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1. DPA 5100 Surround Mic

Subject: 1. DPA 5100 Surround Mic
From: "kingsleyreeve" kingsleyreeve
Date: Fri Sep 16, 2011 7:22 pm ((PDT))
hi guys, i'm new to the forum but happy to be here.

i'm a sound designer and field recordist here in sydney, australia.
i have recorded over the years mostly with XY stereo to mixed results, but =
due to the nature of the majority of my work in the theatre and film, recor=
dings were relocated to the background or used for scenic underscoring.
i have always harboured a desire to capture field sound in surround but the=
 majority of solutions for the field were either too complicated or not 'ru=
n and gun' enough for my needs. i have a love for recording 'ambience' or '=
atmos' in either nature or the urban/city environment. again, due to the di=
verse nature of my work, i am always called upon to tell scenic stories wit=
h ambience. so when the DPA 5100 came onto my radar, i was more than excite=
d to say the least. it ticked all the boxes on paper; a small(ish) unit, li=
ght, six discrete outs, omni capsules, seemingly agreeable noise specs and =
responses, no extra processing required and it was made by DPA who i have a=
lways respected for their mics as i use them frequently in theatre. so i to=
ok the plunge and bought the 5100 to go with my new Sound Devices 788T.

when i hooked it up to the pre-amps on the 788, at first i assumed what i w=
as hearing was pre-amp hiss. unusual, i thought as i have used Sound Device=
s recorders for years and they have always impressed me with their mic pres=
. the more i tried this new 5100 out in different situations, the more i wa=
s sure that something was not altogether happy in my new recorder. so i ret=
urned it to the distributor here and then was sent back to the US for testi=
ng. during this testing period, i was loaned a 788 for the interim. i had p=
lanned a recording road trip around regional NSW and so i took this loan ma=
chine and my 5100. the first day, hooked it all up as normal, and there was=
 the problem again. i couldn't believe what i was hearing. the self-noise o=
f what i now assumed to be the mic was gob-smacking. i can only monitor two=
 pairs at a time on the 788, so i have the front left and right, the centre=
 and LFE, and the surround left and right on headphone/monitor presets.
as i was only monitoring the front left and right, i was taken aback by the=
 noise; a top end (between 10.5 and 12/13K) hiss that was immediately prese=
nt, even in 'masked' situations by louder backgrounds. my predilection for =
'ambience' means that i am recording everything from wind through reeds to =
a distant dog bark in an urban backyard to a galloping train or a fireworks=
 display. naturally, i started to feel somewhat crestfallen, now realising =
what i was hearing was in fact, inherent mic self-noise.

recording at 24/96 across six channels and then played back in Nuendo, it c=
onfirmed my fears. the self-noise was present in abundance. the recordings,=
 dare i say it, are almost unusable without a steep 24db/octave roll off at=
 round 12K, thus taking out all the wonderful location characteristics and =
basically dulling the top end. i tried again and again in different locatio=
ns, noisy parks with bats in trees during a mass squawking session, kids in=
 a football game, traffic, cyclists, afternoon parrots, you name it, they a=
ll were imprinted with this unavoidable hiss. worst of all is the mic sensi=
tivity, i have to give all 6 capsules a good 45-50db of gain in a modestly =
quiet park setting. the noise floor then is, in my opinion, unacceptable fo=
r field recording. i can't believe that this mic is marketed as being an HD=
 broadcast quality mic for ambience. admittedly, the movement and localisat=
ion across the surround field is stunning and hyper-realistic. i assume for=
 loud crowds or for concert use, this would be wonderful but for nature or =
otherwise, i would avoid strongly.
i even tried the mic through a console to the same outcomes. it has been a =
costly and disappointing exercise in surround recording. without moving to =
Soundfield or Holophone, i am going back to stereo again (humbly and with g=
reat affection...)

if anyone is thinking of purchasing this mic, please run a test for yoursel=
f. i am taking this one back to the local distributor for a bench-test agai=
nst another one to confirm my findings. i admit, i purchased this one on fa=
ith and my previous use of the DPA 4060 capsules. trying an 'exotic' mic in=
 Australia is not that easy (in my experience) so i made a choice based on =
research and good faith. i urge others who are interested in this mic to re=
ally consider what their requirements are before committing. if anyone woul=
d like me to post some recordings (even in stereo) for evaluation, please g=
et in touch.

thanks for giving me the space and time to pen this bloated testament. hope=
fully it will assist others in some small way.

with appreciation,

kingsley reeve

--- In  "myles.thompson" <> wro=
> Thanks Dan. I'll stick to M/S and dabble with ORTF when I get the chance.
> --- In  Dan Dugan <dan@> wrote:
> >
> > > The DPA 5100 surround sound system just caught my attention.
> > >
> > > Any thoughts on using surround sound for wildlife? Are the mic specs =
suited to wildlife?
> >
> > Like the Holophone surround rigs, their mics are too noisy for quiet so=
undscapes, 18-23 dBA. Good, but not great.
> >
> > -Dan
> >

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