Roomful of Teeth is all Smiles With DPA Microphones
From first listen, it’s obvious that amplified vocal ensemble Roomful of Teeth is unlike any other performance group around today. As the ensemble’s Head Audio Engineer, Randall L. Squires is no stranger to the band’s haunting, hypnotic vocals. After starting with the group in 2015 alongside boss and mentor Damon Lange, Squires eventually took over full audio operations, including recording, mastering and FOH engineering. Most recently, the group entrusted Squires with recording its latest album, requesting that he create a completely new audio canvas from which they could work. To complement the unique sound and get consistent, reliable audio, Squires turned to DPA Microphones’ d:facto™ 4018VL Vocal, 5100 Mobile 5.1 Surround and 4011 Cardioid Condenser Microphones.
“The d:factos were perfect for us,” Squires says. “Roomful of Teeth is primarily a live act, so they’re used to amplification and having a handheld vocal mic on a stand directly in front of them. I wanted to find a solution that still fit the look of the handheld mics they were used to, but with a higher fidelity. The d:facto felt familiar to the singers, allowing all the mic techniques for their overtone singing and yodeling to translate directly, while also giving them a more open sound. Hitting those higher notes and hearing the overtones is also easier with a d:facto than it is with a dynamic mic. They hear all the upper mid-range sounds that they can go for, and they hit them easier. The singers had a major push after they heard the mics, literally every single one of the performers said, ‘we need these mics.’”
Recorded at the MASS MoCA (Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art), the group of eight singers were set up in a full circle, with the 5100 directly in the center, about 60 feet across from each person. One d:facto was then set in front of each singer along with a monitor and several 4011s were set directly behind them another 20 feet out to pick up room sound. There were additional speakers behind the 4011s, which Squires set up to face into the corner, allowing him to feed reverbs to the singers and change the feel of the room space. “I decided to do this record completely differently and it was really a gamble,” adds Squires. “I was pretty sure that the mics would work, but I didn’t realize exactly how perfectly; and it required very little EQ. Everything is linear with these mics, even the off-axis response, which is great because I don’t want a microphone to sound completely different when the singer shifts position slightly.”
Co-artistic Director, and lowest voice in the band, Cameron Beauchamp was particularly pleased with the results of the DPAs. “Those mics have a knack for bringing out all the best, most natural qualities in our voices,” he says. “They feel warm, exciting, balanced and effortless, and gave us consistent confidence and comfort on long recording days. We didn’t have to worry about ‘working’ the mic and minding our plosive consonants like we’ve grown accustomed to with other mics — it took care of all those stray ‘P,’ ‘T’ and ‘K’ sounds for us. Using the d:factos was an instant level-up.”
After falling in love with the DPAs for this project, Squires made the decision to purchase ten d:factos, with plans to incorporate the mics into both live applications and recording projects. “These mics are so easy to fit in a bag and take on the go,” he explains. “The d:factos will be our main touring microphones, and we’re going to use them for literally everything. I’m not worried about feedback with this mic. Even if there’s high SPL or a drummer on stage, I can treat it the same at front of house. We also recently utilized the d:factos in support of Caroline Shaw’s ‘Microfictions, Vol. 3’ with the New York Philharmonic at David Geffan Hall, as well as to record the score for 2022 film, ‘Catherine, Called Birdy.’ We had such a great experience with both the mics and the film’s Composer, Carter Burwell, and Engineer, Alex Venguer, while working on that record.
“The DPA standard is huge for me,” Squires finishes. “DPA has always been better than any other brand for me, not only with regards to sound quality, but also in terms of stock availability. My confidence in DPA really shows when folks in the business ask me for recommendations and I can now say, ‘I use DPA, and I love them.’”