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Old December 23rd, 2009, 12:32 PM   #1
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FX1 to Z1U for XLR or Keep FX1 and get Beachtek

Hi All,

I've been mulling this over for a while now, i took advantage of the rode mic offer and got a good deal on the mic from sydney with the $1 AUD blimp added.

What i'd like to ask is - would it be better to upgrade my camera to the Z1 to take advantage of the built in XLR or should i keep my FX1 and add one of the beachtek offerings to it.

The FX1 will probably bring $1700 or so and a Z1 is no less than $2500, the beachtek top of the line 6vu is about $350 or so.
So financially it makes sense to go with the beachtek solution...

I need to keep the FX1 / Z1 due to a water housing i have which can fit either camera - so going to a different model right now is not an option...

Thanks for any comments / advice.
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Old December 23rd, 2009, 04:21 PM   #2
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my 2c

I have a fx1. Although there are times i wish for the convenience of built in XLR, I don't think the preamps on the z1 are nice enough to justify the cost. So to answer your question directly, I think the only advantage of the z1 over the fx1 + external preamp is the convenience of not having to muck with an external preamp.

For the price difference, and not much more than the beachtek, you could buy a sound devices mix-pre, which you can feed via the 1/8" line out to the 1/8" line in on the fx1 and get excellent results. Where most of the beachtek's are "ok", the mix-pre is a "hollywood grade" preamp, has amazing multistage limiters that not only save you if you have sudden loud noises, but actually sound smooth and natural while limiting. The mixpre will continue being a kickass preamp long after you've moved on to a newer camera. It also gives you a pro "boom op mixer" should you work at that level. I shoot on all sorts of cameras with XLR input incl. z1u, xlh2, ex3 and even the RED, and except for "news style shoots" we never plug the mic straight into the camera. It always goes through my mix-pre or a fancier sound devices mixer before the recorder/camera. In some cases the mix-pre gets used strictly as a boom mixer that is sent to another mixer before the recorder/camera.

I'm just saying... for the same price difference you were looking at, the mix-pre seriously rocks.

The down side is the mixpre cant screw to the bottom of the camera. It requires a belt pack, shoulder strap or a clever mounting bracket. If you mostly do news style shoots, that could get annoying really fast.

Thinking strictly in the short term, the audio on the fx1/z1 in hdv mode is fairly compromised by being compressed. If you are set on a "screw onto the camera" solution, I've heard some moderately good things about the juicedlink stuff vs. the beachtek. Unless the juicedlink/beachtek is noisy/hissy, I'd guess them to be around the same quality as upgrading to a z1. I think the mix-pre is a big jump up from there, but on the fx1 its more due to features than what you'd hear.

So... moving from a known fx1 to a used z1 that you don't know if its been abused... thats a negative to me.

The acoustic difference between a juicedlink/beachtek+fx1 vs z1? I'd think would be minimal.

If you get a beachtek/juicedlink with actual pre-amps and phantom power you are pretty darn close to the price of a mix-pre, which i think is a major jump up in quality and functionality. (meters, tone generator, a return from camera so you can flick between the mixer output and what the camera is hearing to ID problems, the magical limiters, amazing preamp quality, etc.) As soon as you buy a better camera the beachtek/juicedlink will go into a drawer/ebay where the mixpre will still have uses.


Thems my opinions anyways. Hope it helps or somethin.

cheers,
-andrew
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Old December 23rd, 2009, 06:38 PM   #3
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I'm considering getting the XLR adapter for an HMC40, but thinking I might get something like this instead (and see if I can rig a way to mount it to the camera nicely):

Tascam | DR-100 Professional Portable Digital Audio | DR-100

I've got to think that such an approach would pretty much blow away the audio quality resulting from recording with the camera, no matter what do-hickey might be in-between the mic and the camera, especially using 24 bit, uncompressed encoding - also much better for retaining quality when editing the audio.

Anyone else taken this approach, and care to comment?
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Old December 23rd, 2009, 08:48 PM   #4
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Robert got a good solution. Add a portable audio recorder with XLR inputs, so that recording with double system as well as sending unbalanced audio to the camera as well.

There's a even better solution, but need one more important device: Sound Devices MixPre. Exactly the same opinion as Andrew.

This decent microphone amplifier/mixer will easily blow away almost all portable audio recorders, as well as XLR adapters. There're XLR output as well as 3.5mm stereo output for pocket size audio recorder/consumer camcorder and professional camcorder. With its high performance limiter, clipping risk is taken care of. (I got 2 of this excellent mic mixer, a MixPre and a FP24 from Shure.)

My 2 cents.
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Old December 23rd, 2009, 10:42 PM   #5
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I like the concept ...the ultimate on-camera audio solution - just need to figure out how to mount the combo elegantly on the camcorder - shouldn't really be too tough. For really going nuts with the customized on-board audio solution, creative use of a good quality wireless system (recording that signal with the camera) could yield some relatively easily acquired, yet pretty good, surround sound.
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Old December 23rd, 2009, 11:37 PM   #6
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Andrew - your detailed post is superb - thanks alot for putting the time in to reply.

After i posted, i saw someone else (Ty i think) recommend the mixpre to someone else, so i started to check it out, and also after the post i discovered a post where someone did a review of beachtek, juicedlink and H4N on a 5D - those beachtek's were very noisy!!

Looks like i'll be going for the mixpre.

I like the part about when i move on, the mixpre will still be used while the others will go to ebay / drawer.

Appreciate all the responses, thanks guys.
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Old December 24th, 2009, 06:25 AM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Robert M Wright View Post
I've got to think that such an approach would pretty much blow away the audio quality resulting from recording with the camera, no matter what do-hickey might be in-between the mic and the camera, especially using 24 bit, uncompressed encoding - also much better for retaining quality when editing the audio.
I've got some decent audio gear (sound devices and schoeps) and often do shoots with dual audio solutions like the 744t. There are certainly cases where you gain from a higher quality recorder vs. the camera, but "blown away" would never come up in my description. I mean, most of what one shoots audio-for-video is dialog, not symphonic masterpieces. And then, unless you are doing something really wrong in your booming, any decent recorder/preamp is going to sound "pretty darn decent". Its only if you are using the wrong mic or booming poorly or have a really noisy/crappy pre or recorder that the sound of the pres/bit depth/compression will really come into consideration as you try to apply a bunch of filtering/effects to try to recover takes.

Yes, there are some people out there that claim to or can hear the difference between various preamps and/or 16bit vs. 24bit, or even absurd things like 44.1 vs. 48k. In reality, the choice of mic and the placement makes SO much more impact on the sound. If you put my schoeps on any two decent location preamps, i don't believe any one will "blow away" another. On the other hand, my Oktava in the hands of a skilled boom op WILL blow away my schoeps swung by a stoner lighting grip. (apologies for implying that all lighting grips are stoners. I mean, they ARE, but I didn't mean to imply that. hehe.)

I was looking at the tascam as a pocket xlr solution for dual or backup audio. I use a r-09 for that now, but there are times i would like the xlr inputs. The tascam and the zoom are both cool, but the input chains just aren't really that great. They are as good as most camcorders, but I'd argue that you wouldn't be getting 24 bits worth of data from the pres... and most of the tests at taperssection would seem to agree with that. Thats not saying they aren't good for a lot of recording applications... just that the value of the handheld recorders is their convenience and portability, not their sonic superiority.

If you are shooting on a 5d with horrible autogain, then a recorder like the zoom h4n or tascam 100 would be necessary and fantastic. If you have a camera with xlr inputs? Even one that compresses the audio like a z1... I personally dont think the results of the two recordings would be different enough to bother with having to sync up the tracks. Recording to a 702? thats a bit different.

Now... comparing the tascam or zoom strictly as an alternative to the beachtek/ juicedlink... thats an interesting challenge. The prices are fairly close, and if for the same money you could get a preamp that also records? sweet! Its a shame you cant bolt the h4n/dr100 to the bottom of the camera.

I've heard some chatter about the dr-100 having "noisy preamps". I'd be curious if that was noisy like "noisier than using a beachtek" or just "noisy enough that 24 bit recordings are pointless". hmm.

Interesting conversation. Sorry for the long rambly posts.

cheers.
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Old December 24th, 2009, 11:51 AM   #8
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Fx1 + Beachtek is a better value than Z1u. That being said I went through similar struggle at the end of the day I spent the extra money and got the Z1u and I'm glad I did.

For me, I placed a higher value on the convenience of the built in XLR. I once did a run and gun gig with the FX1/Beachtek at some point I switched over to internal mic but forgot to unplug the Beachtek. No audio what a disaster! I vowed never again got the Z1u and never had a repeat. I was to blame for not wearing headphones but most anything that makes my job easier and less likely to screw up, I pay for it. Extra equipment strapped on to the camera adds weight, effects the balance, and prevent your camera from fitting in your bag, forcing you to do the disassemble/reassemble dance or get a bigger heavier bag.
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Old December 24th, 2009, 11:58 AM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Khaled Chatila View Post
I need to keep the FX1 / Z1 due to a water housing i have which can fit either camera - so going to a different model right now is not an option....
I don't know anything about water housings. Is the design so tight to the FX1/Z1 form that it would not fit an XH-A1?
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Old December 24th, 2009, 12:47 PM   #10
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Close isn't close enough with watertight housings. The fit has to be exact, especially in regard to the location of the through-the-hull control extensions.
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Old December 24th, 2009, 01:06 PM   #11
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Originally Posted by Pete Cofrancesco View Post
For me, I placed a higher value on the convenience of the built in XLR. I once did a run and gun gig with the FX1/Beachtek at some point I switched over to internal mic but forgot to unplug the Beachtek. No audio what a disaster! I vowed never again got the Z1u and never had a repeat.
I could grin and say, man always monitor with headphones, and your meters on screen. But I did the same thing at a grand childrens' church concert for about the first 10 minutes.....
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Old December 24th, 2009, 01:30 PM   #12
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There is more to the Z1 (vs FX1) than just additional audio features. There's also black stretch (nice feature IMO) and, as I understand it (I've never actually used a Z1), colored outline for peaking on b&w image display in the viewfinder, which I've got to think would make the Z1 just a whale of a lot easier to focus than the FX1. Properly focusing an HD camera with a low res LCD and/or viewfinder, on the fly, is something I find quite challenging (HD is just not very forgiving when it comes to focus). With my XH-A1, I wind up using the push instant auto focus often, as it seems to nail focus a heck of a lot more reliably than I can, manually, on the fly. Auto focus with the FX1 seems pretty worthless though (almost always substantially off the mark). I'm kind of surprised at how well the auto focus on the HMC40 works - might have a lot to do with the greater DOF with 1/4" chips making things easier that way.
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Old December 24th, 2009, 01:57 PM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Andrew Dean View Post
I've got some decent audio gear (sound devices and schoeps) and often do shoots with dual audio solutions like the 744t. There are certainly cases where you gain from a higher quality recorder vs. the camera, but "blown away" would never come up in my description. I mean, most of what one shoots audio-for-video is dialog, not symphonic masterpieces. And then, unless you are doing something really wrong in your booming, any decent recorder/preamp is going to sound "pretty darn decent". Its only if you are using the wrong mic or booming poorly or have a really noisy/crappy pre or recorder that the sound of the pres/bit depth/compression will really come into consideration as you try to apply a bunch of filtering/effects to try to recover takes.

Yes, there are some people out there that claim to or can hear the difference between various preamps and/or 16bit vs. 24bit, or even absurd things like 44.1 vs. 48k. In reality, the choice of mic and the placement makes SO much more impact on the sound. If you put my schoeps on any two decent location preamps, i don't believe any one will "blow away" another. On the other hand, my Oktava in the hands of a skilled boom op WILL blow away my schoeps swung by a stoner lighting grip. (apologies for implying that all lighting grips are stoners. I mean, they ARE, but I didn't mean to imply that. hehe.)

I was looking at the tascam as a pocket xlr solution for dual or backup audio. I use a r-09 for that now, but there are times i would like the xlr inputs. The tascam and the zoom are both cool, but the input chains just aren't really that great. They are as good as most camcorders, but I'd argue that you wouldn't be getting 24 bits worth of data from the pres... and most of the tests at taperssection would seem to agree with that. Thats not saying they aren't good for a lot of recording applications... just that the value of the handheld recorders is their convenience and portability, not their sonic superiority.

If you are shooting on a 5d with horrible autogain, then a recorder like the zoom h4n or tascam 100 would be necessary and fantastic. If you have a camera with xlr inputs? Even one that compresses the audio like a z1... I personally dont think the results of the two recordings would be different enough to bother with having to sync up the tracks. Recording to a 702? thats a bit different.

Now... comparing the tascam or zoom strictly as an alternative to the beachtek/ juicedlink... thats an interesting challenge. The prices are fairly close, and if for the same money you could get a preamp that also records? sweet! Its a shame you cant bolt the h4n/dr100 to the bottom of the camera.

I've heard some chatter about the dr-100 having "noisy preamps". I'd be curious if that was noisy like "noisier than using a beachtek" or just "noisy enough that 24 bit recordings are pointless". hmm.

Interesting conversation. Sorry for the long rambly posts.

cheers.
I appreciate your "long rambly post". Audio is something I want to put some focus on and study a bit - at least enough to get results that satisfy my ears. Up to now, I've focused a heck of a lot more (to put it mildly) on achieving great image quality. I know how to get wonderful images now (at least to my satisfaction), but noise in audio bugs the heck out of me - even just a little hiss or hum (that a typical viewer probably wouldn't notice consciously), when there should be absolute silence, really dampens the total experience of viewing stunning images for me.

I can hear the difference (with some pieces of music) between say MP3 encoding at 160Kbps and MP3 encoding at 320Kbps, but that difference doesn't bother me (it's just not much). I know some people can hear a difference between MP3 audio encoded at 320Kbps and uncompressed audio - I can't. What bugs the crap out of me is noise, especially where there should be silence, the kind that you could hear a pin drop, but instead hear a bit of background hiss or hum. Realistically, what does it take to eliminate that (as economically as possible)?
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Old December 24th, 2009, 02:09 PM   #14
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Maybe I should mention, that I have had moderate success with noise reduction in post (but I really don't know what I'm doing there - sort of fiddle around and see what happens approach). I'm not trying to record symphonyies or something like that, but my efforts at noise reduction, while I can get rid of background noise, do tend to result in altering speech a little bit more than I would like (usually sort of makes it sound a bit akin to being under water - usually not terribly awful, but not satisfactory to me either).
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Old December 24th, 2009, 03:18 PM   #15
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Originally Posted by Robert M Wright View Post
I don't know anything about water housings. Is the design so tight to the FX1/Z1 form that it would not fit an XH-A1?
Steve summed it up nicely - the fit is exact, you can imagine the controls having to line up perfectly - with smaller housings (i have one for my SR12) it's a bit more forgiving since you're using LANC with the camera, the controls dont line up - and you can fit different models by using different base plates - with the FX1 - the housing is custom built, i wish i could use another camera in it :)
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