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Old September 18th, 2005, 01:41 PM   #1
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XLR-To-Mic-Mini Adapter Review & Questions

I know this has been covered before, but I'm going to write a sort of mini-review in the post first, and then hopefully some people here will be willing to post some hands-on experience with these three XLR adapters in addition to my writeup. And please jump in and correct me if I've gotten anything wrong cause I'm somewhat of a newbie on this front right now. So if anyone has some first-hand observations, I'd love to have you post them to this thread for others in my situation to see. Thanks.

First, though, let me explain my requirements. I just want a simple, passive device to serve four main functions: (1) let me connect balanced XLR cables to my cam, (2) give me level controls I can use while taping, (3) permit me to input line-level audio into my cam, and (4) on occasion mix two channels to mono or take one mono channel to stereo when needed. I own a Panny GS400, and do mostly amateur work for fun. My camera has levels shown on the LCD, so that'll be good enough for leveling, and my cam also has a seperate manual gain mode with AGC-like limiting on the top end. That is the mode I most often use because it lets me set the levels manually, but will step in like a limiter if the signal gets too hot. Also, I don't need phantom or preamps in this piece of hardware because if I need those, I'll use other equipment in addition to the XLR Adapter.

OK, that said, I see three solid choices of XLR Adapters that are in my target price and requirements range (did I miss any others?):

1. BeackTech DXA-2s (I think this is the compact one that is best for my GS400, but not sure)

2. Studio 1 XLR-BP™ Pro XLR

3. Sign Video XLR-Pro

All three are very similar in functions and price, but I have some observations and questions related to several features on the units:

(A) COMMON FEATURES. All three seem to have 2 channels of balanced XLR inputs, ground lift switches, plug-in power blocking, dual level controls, line/mic switching, and stereo/mono switches. My only question there is whether I can assume their stereo/mono switches all work the same way? I'm assuming I can use that switch to take on mono signal into stereo before it hits my cam, and so I can mix two different inputs into a single mono mix into my cam, and I am assuming I can mix any of the inputs, both the XLRs and the alternate inputs too. Do I have that right, or are there differences with the stereo/mono switches on these units.

(B) MOUNTING TYPE. Next, the Beachtek and Sign Video products can mount on the bottom of my cam and/or to a tripod at the same time, while the Studio 1 cannot. Studio 1 touts belt-mounting as a benefit, but I'm not so sure because my guess is that when I need this adapter, I'll be using a tripod mostly, which would make bottom-mounting preferable. I'm curious about anyone's thoughts on this bottom-mounting vs. belt-mounting debate from a real world, out in the field perspective.

(C) LAYOUT & CONTROLS. Also, the Beachtek has the pots in the back and the XLR's in the front, while the Sign Video has the pots on the left side and the XLR inputs on the right side. Not sure practically speaking which layout I might prefer in the field? Any experienced comments on this front would be greatly welcomed. I like the idea of having the pots in the back, but I kind of don't like the idea of the XLR's sticking out on the front (seems like that might be more awkward and tug more when panning as opposed to a side-input). On the other hand, I don't really like the idea of having the pots on the side cause it seems out of place a little while filming? Tough call.

(D) AUX INPUTS. The final differences seem to relate to the auxilary inputs. The Sign Video can take two mini's and two XLRs, the Beachtek can take one mini and two XLRs, and the Studio 1 can take one mini, one 1/4" (bal or unbal), and two XLRs. First off, since none of these adapters have any sort of switch to specify whether they are using the XLR or alternative inputs, what happens when you put an audio source into both at once? Will it mix the two sources? Does each of the three products handle that the same way? Or do they default to XLR first if a signal is detected? Seems unlikely considering the units have no power of their own. Second, can I assume the line/mic switches will work with either the XLR or alternative inputs? In other words, can I plug in a line-level source into the mini-jack, switch to line-level on the adapter, and the unit will give mic-level audio to my cam?

Considering all of these options, I think I like the Sign Video model the best because it has all of the common features between the units, but it also has a bottom-mount, the XLR's into the side rather than the front (although not sure about that one), and finally the Sign has TWO aux inputs whereas the Beachtek only has one (although the Studio 1 also has two aux inputs and the 1/4" input can take a balanced TRS, which is a plus).

Anyone care to comment with real-world field experience using any of these products? I'd love to hear some feedback before I run off and purchase one of these units.

Thanks in advance...

-- Bill
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Old September 18th, 2005, 04:12 PM   #2
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Way back when they were still a Studio One product, I had one of those XLR-Pro adapters for my TR-700. I didn't use all the features, so I'm sorry I can't comment on that aspect. Very well made, all Neutrik components. The only trouble was when I got a Sony D8 handycam. Having the XLR-Pro on the bottom was not an option, since Sony (in their infinite Sony-baloney wisdom) made the camcorder bottom-loading (surely the stupidest thing ever done.) I thought about getting an aluminum plate and making an offset mount, but never bothered. I eBayed the XLR-Pro last year...
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