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DPA d:facto Vocal Mic Goes on Tour with Canadian Icon Jann Arden
“As for the d:facto, I couldn’t believe how much I liked it when we first got it on Jann.” – Chris Hibbons, FOH Engineer, Jann Arden
30 March, 2023 by
DPA d:facto Vocal Mic Goes on Tour with Canadian Icon Jann Arden

When Jann Arden returned to the stage for shows across Canada in early 2023, FOH engineer Chris Hibbins and ME Dakota Poncilius added a pair of new DPA microphones to the mix; a DPA 4055 Kick Drum mic on Norm Fisher’s bass amp and a DPA 4018 d:facto Vocal Mic for Arden’s vocals.

“We’re loving both microphones,” Hibbins says. “The 4055 on the bass amp is a huge success. It’s pretty flat up until the very top and takes SPL and wind well, so it’s a great microphone for a bass amplifier.”

“We’d been through several microphones on the bass amp. When we put the 4055 on that, it sounded very warm, very smooth, and reproduced the amp's sound faithfully, so that became the winner real quick.”

As for the d:facto, “I couldn’t believe how much I liked it when we got it on Jann. It’s great,” Hibbins says.

Anyone who’s seen Jann Arden perform knows that, beyond her stellar voice, her wry sense of humour and ample talent for onstage banter is almost as captivating as her music. What they may not realize is that, at times, Arden sings relatively quietly on stage, and the microphone Hibbins ‘inherited’ when he first began mixing Arden didn’t allow Hibbins and Poncilius to get as firm a grip on capturing all the nuances of Arden’s vocals as they’d like.

“Jann has great mic technique. She’ll go from singing quietly, with the mic right up to her face, to singing with the mic at her belt buckle,” Hibbins says. Before deploying the DPA d:facto, however, “I felt like I was fighting the old mic quite a bit because it dropped off too quickly, so we’d be chasing her (voice) when she was holding the mic farther away. And, no matter what we did, we were still getting quite a bit of drum bleed.”

The bleed itself wasn’t a problem, he adds, but the fact that it sounded terrible through the microphone they were using definitely was. After switching to the DPA 4018, “the drop off was much more linear and predictable. And the drums coming into the mic actually sound wonderful – like a nice overhead,” he adds, citing the 4018’s even rejection and frequency response off. “So, on Jann, it was incredible.”

Hibbins elaborates: “As I’ve said, Jann sings fairly quietly, and a little quieter than she sounds – because she’s got quite a lot of rich harmonic content to her voice. That’s great. That’s what makes Jann sounds like Jann.” The 4018 reproduced that far more faithfully, he adds. “So much so that she noticed it right away in her ears. Even when she turned her head and was a bit off-axis or singing off the mic, it sounded great no matter what.”

While they’d been talking about demoing a new vocal microphone for some time, given Arden’s typically short sound checks, they wanted to pick a good moment. “A time where we could prepare everything and have her quickly run through the incumbent microphone and a couple of new options.”

As it turned out, they didn’t need much time at all, Hibbins explains, recalling their first experience with the d:facto during sound check at a one-off in December 2022. “Jann sang a verse and chorus of one song on three different microphones, which took about 90 seconds.” Immediately, Hibbins, Poncilius, and Arden agreed the DPA was noticeably better than the other contenders. Arden even called Hibbins after the show, “something she’s never done before,” he adds, “just to tell us again she thought the mic was great.”

Still, he wondered if the romance would continue through their upcoming run in January 2023. “But once she got to know the mic even more, it just got better and better. The backing band, the crew, everybody commented on it.” Arden was also having a better time on stage and brought the difference up several times, saying it was much better in her IEMs.

To be clear, before switching mics, Hibbins says: “It’s not like things were ‘bad.’ The shows were sold out. Everybody was happy with the tour. It was a lot of fun.” But, had they moved the d:facto earlier, he continues, “I think everyone in the room would say it was smoother and better. And it made rest of the tour more fun for me because I didn’t have nearly as much worry about gain before feedback.”

That’s a result he credits solely to moving to the DPA 4018 d:facto. “We have the same ME, the same kind of in-ears, the same packs, the same band, just a different mic. Because the source was better, we went from a good place to a much better place.”