DPA 5100 Mobile Surround Microphone Review

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



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For the jazz and avant-garde performances, the 5100 provided a solid and smooth “overlay” of surround/live ambience whenever needed in the mix. Acuña’s show, which had a front-of-house P.A. system in place, rendered most of the sound from the 5100’s front mic moot, but its two rear-surround mics handled ambience and applause superbly. On the other hand, I captured a dramatic, living, breathing 5.1-surround performance of classical music with the 5100, including violin soloist Soovin Kim performing with the Chamber Orchestra.

To hedge my bets, I still hung my standard DPA 4006 stereo spaced omni pair array, and compared the two systems later in stereo mixdown. The 5100 more than held its own when used as a two-point stereo pickup system. The results were a bit different, but not better or worse, and are entirely useful for serious listening and broadcast.

Somewhere in-between the two concerts, I captured a wonderful, wildly divergent set of material from new music pioneers Brooklyn Rider and 2 Foot Yard. My mixdown of that performance contains a blend of everything: 5.1 ambient sound from the hall and direct mics on the musicians. The flexibility available in a setup like this was priceless.

The real acid test came while using the 5100 as the main array for a live recording in the 3,200-seat Verizon Hall of the Academy of Vocal Arts’ 75th-anniversary concert, produced for radio broadcast and subsequent DVD. Due to the limited availability of ceiling drops and cable restrictions, the 5100 provided our only main pickup of the hall and orchestra. We used spot mics for vocalists and multiple tracks for some orchestral parts, but for the recording’s real core, we relied heavily on the 5100. Thanks to the optional 65-foot cable and a resourceful crew, we were able to fly the 5100—literally in plain sight of everyone—directly over the conductor’s head at a height of about 20 feet. Its “stealth” look rendered it mostly invisible to almost everyone present.

The mic provided a superb downmix for the stereo radio broadcast and rock-solid 5.1 imaging for the DVD soundtrack. During the mix, I slightly delayed the rear two channels to spread out the applause and ambience beds. The unaltered mix was fine as-is, but adding a little depth seemed to enhance the sound further. Although my tests never got close to the 5100’s maximum stated handling level of 132dB SPL, I have no doubt that the mic effortlessly handled transients and the occasionally seriously loud passages. As expected with DPA, the 5100 offers one smooth, silky-sounding array that can handle anything you put in front of it.

At $3,699, the 5100 is a welcome addition to the field of “point-and-shoot” surround recording options. As long as you have enough available tracks and are prepared to go the extra distance in deploying the unit from a ceiling or tall stand, the 5100 works wonderfully well in a variety of applications. Whether indoors or out, rain or shine, songbirds or opera stars—you can capture it all with the 5100.

Joe Hannigan’s company, Weston Sound, is in its 21st year of production.

Click on the Product Summary box to view the DPA 5100 product page.

Click on the Product Summary box to view the DPA 5100 product page.

Placement of the DPA 5100 microphone at the 3,200-seat Verizon Hall at the Kimmel Center in Philadelphia

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