One of the ultimate struggles for a gigging double bassist is getting proper amplification without losing the sound of your instrument. Using a microphone is a great way to preserve your tone, and recently I got my hands on the DPA 4099B Clip Mic for bass to test it out.
The 4099 is not a new solution bassists. In fact players have been using it for some time; however there has not been a bass-centric clip design. Bassists have had to make due with the guitar, trumpet, and violin clips, but the new 4099B package comes with a novel and manageable mount that attaches securely to the E and G-strings below the bridge via notches in the clip.
The mounting system is made of a rubbery material, so it flexes to accommodate any string spacing, and it sits between your strings and top of the bass in such a position that you don’t have to worry about knocking it around (a real problem for the active performer).
Another noticeable benefit of the new clip is the ease of putting it on and taking it off. You can mount, unmount, and easily adjust the mic in just a couple seconds. Overall the clip design is simple, sturdy, and efficient… all things to make life a little easier.
The 4099 is a condenser microphone, which means it requires phantom power, meaning it needs to be powered from an external source. This is done with a wireless system (DPA boasts over 35 wireless adaptors) or through a microphone cable (microdot connector to XLR adaptor included). This makes it most convenient to go to a front-of-house mixer, although some amps such as those by Acoustic Image provide phantom power. DPA also makes an external supply.
The mic sports a windscreen and is fitted with a shock mount on the end of a gooseneck. The gooseneck then fits into another notch cut into the mount, and is held tightly in place by a ring that slips around both the gooseneck and clip. Coming off of the gooseneck is a thin 6-foot cable with the microdot connector on the end. The microdot worried me at first, because it is a very small plug and so is the ring that screws it onto the adaptor. Another inspection of the contents made me realize they include a tightening tool to help you get a good grip on it, and once I used it I felt a lot better about it.
My main concern with the physical portion of the 4099B was with the cable from the mic to the XLR adaptor. The adaptor come equipped with a belt clip, which led me to believe that it should be clipped to your person, but that leaves the 6-foot cable dangling between you and the bass, and close to your legs no less. This can be okay for some people, but for accident-prone folks, it can be a hazard. Plus, keeping an eye on the cable can take away your focus while playing. I came up with two solutions: first using the belt clip to hold the adaptor to the strings below the bridge, and second not using the belt clip at all. While attaching it to the strings, I wrapped up the cable and put a tie around it to keep it from getting out of control. This put the XLR connection in a place similar to where some pickups plug in, and felt pretty comfortable. It did not affect the sound, though putting a cloth between the strings and clip may be a good idea. The belt clip is also removable, and is replaced with an ordinary ring spacer. This puts the cable and adaptor on the floor. This could be an issue if you move around a lot, but otherwise the feed can be sent in any direction for a sound engineer to plug into. Either way it is not an unmanageable situation.
Putting the DPA 4099B to Use
I got the chance to play with the DPA 4099 solo, on a concert hall stage, and during a rehearsal with a 5-piece Latin jazz band in a relatively small practice space. This microphone sounds amazing. The mount allows you to place the mic in lots of different positions, and after moving it everywhere between the f-holes, I found my favorite sound to be between the bridge and the fingerboard, about an inch from the top of the bass. Moving it over the f-holes made the sound a little too thick for my personal taste.
The microphone’s sound is very clear, with great definition and articulation. It can keep the sound of your bass without getting that mid-range honky-ness or losing low end. Whether I was bowing, plucking or slapping, the 4099 gave me a great sound without hassle. I also had little to no issues with gain vs. feedback. The mic can be turned up a good deal before you start running into that problem, and once I found the right level, I could get up close to the monitors without feeding back. My best results came with the combination of my pickup, a David Gage Realist, and the 4099. The two blended very nicely, and together created a monster sound that kept me loud and clear, even over the drumset, timbales, and congas.
DPA is a Danish microphone company that has a solid reputation, and the 4099B is just more proof of their excellent craftsmanship. The mic gives you a clear and smooth replication of your instrument’s sound, and the new mounting system is a dream. The XLR adaptor placement is a little blurry, but you can get around it easily, and it doesn’t take away from the actual performance of the mic in any way. The 4099B is a great tool in the fight for a good amplified sound for your bass, and would benefit a bassist in any live situation.
Photo credits: Leigh Fountain.