Does using a breakaway cable compromise sound quality? at DVinfo.net

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Old November 10th, 2009, 11:34 AM   #1
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Does using a breakaway cable compromise sound quality?

This may sound like a ludicrously obsessive question, but sound recordists are generally a ludicrously obsessive sort, so figured I would ask:

When convenience and mobility aren't of great importance, is it preferable to use high quality XLRs over a breakaway cable? The logic being that fewer connectors, more high quality cable could result in better sound...

I'm building a field audio kit, and am weighing the need for a breakaway cable, and also whether to have shorter XLRs to use when the breakaway is unnecessary.

A follow up question: are there any high end breakaway options for the Sound Devices 302? If I'm making a point of using Canare or Mogami/Neutrik XLRs, shouldn't I aim for the same uncompromising quality in the breakaway?

Thanks very much, JB
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Old November 10th, 2009, 03:28 PM   #2
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Answering myself

Just for anyone's reference who may read my somewhat esoteric post:

So far I've heard from an audio salesperson that a breakaway connection would not compromise the signal unless there was a short in the connection. He also said that Remote Audio's breakaway cable, for example, carries every bit the same quality as a Canare cable.

If others disagree, please fire away, but for now I've accepted this as a reasonable answer.
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Old November 10th, 2009, 03:37 PM   #3
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I was told by a vendor that the Remote Audio cable is as reliable as Canare starquad. I've used one for years, and it has performed flawlessly. I used to obsess over keeping it away from power lines, but no longer bother. In five plus years I've never gotten interference on a line level signal. Speaking directly to your original question, I really doubt there is any audio quality difference between a breakaway and non breakaway. It's the sort of thing that either works right or it doesn't.

Last edited by Marco Leavitt; November 10th, 2009 at 04:38 PM.
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Old November 10th, 2009, 04:15 PM   #4
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I agree. Sound quality in name brand balanced audio cables only starts to diminish over very long runs. FWIW the standard breakaway cable preferred length seems to be 25'

On a set if you can't avoid it, you should lay audio cables across AC power cables at right angles and not too many of 'em. Cheers.
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Old November 10th, 2009, 04:40 PM   #5
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"On a set if you can't avoid it, you should lay audio cables across AC power cables at right angles and not too many of 'em. Cheers."

Yeah, I've always heard that too, but seriously, there doesn't seem to be much danger in ignoring even this rule. Like I said, I no longer worry about it all and have never had a problem. Maybe that's a testament to the fine products from Remote Audio if you can forgive me for sounding like a shill for them.
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Old November 16th, 2009, 11:28 PM   #6
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the only possible way you might lose some quality is if you really got the connectors cruddy,but a few make/breaks should clean them right up.

given the convenience and speed, no way I'd want to work w/o one... ok, I'll go digital wireless any day and loose the cable completely :)

and if you are so worried... please don't ever open up that small cable on your shock mount ( like the Rycote S ), or look at the guts of the coil cable inside the boom pole, or the one connected to you pole to mixer.... and yet some how it all still works out ok :)
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Old November 17th, 2009, 06:33 PM   #7
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No issues at all with a break away cable vs. basic XLR. Keep the connector clean, YELL at the camera op if you must keep reminding him to keep your connector out of the dirt when you break lose.

Frankly, I'm already looking past a break away and into a wireless 2ch. Been doing some oversea shoots and that tether is becoming a liability hazard and huge pain in the @$$ when moving fast.
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Old November 17th, 2009, 11:03 PM   #8
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How is that working out for you?

Zack, can you share your experiences going 100% wireless?

My sound man uses a Canare breakaway, but when I covered the Cannes Film Festival, we just used a butt plug transmitter in one of the 302 outs, and used the second channel off the on board mic (a Senny 66) as a safety.

Worked as well as a hardwired mic, but I have been reluctant to fully commit to wireless, what are your thoughts?
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Old November 18th, 2009, 01:46 AM   #9
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If you're doing a camera hop, it is always a good idea to have a small recorder handy or a mixer like a 552 on hand. Most sound people do a backup with their cam hops, I know I do.
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Old November 19th, 2009, 01:16 PM   #10
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What Jeff said is what my plans were to be once I do get a wireless hop. I haven't done it yet until I get the 4 grand for the Lecto system I want. I've been using a Canare break away for now, which works great quality wise, but as i mentioned earlier on fast moving shoots I'm really needing freedom from the camera.

I guess another option if the camera is able to accept Timecode (and you have a good TC generator) is to use a lock-it box, or wireless TC between your bag and camera... this gives the same freedom. However, you will have full responsibility of any audio not recorded or not sync'd correctly due to incorrect frame rate or sample rate settings. This would just require a little post sync work once on the editor.
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Old November 19th, 2009, 01:39 PM   #11
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Backup recording device

Good point Jeffery!

I always have a Sony PCM-D50 wired to the record out of the SD 302 (my ultra portable event sound kit).

It fits perfectly in the space under the 302 compartment that Portabrace added for a NP1 battery to run the 302 (I just run the 302 off of high capacity NiMh in the on board container). The Sony has a nice wired remote that is tacked to the sound harness, so my sound mixer can turn it on and off. The remote has a well thought out status light on it.

I haven't actually had to use the backup tape yet (except for tests), but that falls under "Enzo's General Rule of 2's": when you have a backup, or a spare of an item, nothing ever goes wrong with it. When you don't, it always breaks or burns out at the worse possible moment.
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