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DPA Microphones Bring an Extra Dimension to Aurora’s Haunting Voice
Europe – Norwegian singer-songwriter Aurora Aksnes is currently touring Europe with a full complement of DPA microphones that are being used to amplify her vocals, backing vocals and all of the instruments in her band.
Known simply as Aurora, this exceptional artist released her debut EP Running with the Wolves in May 2015. Later the same year she provided the backing track for the John Lewis Christmas advert, singing a cover of the Oasis song Half the World Away. Her debut studio album, All My Demons Greeting Me As A Friend, was released worldwide in March 2016 and peaked at No.1 in the Norwegian album charts and No.28 in the UK.
Capturing the haunting and ethereal quality of Aurora’s voice was top of the list for her FoH engineer Paul Inge Vikingstad and a key reason why he suggested using a d:facto vocal microphone for her live performances. Vikingstad, who played bass in several bands before moving into audio production, is renowned for his ability to make live shows sound great.
“I introduced Aurora to the d:facto when I first started working with her nearly three years ago, and she absolutely loved it,” he says. “The d:facto makes her voice cut through the mix, almost in a three-dimensional way. The 3dB soft boost at 12kHz gives nice air to vocals without boosting the s’es and the lack of handling noise every time Aurora takes the microphone off the stand is simply amazing.”
At present, Aurora is using a wired d:facto on a stand but her monitor engineer and tour manager Tomin Tollefsen says he’s hoping to expand the production and make the d:facto wireless as well.
Previous good experiences with DPA, plus Aurora’s obvious satisfaction with d:facto, were the reasons why Tollefsen and Vikingstad decided to specify DPA microphones for her entire live sound set-up. A total of four musicians support Aurora on stage, including a drummer, a keyboard player, a bass player and a guitarist. They also all provide backing vocals.
“Anders Faafeng, from DPA’s Norwegian distributor Lyd-Systemer, helped us choose the right microphones,” Tollefsen says. “Both Paul Inge and I have used DPA mics in the past and have always found them to be reliable. When I’m not on tour, I record acoustic music with a classical ensemble using my own d:dicate 4006 omnidirectional and d:dicate 4011 cardioid microphones. Incorporating DPA into a live environment really gives us the opportunity to bring studio quality sound to Aurora’s live performance. We use d:facto vocal microphones for everyone who sings, not just Aurora, while the drum kit and guitar amp are exclusively amplified with d:dicate 2011C twin diaphragm cardioid microphones. In total we’re touring with five d:facto, eight d:dicate and two d:vote 4099 instrument microphones, the latter being mainly used for floor tom or acoustic guitar when we’re doing club shows.”
Although synths and samples are an intrinsic part of Aurora's sound, Tollefsen feels that capturing the natural bass/guitar and drum sound is important, too. This, he says, along with great sounding vocals, is what makes the music stand out as organic and dynamic.
To amplify the drum kit (which consists of a kick, snare, hi-hat, floor tom, cymbals and SPD), Tollefsen mounts a d:dicate 2011C on an LP-clamp and positions it a few centimetres from the front hole of the kick drum. This gives him the kick sound he wants without having to put a microphone inside the drum. He is also using a d:dicate 2011C mic for the hi-hat, positioning it so that it also captures a small tambourine, which is vital to the sound of some songs.
“For the snare drum, we’re using both an over and under mic,” Tollefsen adds. “Our drummer is very disciplined, so we can mount the top mic as close as we want to the drum without the risk of him hitting it. It really helps us capture that great low end from the snare, and after we started using DPA microphones virtually every local engineer we met asked us what mic we were using to achieve that great sound.”
Amplifying the floor tom has been the subject of some debate because Tollefsen and Vikingstad can’t decide if they prefer the d:dicate 2011C or the d:vote 4099 instrument microphone. “We’ve been going back and forth about this because they both sound so good and we’re having a hard time choosing,” Tollefsen says. “The 4099 is easy to position exactly where we want it, but the 2011C adds something extra that really responds well when we use it with large PA-systems. Both are great, so we use them interchangeably.”
d:dicate 2011Cs are also being used as overheads because the musicians like them for their IEMs. “We’re basically cutting a bit of low end, adding a bit of compression and just giving them a great overall mix of the drums. I’ll blend in a little bit of the other mics as well, just for that extra punch,” Tollefsen says.
Aurora’s tour continues until the end of the year and takes in venues and festivals across Europe. Tollefsen is convinced that switching to DPA has made a huge difference because the sound team can now deliver consistency at each venue.
“They are absolutely helping the performance,” he says. “Having good quality mics that sound the same for every show makes everybody's life easier. The musicians and Aurora have made several comments on how much better their IEM-mix sounds. Prior to going all condenser, we were a little nervous about feedback sensitivity and cymbal bleed but we’ve had nothing to worry about. There's plenty of low end without any feedback issues, and there is no noticeable increase in cymbal bleed. The transition has been very smooth and we couldn’t have asked for anything better.”
30th September 2016
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