The new dpa d:fine™ headsets are high-quality, well-designed audio devices - an investment that should deliver many years of audio performance.
By Gary Parks, Church Productions.
The name DPA is synonymous with very high-quality miniature microphones, widely used in touring sound and other critical applications. The latest versions of the company’s d:fine™ Headset Microphone
were introduced in early 2014, featuring the 4066 omnidirectional
and 4088 directional models
. These microphones sound great, as is to be expected, and feature the lightest, least obtrusive dual-ear headset design that I’ve seen so far.
Since the frame design is the most unconventional aspect of these headsets, let’s explore it first. The wire that goes behind the head and attaches to the earpieces and mic boom consists of two lengths of tough stainless spring steel, a bit larger in diameter than a guitar B string—very thin. Pull the headset out straight, and the wire springs back into place. Two firmly wrapped coils of this wire form the points where the headset can be adjusted to fit a smaller or larger head; they seem to have enough friction to stay in place, and look like they’ll stay tight for long-term use.
The frame’s total adjustable travel is approximately five inches, and the assembly that holds the mic cable to the frame allows the cable to be slid through so that slack can be dealt with once the headset sizing and mic boom placement have been set. The soft, silicon earpieces are connected to the wire with an unusual joint that allows them to rotate, so the headset can store flat and the earpieces can be flipped into position for left- or right-side use. The earpiece itself is a single integral unit, and has, basically, a horizontal section that goes under the ear with a coil of relatively thin, silicone-coated spring steel that wraps around the ear to hold the assembly gently yet firmly in place. Again, this is a different design than other headsets, and it works well in practice.
Boom & cable attributes The mic boom has a metal fitting that mates with a slot at the bottom of the earpiece, and can slide about an inch and a quarter within that slot, allowing the boom length to be adjusted for proper placement. This slot is tight, so once the boom is placed it will stay put. If desired, the boom can be taken off one earpiece and slid onto the other one, though with the easy left- or right-ear flexibility of this headset, moving it won’t be common. Perhaps if one slot becomes worn and a bit looser after years of constant use, moving it to the other earpiece will yield additional years.
Further supporting the use of the headset on either side of the face, the mic boom rotates at the earpiece. The boom is fairly rigid, with a slight curve to go around the cheek. The curvature can be adjusted by gently bending it between the fingers of two hands. A clear sweat bead on the boom helps divert any moisture rolling off the face and toward the mic element.
A thin, flexible mic cable is connected to the mic boom at the headset end, with a hidden connector at the base of the boom allowing cable or boom replacement if it is ever necessary, and with a small threaded connector on the other end. This connector will thread into optional adapter ends, so that the headset can be used with a variety of wireless bodypack transmitters or with a standard XLR for wired applications. A discreet spring clip can be slid to any desired location on the cable, securing it to clothing for additional security. All in all, the headset design is well thought out, extremely flexible, and so lightweight that it can barely be felt.
Performance impressions In operation, both the omni and directional headsets sound natural even before any equalization, and deliver impressive level without feedback, even when the user is positioned relatively close to a loudspeaker cluster. There are some differences in audio performance between the two polar patterns, and one may be preferable to the other in given applications.
The mics were put through their paces through a smaller system in more of a studio environment, and then in a mid-sized sanctuary featuring an overhead loudspeaker cluster, a wide stage area, and an extension for the pulpit. The 4066 omnidirectional headset gave the more natural sound without EQ—very close to the sound of an unamplified voice. With the user wearing the headset on the pulpit extension, which is directly under the cluster, a very slight low-mid-frequency pre-feedback ring was apparent when the level was brought up fairly high—beyond what would have been necessary to fill the space during a service. Taking out a few dB around 250 Hz was enough to counter this effect.
The 4088 directional headset also sounded well balanced and natural, though with a slight proximity effect emphasis in the lower frequencies. A minor EQ adjustment centered around 350 Hz was useful. There was no change in audio quality when the headset was used in back of or under the loudspeaker cluster, and feedback didn’t present even at fairly high audio levels. Because of the more directional pickup pattern, the positioning of the mic boom is more critical to the audio results in terms of level and frequency response, and there is more level difference than with the omni when the mic element is placed nearer or farther from the mouth.
The boom is stable, even with movement, once the earpieces are properly placed. The directional headset exhibits a bit more handling noise than the omni, which is a typical phenomenon with the different polar patterns. Overall, both headsets sounded great and performed well, although I would choose the omni for its natural audio quality without EQ and greater ease of positioning in situations where it would give sufficient gain-before-feedback.
The frequency response of the 4066 omni is listed as 20 Hz – 20 kHz (+/-2 dB), with both a soft-boost and high-boost grid available that adds a 3-dB boost between 8 kHz – 20 kHz or a 10-dB boost at 12 kHz, respectively. The 4088 directional headset’s response is reported to be 20 Hz – 20 kHz (+/-2 dB between 500 Hz and 20 kHz). Both have a sensitivity of -44.5 dB, and an A-weighted noise level of 26 dB. The mics can handle sound pressure levels up to 144 dB before clipping distortion occurs.
Packaging details In addition to these particular models, the d:fine™ headset line offers single-ear versions and a more traditional dual-ear frame, to meet a wide variety of preferences. Each headset ships in a long-lasting zippered case for storage, with spare foam windscreens and a set of colored cable beads provided to identify which mic is set up for a particular user. Both dual-ear models have a street price ranging between $640 - $690, and the specific connector adapter for your transmitter brings the total price over $700—a top-shelf purchase and one of the best. For the long-term, if ever necessary due to loss or damage, spare parts are readily available to make the headset as good as new. Overall, the new DPA d:fine™ headsets are high-quality, well-designed audio devices—an investment that should deliver many years of audio performance.
GARY PARKS has served as marketing manager and wireless product manager for Clear-Com Intercom Systems. He has also worked with loudspeaker and wireless product management at Electro-Voice, performed technical writing at Meyer Sound, and worked in RF planning software sales with EDX Wireless. He is a freelance writer and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Read the full review here