The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints’ (LDS) Mormon Tabernacle Choir boasts a fan base spanning 94 countries, reaching upwards of 12 million people through the group’s weekly music and spoken word broadcast on more than 2,000 TV and radio stations.
The choir of 350 vocalists and a 100 piece orchestra, regularly performs at some of the greatest venues around the world using DPA Microphones’ products for more than a decade.
“We’ve been using DPA’s d:screet 4061 miniature microphones exclusively on the string section for almost 10 years,” says Trent Walker, audio engineer for the Mormon Tabernacle Choir.
With the introduction of DPA’s d:vote 4099 instrument microphones, the d:screet 4061 mics are now more commonly used as lavalier mics, further showcasing the flexibility of DPA’s microphone solutions.
The d:dicate 4023 cardioid microphones are in all four of the choir’s grand pianos.
“They’re the best piano mics I’ve ever used—we live by them. Prior to switching to DPA, the choir members wouldn’t allow the orchestra to accompany them on tour because the vocalists never liked how the instruments sounded in a big room. Since then, the entire group has traveled together for every show. That’s really thanks to the DPA mics.”
Fans attend the choir’s performances expecting an acoustic sound, but it’s often hard to accomplish this in a large arena, which Walker says is not conducive to such a sound for an orchestra.
“I’m able to recreate it pretty accurately with the d:screet 4061 mics,” he says. “I can bring up one part of the string section and it’s like you’re sitting right there with them on the stage. I can’t imagine doing a live show without them. There’s no way I can mic a string section with any other brand and even compare it to what I can get out of the DPAs, especially in a large venue where it’s virtually impossible to get a really tight, nice orchestra sound.”
DPA has been a game changer for the choir. “It really changed the relationship between the orchestra and choir conductors and me, the audio engineer,” Walker continues. “We became one very integrated unit, whereas before they tried very hard to keep it an acoustic show, which was virtually impossible in a 21,000-foot room. What has ultimately happened is that the conductors have put their trust in us, as we’re trying to keep the show sounding as pure as possible.”
DPA’s d:screet 4061 microphones are the most vital to Walker’s production, he touts the natural sound of the microphones as their best feature. “The d:screet 4061 mics eliminate the room from the equation,” he says of no longer needing to rely on a house PA system to replicate the sound on stage for the audience.
“These miniature mics remove any sort of feedback issues, and they just sound amazing. The d:screet 4061 microphones are just very accurate and smooth. I control 70 of them out there on the stage and I never have to worry about feedback issues. We use the same mics for broadcast, so they’re a huge part of that as well, since we need to ensure a redundant sound through all of our shows.”
Walker also uses DPA’s d:screet 4080 lavalier miniature cardioid microphones for video shoots and presenters as well as several d:dicate 4026 cardioid hanging microphones in a Decca Tree arrangement in the main performance area of the LDS Conference Center.
“Between that setup and the other d:dicate and d:screet mics, we’re able to replicate at our concert hall what you might hear during an arena show,” he says. “Not just for 1,500 people, but for 20,000, so the DPA sound quality really made a difference for us. In fact, we ended up buying seven more kits. We still use the ones we bought 10 years ago every day, though.”
Trent has paid close attention to the musings of the live audiences as they walk out of the room, and says its clear nobody is aware of the microphones nearby. “The performances are really as transparent as we can get, and the microphones have been a huge part of that. We spent a lot of money on a huge sound system, which is really nice, but the DPAs have been the key to our whole signature sound. Everything we’re doing is based upon the quality of those microphones.”
With the 350 singers performing just 15 feet behind the string section, isolation is important. “Even though the d:screet 4061 microphones are omnidirectional, the sound of the choir through the strings’ mics is not discernible,” says Walker. This is essential, given that he’s also tasked with miking guest soloists, who are equipped with the company’s d:fine 4088 directional headset microphones. A unique application for this type of headset microphone, the 4088s give the PA technicians more gain to work with, so they can control the mics much more on stage.
“They love the mics, and the performers do as well,” notes Walker. “I even put them on the talking heads. I really like the d:fine 4088 mics for both of these applications, because they’re really rigid and, with the dual-ear mount, they don’t move.”
Walker also appreciates that the d:fine 4088 mics, which he uses for broadcast applications as well, are quiet. “A lot of microphones are kind of noisy, but the d:fine mics aren’t and can handle a high SPL with a very accurate frequency response.” This is especially important for singing applications, where a person’s voice can reach a large range of pitches.
While the musical component is the most beloved portion of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir broadcasts, on the Mormon Channel, the LDS radio station, the show also includes narrative components, such as folklore and inspirational speeches. While Walker employs the d:fine 4088s for these speakers, he generally prefers to use a podium microphone in these scenarios.
“They are wonderful as a podium mic,” he says. “I use them in the recording studio, for broadcasts, and I use them all over the world. I bought 10 of them, to build five custom podiums, and that’s the only solution the guys use. Trust me, we’d tried every option out there, and there was nothing even close to what we’re using with the two 4081s.”
DPA now offers the d:screet SC4098 podium microphones, which utilize the same miniature microphone and acoustic interference tube technology.
In addition to its show on the CBS Radio network, the Mormon Tabernacle Choir performances are broadcast live in English, Spanish and Portuguese, and edited for rebroadcast in Mandarin, to 12 million homes all around the world. With that many fans, it’s important to always have a relationship with a reliable brand.
“I’m really happy with DPA as a company,” adds Trent. “They’ve been very supportive, and their warranties have always been first class. We’ve never had an issue with their representatives. The company really cares about sound quality, and that’s really what we care about. At the end of the day it’s all about the show, not the microphone or the sound system or anything, but the performance. If that’s perfect, then we’re all happy.”
The model numbers mentioned above have since been updated, as DPA Microphones strides to renew and upgrade its equipment for continued audio perfection. The 4023 has been replaced by the d:dicate 4011ER, the 4026 by the d:dicate 4015ER and the 4021 is now the d:dicate 4011C.