Audio Engineer / Designer Jody Elff recently wrapped up a world tour with The Silk Road Ensemble with Yo-Yo Ma which formed under the artistic direction of cellist Yo-Yo Ma in 2000. A long-time user of DPA Microphones, Elff once again relied on the company and its mics to provide sonic excellence, which for this tour included an input list of 13 DPA mics on all the strings, as well as on a gaita, shakuhachi, sheng, pipa and piano. The Silk Road Ensemble gathers distinguished performers and composers from more than 20 countries to explore contemporary multicultural musical crossroads and then embarks on an international musical journey across the globe.
“A great example where DPA microphones excelled was for miking the shakuhachi – a Japanese bamboo flute with The Silk Road Ensemble,” said Elff. “Our shakuhachi player travels with several instruments for playing in different keys and will sometimes even switch instruments in the middle of one piece. Playing the shakuhachi is a physically dynamic act, so the performer is in motion while he is playing. If I were to use a conventional stand-mounted mic, either the performer would have to modify his playing style to stay on-axis of the microphone or I would lose his instrument as he moved in and out of the pickup pattern of the mic, neither of which is desirable. By putting a DPA d:fine 4088 Directional Headset Microphone on the performer, he is able to switch instruments freely and move comfortably during his performance and I always have an excellent sounding mic in a perfect position.”
Elff also notes that an added benefit is when the arm of the headset mic is placed on the upstage side of the player’s head, the microphone is virtually invisible to the audience. “I don’t know of any other microphone that would perform as well and solve the challenge as elegantly in that particular application. We have performed to near sell-out audiences in many of the great summer venues across the country. The mics have performed reliably and excellently night after night.”
For Elff, starting with good source material is key, and having a mic that captures that source material accurately is critical. “In many cases, the only EQ’ing I need to do on the instruments miked with DPA is a bit of high-pass filtering,” said Elff. “If my PA is well managed and the mics are good, very little EQ’ing is necessary. I will absolutely continue to use DPA mics on The Silk Road Ensemble performances as they are a perfect fit. I carry a variety of DPA models in my microphone kit and will continue to call on them regularly as new projects emerge.”
According to Elff, it was many years ago when he had a microphone “revelation” during a recording session. He set up a number of microphones on various instruments along with a pair of DPA d:dictate 4006A Omnidirectional Microphones for ambience. As Elff cued up that channel, he realised that it was the first time he had heard a channel of audio where he couldn’t “hear” the microphone – all he heard was the quality of the room, clean and uncoloured. Ever since then, DPA microphones have been among Elff’s go-to mics for recordings.
As part of his daily operation, Elff today relies on a selection of DPA microphones including the d:screet 4061 Omnidirectional Microphone, d:vote Instrument Microphone, d:fine 4088 Directional Headset Microphone, d:fine 4066 Omnidirectional Headset Microphone and d:dictate 4006 for a variety of applications, including studio recording, field recording and concert reinforcement.
“While there are many fine microphone choices from other companies that have been around for a long time, I’m always happy to see DPA’s as an option, and will often spec them for projects that I’m working on,” he said. “DPA microphones provide a fantastic balance of sonic excellence with practical, physical utility. Many of the DPA miniature microphones occupy a unique place in the audio industry, being so small and versatile while still maintaining excellent sonic quality.”
Elff works frequently with artists who bridge the worlds of classical and modern / commercial music – such as The Silk Road Ensemble with Yo-Yo Ma. While it’s common and accepted to see a microphone on a stand in front of an instrument or amplifier for a pop artists’ performance, it’s much less common, and sometimes even distracting to the artists and audience in a “classical” context.
“One of the greatest advantages of DPA mics, aside from their fidelity, is that they are nearly invisible from the audiences point of view,” added Elff. “This allows the audience to enjoy the music rather than be distracted by the technology, and frees the artist from feeling “trapped” by a physical relationship to a microphone on a stand. For a live performance situation this is enormously liberating.”