As a company that prides itself on delivering great quality sound, Portsmouth-based MLS Audio has no hesitation in specifying the best equipment on the market to achieve its desired results.
It is therefore no surprise that, when faced with a tricky sound reinforcement project, the company turned to DPA Microphones for help.
Sound engineer and MLS Audio founder Guy Morris says: "The car manufacturer Bentley was holding a private corporate event at the Royal Exhange in London and we were approached by event organiser, Beyond Certainty, to handle the audio. The original brief was for ‘a few singers and a band’. This became ‘a few singers placed around the room on podiums with a band at one end’ to the final translation of ‘six opera and West End show artists and a 10-piece orchestra'."
Given the architecture of the Royal Exchange this wasn't as easy as it might seem. The roof alone is 50m high, while the interior has 95% reflective surfaces thanks to ample use of glass, marble, stone and tiles.
"The artists had already specified that their preference was to use headset microphones and immediately chose single ear versions of DPA's d:fine™ Headset Microphones
," Morris says. "The orchestra, however, was another issue because we had 10 instruments to amplify in a space that was acoustically very challenging. We also had very limited set up time because the Royal Exchange is open to the public until 6pm and Bentley's event was due to start at 7pm."
A lot of discussion took place, during which various microphone placement options were considered. Despite the temptation to deal with the time constraints by going for a simple spot mic set up, it was obvious that the acoustics of the venue - and the fact that the artists were on IEMs - demanded a different solution.
"The artists required total clarity from different parts of the orchestra for their performances and spot mics in that acoustic environment just weren't going to deliver that," Morris says. "We spoke to James Lawford at LMC Audio Systems, our preferred equipment supplier, and he suggested DPA d:vote™ 4099 Instrument Microphones
MLS Audio bought DPA's recently introduced d:vote™ Classic 10 Touring Kit
, which incorporates 10 d:vote™ microphones, adapters and cables, as well as a selection of 25 clips for a variety of instruments.
"The selection of instrument mounts was marvellous," Morris says. "There were even two magnetic mounts for placing inside a piano with the lid open or shut. This was very useful as our orchestra was using a Baby Grand piano (shut), three violins, a viola, a cello, an upright bass, a flute and an Oboe."
Musicians are notoriously precious about their valuable instruments and are understandably wary of using clips in case they cause damage. However the DPA mounts were so intuitive that Guy Morris had no trouble persuading this orchestra to use them.
"The mounts are made of a non-abrasive rubber material that every musician was happy to use," he says. "In fact, I got the feeling they had used d:vote™ 4099 Instrument Microphones before because they were all able to place and fit the mount themselves with hardly any guidance from the sound crew."
Morris adds that the benefits of using DPA microphones was obvious from the outset.
"With every mic offering the same consistent neutral sound, it was a simple tweak of EQ to suit each instrument. The gain was ample with a quiet noise floor, and the placing of the mic (although critical for some instruments as they are of a directional, supercardioid pattern) offered excellent results."
Morris used the included XLR connection, via DPA's microdot connector, which allows for various interfaces and wireless systems.
"This was really useful as each violinist needed to easily unplug between their performances and take their instruments away to ensure they were correctly tuned for the next set," Morris says. "Getting a good balance of so many instruments close miked in a very limited time for both the orchestra on the FOH and for the singers hearing it in their IEMs would normally take far more time than we had available. The d:vote™ 4099 Instrument Microphones
played a big part in getting us ready in time before the doors opened and the guests came in."
Apart from sound quality and versatility, Morris says the other advantage of using DPA d:vote™ mics was that the orchestra looked very tidy on stage. No mic stands were visible and the singers were able to hear their key instruments, while guests were treated to some excellent renditions of West End show classics.
"The DPA d:vote™ microphones were a true problem solver for our challenging scenario and the all important factor was a satisfied end client," Guy Morris adds.