Sound Designer Gareth Owen Relies on Brand’s Instrument and Headset Mics for Versatile and Reliable Live Audio
NEW YORK ― Known for crafting flawless audio for musicals such as “Bat Out Of Hell,” “Hunchback of Notre Dame,” “Beauty and the Beast” and “Sister Act,” Sound Designer Gareth Owen recently worked his magic on the Broadway hit, “& Juliet.” As a completely self-taught audio designer, Owen has always aspired to incorporate only the best techniques and high-end equipment into his workflow. Now a seasoned professional with countless musical credits and awards, Owen’s work on “& Juliet” recently earned a 2023 Tony Award nomination for Best Sound Design of a Musical. This recognition can be credited in part to the crystal clear sound of Owen’s trusted DPA Microphones solutions, which for this show include the 4066 CORE Omnidirectional Headset Microphones, as well as the 4015 Wide Cardioid, 4099 Instrument and the new 4055 Kick Drum Microphones.
Photo Credit: Matthew Murphy.
A long-time user of DPA, Owen regularly turns to the brand’s 4066 CORE Headset Mics for cast members. “I think I probably use 4066s in one format or another on pretty much every show I do,” he explains. “Even if the show isn’t using boom mics on the side of the face, I can still get the 4066 down the forehead without having to put ugly tape on the face. Plus, I have yet to find another headset microphone that delivers the same audio quality that the 4066 does, especially while being placed in such odd positions — and staying there! They survive the rigors of pulling, pushing and moving; sweat, tears and fake blood; being ripped off the head and getting caught on costumes. I’m always impressed by how well they survive.”
When it came time to consider mics for the drum kit, Owen found himself testing out DPA’s new 4055 Kick Drum Mic. “This is the first time in a long time that I’m using a different kick drum mic, but it has turned out to be a very nice departure from my usual choice: I’m very much enjoying it,” he says. “What I’m finding about the 4055 is that unlike many kick drum mics, it’s not designed to sound very specific. DPA is known for its transparency and, at first, I was concerned about it working for multiple genres, but I found that I was able to EQ the 4055 quite easily. I could make it sound like the public perception of a pop kick drum while also making it sound like a classical music kick drum.”
According to Owen, the unique, genre-defying EQ capabilities of the 4055 are unlike anything he has ever seen. “In the past, when I’ve had different music styles for the same instruments, I’ve had to use multiple mics, with each set to sound a particular way,” he explains. “I don’t have to do any of that with the DPA 4055. That was very eye-opening for me; it wasn’t something that I expected. My original worries ended up not being a concern at all.”
Beyond the 4055, Owen also outfitted the ride cymbals and hi-hats with DPA’s 4015 Wide Cardioid microphones, which he notes work really well individually and when paired with the 4055. “One of the things that DPA is very good at is off-axis rejection,” he explains. “That, combined with the very small size of the microphones and the ability to separate the capsule from the preamp, means you’re able to get the DPAs into very tight positions―particularly in percussion rigs. Many times, percussion setups in theatres can be very tight because you have a lot of gear packed into a very small room. The fact that you can get a microphone into a very tight position and have great off-axis rejection is extremely useful. It lets you focus on what it is you need without picking up too much of the audio around it.”
Owen also consistently relies on DPA’s 4099 Instrument Mics, which he utilized on this show for the strings section. “The 4099 is just a really fabulous mic,” he says. “Since the day it was released, I don’t think I’ve ever used anything else on strings. I use 4099s for everything, just with different clips because it’s such a versatile mic. Sometimes I think that you could almost do anything with a 4099. They’re a great investment, too. You know you’re going to get a great life out of one of these mics. I am often quite amazed at their durability and at how well they survive getting thrown on the floor in the orchestra pit.”
For the rest of the orchestra, Owen selected DPA’s 4011 Cardioids for the brass and reed instruments. A d&b XLS line array PA system, Avid mixing desk and Shure radio mics also keep the show running smoothly behind the scenes.
After wrapping sound design for “& Juliet,” Owen got right to work on Broadway’s “Bad Cinderella,” where he continues to rely on DPA for the brand’s authentic audio and space-saving solutions. “With the exception of a few drums and the French horn, almost all the microphones are DPA,” he says. “The 4099s are on all of the strings, including double bass, cello and acoustic guitar. The cast has 4066s, plus there are DPAs on the guitars and keyboards, and 4011s on the reeds and brass. For the drum kit, we have 4015s on cymbals and hi-hats and 4018s on snare bottom. These pencil mics are what first attracted me to DPA―they’re small and very easy to position in places that you just can’t get a normal pencil mic. We have a 4015 tucked underneath every single cymbal on the drum kit, and you’d never be able to do that with another brand.”
With such a long history working with the brand, Owen anticipates DPA staying in his workflow for all future projects. “I started out with DPA 4099 instrument mics for orchestras and the legacy 4022s on reed instruments,” he finishes. “These days, if it’s strings, drum, brass or reeds, they’ve usually got a DPA on them. Considering the durability and transparency, plus that off-axis rejection, there’s just nothing like a DPA.”