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R&D: Designed by request

R&D: Designed by request
Almost the entire manufacturing process is done under a microscope

R&D: Designed by request

The design process for DPA Microphones’ 6060 and 6061 subminiature lavalier mics and 6066 subminiature headset mic has taken its R&D team around the world to meet end users

With DPA Microphones’ reputation in theatrical, film and broadcast circles, it should come as no surprise that the company has long been asked to make a subminiature microphone. Equally, given the Danish manufacturer’s expectation of high-quality sound from all of its products, it is easy to see why the process of meeting this request has been a long and technically challenging one.

‘From my point of view, the key point is the dedication and the focus on getting things right,’ says Kalle Hvidt Nielsen, CEO at DPA Microphones. ‘Doing the subminiature was a big undertaking. There were a lot of basic studies that needed to be done, new technologies that were required and that takes a lot of time.’

The result of this is the 6060 and 6061, microphones the manufacturer describes as ‘the best mics we have ever made’. Getting hands-on with the new capsule and exploring the process that went into its creation, it is easy to see why DPA would make this claim.

The tubular capsule with its cap of stainless steel is 3.4mm in diameter (including the cap), giving it only 60% of the physical appearance of the manufacturer’s 5.4mm miniature mics. Despite this, the IP58-rated, omnidirectional mic has approximately the same stated noise floor as the 5mm capsules and a similar dynamic range.

6060 in black
6060 in black

Getting to this point is a process that has drawn heavily on the amplifier technology developed for the manufacturer’s 5.4mm miniature mics with Core by DPA. ‘The legacy amplifier has components inside the capsule and outside the capsule, while the Core has everything inside and smaller,’ explains Ole Moesmann, R&D manager at DPA Microphones. ‘Shortly after we launched Core, I went to the electronics guys and told them that they had done a great job and that I now needed one that was even smaller.’

Creating the smaller version of the 5mm miniature capsule was an exciting task. ‘We are already moving on the edge of what is physically possible,’ smiles Mr Moesmann. ‘Going through all the parts of the microphone, optimising and adjusting, has been another R&D task at DPA that has pushed the limits of what is physically possible. All parameters have been in play to make a new fantastic microphone. Achieving a noise floor on par with our 5mm designs for the 6066 headset and the 6061 lavalier was not an easy task. We have a diaphragm area on the new 3mm capsule that is less than 30% of the 5mm, so in theory the noise floor of the new design should be much higher.’

While the microphone capsule itself was central to the project, it was only part of the overall R&D process. The creation of the headset and clip options have received just as much attention as the capsule itself. The starting point for this was going to its user base across the theatre, film and broadcast markets and interviewing people about how they attach microphones.

‘The first tour of interviews was around 35 individuals and we didn’t tell them what we were looking into, we were just interviewing and watching them out there in their own environment,’ recalls Mr Moesmann. ‘We were at the theatre, at the TV studio, at the drama set just watching what they were doing and then interviewing them after that. We were talking about how to mount miniature microphones, what the challenges are, what are the pains, what are their needs and we came out with a huge amount of user input.’

6066 in beige
6066 in beige

Having collected and analysed this data, the manufacturer used it to create a light, yet secure headset that is easy to fit. Stability comes from a 3-point spring mechanism that essentially forms a tripod around the ear, while adjustable boom lengths and angles ensure that one size fits all. Finally, a simple 90° clip on the rear of the headset serves to provide security and strain relief for the mic cable.

‘We’ve only had very positive feedback on the headset,’ notes René Mørch, product manager at DPA Microphones. ‘We showed users prototypes along the way and got feedback on that. They are thrilled to see that we have used some of the input that we got from the round the world tour from various industries to make it better.

‘The feedback that we get is that it fits perfectly and it can be adjusted easily,’ he continues. ‘With the benefits from security and strain relief that the clip on the back of the headset offers, it is one of those things where we wondered, why didn’t anyone think of this before?’

The headset was not the only accessory to benefit from the R&D user tour. ‘For the 6060 lavalier, we made a new version of the existing clip so that instead of taking the mic out, you can just lock it into a different position via a rotable design,’ says Mr Mørch. ‘It has eight different positions so you can clip it anywhere.

‘Making sure it was practical was a key part,’ he continues. ‘I thought that we should come up with more attachments than we ended up doing. But we found especially in the film business, these guys are real pros who know what they are doing and we couldn’t teach them anything. We can give them a good microphone but they know how to hide it. Why try to give them something that they have to have from us and if it breaks or someone forgets to get it out of a costume then they have to have a new one from us. The things that they are using you can literally just go down to a shop and pick up the bits you need. Furthermore, third-party companies have specialised in making these hiding accessories and there are already some available for our new design. That was again one of the things we learnt from the R&D team’s work.’

The mics are the result of a long and demanding manufacturing process
The mics are the result of a long and demanding manufacturing process

This highlights one of the major advantages that DPA has seen from taking this approach to the R&D process. ‘Having the R&D team seeing what our customers are doing was brilliant,’ says Mr Mørch. ‘That way it was not conveyed via several people, it was direct. They could see what they were designing because they knew what the pain was, they didn’t have to guess what they were designing for.’

The combined result of the new capsules and accessories is something the manufacturer is clearly taking a lot of pride from. ‘It is a very exclusive product,’ concludes Mr Nielsen. ‘We know that the combination of smaller and better is in high demand. I think that we are going to open some new doors with it due to the size mainly, and I also think that a number of our customers will switch to that one. My gut feeling is that it’s going to be good.’

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