One of our weakest links in the audio chain since I have been at Kensington has been our speaker mics. We’ve used DPA 4066 headsets for at least 4 years now but I have had a couple issues with what I consider weak points.
- I’m not a big fan of the microdot connector. It is nice to have the flexibility of being able to use the headset with different brands of wireless manufacturers, but we had regular trouble of that microdot either not being tight enough and causing audio noise, or coming loose through the course of a 3 service day when the speaker is wearing the mic throughout that whole time.
- I really dislike the fact that the mic can move inside the headset assembly so that a speaker could accidentally move the mic from ideal position by hugging someone the wrong way, eating and bending it, or getting their cable caught on something and it tugs the mic in the headset just a bit.
- Even though we used omni-pattern 4066s, we found that placement was extremely critical to get ideal frequency response. When you combine the mic moving in the headset with the frequency response stuff, I think the 4066 is pretty people intensive to get right. It was very important for me to personally fit the mic to the speaker each week and go through a pretty lengthy soundcheck to make sure it was positioned properly. Then still in 25% of the cases, by the time the speaker would actually hit the stage to give the message, it wouldn’t sound like it had in soundcheck.
When I was hanging with my buddies on the crew for the Joyce Meyer conference last summer, I got a great idea from what I saw there to hopefully come up with a better option. Everyone I know in church production world with the exception of Willow Creek uses a Countryman E6 on their speakers with great results. However, KCC has historically had nothing with trouble with them. Fragile build, difficult to place on an artist and not have them move, and reliability trouble during use on stage were most notable. Also consider that we have a teaching team of 8 people, so re-fitting an E6 to each speaker would be a nightmare.
When Joyce was speaking, I was amazed at the quality of her voice and also loved that I could hardly see the mic on IMAG. Come to find out, their rig was a cocoa E6 (the medium brown color since a darker mic hides on the skin better than a lighter one) custom-fit to a DPA headset. That way you get the sound quality benefit of the E6 (I’m not sure there’s a better sounding mic for talking heads) while the stability and fit benefits of a dual ear headset design. So a few months ago I set out to build our own version of this.
Its pretty easy to do. All I did is take a DPA headset from an old 4066 that was not fixable, curve the E6 so it fit around one of the ears as you can see in the photo, and then use some small clear heatshrink to mate the two to each other.
What’s so great about this setup is that the headset provides instant stability on the head so the mic position cannot move. Now when we aim the mic for the speaker, we don’t have to worry about it changing by the time they reach the stage during the service. I’ve also found that the need to adjust mic placement from speaker to speaker is much less since the distance from ear to mouth doesn’t change when we fit to each speaker – the only thing we’re adjusting is the size of the headset around the back of their head.
Is this setup perfect? Sadly no. We’re still struggling with finding the ideal placement for the E6 on the cheek so we don’t get breathing noise or extremely random pops. I think its just a placement deal so I’m curious for feedback based on what you see here.
However, in spite of the lingering stuff to work out, this mic sounds great, looks fabulous on video, and sufficiently answers all of my problems with the 4066.