Review: DPA d:vice

Jerry Ibbotson gives Audio Media International his honest opinion about this dual-channel microphone preamplifier from Danish pro-audio firm DPA.

Size and scale are odd things. Remember the classic “this is small, those are far away” moment in Father Ted? I’m having a similar experience right now. I’d seen images of DPA’s new d:vice and thought it looked interesting: a compact twin mic preamp and A/D converter. I tend to see new kit and try to picture a use for it.

With the Danish firm’s new offering I immediately thought of location reporting for radio news, one of the sections on my own career CV. One of these and a couple of the (supplied) DPA personal mics and you’re halfway to a studio-on-the-go or an outside broadcast point.

The thing is, when I looked at the pictures I imagined something the size of a small saucer. When I opened the box, I discovered something closer to an after-dinner mint. It really does sit in the palm of your hand with plenty of room to spare. I actually laughed.

It’s like a flat pebble finished in matt black and brushed metal, solid and well-finished. There are two Micro-Dot connections and a micro-USB input and that’s it, nothing else spoils the look and feel of it. What does it do? It hooks up to an iOS device or a Mac or PC and provides a high-quality dual-channel preamplifier and digital convertor. Simply connect a pair of DPA mics and plug it in. It sends a stereo feed but if you only connect a single mic, the unit interprets this as a mono.

It comes supplied with two cables, a Micro USB to iOS Lightning and a Micro USB to USB A. There are also two clips for attaching the mics to your person and a neat carry pouch.

The d:vice has a dynamic range of 114 dB and can support sample rates up to 96 KHz. It’s set to 48 as a default. It also has a high pass filter on each channel, at 80 Hz, to clear up any potential noise or rumble. You’ll also be pleased to learn it can work down to zero celsius, though the human user may not function as well at that temperature.

It is remarkable that such a small device can provide audio of this quality”

The d:vice is primarily aimed at iOS device users. There’s an Apple app available which gives control over gain, the filters, monitoring and mono /stereo. It has a level meter and four preset buttons to store settings for specific mics. The app works in conjunction with third party software, such as live broadcast applications like Luci Live or the BBC’s own offerings as well as commercial audio and video software.

Use it with anything else and you’re pretty much left to your own devices as far as control goes. I don’t use any iOS gear (heresy, I know) and instead hooked the d:vice to a laptop running Windows 10. It installed itself with zero fuss and immediately appeared as hardware in the settings panel of Adobe Audition. For control over gain, I had to rummage about within Windows but it wasn’t a total faff, just a bit disappointing, as I like the look of the iOS app.

The one thing the d:vice doesn’t offer is any direct monitoring. If running on iOS you can monitor a recording or broadcast through headphones connected to the Apple device. In my case (and yes, I know I’m a Luddite) there was nothing that could be done.

I did some test recordings, using one of the supplied DPA 4060 personal mics and the sound quality was as good as I’d expected. It’s a DPA after all. There was no hiss or noise from the preamp and I even had a look at the recording in Audition’s spectral view to get a better idea of what was going on. This simply confirmed how clean the recording was: crisp and sharp with no nastiness at all. That’s not to say I was expecting anything bad, more a reflection on how some small recording gear I’ve tested over the years has been let down by hissy preamps.

I couldn’t honestly say it’s quite as good as a “full size” preamp, it’s a little cold and hard to my ears, but it is remarkable that such a small device can provide audio of this quality. If you were running this in the way it’s intended, with an iOS device, it throws up a whole stack of possibilities. Slip the d:vice pouch in one pocket, a phone and headphones in another, and a radio reporter has pretty much all they need for mobile journalism.

Having a separate, personal mic, means you can report in trickier situations where holding a phone to your ear isn’t an option. This might simply mean somewhere with bad weather, with the mic in a proper windshield. Or you can set up a two-mic interview situation, like a mini-studio, in a hotel room or coffee shop (I’ve done both). It would be great if the control app was available on other platforms but that’s pretty much the only negative I can come up with. DPA have proven, once and for all, that size means nothing.

Key Features

  • Dual-channel microphone preamplifier
  • A/D converter
  • Ultra low noise floor
  • High Dynamic range
  • Works with most third party apps

RRP: £528 ($700)

Jerry Ibbotson has worked in pro-audio for more than 20 years, first as a BBC radio journalist and then as a sound designer in the games industry. He’s now a freelance audio producer and writer.