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Old September 14th, 2003, 08:12 PM   #1
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Newbie shotgun mic questions

Hello,
Ok, I'm trying to get all this microphone business straight but I'm not sure I'm getting it.

I plan on getting a Panasonic pv-dv953. I am on a very tight budget, but wanted a 3 ccd camera with some higher end features, so the 953 seemed to be the way to go. I will be doing short films so the low light capabilities or lack there-of is not much of an issue as I will be lighting each scene anyway.

Enough background, now on to the microphone questions.
I hear alot of talk about the sennheiser me66 but that is more than I wanted to spend, then I have to get an xlr adapter (which isn't cheap either) right?

Now how about an Azden SGM-X? It is $129.95 from B & H, not bad, and from what I understand I don't need the adapter, just plug it right into the camera. I can put it on the hot shoe, but can I put a longer cord on it and attach it to a boom? That's what I'm really interested in, something to put on a boom. Is there a reason I would want an xlr adapter? If I can get a mic and plug it right into the camera I would be a happy camper.

Please, someone explain this stuff to me in simple terms (speak slowly so I can understand) and remember, I want cheap!
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Old September 15th, 2003, 06:17 PM   #2
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I don't have much experience at all with that mic, but The hotshoe adapter seems good, but ones that I have used tended to just hold the camera on the shoe, but very poor at noise reduction so any movement or vibrations on the camera such as fingers moving, focusing motor, zoom motor, etc tends to be sent though to the mic. As you said you can just plug it into the camera without any adapters, however if the mic is mono you may only get sound on one channel (right or left), so if you cannot adjust this in the post-production editing, I would use a mono to stereo adapter so the sound goes on both R & L channels.

For that price range of about $120, I got a Sennheiser MKE300 for my holiday camera a little Sony PC-100. The mic is very good and I loved it to bits. I got a Rycote windjammer (furry mic) cover for it that was taylor made for the MKE300 and made it great for outside and cost me about $50-60 (I'm assuming as I bought it in UK)

Which ever mic you choose if you are using a mini-jack cable I would not extend it or use it any longer than is needed or that is attached to the mic as with this cable type the longer it is the more noise and interference you get which drastically diminishes the quality. I tried to extend the cable, (such as what you want to do to attach it to a boom) but it sounded really awful, so unless you want lots of electronic hum and noise keep the cable as short as possible. I would only use XLR cables over long distances, such as above 1m.

If you get an XLR adapter then the world is your oyster and you can sellect from a whole range of mics and you can use longer cables to booms and alsorts. You quote about $130 for a mic, well I think in US terms it would be about $200 dollars for the Audio Technica AT-835b. I have that mic and its great for the price. Someone said that about 10 yrs ago a mic of this quality would have been around $800. Boomed in close the mic produces great results. I know its more money on top for the XLR adapter, but its a better investment. The advice would be "Buy today, what you'll need for tomorrow". So an XLR adapter is the way forward. Once you have an XLR adapter you can change mics or even borrow / hire mics as and when needed and you have no problems with connections. But just buying one mic with mini-jack means your stuck with one mic only and its not future proof for your further advancements and improvements in gear.

I think I have gone on long enough, but I hope that I can help you as I know how it feels to be in your shoes and I tried to keep it in simple terms.

All the best!!!!
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Old September 15th, 2003, 08:02 PM   #3
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Thanks alot Christopher!

I didn't realize adding a long cable to the 1/8 microphone and plugging it in the camera would produce such terrible results. Now I understand the need for the xlr adapter, because the larger cables can be extended and used in conjuntion with a boom without the extra degradation of sound quality.

Ok, now, anyone care to explain xlr adapters to me? I see there are a few different ones available. I see the BeachTek DXA-2 is only around $120.00. Anyone know of any less expensive models?
Not to be a cheapskate, but come on, it's just a little box with a couple jacks, knobs and switches right?... Right?... (someone get behind me here)
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Old September 15th, 2003, 08:04 PM   #4
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Adam, SignVideo (www.signvideo.com) do xlr adapters and they might be a bit cheaper than the Beachtek, not sure.

They have a couple of little problems, like knob placement being a little bit awkward but that might not bother you.


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Old September 15th, 2003, 08:23 PM   #5
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Thanks for the heads up Aaron,

I just checked out signVideo. They have their xlr-jr for only $99.00. it has one xlr in, one 1/8" in, and one level control. that should be all I need huh?
I will certainly keep that in mind!
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Old September 15th, 2003, 08:48 PM   #6
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I personally would pay a little extra and get two XLR ports even if you only use one...that way if need be...you can have two mics at 16bit on the go, which is very helpful. So you could have a clip on mic and the boom or shotgun mic on the go, useful in noisy situations. Or if need be any mix of two mics using R & L channels (mono mics) to full use, rather than just the one - then wishing later you had had two cos the talent turned away from facing the boom and u missed their speech, especially if you are going to do Short Films as you stated.
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Old September 15th, 2003, 09:13 PM   #7
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"Not to be a cheapskate, but come on, it's just a little box with a couple jacks, knobs and switches right?... Right?... (someone get behind me here)"

The box, the pots, switches, XLR jacks and isolating transformers are not Radio Shack specials, they are high quality components. The enclosure has to be strong enough to mount to the camera and act as a tripod adapter. These are specialty parts and the item is a limited production specialty product.

You do get what you pay for. Price out decent quality components , then add the labour and you'd be surprised.

Will you work for minimum wages? Why should someone else?
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Old October 21st, 2003, 05:51 PM   #8
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I've been looking at the Samson Mixpad 4 and would suggest you give it a serious look ($160 at B&H Photo). I know it's a little higher than you were looking, but the problem I have with the Beachteks, SignVideos, etc is that they don't give any way to monitor the sound your recording and there is no pretailoring of the sound available. I've tried using the camera's headphone jack and it's not loud enough to judge things by; I've discovered during post editing that I've clipped the signal but didn't hear it during recording

Also, they don't have phantom power (all condenser mics are powered, shotguns, lav mics) so you have to find either a battery powered mic or get an external phantom power supply.

The Mixpad 4 has 2 XLR (or 1/4") channels and a third stereo channel, a headphone jack for monitoring levels, a peak LED to let you know if your clipping, and low/mid/hi EQ to get a better sound right off the bat. It's also AC or battery powered (by 3 nine volts) and supplies 18vdc phantom power to the XLR mic channels. The standard is 48v but a lot of mics can use 9-52 vdc phantom power, like the Superlux line. It also comes with a shoulder strap and is small enough that you could hang it on a tripod as well. It's also metal so it looks pretty durable.

Figure that you'll have to get a phantom power supply eventually and the Mixpad is actually cheaper than a Beachtek and Phantom Power Supply and Headphone Amp, all in one unit. Plus since it's all one unit there're also less cables to worry about.

Hope this helps,
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Old October 22nd, 2003, 04:59 PM   #9
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hey, thanks jeff.
That really sounds like something I should look into.

Glad you had some information for me instead of just picking on me for trying to save a few bucks like that last post.
I'm not really cheap, just broke. There is a difference. give a guy a break!

Anyway, enough about that. Thanks again Jeff.
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Old October 23rd, 2003, 05:48 AM   #10
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Hey, sometimes cheap is all you can do...I'm in charge of the Sound and Video Ministry at my church, so I know aaaall about compromise and shoe-string budgets <G>. Sometimes we have to do baby steps equipment-wise.

Good luck!
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Old November 2nd, 2003, 06:43 PM   #11
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Well, I find I must retract my recommendation for the Samson Mixpad 4...I got one this weekend and was not impressed with the hiss level. It does have some nice features, but for DV recording the hiss was too much to justify buying it.

I tested the unit out with both an MXL-603s small diaphram condenser mic and a new NRG SA-568 shotgun mic I also got with the Mixpad order (B&H Photo). The 18vdc phantom power was enough to power the condenser mic and the NRG was battery powered so my initial testing was really to compare the NRG to the MXL, which I had been thus far using as a boom mic for video taping short skits.

Even with the mic channels and main output turned all the way down there was a VERY audible hiss as heard through my GL-1 camcorder headphone output. To compare, I connected the NRG shotgun mic straight into the camcorder (based on other forum posts about the NRG's noise level) and there was dramatic drop in the hiss level, very close to the MXL mic I'd been using to date.

So, although this might be a good little mixer for a small live act, I can't recommend this for DV or even computer recording. Also, the headphone output I'd been excited about has no separate level control which I'd expected.

I have heard very high recommendations for the Peavey RS-200, which is also battery power capable and has more channels. I plan to return this to B&H (who was very easy to deal with getting an RMA number for return) and try my luck with that. I will post a followup if anyone's interested (it's about $40 more).

BTW, although I'm thinking of upgrading to the Azden SGM-1X for $20 more based on comparisons to the NRG SA-568 on this forum, I must say it didn't do badly. It's got a bit of handling noise to it, but if you have a good shockmount it may be okay. My homemade one handled it okay, but handheld applications, i.e. as an interview mic, might be a stretch. The hypercardioid 'tele' setting seemed to work pretty well, no noticable increase in hiss with the increased tighter pickup as I had read about the older models so it looks like they may have improved in that area in recent years. Seemed to be less susceptible to wind rumble than my MXL-603s, too, although it did have less bass response so that could be part of it.

Hope this is helpful,
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