FOH and Monitor Engineers Call on d:facto™ 4018VL and 4099 CORE to Deliver Big, Warm Rhythmic Sound
LOS ANGELES – In Hip Hop and R&B, it can be difficult to find a microphone solution that allows the artists’ natural talent to shine through, but that’s exactly what H.E.R.’s Production Manager/Monitor Engineer William “Chainey” Harpe and FOH engineer Kevin Brown found in DPA Microphones’ d:facto 4018VL Vocal Microphone. The duo have collectively worked with some of the biggest recording artists in these genres, including Toni Braxton, Snoop Dogg, Mary J. Blige, Lil Wayne, Cody Simpson, Outkast and Chris Brown. So, they understand the pressure of delivering the best sound possible to sold-out stadiums, arenas and festivals. When they set out on the Grammy Award-winning singer/songwriter’s most recent tour, they found that DPA provided the unrivaled sound for which they were looking.
The pair chose the d:facto entirely as a result of Brown’s experience using it with Toni Braxton. “The fundamental of H.E.R.’s voice is the huge mid-range she has in the timbre of her voice,” he explains. “The linear response of the d:facto™ 4018VL capsule actually helps accentuate and pull out that mid-range. Normally, as an engineer, you think about the top-end and the upper mid-range to bring out the presence, but that’s not the fundamental of her voice. For the DPA to capture that and give you this big, warm vocal through a PA in a huge arena says a lot about the capsule.”
After hearing the 4018VL on H.E.R.’s vocals, Harpe found it to be the best choice he has used in the last couple of years.
“When Kevin decided to bring the 4018VL out on tour with H.E.R., it was the first time I actually had the opportunity to listen to it, mess with it and use it consistently,” he says. “It turned out to be a fantastic microphone. I noticed right away that DPA is very consistent – even when you hit it hard.”
Another strength, according to Brown, is the d:facto’s ability to minimize proximity effect. “H.E.R. has great mic technicality in pulling away from the capsule when she needs to and staying closer when she wants to,” he adds. “But the d:facto stays pretty tonally neutral across the spectrum. Supercardioid/hypercardiod mics versus cardioid mics; that’s something we’ve been trying to figure out for years. This d:facto capsule captures it all. It really is the perfect solution for vocals.”
The duo also finds that their workflow is smoother with the use of the DPA mics.
“For me, there is definitely less filtering,” says Chainey. “We have two very dynamic background singers who also use the d:facto sometimes to add more harmony to H.E.R’s lead line, so we might have a lot more presence in the mix, whereas other times we don’t. So, we end up with several mixes, with each one positioned differently. I usually set the gain structure and do minimal adjustments, but otherwise it really holds that consistency in the texture and timbre from song to song. It’s unlike any other capsule I have ever used.”
Brown, meanwhile, is “always cutting and speeding up annoying frequencies in competitor capsules. With the DPAs, I can run with just a high-pass and a low-pass, and maybe a boost, and I’m okay. I loosen the top-end because it’s so linear and I let the vocals do the rest of the work. It’s really that simple.”
In addition to the d:facto vocal mic, the duo also utilizes DPA’s 4099 CORE instrument mics on H.E.R.’s touring drum kit.
“A lot of times when I’m mixing other mics on drums, I go back and forth moving and testing,” says Chainey. “The 4099 CORE mics sound so natural. I noticed that if we have them in a good position, we’re pretty much set to go. There is never a lot of phasing or cross pattern between the drums; I really enjoy the sound we get.”
Brown and Chainey aren’t the only ones to become DPA believers. The day following H.E.R.’s Grammy performance, she appeared on The Ellen Show. “We took the DPA mics over to the show in hopes of using them for that performance as well,” adds Brown. “Ellen’s long-time in-house audio team were reluctant to swap out their mic, but ultimately agreed to let us use DPA. At the conclusion of the show, Ellen’s broadcast engineer stated that the DPA’s were the best mics he had ever heard.”
Performance isn’t everything for Brown and Chainey. “For me it’s also about customer service,” says Brown. “It’s one thing to get a great technical product, it’s another to be able to call a rep and, within 24 hours, have someone from the company drive to your rehearsals to drop off the capsule or gear you need. When world-class products are matched by world-class customer service, its noticed. Everyone at DPA has been exceptional.”