MANUFACTURER: DPA Microphones
PRODUCT: 4097 CORE Micro Shotgun Microphone
Big things come in small packages. It’s not the size that matters. Little things can make a big difference…appropriate sayings to describe the DPA 4097 Micro Shotgun microphone. When I unboxed the DPA 4097, I literally thought someone was punking me. The size is small. The sound is not. The 4097 holds its own when compared to much larger and more expensive shotgun microphones.
The DPA 4097 is a very compact two-inch, highly-durable, super-cardioid shotgun microphone. Yes, I said two-inch shotgun mic, shock-mounted on a tiny, four-inch gooseneck. It comes with a MicroDot connector for easy pairing to a wireless transmitter, or, an optional adapter is available for a standard XLR connection.
One obvious use of the 4097 is as a “plant” mic for additional coverage on set. Thanks to its small size, it can be easily hidden from camera view. Its black matte finish avoids any glare being picked up by the camera. Quiet moments are captured with clarity thanks to its low self-noise, while on the other end of the spectrum, in those moments of extreme SPL, this microphone can take up to 135dB without distorting. It also boasts a nice flat, wide frequency response of 20Hz to 20kHz. The super-cardioid polar pattern helps focus the sound source and reject unwanted noise. At four feet from a tone source, I measured a drop of 15dB from 0 degrees to 90 degrees off center, and any sounds coming from directly behind the mic were rejected almost entirely.
DPA’s unique capsule design, while reducing any audio coming from off-axis, still delivers full frequency response of that attenuated audio. This gives you options. It’s a feature that keeps mix decisions possible all the way into the mixing stage with simple level changes to the off-axis audio.
Recording voices is where the 4097 really shines. I set it up approximately five feet from the actors for a shot that was a bit too wide for a boom. The audio was clean, without any obvious reflections from the set, and the audio sounded as full as what an overhead boom could have delivered. In comparing it to other often-used and larger shotgun mics, the DPA 4097 was very true to the source. It did not color the audio in the ways that the other shotguns did. I actually preferred the 4097’s natural reproduction of the voice. Just in case, I brought the audio from the 4097 into a ProTools session and checked that the audio could be easily tweaked to match the other mics if needed.
I took the 4097 out on a remote desert location session to record explosives. DPA labels the 4097 as rugged, and it lived up to the claim. The built-in shock mount made for low handling noise. While its replaceable foam windscreen does a decent job in slightly-windy environments, I needed to add additional wind protection when using the 4097 outdoors. When it came to the extreme levels of the explosions, the 4097 literally provided a lot of bang for the buck. At a fairly close range, the 4097 did not distort when hit with the high SPLs. In addition, the tight polar pattern kept distant unwanted noises from bleeding into the recording.
Another test was an indoor shooting range where I recorded 9mm pistol fire. Again, the tight super-cardioid pattern came in handy. It greatly reduced sounds of the early reflections created in an indoor range. It also proved very good at capturing the fast and hot transients of gunshots.
At the last minute, there was one more experiment I just had to try. I clipped the 4097 onto the bill of one of my sport hats. It made recording various objects for a sound effect collection both hands-free and much more convenient. The mic followed my head’s position. While grabbing sounds from a pile of junk metal, the 4097, clipped to the hat, allowed me to bring the mic to the metal instead of dragging the metal to the mic.
With the release of the 4097, DPA not only continues to live up to its reputation as a manufacturer of quality microphones for the post world, but has also given us a very unique sound tool to add to our sonic arsenal. After all, it doesn’t take up much space, so it’s easy to find a place for it in the mic locker. To overlook this mic because of its little size would be a big mistake.
Rick Allen is an instructor of post production audio at the Conservatory of Recording Arts & Sciences in Phoenix, AZ. His audio work has been heard on ABC, CBS, NBC, Cartoon Network, Hulu, Netflix, AMC, CNN, Discovery Network, Sony Pictures, and HBO, to name a few. In addition to being a featured speaker at AES and NAMM events, he also sits on the board of advisors of the Bob Moog Foundation. He can be reached at: www.RickAllenCreative.com.