Over the past year I have had the opportunity to get very familiar with the Earthworks line, from the PM40 & PM40T piano mic system (in our September 2011 issue) to the high-definition SRV40V vocal mic (February 2012), as well as the SR20 -- one of my personal favorites among utility mics (May 2012). This month we look at something a little bit different -- the Earthworks DP30/C Drum Periscope mic.
Earthworks already offers a few different setups for capturing the drum kit, such as the 3-mic DK25/R kit consisting of a pair of TC25 omnis for overheads with an SR25 cardioid for kick drum (with an inline KickPad), and while that and Earthworks' other 3-mic drum packages all focus on a stereo overhead/kick mic set up, the DP30/C breaks that mold by being a clip-on, close-mic solution for tom and snare use.
Build and specs
The DP30/C starts with a standard Earthworks-style mic body, but replaces its tell-tale narrow shaft and capsule with a 90 degree angled capsule atop a 6 3/4" periscope/goose neck. Stylistically it is similar to the company's P30 "Periscope" series instrument mics but with a shorter, thicker gooseneck.
The mic is 10 3/4" in total length with a maximum diameter of 0.860". The capsule is only about 1/4" wide and is a cardioid condenser with a near-perfect polar pattern allowing for a wider pickup of sound thanks to a nicely even and uncolored off-axis response. Like all condenser microphones it needs 48V of phantom power.
The DP30/C, like other Earthworks products, has a listed frequency response from from 30 Hz to 30 kHz (±2 dB @ 6"). It has a stated 10 mV/Pa (-40 dBV/Pa) sensitivity, a max SPL of 145 dB, a 72 dB A-weighted signal to noise ratio and a 22 dB equivalent self noise level. I would bring up the frequency graph, but in reality frequency plots of Earthworks microphones are as flat as a nonstop drive across the Great Plains.
As a close mic the DP30/C is made to be mounted on the drum; it ships with a standard mic clip, but we did our tests with the RM1 RimMount, a specialized drum-rim mount that consists of a screw-style clamp on one side and a rubber mic grip on the other. Once attached, it holds the mic firmly in place, just far enough away from the drum so it is not resting against the shell. It is one of the most solid and unobtrusive drum mounts I have used. The DP30/C also ships with a small foam windscreen.
Hot hot hot!
The DP30/C has an exceptionally hot output level, and on some systems (like older mixing desks) it can overload the inputs of mic preamps. Padding the input may not solve the issue; many mixing desks pad or drop the signal post mic input, meaning that you will end up with an input signal that's -10 or -20 dB quiet, yet still clipped. This was a problem with an older Crest X8 console I was using. Also, many mic pres (like my Millennia Media HV-3D) have no pad available at all, and while the DP30/C did not clip the preamp, it was always dangerously within 2-3 dB of doing so when capturing a high-pitched snare drum.
Earthworks offers a solution in the form of an inline standalone device known as the Precision LevelPad. This little XLR adapter allows the signal to be cleanly attenuated by 15 or 30 dB. Once they sent me some to go with their mics, I was back in business.
I used the DP30/C to mike various snares and toms including a Pearl Master's kit with 13" and 16" toms and a 1966 maple Slingerland kit with 12" and 14" toms. Various snares included a 1958 chrome-over-brass 14" Slingerland, a 1961 14" Oyster Black Pearl Ludwig, a 14" maple floating shell Pearl, a 12" Remo Mondo-snare, and a 13" DW Piccolo style snare.
Live I used three of them to mic the drums for the Christian Contemporary group Citizen Way, whose single "Should've Been Me" is (at press time) number 15 on both the Billboard Christian Songs and Christian AC charts. Their drummer, David Blascoe (whom we met in our "Drumming and Drummers and Mics -- Oh My!" article in our January 2012 issue on drum miking) uses a unique setup, with only one loosely-tuned 14" x 14" Pearl floor tom and a brass-shell Risen 14" x 6.5" snare, which I miked above and below with the DP30/C.
The reason for such a detailed list of the many drums tested is to add emphasis to the fact that in every instance the DP30/C captured its sonic prey with honesty and staggering realism. Earthworks mics have no vibe, no color, and no sound to claim as their own. This can be good or bad, depending on the drum you set below the mic.
If your drum is vibe and uniquely tuned like David's, you will get a near-perfect capture of a unique vibey drum; the same goes if your snare is tight and modern, or a bright and poppy piccolo and so on. If your drums are cheap, rattly garbage, it will give you a great snapshot of those too.
For the vibe seeker used to an SM57 or MD421 on their snare and/or toms, the DP30/C adds no weight, mid punch or brute force. However, if the drum itself is big and deep, these will capture it. I was surprised that, despite their extended high-frequency response, the DP30/C mics I used actually sounded bigger, more even, and less bright then my Audix micro-D and my original Shure Beta 98.
Interestingly, while the polar pattern and off-axis rejection is wide, even and constant, the DP30/C is still a very directional microphone, and altering the distance and angle of the mic from the head can vary the sound greatly. Moving farther away equals more of the full shell sound, while miking up close highlights the thump and resonance of the head.
Speaking of positioning, these goosenecks are exceptional. They are firm and tight and once placed do not move. I had to literally pick up the snare and shake it back and forth before the mic lost its position! They are also small enough to keep them safe from ham-fisted drummers.
For readers who are curious about percussion, the DP30/C once again offers photographic realism. I also tried them on congas and djembe, and again they gave an accurate sonic capture of both low rumble and high pinging finger hits.
There's not much else to say about the DP30/C, other than this is about as accurate an aural snapshot of your snare and toms as you can get.
Like most Earthworks mics the DP30/C carries a significant price tag of $649 street. While affordable for an Earthworks mic, this is probably a bit more than many of us are used to paying for our snare and tom mics, but if unparalleled accuracy and realism are what you crave on your drum dates, then the DP30/C pays off in a big way. Give it a try.
Price: $649 street; RM1 RimMount, $149 street
More from: Earthworks, www.earthworksaudio.com