American folk singer/songwriter Joan Baez recently went on the road in Australia and New Zealand with DPA Microphones d:vote 4099 instrument microphones.
The musician’s audio engineer Jason Raboin uses the mics to for the sound of the grand piano, mandolin and violin that are prominently featured in her music. He also brought them with him to Baez’s special performance in late July with Jackson Browne and Emmylou Harris to benefit Downtown Streets Team, an organization aiming to end homelessness.
With two d:votes originally purchased for Dirk Powell—a multi-instrumentalist in Baez’s band who wanted free range of movement while playing his guitar, violin (fiddle) or mandolin—Baez’s rig now features a total of four d:vote mics. With the ability to mount the wireless microphone directly onto the instrument, Powell can perform with the gusto of a typical fiddle or mandolin player.
“Dirk’s request sent me on a hunt for a mic system that not only does what he wanted, but also sounds good and is useable in monitors,” says Raboin. “The d:vote 4099s were a clear choice. Since the mic mounts right onto the flat surface of the string instruments, I was initially worried that gain and monitors would be an issue, but the microphone has been really great.
“We are able to get plenty of gain. Sometimes Dirk plays fiddle right in front of the monitors and we’re fine. I think that’s something that every engineer worries about, not getting gain in your monitors if you use a condenser mic, but that’s definitely not the case with the d:votes.”
After the success of the d:votes with the string instruments, Raboin chose to add to the collection with a stereo pair for Baez’s grand piano. “Another thing that’s great about the d:votes is that when I’m using them for the piano, I can arrange the mics so the piano can be played with the lid closed,” he explains. “People usually come up with all sorts of whacky solutions to accomplish this, but DPA has a mount that lets me affix the mics without any harm to even the most expensive instrument. And they still sound just as good. That was actually also one of the main selling points for Dirk.”
The small size of the d:votes play an integral part in this arrangement. The compact size also proved a valuable feature during Baez’s Australian tour, for which the crew flew, rather than drove, to each stop. To meet the travel budget, Raboin had to pack only the audio essentials into a few pelican cases. Each could not exceed the 50 pound weight limit set by today’s travel standards, and it is for this reason that the miniature microphones were helpful.
“The d:votes are so tiny, they barely take up any space or weight,” continues Raboin. “Also, while the mics are more expensive than the average condenser mic on the market, when you think about it in terms of return on investment—how many different places they can go, and so easily, because of their modularity and all the mounting options—it ultimately makes them less expensive than other solutions.”
In addition to all of Baez’s performances, Raboin also uses d:votes when he’s engineering for folk singer Judy Collins. A sound engineer for more than 15 years, Raboin has worked with artists such as Modest Mouse, Luna, Cowboy Junkies and Devendra Banhart. He also currently owns Camden Sounds, a sound company based in Amherst, Massachusetts.