DPA 5100 Mobile Surround Microphone Review

Jun 24, 2010 6:23 PM, By Joe Hannigan



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New from DPA Microphones is the 5100 Mobile Surround Microphone, a multicapsule, self-contained mic for surround recording. The 5100 has five 48-volt, phantom-powered microphone elements in a handsome (yet vaguely bicycle seat–shaped) array: L/C/R and Ls/Rs, along with a sixth output for the subwoofer channel that is derived by summing the left and right front microphone channels with a 10dB/octave roll-off. It’s truly plug-and-play, lightweight (17.6 ounces) and discrete; no other processing is required for basic surround recording and mixing.


Video Demo of DPA 5100

The five capsules are pre-polarized omni-directional condenser elements, and directionality is achieved using DPA’s proprietary DiPMic™ (Directional Pressure Microphone) technology. Mounted between the front L/C/R capsules are interference tubes and acoustic baffles to increase directionality. With a wide dynamic range and low sensitivity to wind noise, the 5100 is well suited for a variety of surround pickup environments, indoors and outdoors. Fans of the versatile (but somewhat noisier) DPA 406x miniature capsule series will be pleasantly surprised to find that the five individual capsules in the 5100 have a noise floor that is lower by 5 dB, which is a critical improvement that allows for more serious recordings.

The 5100 includes standard Euro-style 3/8-inch sockets on both its top and bottom, along with a U.S.-standard 5/8-inch threaded adapter for attaching the mic to camcorder brackets, mic stands or stereo mic bars, and suspension mounts of your own choice. However you mount it, there’s virtually no handling noise and the 5100 becomes a very quiet and stealthy-looking “ear in the sky.”

Using Windtex fabric technology, the unit’s smooth black casing feels like sleek tennis-shoe material: slightly padded in the right places, but not wobbly or flimsy. The 5100’s array is solidly built.

Rounding out the package, a detachable Mogami breakout cable (Lemo multipin to six individual male XLRs) adds flexibility and offers easier hanging options. The unit comes standard with a 16.4-foot cable, but DPA offers other lengths that would prove handy in very large spaces, such as when suspended from the ceiling. Other options include the Windjammer WJ5100, which easily fits on the 5100 and gives you an additional 15 dB of attenuation in seriously noisy environments at 100 Hz.

For fast, easy 5.1 capture, you can mount the 5100 directly on a camcorder or nearby stand. I couldn’t resist setting it up in my driveway for doing drive-bys with my car, letting the dogs run around the mic while chasing each other and squirrels, and listening to a morning symphony of bird calls, cicadas and bees—all of which the mic reproduced in lovely surround sound. Videographers and sound designers will love the 5100’s ease of use for capturing live dialog, room tone and outdoor events in dead-on accurate surround without having to fuss with mic position or mess with tangled cables. Grab your favorite multichannel audio recorder, and you’re set.

Moving on to more serious pursuits, the 5100 really turned heads (and ears) in more demanding environs, specifically two concert halls at the Kimmel Center in Philadelphia, where I often record. Thanks to an adroit IATSE crew headed by lead sound tech Dave Connor, we first flew the 5100 in the more intimate 650-seat Perelman Theater for a handful of multitracked shows, including live jazz with singer Claudia Acuña and her trio; classical music with the final appearance of Ignat Solzhenitsyn as music director of the Chamber Orchestra of Philadelphia; and finally a double-bill of avant-garde music with Brooklyn Rider and special guest 2 Foot Yard.

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