DPA's stage mics have long been held in high regard, but they've also been priced out of reach of many. Until now...
"We've designed this mic," says DPA's René Mørch, "so that it sounds like the singer isn't actually using a mic."
I can think of one or two bands whose music would be a lot more enjoyable if the singer wasn't using a mic, but Mørch is really alluding to the guiding principle behind all DPA products. Whether they are producing high-spec recording mics for orchestral or broadcast use, clip-on 'bugs' for instrument amplification or handheld mics for stage vocals, DPA's goal is always to convert the source audio into an electrical signal as transparently as possible.
It's a laudable aim, but one that demands a commitment to quality, and DPA mics typically don't come cheap. For example, their d:facto stage vocal mic is a popular choice in professional circles thanks to its uncoloured sound and well-behaved off-axis response, but its price puts it out of reach of many self-op live sound engineers and local bands. DPA are well aware of this, and are aiming to reach a broader market with the 2028. The idea is to offer a stage vocal mic with the same pure sound as the d:facto, but which can be brought to market more affordably. To that end, the 2028 employs a newly developed capsule, internal shockmount and pop filter, and omits some of the modularity that makes the d:facto so versatile in professional contexts.
Whereas the d:facto has multiple configuration options that can be changed at will, including a choice of two capsules, the 2028 comes in three fixed variants, all using the same capsule. We were sent the conventional wired version, which has an XLR output and connects to a standard mic preamp supplying 48V phantom power; the other two variants are the SE2 adaptor for Sennheiser wireless systems and the SL1 for Shure, Sony and Lectrosonics systems. The mic itself is well built with a smart matte–black finish, and comes in a padded carry case with a clip. Visually, it's perhaps slightly anonymous, at least when compared with something like the Earthworks SR314, but it's by no means unattractive, and fits comfortably in the hand if you want to use it that way.
The 2028's 19mm-diameter electret capsule is said to be very similar to the linear capsule that is one of the options available for the d:facto. It offers a supercardioid polar pattern, and the published chart, measured at 12cm, indicates a broadly flat frequency response, with the faintest of bumps from 8kHz upwards, and a built-in roll-off at 80Hz. The outer grille and the inner pop filter can be removed for cleaning, but the capsule itself is fixed. Although 48V phantom power is specified, DPA say that the mic will still function with lower voltages, albeit with reduced SPL handling.
When operating on full power, the 2028 can accept up to 139dB SPL before 1 percent THD is reached, and a mammoth 160dB SPL "before clipping". Sensitivity is specified at a sensible 5mV/Pa and the mic's equivalent noise level is 23dBA in the worst case. This doesn't look a particularly good figure on paper, but given the mic's intended use, is perfectly fine in practice. The electronics provide a transformerless, impedance-balanced output with a nominal impedance of 150Ω and a quoted ability to drive up to 100m of cable.
The 2028's effortlessly natural presentation allowed good singers to maintain the sort of intimate connection to an audience that is the hallmark of an enjoyable gig.
Testing the 2028 was complicated by the fact that we received the review model before DPA had publicly announced it, and they were insistent that we couldn't use it in public for fear of letting the cat out of the bag! Despite this injunction, I did manage to sneak it incognito onto a couple of stages, and I also put it up alongside the main vocal mic on a lengthy album session.
In both contexts I felt it achieved exactly what DPA say that it's meant to; namely, to put across the sound of the human voice without introducing any character of its own. The studio vocals I was recording ranged in level from mumbled, semi-spoken verses to screams and shouts, and the 2028 took them all in its stride. Whisper-quiet passages were clear and articulate, and choruses delivered quadruple-forte never became shrill or piercing. On stage, meanwhile, the 2028's effortlessly natural presentation allowed good singers to maintain the sort of intimate connection to an audience that is the hallmark of an enjoyable gig. In isolation, it sounds dark compared with stage mics that have a presence peak built in, but that's the whole point: the 2028's neutrality means that if any sort of treble boost is desirable, the engineer can dial it in on the desk and tailor it to the performer who's using the mic.
Some care on the singer's behalf is necessary to get the best from the 2028. Being a supercardioid mic, it exhibits quite a bit of proximity effect, and sounds much better at a distance of three or four inches than it does with the capsule tickling the singer's epiglottis. However, I was highly impressed with DPA's grille and shield design: although the overall sound suffers when singers get too close, the mic's immunity from plosive blasts is striking. So too is the consistency of its supercardioid polar pattern, which ensures that you can easily get enough gain before feedback to obviate the need for close working.
All in all, then, I was very pleased with the 2028, and although I wasn't able to compare it directly to the d:facto, I can well believe that it gives nothing away to that mic in sonic terms. If you don't need the d:facto's modularity — which is surely true of many of us — I see no reason to spend the extra on that model when the 2028 delivers exactly what you'd hope for from a DPA stage mic. The 2028 is still a significant investment, but unlike the d:facto, it competes head-on with flagship stage mics from manufacturers such as Neumann, Shure and AKG. It's easily good enough to hold its own in this refined company, and if you're looking for a top-class vocal mic to give your stage show an edge, should be high on your list of products to try out.
- Clear, natural presentation of the human voice.
- More affordable than DPA's existing d:facto, yet with no obvious compromise in sound or build quality.
- This sort of quality is never going to be available on a shoestring budget.
The 2028 delivers the premium quality that we've come to expect from DPA at a price that puts it in direct competition with some of the best-established capacitor stage mics.
£450 including VAT.
Sound Network +44 (0)20 3008 7530
DPA USA +1 303 485 1025