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Author Topic: Pre's w/no meters (DPA MMA-6000)-how to level?  (Read 1056 times)

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Offline SMsound

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Pre's w/no meters (DPA MMA-6000)-how to level?
« on: March 06, 2022, 06:19:37 PM »
I've been offered a DPA MMA-6000 pre, and I've been thinking about adding some 4061 and other d:screet/CORE mics to the stable. So now for the stupid question: How are you all setting levels on pre's like this that lack meters? I don't think I've ever used a pre that, in the worst case, didn't have at least one LED to tell you when you're clipping.

Even if I convert dBu to dBFS and try to match levels, I have no idea how much gain the different DPA mics need, having never used them. Surely I'm missing something basic here.
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Re: Pre's w/no meters (DPA MMA-6000)-how to level?
« Reply #1 on: March 06, 2022, 10:34:08 PM »
Hopefully your recorder shows levels.

So if you're going into something like a Sony M10 you can set your levels on the MMA6000 and read them on the screen of the M10.
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Offline fireonshakedwnstreet

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Re: Pre's w/no meters (DPA MMA-6000)-how to level?
« Reply #2 on: March 06, 2022, 11:05:51 PM »
I looked through the VERY sparse manual and it said max output was +/- 1.5V. There is, however no info on the max input level before clipping. 1.5V translates to +5.74 dBu. For comparison, the MixPre preamp clips at +22dBu and the Naiant boxes at +17dBu. So the DPA has a lot less headroom. If you use a rough reference of +20dBu = 0dbfs, then you are looking at a level of around -15 dbfs to your recorder before the preamp clips. Seems to me you wouldn't be able to drive this preamp much without clipping. Then you have to take into the account the sensitivity of the mics and the spls at the show.

I personally would not feel comfortable running a preamp with such a low clipping level without at least 10db outboard pads at the preamp input. This would allow you to apply some gain with some additional headroom. I will also add that you may want to monitor the preamp while setting levels for any hint of distortion.
« Last Edit: March 06, 2022, 11:50:23 PM by fireonshakedwnstreet »
Mics: AT 3031; AT 853Rx (c, o); CA-14(c); JVC M510; Naiant X-R (h); Studio Projects C4 (c, o, h); Nak 300
Recorders: Tascam DR-680 MkII; Tascam DR-70D; Tascam DR-5; Tascam DR-2D
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Offline SMsound

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Re: Pre's w/no meters (DPA MMA-6000)-how to level?
« Reply #3 on: March 06, 2022, 11:59:57 PM »
Hopefully your recorder shows levels.

So if you're going into something like a Sony M10 you can set your levels on the MMA6000 and read them on the screen of the M10.

I'll probably be recording with a MixPre-6 through the channel 5/6 Aux input. But the levels on the MixPre-6 won't match the Pre's levels---I could have a cold recording on the MixPre-6 but still be clipping the preamp, as the signal is attenuated when going from the preamp into the MixPre's aux input. Or at least, I think this is the case.

 
I looked through the VERY sparse manual and it said max output was +/- 1.5V. There is, however no info on the max input level before clipping. 1.5V translates to +5.74 dBu. For comparison, the MixPre preamp clips at +22dBu and the Naiant boxes at +17dBu. So the DPA has a lot less headroom. If you use a rough reference of +20dBu = 0dbfs, then you are looking at a level of around -15 dbfs to your recorder before the preamp clips. Seems to me you wouldn't be able to drive this preamp much without clipping. Then you have to take into the account the sensitivity of the mics and the spls at the show.

I personally would not feel comfortable running a preamp with such a low clipping level without at least 10db outboard pads at the preamp input. This would allow you to apply some gain with some additional headroom. I will also add that you may want to monitor the preamp while setting levels for any hint of distortion.


^^ This is exactly what I was worried about. Somehow, I have read on TS that some members were getting good results from this pre---I really wonder how they could figure out how much gain to apply. As far as I know, the DPA pre doesn't have limiters, so you're screwed if you give it too much. Kindof defeats the purpose of having a preamp... I still feel like I'm missing something here as they make good stuff. It can't just be "apply gain until the distortion is so bad you can hear it over the concert, then back off a bit".
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Offline fireonshakedwnstreet

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Re: Pre's w/no meters (DPA MMA-6000)-how to level?
« Reply #4 on: March 07, 2022, 12:26:06 AM »
Yep. This pre seems sensitive, especially for loud rock and roll. I would def pad the input, 10 or even 15 db. You probably could run without a pad, but seems you would run into trouble driving it. I had a similar issue with the MixPre when I first got it. Could only add very little gain. Now I run it with a 20 db pad and can drive it to 3 o'clock on the pots with no clipping. Tape something you don't care about with some pads on the inputs and try to find the sweet spot.
Mics: AT 3031; AT 853Rx (c, o); CA-14(c); JVC M510; Naiant X-R (h); Studio Projects C4 (c, o, h); Nak 300
Recorders: Tascam DR-680 MkII; Tascam DR-70D; Tascam DR-5; Tascam DR-2D
Pres: Edirol UA-5 (Oade PMod & WMod); Marantz PMD661 (OCM); Naiant MidBox

Offline aaronji

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Re: Pre's w/no meters (DPA MMA-6000)-how to level?
« Reply #5 on: March 07, 2022, 07:10:33 AM »
You'll have a hard time clipping it with 4061s. Even with quite a bit of gain. I guess it's potentially more of a problem with 4060s, but, even with them, you'll be OK if you don't add too much gain (as I recall, 6 - 10 dBs worked well for rock - jazz). Don't forget this pre-amp was made specifically for these mics.

Offline Gutbucket

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Re: Pre's w/no meters (DPA MMA-6000)-how to level?
« Reply #6 on: March 07, 2022, 01:20:34 PM »
I never had a problem with 4060's through it.  It provides way more gain than needed for those.  I wouldn't suspect any problem with 4061.  It's mostly about getting the gain staging between preamp and recorder set appropriately. The gain trim knobs are detented, so find a comfortable "middle of the road" setting that works in combination with the input sensitivity of the recorder you are using, leave it there, and adjust recording trim as needed on the recorder.

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Offline DSatz

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Re: Pre's w/no meters (DPA MMA-6000)-how to level?
« Reply #7 on: March 07, 2022, 09:28:54 PM »
Even a top-tier manufacturer's costly, excellent product for application "A" may well be unsuited for application "B" when the two applications have conflicting technical requirements, as they clearly do in this case.

When condenser microphone capsules have only a 3 mm effective diameter, noise will be a fundamental problem even though the DPAs are at the highest level of quality I can imagine for such crazy design constraints. I'm a real admirer of the development work that they've done on these tiny critters. But the 4061 has a noise spec of 38 dB (CCIR qpk), which I would find unacceptable except for close miking of very loud sound sources for amplification purposes. Professional small-diaphragm condenser microphones used for recording, broadcast and film sound these days have noise levels ~15 dB lower, and the difference matters unless the program material never has any quiet parts whatsoever.

In short, I really think that the use of subminiature lavalier microphones for conventional (i.e. not very close-in) recording is a mistake unless they're absolutely needed for stealthing. If your microphone is as noisy as the 4061 is, the noise of a recorder's mike preamp can hardly be a problem worth considering, and you can surely dispense with any external preamp--as well as with 24-bit recording of a signal that can have only 12 to 14 bits of actual information if you're lucky.

If on the other hand this is all about stealth recording and I simply failed to pick up on that, I apologize. But even in that case an outboard mike preamplifier can't solve the problem of noise that's in the microphones themselves. Surely there must be better choices even if you need small, concealable microphones.

--best regards
« Last Edit: March 31, 2022, 12:47:28 AM by DSatz »
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Offline SMsound

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Re: Pre's w/no meters (DPA MMA-6000)-how to level?
« Reply #8 on: March 07, 2022, 11:23:38 PM »
In short, I really think that the use of subminiature lavalier microphones for conventional (i.e. not very close-in) recording is a mistake unless they're absolutely needed in order to conceal the fact that you're recording at all. If your microphone is as noisy as the 4061 is, the noise of a recorder's mike preamp can hardly be a problem worth considering, and you can surely dispense with any external preamp--as well as with 24-bit recording of a signal that can have only 12 to 14 bits of actual information if you're lucky.

Interesting! Mainly, I was interested in the MMA-6000 in order to run a pair of microdot 4060/4061's or similar for various opera soloist recordings that will be filmed (It's open taping, but I'm often asked to completely hide the mics in the video shot). I thought a pair of these little mics hidden in a piano, or alternatively, the ability to hide one on a soloist, would be a nice option to have in the quiver. Both sources are obviously really loud, but I still expect to use 15-25dB gain and I'll need a microdot & power adapter anyways.

I still don't understand DPA's intended use case for a no-meter preamp that lacks a limiter.
« Last Edit: March 07, 2022, 11:26:45 PM by SMsound »
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Offline DSatz

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Re: Pre's w/no meters (DPA MMA-6000)-how to level?
« Reply #9 on: March 08, 2022, 12:40:23 AM »
Ah. Quite arguably you do need this class of lavalier, then--though to me, the 4060 would seem preferable for many if not most situations.

--Maybe the circuit design of the MMA-6000 is such that its input circuit never clips before its output. That's achievable, though not necessarily optimal from a noise standpoint. The specification sheets for most preamps don't disclose the input overload point, however, and sometimes it's quite a surprise one way or the other.

The best investment I've ever made in basic test equipment is the NTI MR1 ("Minirator") tone generator. I imagine there are reasonably priced alternatives, too. When you can generate audio frequency tones at various definite frequencies and levels, you can answer a lot of questions and prevent a lot of mishaps before you ever set out to do a recording with a given piece of equipment.

--best regards
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Offline Gutbucket

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Re: Pre's w/no meters (DPA MMA-6000)-how to level?
« Reply #10 on: March 08, 2022, 11:13:22 AM »
DSatz, can you help me understand this.. (you posted above) "If your microphone is as noisy as the 4061 is, the noise of a recorder's mike preamp can hardly be a problem worth considering, and you can surely dispense with any external preamp--as well as with 24-bit recording of a signal that can have only 12 to 14 bits of actual information if you're lucky."

The dynamic range spec for 4061 is 97 dB for the older style and 111 dB for the newest version (4060 is 100 dB for the older style and 106 for the new version).  These figures would seem to encompass if not slightly exceed 16bit range.  Is your argument that this range is shifted to higher SPLs than you would expect to encounter in conventional (i.e. not very close-in) recording such that the higher end of that range will never be reached, equating to less than 16 bits of information?
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Offline Gutbucket

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Re: Pre's w/no meters (DPA MMA-6000)-how to level?
« Reply #11 on: March 08, 2022, 11:14:20 AM »
..I'll defend the use of subminiature lavalier microphones for conventional live music recording as generally practiced on this forum.

4060 is certainly not the most quiet omni (although it is impressively quiet in comparison to other small lavs), however in my experience its self-noise has not been a problem in the venues in which I've recorded live music using it with audiences present, including quiet jazz and classical audiences in purpose-built halls with very good if not ultimate world-class quiet HVAC and sound isolation from the outside world.  I originally choose 4060 because of its ~3dB lower self-noise than 4061 and remain satisfied with it in that regard. I later began using 4061 as well, in a different recording rig used for amplified music, and found it to be quieter than the ambient noise floor of the venues in which I use it as well, but those places are in general significantly nosier even during their quiet moments without an audience present.

I do consider self-noise the primary constraint of these microphones, but that is offset by the advantages of good performance per dollar, very robust environmental toughness with a total indifference to moisture, and minimal size / negligible weight making setups practical that I could not achieve otherwise with standard microphones, providing the ability to obtain more-optimal placements in the venue than I would otherwise be able to manage.  For those reasons they have been an especially good practical fit for my purposes. 

That said, I would likely choose other microphones (except specifically for lav and on-instrument mic'ing) if I were recording professionally with a different set of practical constraints.
musical volition > vibrations > voltages > numeric values > voltages > vibrations> virtual teleportation time-machine experience
Better recording made easy - >>Improved PAS table<< | Made excellent- >>click here to download the Oddball Microphone Technique illustrated PDF booklet<< (note: This is a 1st draft, now several years old and in need of revision!  Stay tuned)

Offline GLouie

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Re: Pre's w/no meters (DPA MMA-6000)-how to level?
« Reply #12 on: March 08, 2022, 11:34:42 AM »
Without being familiar with these mics/preamp, my usual course in similar cases is to use the oscilloscope and look for any clipping and under what general conditions/settings. This usually answers most of the questions.

You should be able to see the level where the preamp clips, and set the MixPre accordingly. I am guessing that the MMA gain is then adjusted to stay under clipping.


 

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