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Old July 26th, 2005, 01:53 PM   #1
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Rode Videomic & Beachtek Adapter Questions & More...

I'm in the market for an XLR adapter, and I'm in the process of learning more about audio in general. That said, I own a Panny GS400 with a mini-jack input for an external mic. This mic input expects "mic level" audio, and does put out plug-in power. I am looking to buy an adapter that gives me the most flexibility in a variety of situations, and I'm willing the spend some decent money to get something I can grow into and something that I won't wish had more features later, but at the same time, I am on a budget and I don't require total pro-level gear.

Here's my first question... I currently own a Rode Videomic, and I plan on adding to my mic selection soon. But with respect to the Rode, I've heard that the "Aux Mini Jack Input" on the Beachtek XLR adapters is really meant for line-level inputs for things like wireless lav systems. I take this to mean that I couldn't just plug in my Rode Videomic into that aux mini jack because it is mic level. So, as an alternative, I'm assuming that I COULD jack my Videomic into one of the XLR inputs on the Beachtek using a simple mini-to-XLR adapter cable. So, question one is this, can I connect my Videomic to a mini-to-XLR adapter cable and then attach that to the Beachtek and then the beachtek to my camera? Would that work with the passive beachtek models? Or would I need the pre-amp model to pull this off?

Second question is this... Considering that the Rode Videomic is a MONO mic, but it puts out the mono signal on both the L and R channels of its mini jack, when I plug that into the mini-to-XLR cable and then into the XLR jack on the beachtek, will the fact that the videomic actually has a signal on both channels (even though it is the SAME signal on both) cause any problems for me? Should I pop a stereo to mono adapter inline too to prevent any potential problems?

Finally, my third question has to do with some of the main differences between the Beachtek models. I see six basic features that are important across these models: (1) XLR adapter, (2) phantom power, (3) line vs mic level switch, (4) pre-amp, (5) stereo-mono switch, (6) ground switch. Considering, I want something that will be as flexible as possible for unknown future scenarios, I'm willing to go for the models with phantom power just in case I need it down the road. Now that leaves me with a decision between the DXA-8 (pre-amp) and the DXA-6 (no pre-amp).

Now part of me thinks that having the pre-amp could come in really handy at times, but not the majority of times. For example, I own a portable digital player that can encode to MP3 on the fly from line-level inputs. Seems like I could use the pre-amp features of the DXA-8 to bump up the gain from my Rode mic so it could be recorded by my digital recorder. What are other reasons why I would want/need the pre-amp features of the DXA-8? Because there is quite a price jump to purchase that one.

On the other hand, I like the line-vs-mic level switches that are on the DXA-6 and lower models that are passive devices. It seems that that little feature could come in real handy in certain situations where I might want to jack into other people's gear. Now it might be safe to say that the pre-amp could also come in handy when jacking into other people's gear too. But these two features are mutually exclusive in the Beachtek lineup as far as I can tell. You either can buy a passive device with line-mic switches, or you can buy the pre-amp version that has limiters, but no mic-line switch. I'm having a hard time figuring out which way to go on those features? Any comments or suggestions or learnings from other on that choice would be greatly appreciated.

Also, I think I might be able to buy some inline attentuators that I could use upstream from the beachtek DXA-8 to cut line level signals down to mic level (which my camera requires). Would that be the most flexible setup? Get the DXA-8 plus some inline attenuaters? Would that give me all of the possible features in an adapter (excluding mixing of course)?

Thanks in advance for your advice...
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Old July 26th, 2005, 10:02 PM   #2
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Bill
1. The Rode should work fine with a mini to XLR adaptor cable. It's not a lossy hookup, especially with that Rode because its ouput impedance is low like the mics the Beach expects. You won't need a Beach model with a preamp. You just don't want a long adapter cable because it will be an unbalanced one.
2. With the simple adapter above the Beach will take the signal from only one of the Rode's ouput contact pair, but then all the Beaches can be set to deliver that signal to both of you camcorder's channels. So you don't need a stereo to mono adapter.
3. My own choice, based on a similar wish for the most flexibility, was the DXA-8 and two AT8202 adjustable in-line attenuators. Together the attentuators can give up to -60 dB attenuation (1/1000). Plus the DXA-8 itself can give another -10 dB. Rare is the source that will be to hot for that. I've found using the attenuators to be perfectly convenient. And yes, the the DXA-8 has low noise preamps that allow the use of less sensitive mics. But even more important are those limiters. They keep you from having to ride the gain in situations with a lot of sudden increases in sound levels. Also, by the way, adjustments of the sound level aren't noisey as with the detent style trim controls of the other models.

[Edit--Note: Your impression that the Beaches' Aux jack is not switchable between mic and line level may have come from one of my posts. I think I might have been wrong about that. BeachTek's docs are not absolutely clear, but they do imply that the jack is switchable. I wouldn't know based on my experience with my DXA-8 because it doesn't have mic/line switches anyawy. Apologies]
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Last edited by David Ennis; July 27th, 2005 at 08:47 AM.
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Old July 26th, 2005, 10:20 PM   #3
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I think you'd be happier with a Sound Devices 302.

Regards.

Ty Ford
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Old July 27th, 2005, 06:09 AM   #4
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Bill, if you will use your cameras Auto Gain Control the DXA-8 will not do the job. The DXA-8 demands that the cameras input is set to manual. If you use AGC you will get tons of hiss. The manual of the DXA-8 clearly states that the AGC must be turned off.

So, if you want to sometimes use Auto Gain Control and sometimes manual control on your camera you should be looking at the DXA-6. The DXA-6 works with cameras using either AGC or manual volume control.

Fred, the DXA-6 has just been re-designed and i am waiting for a shipment of them and will get my hands on a newdesigned DXA-6 this thursday or friday. The volume controls are changed and i really hope that they are at least less noiser than previous versions.

/Roger

Last edited by Roger Averdahl; July 27th, 2005 at 07:21 AM.
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Old July 27th, 2005, 06:35 AM   #5
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Sure! Who wouldn't want the 302? But, at $1500, it costs more than the sum of all his other equipment. The Mixpre might be more affordable at $850. But, he could buy a DXA-6 and DXA-8 and have money left over.
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Old July 27th, 2005, 06:54 AM   #6
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I guess it sounded like he was a more serious user.

We have an observation in the pro audio world. Over the lifetime of a piece of gear, you'll spend more money on batteries than you did on the gear.

I'm talking about pro audio gear, which may be around for ten years or more (I've got mics a lot older than that). I suspect the Beachtek models might not enjoy that sort of longevity.

If you expect to be doing this a while, you have to look at the difference between buying cheap a lot or buying good once.

As for the MixPre, I like it alot, but it only has line outputs.

If you look even HALFWAY honestly at the difference between the MixPre and the two Beachtek models you mention, the qualitative difference is extremely obvious. The difference in cost is easliy justified. Spend it today and have better audio starting tomorrow. We are here to talk about ways to make what we do look and sound better, right?

Regards,

Ty Ford
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Old July 27th, 2005, 08:34 AM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Roger Averdahl
Bill, if you will use your cameras Auto Gain Control the DXA-8 will not do the job....
[Edited--]Roger, I will have to dispute this assertion. I think you must have based your impressions on a defective unit. In addition, for readers who come to this forum for decision making information I would like to make some comments on AGC[--End edit]

AGC has its place as a carefree system for capturing soft sound levels and loud levels by compressing the difference between them into a range that the device's electronics can handle. But it comes at a price. AGC distorts an aspect of the live sound experience--the dynamics, or differences between loud and soft levels. AGC will give inferior results for a symphony orchestra. Additionally, with sudden changes in volume the sound level often surges unnaturally as the AGC is not always fast enough. Try AGC at a fireworks display. A more everyday shortcoming of AGC is that you can often hear normal background ambience, for instance restaurant sounds, "dip" unnaturally when a louder sound occurs such as a person speaking near the microphone.

AGC is fine for the casual consumer and gives him less to worry about, but then again so does the built in mic. The DXA-8 design assumes that people who invest in superior mics are no longer casual users. With the audio in manual mode, which is where professionals normally keep it, the fast acting limiters in the DXA-8 allow you to run the gain higher to catch the softer sounds clearly while still protecting against clipping by loud sounds.

What you say about the incompatiblity of the DXA-8 with AGC is correct [Edit -- I take this back. It is not correct. BeachTek's instructions say to turn off AGC because it cancels some of the benefits of the DXA-8. See later posts in this thread], and if you have a compelling frequent need for AGC maybe the DXA-6 is a better choice. But the DXA-8 is a more professional, feature rich unit.
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Last edited by David Ennis; July 27th, 2005 at 10:50 AM. Reason: Bench testing results contradicted my assumptions
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Old July 27th, 2005, 09:07 AM   #8
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I'd argue that the BeachTeks are as ruggedly made as the MixPre. Both use materials [e.g., metal housings] and components [e.g., semiconductors resistors, capacitors, transformers] of the same basic nature.

I'll agree that as a standalone piece of audio equipment the MixPre is the superior device.

But I'd also argue that for the consumer or prosumer camcorder owner who is investing to achieve excellent sound without going off on a tangent to become a sound professional per se (highly respectable but not for everyone), the DXA-8 is a better bang for the buck than the MixPre and certainly a better choice based on suitability to task with its camera mount and mini stereo mic level output.

And if they were going off on that tangent they should probably aim above the MixPre.
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Old July 27th, 2005, 09:48 AM   #9
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Very good discussion... I have the same question. But I'm unclear on a couple of points being made. If I take the Rode VideoMic out into a mini-to-XLR cable that is 3 feet long into a DXA-6 Beachtek, will this work? Also: do I have to have the phantom power turned on for the Beachtek? Or will that screw up my VideoMic?
Thanks!
-Brett
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Old July 27th, 2005, 10:00 AM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Brett Whited
...If I take the Rode VideoMic out into a mini-to-XLR cable that is 3 feet long into a DXA-6 Beachtek, will this work?...
Yes. And you can choose via the Beach's stereo/mono switch whether to put the sound into one channel or both channels.
Quote:
...Also: do I have to have the phantom power turned on for the Beachtek?...
No, the Rode has its own battery.
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Old July 27th, 2005, 10:17 AM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Fred Retread
Roger, with all due respect, this wording implies a shortcoming on the part of the DXA-8. It makes it sound like leaving AGC on is desireable. For readers who come to this forum for decision making information I feel I should comment.
Itīs not a shortcoming of the DXA-8, if you never use AGC. But if you sometimes are going to use AGC, the DXA-8 will not do the job due to the amount of hiss it generates. If anyone calls that a shortcoming, ok for me.

Try this if you dont belive me:
1. Set your camera to AGC
2. Turn down the volume all the way down on the DXA-8
3. Unplug the microphone/s
4. Listen for yourself, or, look at the cameras meters, they actually register the hiss generated by the DXA-8 very clearly. And when they register hiss with the volume turned down and the mic unplugged, i can not write and say that the DXA-8 will do the job with AGC. The final sound is unusable due to hiss.

I did not wrote it to flame BeachTek, i wrote it to guide anyone who is going to buy either the DXA-6 or the DXA-8 so that anyone that sometimes use AGC should look for another device than the DXA-8 eventhoug it is a great device for anyone that never use AGC.

The DXA-8 is indeed a great device with features that i would love to have, no doubt about it. But since i sometimes use manual control and sometimes AGC the DXA-6 beacme a better choice for me. I want to have the oppertunity to choose between manual or AGC.

And i did not wrote or recommend anybody to use AGC, i wrote "if you want to sometimes use Auto Gain Control and sometimes manual control...".

Kind regards, Roger
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Old July 27th, 2005, 10:27 AM   #12
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These are great tips and I really appreciate everyone's time, it's helping me get my hands around this in a big way. As for AGC, I use it sometimes, but I think if I were using the DXA8, if it were a situation where I wasn't just run-n-gunning with my Rode, then I'd probably turn AGC off to start with. Also, I pretty much can't use AGC with my RODE Videomic anyway because it's a little too hot for my GS400. Which raises another interesting thought, maybe someone with a Panny GS400 might be able to answer, like Guy (Guy, this is Taint from your 3CCD forum).

My camera has three audio modes, AGC, Manual with AGC, and Manual. I completely understand what the two ends are, but the one in the middle sounds a lot like manual gain with some sort of limiter on the top end so it doesn't clip or blow out. That is the setting I've been using so far with my Rode with much success. I manually set the gain on the camera, but I let the camera limit when needed. But honestly, I'm not sure if that is actually what it is doing. So this raises two questions: (1) do I even need a limiter given this mode of my camera, and (2) would the DXA8 work in this "hybrid" mode that isn't AGC, but is more like manual with a limiter? Maybe #2 is moot because the DXA8 will do the limiting for me (probably better too), so I could just run in pure manual mode.

Interesting conversation...
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Old July 27th, 2005, 11:11 AM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Roger Averdahl
...f you sometimes are going to use AGC, the DXA-8 will not do the job due to the amount of hiss it generates. If anyone calls that a shortcoming, ok for me.
Roger, I meant no offense. Sometimes we respectfully disagree.

The DXA-8 generates an extremely small amount of hiss. I could use mine with AGC on in my GL2 and my VX2100.

Quote:
Try this if you dont belive me:
1. Set your camera to AGC
2. Turn down the volume all the way down on the DXA-8
3. Unplug the microphone/s
4. Listen for yourself, or, look at the cameras meters, they actually register the hiss generated by the DXA-8 very clearly. And when they register hiss with the volume turned down and the mic unplugged, i can not write and say that the DXA-8 will do the job with AGC. The final sound is unusable due to hiss....
Moments ago I tried exactly what you said above with both of my cams. My results contradict yours dramatically. Your impressions may be based upon a defective unit. The follow results were true with both cams:

With no mic plugged in the BeachTek, AGC on, and the Beach's gain turned all the way down there is zero audible hiss in my headphones. When the Beach's gain is turned all the way up there is barely audible hiss that begins at about mid range in the control movement. It does not register on the meters. (In manual audio mode, i.e. AGC off, there is no audible hiss until the cam's gain control is turned up above mid range, even if the Beach's is at full. As the cam's gain control approaches full, the hiss finally registers on the meters). But this is an unrealistically severe test. The DXA-8 does even better in actual usage with a mic plugged in.

With an AT3031 cardioid mic plugged in and no more sound in the room than my computer's fans about six feet away to give the AGC something to work with, there is no audible hiss even with all gain controls on the DXA-8 and the cam turned up full.
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Old July 27th, 2005, 02:30 PM   #14
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Hi Fred!

Quote:
Originally Posted by Fred Retread
Roger, I meant no offense. Sometimes we respectfully disagree.
Yes, i know Fred, and i meant no offense either, so my apologies if my reply sounded "anti-beachtek", that was not my intention.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Fred Retread
...Your impressions may be based upon a defective unit.
You may be right about a faulty unit, i only tested one DXA-8. Btw, interesting results you got when you tested the DXA-8 with your cameras.

My results can be due to the fact that my Panasonic DVC-30 and the DXA-8 doesnīt "work" so well together? I had good results with the DXA-6 though and had already ordered it so i will stick with it.

I will problably test the DXA-8 in the store, together with different cameras next week.

Kind regards, Roger
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Old July 27th, 2005, 07:44 PM   #15
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Bill,
I use manual AGC a lot on the GS400. It works like a limiter. The noise floor is quite low with the Videomic in that mode.

Quote:
Maybe #2 is moot because the DXA8 will do the limiting for me (probably better too), so I could just run in pure manual mode.
Yes.
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