Denmark’s DPA Microphones have a decades-long history of manufacturing precision, accurate condenser microphones. My first DPA encounter was in Denmark, recording Copenhagen’s excellent group, Town Portal. We used a Bruel & Kjaer (DPA’s predecessor) 4011 on guitar, and it blew our minds. Suddenly, all our other go-to guitar mics sounded broken. Since then, a pair of 4011s has been on my bucket list. So, I jumped at the chance to review DPA’s new 4055 Kick Drum mic. Interestingly, it’s a condenser. Unlike most kick drum mics on the market, it is designed for flat frequency response – the idea is that you can EQ in whatever tone you want rather than having an EQ curve already built into the sonic signature of the mic. It’s also not cheap. In fact, it’s one of the most expensive kick mics I know of.

My review coincided with an unbelievable trip to record Swiss gnar-lords Coilguns at Ocean Sound in Norway. Incidentally, at Ocean Sound we used a pair of DPA 4006A omnidirectional mics as drum floor mics, and damn, they were perfect. The 4055 arrived a couple of days into our session, so I had to wait for an opportunity to test it, but of course, we immediately cracked open the box. The mic is small and sturdy, and like every other DPA mic I’ve touched, inspires confidence and feels like “DPA quality.” It comes with DPA’s UA0961 mic clip, which is seriously my favorite my clip, period. I know, it’s just a mic clip; who would spend $140 on one? However, it is damn nice.

Overall build quality is an A+, as expected, but back to the session: When we got to recording some double-tracked drums, I replaced my long-running favorite kick mic, the AKG D12 VR [Tape Op #110], with the DPA 4055. The differences were as expected: the 4055 sounded much more neutral, and any bleed sounded classy and good. After EQ’ing in a healthy scoop around 500 Hz and adding some high frequency tick, the two sounds complemented each other well – different but equally good flavors.

Back home in Oakland, I had a second review mic for a couple of weeks, and found the same results on multiple sessions. Classy, tight, kick drum sounds that EQ’d nicely, with no harshness or nasty artifacts. However, my favorite 4055 application was on a bass guitar amp. I placed the DPA on a 4x10 next to my usual Electro-Voice RE20/Shure SM57 combo, but quickly struck those mics in favor of the DPA. The 4055 captured everything I wanted – growly midrange and solid low end, with a more open and defined sound. Plus, I’ll always pick a single mic with no phase concerns over mic blends at mix time.

Ocean Sound’s chief engineer Henning Svoren was very keen to try the 4055, so I left it with him. He was gracious enough to write a few words: “As an avid DPA user and general appreciator of our neighbors in Denmark, the DPA 4055’s launch caught my interest. There are many cool dynamic kick drum options out there, but none that I’ve settled on as a go-to. After a couple of bad, and midrange-y stints with an old AKG D 25 and a Beyerdynamic M 88 [Tape Op #61], I’ve pretty much given up on vintage dynamics. I do have a Neumann U 47fet that I really like. It’s a cool and classic mic, but excessively expensive for what it does. So, a dedicated kick drum mic, built with the precision DPA is known for, was definitely of interest. I was surprised to walk into our control room and see a DPA 4055 box sitting on the credenza! Impressed by the Coilguns tracks that Scott had used it on, I asked if he could leave it behind after the session was in the bag.

When I had the studio to myself, armed with the Avid Control app on my iPhone, I commenced a series of highly subjective tests. First, I found a good spot for my ‘67 Ludwig 22-inch bass drum, a snare, hi-hat, and ride. I wanted to listen not only to the bass drum sound, but the bleed as well. I tried different placements, usually alongside at least one other mic for reference; smack dab in the middle of the drum, in front of the hole, on the front head, and close to the beater on the batter side. As reference mics, I used one of my favorites, the Shure SM7 [Tape Op #36], plus an AKG C414 B-ULS, Josephson e22S, the aforementioned Neumann, and more. After comparing the DPA from every conceivable angle, I ended up not only with thoughts about the sound of the 4055, but also that it’s too seldom I take the time to do this – playing around with an instrument and experimenting with sound at my own pace.

Back to the 4055: It has a big and bold natural sound that extends in all directions with loads of tight bottom end and, like all DPAs, an immaculate off-axis response (read: good-sounding bleed!). Because of its natural and open sound, it can work on kick drum for jazz sessions as well as metal, simply by changing its placement. It’s pretty beefy below 100 Hz for a small diaphragm condenser, but how it deals with proximity creates an un-muddified low mid register. This might seem strange, but the precision it’s built with is reflected in the sound it delivers – always on point.

After a similar procedure on bass with my old Ampeg B-15 amp, I ordered a 4055 for Ocean Sound. I am not going to retire any of our other mics any time soon, but the DPA will surely make its way into many sessions here. Thank you, Danes!”

For the music I work on, I’m happy to get a bit of pre-EQ’d sound out of a kick drum mic, but I know many folks who hate the scoopy/ticky thing or would prefer to get there themselves. I can’t think of another kick mic that does neutral this well. It is expensive, but that’s DPA life, and I’m certain you’ll be able to grab this mic with confidence for decades. Includes a five-year warranty and UA0961 clip.

Tape Op is a bi-monthly magazine devoted to the art of record making.

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