Jumbo Sunshade - Blogpost

 
In The Studio: DPA 4011-TL Small Diaphragm Condenser Microphone; Cervantes Acoustic Guitar
 
This wasn't my gig or my session; i was just there helping (and hanging) out.  Single performer laying down nylon-string acoustic guitar solo and some rhythm tracks.  Material was really cool; sortof an Afrocuban smooth jazz (kindof) thing.

I need to start with the performance itself, because the performer played just about everything, including even the softer chord stuff, with a pick as opposed to fingerstyle.  This aggressive style of playing dramatically affects the way lattice-braced classical guitars react, sonically.  The affect is even more pronounced when the guitar is strung up with high-tension strings, as this one was.  In my experience/opinion, most nylon-string guitars when played heavy-handed using a pick become sonically imbalanced and often unpleasing to the ear.  Of course that's all a matter of personal taste, but i think that most players would agree at least that cedar-topped (classical) guitars often get "squishy", and spruce-topped guitars overly compressed & maybe "brittle" sounding when played in such a way.

This higher end Cervantes guitar sounded awesome when played aggressively with a pick.  I know there is some way that Alejandro Cervantes does lattice that is different, but that's a claim that many

builders make, so who knows.  This guitar had a spruce top (rosewood back and sides).  Warm but with decent high frequencies when played "normally", and then full and brighter sounding (but still very open) when he started digging in.

When i played the guitar myself i thought it was great.  Other than the spruce top it's your typical "classical" guitar: 650mm scale; 52mm nut.  Just a really nice higher-end model.  But i also played it with a pick, and did a disgusting amount of shred to boot.  The Cervantes felt completely comfortable/familiar, sounded amazing, and played really really well.  If this were my only nylon-string guitar i would be perfectly happy; although personally i couldn't afford it (guy paid $4,000 for it).
 

We had initially set up additional mics for ambience and stereo field - as just a matter of habit i suppose; but these tracks were going to be sitting in the middle of an already very busy mix and we didn't track anything other than the DPA.

Everybody in the room ended up agreeing on placement, which ended up being: 15-18" from guitar, level with the neck but pointed slightly down and back toward the soundboard just below the neck and directly between the soundhole and outer

edge of the guitar.
The performer was a very animated player and that capsule was pointing (at) from between the edge of the soundhole to the outside edge of the guitar during the performances, which is why we couldn't come any closer than about 15 inches.  And with the mic being as directional as it was you could definitely hear this movement sonically, but in the mix it sounded great, with the those dynamics adding to the high-energy musicality of the material.
As far as the inconsistent source ending up sitting nicely in the mix; it is entirely possible that we really just got lucky.  But even with the mic a foot and a half away from the source it still sounded totally "up front", and the microphone gets all the credit on that one.
[note: in addition to an amazing-sounding guitar, the performer also brought with him his own folding chair that did as much creaking and squeaking as i'd ever heard a piece of furniture make. we had to record him playing air guitar and play it back before we could convince him that he really needed to sit on something else!]

Signal chain was:  DPA 4011-TL > Joe Meek OneQ2 > HDD.

OneQ2 (how's this for not getting in the way?)
Comp: 2:1, <5ms, slow release, gain 0.
Enhance/De-ess - off.
EQ - flat

4011-TL
Ok so if you want to check out some history on the DPA microphones, you've gotta Google "Bruel & Kjaer".  DPA SDCs are something you might see in sound reinforcement and live recording situations.

The 4011-TL is a higher-end small diaphragm FET (transformerless) cardioid condenser.  $2000 is alot of money for most of us to part with for an SDC microphone.  I guess if your studio specialized in acoustic piano and/or guitar (maybe you're a live recordist) it would be worth it.  Personally if that were my budget i would get a pair of $1000 mics instead, but hey; some people have a bigger budget than others!

In researching for this blogpost i see a listed frequency range of 20 to 20 for this mic on most websites, but DPA's own spec page has the freq range listed at 40Hz to 20kHz.  I've

also seen it described as hypercardioid but it's definitely a cardioid.  It is absolutely flat, that's for sure.
I was told that the 4011-TL sounds great on "everything", including a cranked Marshall and "heavy metal snare" (lmao!).  The mic does handle 158 dB, and it has a 20dB pad if you need it.  I'm sure it would sound fantastic on any acoustic instrument
(incl snare) as either a primary or ambient (/boundary), and i can imagine it would be complimentary to most voices (male or female).  Overhead on a drumkit; yes absolutely, provided you have two of these $2K mics!  Would it really sound as good or better on a cranked Marshall than a $99 SM57?... i'd have to hear that to believe it.

The 4011-TL (in my opinion) is a crazy good microphone.  I can't speak to how well it would work with any lower-end preamps, nor can i even say that what i heard wasn't just a result of a great combination of mic/pre (which we all know does happen alot).  For this particular session it was just phenomenal.  The microphone stayed the hell out of the way of what was happening sonically with the artist and instrument, and it did so in a way that had you feeling like your head was right up next to the guitar.  This session involved a ton of artist (physical) movement and the mic handled it really well.  We've all heard what DPA mics can do in live situations and so nobody should be surprised at how great this mic sounds in the studio.

At $2000, do you really want to get into some DPA 4011-TL?
1.  If you can afford two of these, you would be extremely happy to have them and any of your friends who had the ability to hear would be jealous.
2.  If you already have a great stereo pair of SDCs but can afford to add another fantastic SDC to your mic locker, the 4011-TL is certainly worth your consideration.
3.  If you're just putting together a small/home studio and have a decent but limited budget, my advice would be to get a pair of Mojave 101fet SDCs ($600/ea.) and then don't look at another SDC until later on if/when you really need another.

As far as that Cervantes Rodriguez-style concert acoustic... yea i want one!  I'll never afford one, but i do want one.
Seriously, for anybody who lives near Detroit and is reading this: if you know of any Cervantes model that i could temporarily get my hands on, please contact me - i'd love to do a real review of one of these amazing guitars!
:)

[update: Apparently DPA has replaced the 4011-TL model with their 4011A model.  As of december 2012 you can still get a new 4011-TL, but i would have to assume that supplies are limited.]

thanks to:
j-shan

 
 

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