Top producer / engineer, George Shilling, also takes time out to review interesting audio equipmentGeorge Shilling reviews:

DPA 3541 Vocalist and Instrument Microphone Kit



dpa 3541 vocalist and instrument microphone kitWhen scouring the microphone cupboards of the commercial studios I use, I am always delighted to encounter Brüel & Kjær models, (now available under the DPA name). Frequently, these are Type 4006 omni-directional condensers, known for their bright, clear and true characteristics. Now, with the introduction of the 4041 models, two derivatives are available which utilise a larger diaphragm capsule (Type MMC4041). This provides all the traditional benefits of a larger capsule, although at 1" (24mm) across, it is not huge. Another DPA end-firing design, this is similar in performance to the special gold and glass limited edition Type 4040. With that model both solid state and valve preamplifiers are included in one microphone. Here, separate bodies are provided for valve or solid state pre-amplification.


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Type 3541 is a kit that includes one of these capsules, together with the two alternative microphone bodies: the MMP4000-S solid-state preamplifier and the MMP4000-T valve preamplifier. Both of these are similar in appearance to previously available 4000 series microphones, with black anodised metal finish and narrow cylindrical bodies which flare out at the top to accommodate the new larger capsule. These bodies are terminated with six-pin XLR type connectors. The supplied cable connects to the HMA4000 two-channel microphone amplifier. Also included in the kit is a robust suspension mount with rubber straps, and an ingenious dual-layer vocal pop-shield which includes an adaptor to enable both the suspension mount and pop shield to be mounted securely on one microphone stand. Furthermore, the pop shield mount ingeniously slides and locks to enable different spacing between itself and the microphone capsule. A large foam windshield is included for direct fitting over the microphone. All components fit into a sculpted foam insert inside a luxurious protective Samsonite briefcase, to form a neat portable kit for the mobile engineer.


The microphone amplifier is a compact yet weighty box, which is designed to optimally handle the output of either the solid state or tube microphone and provide a 200V polarisation voltage. The connector panels are painted a garish orange, not what you normally expect from the reserved Danes! On the front face are two six-pin XLR connectors and a small Gain switch for each channel. This enables coarse matching of gain, with -20/0/+20dB positions, enabling the vast dynamic range of the microphones to be most appropriately utilised in a given situation. Maximum SPL of 144dBA can be handled before clipping. However, without any finer adjustment, one will normally need further line amplification of some type before connection to the recorder. Of course, in many situations one will connect to a mixer of some type for balancing, panning or EQ. For direct recording, I found it easiest to set appropriate recording levels by inserting a high quality compressor, with or without compression. However, the inclusion of a fine level control on the HMA4000 would benefit many users. On the rear panel are traditional 3-pin XLR outputs and an IEC socket.


The diaphragm is uniquely manufactured from stainless steel. Unscrew the grill and you can see your face reflected in it! Fitted onto a precision made stainless steel housing, this is said by DPA to give the capsule a unique immunity against ambient temperature differences. It also has an extremely low self-noise (6dBA) and wide dynamic range (113dB). A treble lift of some 5dB around 8kHz gives a tremendous clarity on-axis; as might be expected with an end-fire microphone, the very high frequencies tail-off rapidly off-axis.

Swapping the barrel from the solid state to the valve is a simple matter of unscrewing the capsule, which is located with a central pin. However, the grill unscrews from the top of the capsule, and the diaphragm also unscrews from the connector, so one has to be careful to twist the correct parts.


In use, the difference between the two microphones is subtle on some sources, but certainly noticeable with most singers. The immediate impression with either preamplifier is of a wonderful 'openness' of sound, terrific natural transparency with no discernable colouration. The response is extremely flat down to 10Hz, and this makes the 4041 a wonderful performer on all manner of instruments, as well as vocals. The tube microphone seems to subtly enhance, particularly in the upper frequency range. A pleasant blurring lends a magical aura to certain voices and instruments. The solid-state preamplifier, meanwhile, provides a beautifully accurate and detailed picture of the sound source. It is horses for courses, naturally, but if you are indecisive, it can be a nuisance to keep the singer waiting while you extract the microphone from its mount to swap the capsule over.

This kit provides similar performance to the extremely exclusive and desirable Type 4040. Although the two bodies are less convenient, I know of one incident where an owner broke the beautiful yet slightly impractical glass housing of the 4040. There are no such worries here: these microphones are extremely robust, and packed in a tough case. This is an excellent way to acquire what I believe are two of the best microphones currently available, although ideally I would like a second capsule to make direct comparison easier.



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