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PEARL DS60 DOUBLE DUAL MEMBRANE CAPSULE MICROPHONE

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24 April 2013

pearl trimmedPearl loves its rectangular capsule, so much so it’s put four of them in the one body to create the all-seeing. all-capturing microphone.

Review: Alex Richardson

Who would you kill for a swiss-army microphone? I’m not sure anyone has promised a microphone that does it all before, but Pearl’s DS60 comes close. Before you start guffawing, think of an application. A superlative cardioid vocal microphone you ask? Done. A Mid-side setup for acoustic guitar? Still the same mic. How about an XY configuration for overheads? Please, it’s already in your hands. Other than spaced pairs, anything you can do with two mics Pearl can do with one.

The Pearl DS60 is a stereo/quadraphonic microphone including two of Pearl’s rectangular, dual membrane capsules that are precisely mechanically-aligned to achieve the best stereo image. It’s beautifully black and gold-finished body and grill gives it the microphone equivalent looks of a European sports car front end, but does it have what it takes under the hood?

BREAKING OUT

The two condenser dual-capsules each output two signals, which requires a mic cable with four breakout XLRs. After a few minutes reading about how to use the mic breakout cable and its mapped frequency response graph — which can be a little confusing at first — the mic quickly reveals itself to be quite a kick-ass tool, primed and ready for almost every situation. You have full control over four signals during recording and mixdown, which is a luxury. Your four signals give you polarity options of cardioid, omni or figure-8. The dual signals mean that you can even work with an isolated mix of the rear of the figure-8 patterns if it suits your application. That means you can adjust room reverberance, wall slap backs and noisy audiences in the mix if you want. You could record stereo or quadraphonic, M-S, Blumlein or XY with precise placement. The DS60 clearly outlines its centre focus points for XY or M-S, with gold engraving on the black body.

GETS THE GOOD ANGLES

The capsules are Pearl’s point of difference. For starters the capsules are rectangular. The going line is that circular capsules suffer from a more powerful resonance as a result of their shape. All membranes resonate but the quieter the resonance the less compensating needed in the engineering of the microphone’s other elements. Basically a stretched membrane, much like a guitar string, resonates at a specific frequency decided by its thickness and level of tension. The rectangular shape of Pearl’s capsule helps achieve a flatter response than a circular diaphragm because the centre of the membrane has two different distances to the capsule’s borders, which means there are two resonances rather than one, and each resonance is less prominent or lower in level than in a conventional circular capsule. Another benefit is that the rectangular capsule’s shorter width helps avoid longer distances between capsule borders. Longer distances result in lower frequency resonances, which are a lot more problematic than higher frequencies in microphone engineering. Pearl also declares that the capsule’s rejection is far superior to normal circular capsules.

Now normally I’m a big advocate for curves in a mic’s response for music production. A good tube mic with a slight hump in the mid-range brings beauty and placement in the mix, but the Pearl DS60 boasts a response that’s almost dead straight. That’s fantastic news for on-site recordings, film location recordings and room mics in the live room, but how does it fair for individual parts during music production?

MANY WAYS TO CUT IT

The first instrument I had the opportunity to test the DS60 on was the double bass. I had an idea to try a stereo XY focused vertically to record up and down the neck. I could mono and centre the low-end using another more appropriate mic on the F-Hole and then use a high pass filter on the Pearl’s signals. The XY pattern meant large coverage but could also achieve some interesting stereo movement. The mono low end and high pass filter on the XY setup was intended to avoid panning of lower frequencies, which sit stronger when at the centre of the mix. It was a great opportunity to test the mic’s sensitivity. On first listen, the mic really shone at picking up the entire range of the bass’s neck (string resonance and fretting). Every nuance was there. The bassist was more blown away by that than myself. He could use the headphones with both cans and still get definition, rather than with one off to listen to the bass itself. More impressive to me was the tight and controlled top end. Often with new, flat condenser microphones I have an issue with the top end being harsh or over accentuated, definitely not the case with Pearl.

My second opportunity to test the Pearl was in front of an acoustic guitar. My usual setup on a guitar is a tube mic on the body and a small diaphragm on the neck about 12th fret, depending on its application. Though a common issue with this combination is phase. A Pearl DS60 makes a stereo guitar setup easy and avoids the phase caveats.

Going with the M-S configuration this time, I was again impressed by the silky top-end but more so by its extended low frequencies. The microphone boasts an 18Hz-25kHz frequency range and it definitely performs. Its transparent sonic quality suggests an incredibly flat frequency response. In the documentation it shows a ruler flat response from about 60Hz-2.5kHz, a slight hump in the high mids followed by a tapering off after 10kHz, with variations on that theme depending on pattern selection. The sound to my ears is delicate, transparent, full-ranged, vivid and sensitive all at the same time but it lacks a bit of mid-range thickness for certain applications. That’s a very similar quality to its other neighbouring European microphone manufacturers/enthusiasts who strive for perfect capturing of the original sound source.

SEES EVERYTHING

Vocal recordings of a soft female voice unveiled much the same qualities as the acoustic guitar except it was a single capsule side with a cardioid pattern instead of an M-S formula. It was here I was truly able to test the rectangular capsule’s rejection, with a bit of baffling to help dry it up a little. The vocals sounded upfront and dry straight off the cusp, signalling a high rejection quality of the capsule. It is still susceptible to the commonly experienced proximity effect, though this is not necessarily a flaw and can of course be used to your advantage.

I couldn’t call this review complete without seeing how it might perform for location recording or atmos. My studio’s front yard often fills with Lorikeets, so I took it out there with my mobile recording kit and  captured some remarkably true responses of the surroundings. Its sound reminded me of a Soundfield microphone I’ve used once or twice in Melbourne. Once again sensitivity was a big plus with anything in its path being audible without being overly loud.

SHOWHORSE

The Pearl DS60 is a powerful tool in any sound engineer’s box. It’s a go-to microphone for almost all applications. But in life, you get what you pay for, and in this case you might have broken the bank. The microphone is in the higher echelon of price points but it’s a workhorse you’ll be proud to show off. You might not be able to get a pretty lady inside like you can an expensive car but I’d say you could get her to love her voice by the end of the recording.  

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