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3. Re: DPA 5100 Surround Mic

Subject: 3. Re: DPA 5100 Surround Mic
From: "Kingsley Reeve" kingsleyreeve
Date: Sat Sep 17, 2011 11:52 pm ((PDT))
Hi Greg,

Firstly let me thank you for your very helpful and thoughtful reply. I
appreciate it.

I agree with so much of what you have said. To be a little more clear
of my intentions with the 5100, as I mentioned in my first post I am a
sound designer/recordist having worked for many years in the theatre
where I create atmos/ambience tracks to assist the dramaturgy and
exposition of the piece.
There are many occasions where I have to call upon commercially
released ambience libraries when my own recordings fall short or for
something I do not have.
The conspicuous absence in the market for readily available, high
quality ambiences from all parts of Australia (readily intended for
this purpose and not necessarily for private 'leisure' listening)
inspired me to take up the challenge and head into the world to make
available a library that is entirely indigenous to this country and
captures it in 5.1, thus ambitiously placing it alongside the already
available US and UK libraries that are in native 24/96, 5.1 format.
To do this I needed a 5.1 mic solution that was high quality
(broadcast 'HD' standard), portable (almost 'stealthy' with it's
obvious size constraints), road-worthy and quick to set up at a
moment's notice and above all, conveyed the environment in stunning
360 degrees. It also needed to be able to handle high SPL for urban
environments and be 'quiet' enough for parks, mountains, lakes etc.
So in a nutshell, I had a big list of requirements for one surround
mic. I researched for a considerable amount of time into the current
contenders in this category and as you have mentioned, the Holophone
H2/H3 was on the list, the Core Sound TetraMic, the Soundfield SPS200
and I even considered going into double MS rigs in a zeppelin.
The DPA (on paper and review) seemed to hit the mark. I am aware of
the small diaphragm constraints and I completely agree with you, the
5100 gives an image worthy of the asking price alone. It is truly
exceptional and the separation between channels is remarkable.
Localisation is also stunning with very accurate steering across the
rear channels in particular.
I have conducted several recordings here in Sydney at Centennial Park
and the number of birds that would perform fly-overs for me was
captured to perfection.
I certainly can't complain about it's ability to pick up sound in 360
degrees. What I will complain about is the self-noise that is evident
for anything but louder environments where masking occurs. I would
have thought that a city park with a healthy degree of bird activity,
planes, city/urban drone and voices would be sufficient enough to put
it through it's paces. and hear it in non-perfect environs.  I have
also tried this mic in quieter, rural environments where the natural
ambiences were subtle and quietly complicated. Whilst the 5100 could
locate the sounds perfectly, it required far too much gain to be
useable. Let alone the fact that for recordings to be of any use to
someone in post, they would need a much hotter average level to sit in
the mix. The end user shouldn't have to EQ the tracks to get rid of
microphone noise, especially not in this commercial context. So to be
honest, yes, I am fussy and unforgiving of high levels of self-noise
as transparency is the key to these recordings sitting in a film or
theatrical framework.
I take the onus of responsibility upon myself as I could have assumed
from the specs that the rated self-noise rating was a bit high to be
truly considered worthy of nature recording. I guess the fact that I
was wanting it to be a decent all-rounder was part of my
disappointment. I appreciate your analogy of the 'happy snap' camera
in the mic's complexity but in all honesty I was just hoping for a
better performance (for my specific needs). I hope this has cleared up
the reason behind my complaints.

Thanks for your notes on phantom powering too. This is a good point
and yes, I am familiar with DPA mics in particular being fussy about
their powering. I will look further into this and interrogate the 788
further. My other experiments have included running the 5100 through
six channels of an analogue console (admittedly a live use Midas but
the preamps were decent). Sadly the characteristic hiss was still
clearly evident. Added to this a channel by channel test on a MOTU and
RME card. Both revealed the same results.

Once I have this particular unit tested against a new one at the
distributor's this week, it should reveal if mine is faulty in some
way by contrast.

Thanks again for your time and your considerable expertise in this
field, I appreciate your assistance,


On 18/09/2011, at 8:26 AM, simmosonics wrote:

> Hi Kingsley,
> I've used the 5100 on a number of recording expeditions through
> Nepal and India, in conjunction with an HHB Portadrive. I mostly use
> it for music, but it also gets used to capture ambience in jungles,
> villages, cities and so on from time to time.
> I have no serious complaints, I think it works wonderfully well
> *within its limitations* - the main one of those being a high self
> noise. Those tiny 5.4mm diaphragms are a necessity for achieving the
> off-axis responses required for capturing a convincingly natural
> sound from 360=B0, but small diaphragms go hand-in-hand with higher
> self noise =96 that's an unavoidable law of microphone physics,
> unfortunately. I'm happy to trade excellent imaging with higher self-
> noise - within reason, of course!
> Prior to the 5100 I used the Holophone H2Pro, which also used the
> DPA 4060 capsules and had similar self-noise.
> The 5100 and Holophone are really just convenient point-and-shoot
> solutions for 5.1, rather like a handheld 'happy snap' camera. To
> make quieter recordings you need to go to larger diaphragm mics, and
> then you've got new problems to contend with regarding weight,
> convenience of set-up, and achieving the off-axis response required
> for a decent sense of imaging and immersion. It's an unfortunate
> trade-off...
> Having said that, your noise complaints suggest that either a)
> you're much fussier about noise than I am, b) your recordings are in
> much quieter locations than I use, or c) there is something else
> wrong. Just to make sure you have eliminated all possibilities, I
> suggest checking that the 788 is actually producing +48V on its
> phantom power outputs. I am assuming it does, but some portable
> recorders' DC-DC inverters don't make it to +48V by design, and some
> mics (including DPAs) don't like it when the voltage is lower -
> resulting in noisier outputs with less headroom. DPA even make a
> simple LED based tester, built into a male XLR shell, to test if the
> phantom power voltage output is high enough for their mics. I would
> assume Sound Devices got this right, but it might be worth checking
> what the 788's phantom power voltage is when fully loaded (i.e. with
> all six outputs of the 5100 plugged into it).
> - Greg Simmons

Kingsley Reeve
0410 412 554

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