Defining Better Vocals By: Dan Walsh

July 9, 2013 by Dan Walsh

Headset mics seem like overkill to many mobile DJs. When presented with this option, the questions arise: “Do I really need the sound quality?” “Why should I pay that much for a mic?” “My wireless hand-held is what I’m used to—why should I change what works?” “They sound great, but those headset mics are a pain to deal with—they fall off and they seem like they’d break after just a few of my high-energy gigs.” And so on.

FIRST, WHY A HEADSET?mb150_092

Let me try to briefly address these concerns. As for sound quality, while it may not seem like there’s a big difference between the sound of a good handheld and a headset, if you take a closer listen, you’ll notice that the sound you get from a good headset is inher- ently smoother for one simple reason: The mic is always the same distance from your mouth, so there’s no fluctuation in level when you’re moving around. Plus, the combination of a high-quality element and static placement allows you—no, requires you—to use your “inside voice” rather than shout like a kid on a playground, even when you are doing your most energetic intros.

As for price, well, the old saw is true: You get what you pay for. Lately, even in the realm of mini-element headsets, I’ve noticed a growing number of bargain-priced models (and have tried a few), and the fact remains that even if it looks the part, if it’s not made to the highest standards, it will not perform to the level that a profes- sional needs in sound or in functionality/durability.

Yes, the mic-in-hand approach is a very comfortable and reliable DJ standard. Yet, when you remove the mic from your hand, I think you’ll quickly get used to the freedom of movement the headset affords. Imagine not having to keep holding a mic near your mouth while teaching the crowd the latest line dance.

And finally, when you choose the right headset, the concerns over secure ear placement and potential gear fragility fade away. This brings us to the actual subject of this article, DPA’s d:fine dual-ear headset microphone. For mobile entertainers with questions like the above, this model should eliminate any hesita- tion one might have in moving into the headset realm.

DEFINING INFORMATION

The d:fine is available in both omnidirectional or directional (cardioid pattern) models. I was sent the omni version, which has a more natural sound and avoids the “proximity effect” (boomy sound when the mic is close to the source) that is inherent in directional mics. Unless you typically perform with A LOT of back- ground noise (not just loud music), you wouldn’t want the direc- tional version for mobile DJ work.

The omnidirectional d:fine provides a frequency range of 20Hz to 20kHz, with a 3dB “soft boost” in the 8-15 kHz range to

increase vocal clarity. The unit’s dynamic range is listed at 97 dB, while its maximum sound pressure level (SPL) before clipping is 144 dB. The headset is equipped with a MicroDot connector, and a variety of other connector options are available as adapters from DPA (Mini-XLR, Mini-Jack, 3-pin Lemo, TA4F) enabling use with transmitters from all major microphone manufacturers; my review unit was provided with a Mini-XLR adapter, which I plugged into an older Shure PG system.

Relative to mobile DJ use, it was interesting to note that the temperature range for operation is -40 °F to 113 °F, and it is rated up to a relative humidity of 90%. So, no matter how hot and sweaty your performance may get, the d:fine is ready to handle it!

To fit your body and performance style perfectly, three boom lengths are available for the omnidirectional model (4.3″, 3.5″, 1.6″). Other convenient features and accessories include: a service connector that splits the cable from the microphone boom and allows for easy cable replacement; three included windscreens; a pre-mounted moisture/makeup filter; and a clip to secure the cable to clothing. The d:fine is available in black, beige, brown, and lime green. (That last one is for the aliens among us, I’m guessing.) Lest the term “boom” above sounds somehow massive, rest assured that the total weight of the d:fine on your head would be less than an ounce.

Another well-thought-out convenience included with the d:fine is its case. It’s a solid, yet lightweight zippered case, with ample room for adapters, wind screens and batteries. It sports a lime green stripe around the zipper, which looks cool, but is also practical for handling in dark situations.

DOUBLE = NO TROUBLE

While the d:fine is available in a single-ear version, I was sent the dual-ear model. Having used only single-ear headsets in the past, I was interested in how different the dual-ear approach would work for me. It turns out that I now think this is the best way for a mobile entertainer to go. The d:fine’s rubber earhooks (with the boom mounted under one ear) have just the right amount of flex and friction to stay snug to the ears, and the neck brace tying the two ears together gives the dual-ear d:fine a feeling of total security. While no one was looking, I ran around, jumped and gyrated as violently as possible without injuring myself, and found that the headset stayed perfectly in place. No matter how good the fit of a single-ear headset, I find I always worry about it falling off. This dual-ear version completely eliminated that worry. Besides using it myself, I also used the d:fine to mic my pastor and a few other speakers in my other life as a church sound tech. Everyone who wore it said it felt completely secure, even to the point of forget- ting it was there.

I should mention that one key to making any headset mic feel secure is to employ the clothing clip. It may seem obvious,

but I’ve seen many people with their cable dangling, just waiting to get snagged on something. And it may seem like a tiny detail, but unlike other headsets I’ve used, the clip supplied with the d:fine was shaped and sized just right for my large, clumsy fingers, making it easy to mic myself up securely.

I HEAR YOU LOUD AND CLEAR

Of course, all the great ergonomics and clever external features would mean nothing if the actual sound of the mic sucked. As I mentioned above, the market

is swelling with a tide of cheapo headsets that look the part but don’t perform up to snuff. Admittedly, DPA mics don’t feature the lowest prices around; but they have a reputation for being worth every penny. The fact that DPA headsets are a primary choice for Broadway sound techs should be one huge indicator of their quality.

Reputation aside, my personal tests of the d:fine proved to me that the DPA sound is superior. I used the headset in a number of different situations, with music playing behind me, while moving around, and with all other sound down so all that was heard was the voice coming through the mic. In every case, the d:fine’s sound was crisp,

clear and without distortion or any detect- able inherent noise.

The high quality of the d:fine’s sound leads me back to what I said at the outset: a headset mic, and this one in particular, makes it possible, even essential to use your normal speaking voice rather than employ the shouting style I see so many interactive DJs use. If you want to a) annoy the audience less, b) sound as professional as possible, and c) save your vocal cords and extend your career as a vocal artist, then the d:fine dual-ear headset mic from DPA would be a perfect addition to your current wireless mic setup.

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Dan Walsh Dan Walsh (88 Posts)


Filed Under: Issue #150, Sound