Phantom? Beachtek? XLR? help! at

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Old October 24th, 2004, 08:41 PM   #1
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Phantom? Beachtek? XLR? help!

I do a LOT of videotaping as a serious hobbyist and use a Sony TRV950. I tape mostly outdoor sporting events, indoor stage events, and interviews both indoors and out.

My cheap shotgun mike died and I need a new one, but can't spend a lot of money (maybe $300 total). I've read through quite a few posts and have some ideas what mikes are good and what they cost, but I still have some questions.

I want a simple solution and don't fully understand what phantom power is. If a mike uses phantom power only, do I need some sort of additional component? What exactly is needed, and does it somehow attach to my camcorder? I'm leaning towards a mike that uses battery simply because of my uncertainty about phanton power (and cost).

My cam only has a mini-plug and many of the recommended mikes have XLR plugs. Is there a simple XLR to mini plug adapter? Does that cost much?

What does a beachtek do? Does it attach to the cam somehow?

I don't really want a complicated setup, and don't need superior sound. I would like a mike with good reach to try to capture the sounds of the events however. Would an AT897 be a good choice?

Thanks in advance, and in your responses keep in mind I'm an audio rookie! :)
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Old October 24th, 2004, 10:18 PM   #2
Fred Retread
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Yes, you need something to provide phantom power to mics that require it. Some BeachTek (e.g., the $250 DXA-6) and other similar adaptors can provide phantom power. It is supplied to the mic over the same XLR cable that carries the audio signal.

Basically BeachTek and other adaptors convert from XLR input connectors to a miniplug output that plugs into your camera. Typicaly, they mount to the bottom of your camera using the camera's tripod mount. They in turn have a tripod mount on the other side, so the whole assembly can be tripod mounted. The two independent mono XLR inputs can be applied to the left and right audio channels of your cam. This can be exploited in a variety of ways.

For additional basic info on XLR and balanced lines, here's an FAQ I wrote at

The AT897 sounds like a good choice for you. It's within your budget, is generally acknowledged as a pretty good shotgun, can be camera mounted, and can run on battery power. And yes, XLR can be converted to mini with a simple adaptor cable costing about $10 at B&H.
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Old October 25th, 2004, 12:45 AM   #3
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I use the same camera, and I got a BeackTek DXA-8 this summer.
It is like the DXA-6 Fred mentions, but has pre-amps and limiters (and thus costs more).
The pre-amps will boost the signal from the mic (as in "turn up the volume") and the limiters will hold the audio signal below a certain point that you set.
If you use the 950 with automatic audio level control (ALC) you may have noticed that some sounds - especially in the higher freqencies I think - at high levels, gets slightly distorted. This is a noise that tells you the ALC is working too hard. The limiters in DXA-8 will save you because 1, they are of a better quality than the ALC in your camera and 2, a limiter is not the same as ALC, it is a better principle.

On the downside. The BeachTek mounts under your camera, making it bulkier. Because of its construction it shifts the point of your tripod backwards, loosing the camera's balance. You need to tighten the tilt resistence. Using the largest battery helps a little, but not enough.

I think the TRV-950 is a wonderful camera. With the BeachTek, it has lost some of its elegance, gained some weight and lost its tripod balance. But it does give me even better audio quality (it wasn't bad before), with more control, greater availability of mics.
Do keep an eye on the left channel control though, because its position makes it too easy for you to turn it up or down without meaning to.
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Old October 25th, 2004, 03:44 AM   #4
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If you go with an Audio technika 897, or a Sennhesiser me66, you won't need phantom power. They can both run on battery or phantom. I'm using the AT and I like it a lot.
I was using the Beachtek dxa 4p ( line or mic connection) with my Canon gl1, but now don't need it , having swithced to an xl2.
You might want to look into (for down the road ) the sounddevices "mix pre", which is a 2 channel field mixer with phanton and limiters that can be worn on your belt. It's not cheap,
Good luck
Bruce Yarock
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Old October 25th, 2004, 05:58 PM   #5
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You can also buy a Rolls battery operated phantom power supply for $85 and then use an XLR to mini plug cable for $9.50.

Beach is about the only unit that attaches to the bottom of the camera. There are many that clip on your belt or need to be put in a case and that become mighty inconvenient.

For the best and most complete writeup look at Dan Brockets location sound article. Click here

My list of links Click here

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