a loud-as-hell kit , and yeah – absolutely no problem . The balanced tone and smoothness of the top end was almost shocking , and the level of detail in the stereo field between the pair was also exciting .
And while these certainly are a splendid choice for capturing extremely-detailed “ in the room ” vibes , it ’ s also a killer joint for close-miking most instruments , especially if you want that extra bit of high-range sparkle . On pianos they ’ re an absolute winner . That said , I ’ d stick to acoustic instruments with the 4011 ; I didn ’ t love how it responded to being in front of a guitar cab , for example , because of its extremely sensitive , detailed , and colourless nature . In this usage , it literally just sounds like a mic in front of a speaker rather than serving to hone or focus the guitar tone . It just doesn ’ t feel like the right move to me – but you might love it .
The 4011 is what I ’ d call a “ Taster ’ s Choice ” mic – it ’ ll provide you with excellent-sounding , usable recordings no matter what you put it on , but whether or not the sound is “ right ” is subjective . It demands discerning engineering , and perhaps even more discerning performances , because it hears all and tells no lies .
2011 The 2011 is largely similar to the 4011 , but uniquely features a twin-diaphragm capsule and an interference tube . In that same drum session , these were actually used to a bit of a further extreme – hi-hat and ride cymbal close mics – and wow . Close-mic ’ d cymbals never sounded so open and dynamic . Sure , its dynamic range of 117dB is fractionally less than its sibling , but it ’ s irrelevant .
In another session I actually slapped this on snare bottom , and I ’ m kind of inclined not to go back ; the 2011 is a high-SPL close-miking machine ( 146dB SPL peak ) and complements the 4011 perfectly in a multi-mic setup . Because this one ’ s not quite as colourless or as detailed as the 4011 , especially when used with the Compact preamp , I find that it ’ s also a bit better-suited to those loud , distorted sources like a guitar or bass amp .
When it comes down to it , it ’ s pretty clear that the 4011 and 2011 aren ’ t meant to suit the same purpose , which is great because they each do certain things decidedly better than the other – and are an unstoppable force of delightful tone when used together .
4099 There ’ s not much to say about the 4099 supercardioid clip-on condenser that isn ’ t personified by the shock the house engineer found himself in with the amount of low end coming from our toms . The smack and the detail was there in abundance , but miraculously for a mic smaller than a fingernail , the low end was also huge and round .
I feel like this is a mic that you could just spend all day clipping onto things and seeing how you can maximize the potential of the tone ; it ’ s bright , beefy , balanced , and is really easy to set up .
Obviously great on toms and drums in general , but in a pinch or a live situation you could probably use a 4099 on most instruments from acoustic guitars to horns to strings and get away with it .
Audrey Leyenhorst is a freelance producer , recording & mix engineer , and the former Assistant Editor of Professional Sound .
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