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Old March 24th, 2006, 09:26 AM   #1
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A1U Microphone options

Wow, This entire site is tremendous. Learning a lot, meeting great people. I have made a few posts recently after several weeks of research and made a fairly quick descision based on a recommendation here to buy the A1U.

I am very excited about it, but hoping I made a good choice.
I am not a pro, but would like a great camera to record my memories..

I am expecting it to arrive today. I purchased this model because orginally I was looking at the HC1. (affordable & available locally) this model is the same body style. I figured if I spend the extra money, I'd get a better product. Hoping that the CMOS chip will give me better color quality, (Is that right?). Also in looking back I realize that if I disconect the Microphone and the Input box on the top of the A1U, will I have any sound? It appears that is the only mic' on the unit... If so, is there a more compact mic' option that might work? Can I remove the INPUT box that sits under the Mic'?
I am not looking for a better mic' only a possible alternative.

Also, Looking at the HC3, it has a waterproof case that would be a champ for me on this trip. Should I have given this more thought, and more time before selecting this model? I don't mind paying for better, Looking for reasurance that this was a good choice. Even though I am riding the river, the waterproof factor is not enough to justify the HC3, assuming the A1U is a better unit..

Thanks again for all you time, input and expertise.
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Old March 24th, 2006, 10:17 AM   #2
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Hi Shaun,

The A1u is a serious piece of kit...you certainly should have audio without the external XLR mic unit...looking at the photos. This model basically replaces the PDX10 which was able to record sound without its XLR audio adapter... Can't imagine the A1 is any different.

The sound from this will certainly not be as good...it'll be stereo and outdoors suffer from excessive wind noise even in not too windy conditions..

A shotgun or other mic on the XLR adapter will give you far better and more controllable audio..
Whether you use the stock Sony mic which is ok! or you get an better independent mic like a Senheisser or Audio Technica this is the best way to get great sound.

You've got a Sony Pro product.. so it'll perform..It's weak points are likely to be low light and the fiddly nature of it's menus, in the same way as its predecessor.
the HC3 would give you no extra benefit..indeed being smaller is a positive disadvantage in ergonomic terms IMO.

Best Regards
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Old March 24th, 2006, 10:26 AM   #3
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According to the brochure, the camera as a built-in "stereo-type" mike with noise reduction that can be switched on and off. See the specs on page nine under "built-in input/output devices"

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Old March 24th, 2006, 10:42 AM   #4
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Thank You Again

Once again this site and it's people don't dissapoint.

Thank You Very Much
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Old March 24th, 2006, 12:54 PM   #5
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Hi Shaun

just to echo a few things frmo previous posters and add a few.

Yes A1U has internal stereo mics. You can take the whole audio module off and just use the internal mics. Internal mics are fairly omni-directional meaning they'll pick up sound from all directions, more or less. And they will be pretty susceptible to wind-noise outside as a previous poster said. You'll definitely know about this if it happens !

As for external mics that you don't need to use the audio module for, i'd make two suggestions:
1. Smallest, quite good sounding, but not as good sounding as 2nd option:
Sony ECM-HGZ1. It'll bolt straight onto the A1's AIS-shoe. About 50dollars from well-known USA retailers.
picture and more info :

2. Bigger mic, but will be much better-sounding
Rode Videomic. Available for about 150dollars in USA.
Will bolt straight onto the cold-shoe mount at the front of your A1U (i.e. same place the audio module attaches to). Very sensitive mic, great sounding, shotgun. (quite directional in sound pickup terms). If you use it in windy conditions then you'll need a windshield like Rode's own Deadcat.
More info:

There's no one mic that'll do all things well. If you want a small convenient mic, get the HGZ1. If you want a great-sounding ext. mic that'll still bolt straight onto the A1U (it won't bolt straight onto the HC1 - you win here..) then get the Rode Videomic. I have one of these mics and it'll blow you away how good it sounds. you'll forgive it being a big bigger...

last thing, the CMOS chip in A1U and HC1 is exactly the same. Video quality is almost identical, with slight different in shadows maybe if you switch on the Black Stretch feature on the A1U (HC1 doesn't have this).
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Old March 24th, 2006, 03:58 PM   #6
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Hi SHaun,

I actually own an A1 (and a Z1 for the record).

I often use my A1 without the XLR breakout box, and the sound is quite OK (with the wind filter on). I also have wind filters on the mic capsules of the internal mics (home made fur velcro'd on). Of course the sound is light years better with the XLR box and a decent mic. I am using a Sennheiser ME64 as I shoot both indoors and out and this is a good all rounder. Stu is right that the RODE is one of the best shotguns around for the price. You can use the Sennheiser both with and without the XLR box (using different cables and batteries) and I presume the same for the Rode (although I haven't tried it), but if you are going to use an external mic, you may as well use the XLR box as it is not much bigger than a mic holder - and certainly gives much better sound. If you want compact, stick with the internal mic. If you want good audio, pop on the XLR - that is the way to go.

Hope this helps.
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Old March 24th, 2006, 11:56 PM   #7
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I'll have to echo Graeme's sentiments regarding the internal mics. They are quite acceptible. You'll find that the Rode Video mic as well as the NTG1 recieves a lot of praise as a decent all around (indoor/outdoor) mic. Of course there are mics that will perform a lot better, but cost significantly more. At the sub $250 pricepoint you can't really do any better...truly a great value.

You gotta love the A1U for it's versatility and small footprint. Throw on the XLR breakout box and an XLR mic, WA adapter or even the supplied lens hood and you have an impressive looking setup. Take everything off and you have a low profile HDV cam masquerading as a consumer camcorder.
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Old March 26th, 2006, 12:02 PM   #8
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Rode Mic

OK, so you got me interested in the Rode VideoMic. So how do I use it with the XLR adapter on my A1 since it has the 1/8" end? What actually are the pros and cons of using it with the XLR or straight into the camera?
Also, how does it mount to the XLR box? Do I just remove the 2 screws and take off the sony mic and mount and then just attach the the Rode via the hotshoe atop the XLR? Then we lose the mount for a light if we need, right?

If I wanted to use the stock mic mount on the XLR, what would be the best mic to use with that?

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Old March 26th, 2006, 05:19 PM   #9
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To use the Rode VideoMic with the A1U's XLR inputs, you would need a 1/8" (3.5mm) stereo mini to XLR adapter. The A1U also has a 1/8" mic input so you don't need to go through the XLR block. Audio quality should be just fine since it's a short run. I'm personally a bit leary on using adapters and try to avoid them when I can. If you really want to use an XLR connection, then you should really be looking at the NTG-1. It costs about $80 dollars more and fits right into the A1U's XLR adapter's shockmount. For pictures, have a look at Laurence Kingston's A1U setup on this thread L. Kingston's Custom A1U
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Old March 26th, 2006, 06:34 PM   #10
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Thanks Arvin,
is the NTG-1 about the same length and the videomic to use the same deadcat wind screen?
Also, from reading the other thread, it seems to be that these mics are only good for outdoors only. What are people using for indoors as opposed to the onboard mic that pics up sounds all around you?
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Old March 27th, 2006, 07:51 AM   #11
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No problem John. Yep, the deadcat can be used on both NTG-1 and VideoMic.

As far as where and what these mics are good for, it all really depends. These mics can be used indoors with acceptible results if 1) the room has favorable acoustics -- that is, a larger room little or no reflections; or treat the room with sound absorbing materials, and/or 2) place the mic as close to the subject as possible. YMMV

The Rode mics are considered short shotguns and have a supercardioid pickup pattern, which is in between cardioid and shotgun in terms of directionality and isolation. Regular shotguns are especially prone to picking up reflected sounds and tend to sound weird and midrangy/boxy indoors. From what I understand shotguns tend to be less directional in the mid and low frequencies.

As for your question about what to use for indoor mics there are two types - there's short shotguns with cardioid or hypercardioid patterns and there's small condensers (aka pencil/instrument mics). The mics listed below are some of the mics that get a lot of discussion, for more suggestions you can check out the the audio forum(Now Hear This).
For short shotguns: Sennheiser ME64 (cardioid $400), Sanken SC1(cardioid $800), Sennheiser MKH-416 (supercardioid $1100), Sennheiser MKH-60 (supercardioid $1500), and Schoeps MK41(supercardioid $1500). There are others but I capped it off at the $1500 mark.

For pencil/instrument mics: Oktava MK012(omni, cardioid, or hypercardioid $175), Studio Projects C4 (omni and cardioid $300 sold as a pair, not available individually), Rode NT3 (hypercardioid $200), Rode NT5 (cardioid $200), and Peluso CEM6 (omni, subcardioid, cardioid, or hypercardioid $280), Neumann KM 184 (cardioid $750), and Neumann KM 185 (hypercardioid $750). Note, the Rode NT3 is not a pencil mic @ 50mm in diameter. Pencil mics typical diameters range from 19-25mm give or take a couple millimeters, same for shotguns.
There are advantages and disadvantages to using a short shotguns vs pencil/instrument mics. The cost for decent short shotguns start at a higher price point and offer better handling noise rejection. Pencil and instrument mics start a lower price point but are more prone to handling noise. Pencil mics need better isolated shockmounts. Sound quality with the pencil mics are on par with the mid range short shotguns. The Peluso and Neumann mics are the better of the bunch, smooth with nice detail. The Peluso mic is an exceptional value at $280.

And of course there are pros and cons to the pickup patterns. Cardioids are more forgiving with reflected sound, but will pick up more ambient sound to sides, which means you have be closer to the subject. I've noticed that cardioids tend to sound more natural and open sounding when recording indoors than with mics on the hypercardioid end. In short you sacrifice isolation and reach, but gain a more natural and less colored recording particularly with off axis sound. Great for indoors, but not so great outdoors especially when isolation is desired. Supercardioid mics have a narrower pickup pattern (rejection of sound to the sides) but adds a slight increase of pickup to the rear. This is the middle ground, decent indoors and out. Hypercardioids have an even tighter pickup pattern than the super but rear pickup also increases. And finally shotguns, technically called interference tube mics, offer the tightest pickup pattern and extended reach, but also extends sensitivity to the rear. I don't know the physics of it but it has something to do with the slots on the sides and length of the tube that allow for the extended reach and rejection of ambient noise, but unfortunately adds that wierd boxiness when used indoors.

Try recording in a semi-reflective room indoors with your A1U first using the supplied shotgun and then with the onboard mics at different distances. You'll see what I'm talking about. Remember that not all mics are created equal. Each has its strengths and weaknesses. As the saying goes, you get what you pay for. But on the other hand, you can get away with cheaper gear and still achieve good results. It usually involves more time and setup, but that's usually the case for any piece of gear. That's why the expensive great gear is well...expensive.
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Old March 27th, 2006, 09:28 AM   #12
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Hi Shaun,

I got a A1U a few weeks ago and after some tests, I am fairly impressed with the overall quality for a camera of this size.

As for sound I thought the internal stereo mics were pretty good and would be suitable for general indoor use (family events, travel etc...). The Sony external mic included is fair at best. Even with the gain turned up it does not achieve the sensitivity I would like.

I also have a Audio-Technica AT-22 stereo mic with 1/8" plug. If I plug it into the mic-in on the camera (not the xlr unit) it gives good results with a clean transparent sound. The only thing is, this mic is slightly awkward to use with the camera and I'll have to rig up a better holder for it.

Thats all I can say for now. I think the others have provided plenty of info for other mic options (which I'm also considering).
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Old March 27th, 2006, 12:50 PM   #13
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to echo previous posters, the Rode NTG1 or the Senn ME64 are both sensitive mics (some would say a bit TOO sensitive).

If you're shooting outdoors stuff mainly, i'd pick up Rode NTG1. Pretty inexpensive and a quantum leap for sure over the included Sony mic attached to the XLR module.
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Old May 23rd, 2006, 04:31 AM   #14
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Originally Posted by Arvin Lucio
For pencil/instrument mics: Oktava MK012(omni, cardioid, or hypercardioid $175) [...]
Be aware there's two versions out there of the Oktava MK012 microphones as described here: http://www.sound-patterns.com/mk012/

BTW, the Rode NTG1, Sennheiser ME64, and Sennheiser ME66 are all good upgrades from the camera mic that Sony includes (which is fair when used in close proximity to the subject but by no means great, I have two of them which I use as backup mics, I'd never buy one, but hey, they came with the cameras).
David Tames { blog: http://Kino-Eye.com twitter: @cinemakinoeye }
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