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DPA 2012 & 2015

Small‑diaphragm Capacitor Microphones By Mike Crofts
Published September 2023

DPA 2012 & 2015

These live‑oriented pencil mics offer excellent performance at a very attractive price.

Talk to almost any sound designer who makes their living in live theatre or large live concerts and shows, and it probably won’t be long before DPA mics are mentioned in some context or other. Their product line has become widely known and respected for high quality, reliability and physically robust build, and a new model is invariably a source of professional interest. In this case we’re looking at not one but two new microphones, both primarily aimed at the live sound market but equally at home in studio or location recording setups.

Look & Feel

The 2012 and 2015 are pretty much identical in appearance apart from the model number, which can be found on the side of the body down near the XLR end. They are very compact mics, and although light in weight, they do have a kind of substantial feel to them. The supplied clips add a bit more heft.

You can buy both types of mic singly, although I suspect that most purchasers will go for matched pairs, and these come in attractive and strong moulded zipped cases with DPA branding. ‘Matched pair’, in the case of these and other DPA 2000‑series mics, means that their sensitivities are within ±1.5dB. Whether buying one or a pair, each mic comes with a foam windshield and a rather wonderful mic holder. To describe it as a clip isn’t really doing it justice, as it’s a two‑piece compression screw clamp (model UA0961 to be precise) that holds the mic body securely so that it can’t possibly come loose no matter how it’s angled.

The 2012 and 2015 mics are designed to be tough, both in terms of their physical construction and ability to handle very high sound pressure levels. The wisdom of the past used to regard capacitor mics as more sensitive than dynamics (which they generally are) and therefore more delicate (which these are definitely not). The outer body tube is quite thick and there’s a nice little cutaway drawing on the DPA website showing how they are built; in terms of what you can safely put them next to, both models will happily handle SPLs in excess of 150dB (156dB for the 2012, 153dB for the 2015), so pretty much anything on a live stage is on the menu.

Pickup Patterns

Let’s get back to the main difference between the 2012 and 2015 mics, namely the pickup pattern. The 2012 is a cardioid, but DPA have focused on achieving a very consistent off‑axis response across the frequency range, which translates to less feedback issues on a live stage. A ‘normal’ cardioid mic would typically be used to capture single sources where there are other instruments fairly close by, and positioning the mic a few inches from the desired source should result in good separation to enable a controlled mix. The smooth, almost flat response of the 2012 gives a great starting point without you having to tame or correct what’s going into the desk, and makes it easy to use on just about any instrument. The SPL handling means that it can be right in the bell of a trombone, or as close as comfortable (for the player) to the sweet spot of anything with strings.

The 2015 is a wide‑cardioid microphone, and as such has a broader area of capture. It’s easy to fall into the trap of assuming that the 2015 should therefore be placed at a greater distance from the source than the cardioid 2012, but that’s not necessarily the case: the 2015 works very well as a close mic, but its wider capture angle makes it more forgiving of mic placement, and it has a natural open sound much like an omnidirectional mic but with enough rejection to be useful in a live context. Personally I love using wide cardioid mics as spot mics when recording or just reinforcing larger groups, especially on sections of similar instruments, and they work equally well on a live stage — mind you, they will pick up balance issues within those sections. On single, less directional instruments such as piano, larger strings like cello, bass and acoustic guitar, and almost all woodwind instruments, a wide cardioid is an ideal live mic even if placed up close.

Both the 2012 and 2015 boast a flat frequency response with a gentle lift around 10kHz; the 2012 peak is just north of 10kHz while that of the 2015 is just below, and the 2015 has a slightly more restricted HF response, which you’d expect given its less directional pickup pattern. It goes without saying (but here goes) that both mics have a more than impressive transient response, hence the detailed and faithful sound capture. Despite the differences in polar pattern they can both be used at a range of distances, from traditional ambient stereo pair to indecently close — it all depends on the application, but these are highly flexible tools on a live stage. For live use, self‑noise shouldn’t ever become an issue especially with a high‑quality mic, but the specs below don’t give any cause for concern in this department!

Tech Notes

All the relevant specifications are of course on the DPA website, but here are some of the main points. Both mics are based around a 17mm pre‑polarised (electret) capsule, and require standard 48V phantom power to operate. They both weigh 83g and measure 94 x 19mm, and unlike some other DPA models they are non‑modular designs (you can’t remove the capsules from the preamp bodies). Both have the same output impedance of 60Ω.

Where they differ is in their frequency response (40Hz‑20kHz for the 2012, 40Hz‑18kHz for the 2015, both within ±2dB), their pickup patterns and maximum SPL handling (as mentioned earlier), their sensitivity (8mv/Pa for the 2012, 12mV/Pa for the 2015, ±2dB and measured at 1kHz) and their self‑noise (20dBA and 18dBA for the 2012 and 2015, respectively).

Live Action

I was sent pairs of both the DPA 2012 and 2015 for review, and they arrived just in time for me to use them at a live club gig featuring acoustic guitars played by John Doyle and Chris Quinn. I decided to use the 2012 pair instead of my usual cardioid capacitor mics and, as we were filming the show, the DPAs scored an immediate advantage with their small size and non‑reflective black finish. In soundcheck we experimented with different positions including using both mics on one guitar, but in the end a single mic was considered to be less fussy visually and gave exactly the sound we wanted: highly articulate, faithful to the unamplified guitar sound from a few feet away, and reasonably forgiving of the artist moving around a bit during the songs.

The cardioid DPA 2012 is put to work on acoustic guitar.The cardioid DPA 2012 is put to work on acoustic guitar.

I’d describe the overall experience with the 2012s as ‘easy’, and there was no need for any corrective EQ other than deciding where to set the HPF in terms of the room acoustics, and a slight downward HF slope so as to maintain a nice natural tone. The mics gave a lively and dynamic sound with no impression of compression or constraint of the guitars’ dynamics, and this was confirmed when I listened back to my direct‑from‑desk recording the following day. These are lovely‑sounding mics: clear as a bell, great dynamics, articulate and with an open, natural top end.

Top Brass

That same week I was supposed to be making a live recording of a larger band with a 12‑piece brass section. For various reasons, this turned into a ‘capture‑by‑sections’ session with trumpets, trombones, and upward‑pointing weapons including alto horns (tenor horns in the brass band world) and euphoniums. The sections were to play through whole numbers using click tracks and I needed to capture both the whole section with a full, fat sound, and also to emphasise the lead instruments within the section without losing the sense of ensemble — so the 2015s proved to be ideal, with one positioned centrally to the section a couple of feet back and the second one closer to the lead player.

They just worked exactly as intended, delivering a lovely broad, natural ‘in the room’ sound, and the closer mic was so easy to blend into the mix.

Again, the word that comes to mind is ‘easy’, as they just worked exactly as intended, delivering a lovely broad, natural ‘in the room’ sound, and the closer mic was so easy to blend into the mix. The following week I used them in a live rehearsal, again recording different sections but also listening live in the hall. The 2015 is an ideal mic for bringing out a section of a larger ensemble, whether it be a trio of horns or a whole drum kit. The only thing I didn’t get the opportunity to try the mics on was vocals, but I suspect that the 2015 in particular would be just as impressive on, say, a group of two or three BVs.

The wide cardioid 2015 model, in use as a brass‑section mic.The wide cardioid 2015 model, in use as a brass‑section mic.

And speaking of drums, both these mics are now available within a drum set called the DPA DDK4000, which comprises a single 2012, a pair of 2015s, a 4055 kick mic and three 4099s.

Practically Speaking

Setting up for a live show isn’t always done under ideal conditions, and one thing I’ve learnt over the years is that, apart from a few specialist mics, my preferred models are always those that are more forgiving. Sometimes you just don’t have the opportunity to spend time fine‑tuning and ironing out frequency foibles or proximity problems. For me, this is precisely where the DPA 2012 and 2015 come into their own — having used them a few times, I’d feel confident deploying them virtually anywhere and would pretty much know what to expect.

The 2012 and 2015 are more affordable than some of DPA’s high‑end mics, but they offer all the trademark DPA qualities and bear the brand name with complete justification. These are serious, high‑quality microphones but at an achievable price point for anyone looking to own something from the DPA stable. Much more than that, though, they simply do a more than excellent job wherever you’d use a cardioid or wide cardioid capacitor mic on a live stage. Both mics exhibit a wonderfully clear, natural sound with great articulation and presence, and although they are designed principally for live sound, they would of course do the same job in a recording environment.


  • Sturdy, compact and camera‑friendly.
  • Reliable, excellent results on a range of sources.
  • Natural sound requiring minimal EQ.
  • High‑quality accessories.


  • None.


These classy mics sound great, are easy to work with and come in at a much lower price than you’d expect. Highly recommended.


£648 each. Stereo pair £1190. Prices include VAT.

Sound Network +44 (0)20 3008 7530.

$849 each. Stereo pair $1595.

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