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Old May 9th, 2003, 12:27 PM   #1
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My quest for a better sound

I'm trying to figure out what would make sense if I want to record sound with better quality. I own a ME66 and GL2 and could have a need for a wireless mic.

The thing I don't like on our prosumer stuff is the lack of XLR (that's ok, I understand the motivation) but more irritating is the lack of Line Input. So I'm stuck with this 3.5mm jack that can only support mic levels (and unbalanced by the way).
Going through a XLR passive adaptor like Beachteck, BP-Pro is a good step but the price to pay is kind of high when you look at the poor construction (there are some pictures available showing the interior of the boxes … poorly built and designed ). So I only see a place for this box when you need to run long cables (balanced is a must). And they still don't resolve the problem of the unbalanced cable between cam and box using mic level signals (shorter is better).
Today my ME66 is connected directly to the GL2 through using a XLR->Jack adaptor and an ultra-short cable.

So I decided to look at recording the sound externally to avoid this and have more control (limiting the hot ME66 when no sound-man available). It would also give more flexibility as a sound-man could handle the sound (that's his job) using a boom, preamp and recorder. I would like to combine flexibility and quality (does that match ?)

How would you rank the following combinations :

- ME66 -> GL2 (XLR->Jack) … [mic level]
- ME66 -> passive XLR adaptor (Beachtek, BP-Pro…) -> GL2 .. [mic level]
- ME66 -> MM-1 preamp -> MD recorder [line level]
- ME66 -> MM-1 preamp -> attenuator -> GL2 [mic level]
- ME66 -> MM1-1 preamp -> Jukebox HDD recorder [line level]

What I'm trying to figure out is if it's better to work on a mic level signal with (relatively) good ADC (MM1->GL2) or have a more average ADC but with a capability of dealing with line levels (MM1-> MD/Jukebox). It's kind of sad to have this nice MM-1 preamp that boost your signal to line level (+4dB BTW) and then use a huge attenuator to put it back to mic level in order drive the GL2.

From my understanding, having a good mike and good preamp is the key to a good recording (and yes the most important is a good placement !)
I'm under the impression that most of the problem come from the so-called low-noise microphone preamp of consumer/prosumer products. So I have a feeling that bypassing the noisy preamp by using line level should provide better results (except you can't really bypass the one on the GL2)

The Jukebox could be an attractive solution compared to the MD for two reasons :
- No compression (I know that today's MD are pretty good indeed)
- Longer recording time
- Easy Digital extraction !! (MD still missing that)
but does it perform well on the A/D conversion of line levels ?

I've been considering DAT… they're not cheap and I don't think I would buy one used (head, moving parts, hard to service)…

The other solution is to go digital as soon as possible. AD-20 might be a good solution but I don't like the manual controls on the unit (not as flexible as the MM-1). It also doesn't have a limiter function. The Mini-Me unit is more attractive but much more expensive (>$1400) but includes limiters, monitor… but still not as versatile as a small portable pre-amp.

I haven't decided yet but I'm pretty sure the first step is going to be the MM-1 as I like the construction and features :
- monitoring with level control
- limiter
- aux monitoring (could be interesting to monitor the wireless receiver)
- rugged

Dany
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Old May 9th, 2003, 02:26 PM   #2
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If your doing a music oriented production then the MD method would probably best the best route because the better audio will really be noticed on a music production.

If your shooting mostly interviews and field work then just do one of your first two options or the mm-1 preamp/attenuator option and live with it.

You can talk all you want about line level and having it or not, but as long as there's no hum in the audio you can work with it. Unbalanced systems are more sensitive but that doesn't mean that they have bad audio. Don't worry about whether it's balanced at the camera, just make it clean going into it and you can roll with it.

Mic level systems can sound just fine as long as you get clean audio and any of the combinations you mentioned will get that.

What are some specific applications that your trying to record?

Ben Lynn
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Old May 9th, 2003, 02:57 PM   #3
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It's mostly for interviews and filed work.

One of the other reason I want to use Line level is to avoid using the 3.5mm jack on the cam (pretty fragile ). So with the MM-1 I can only have one XLR cable coming from the ME66. Phone and line are coming from the belt mounted MM-1 and a short ccable is used to connect to the recorder.

So now which recorder will be the most versatile with good quality :
- MD: (little) compression, 60minutes/disc, hard to extract digital (needs a deck in fact)
- Jukebox : no compression, hours and hours of recording, easy digital extraction, bigger and more difficult to hide

There are both consumer oriented so the A/D converter and circuitry around it may be similar... does somebody know ?

Maybe it doesn't make sense because the GL2 audio stage gives better results. What I like with the external pre-amp/recorder solution is the versatility (single or with a sound man).

Dany
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Old May 9th, 2003, 04:18 PM   #4
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OK that's good to hear that it's for field work and interviews.

In order to avoid the 3.5mm jack you'll need to buy the MA-300 adapter for the smart shoe. Once you get that, you can run your clean audio straight from the MM1 to the MA300 with a 3 or 4 ft. XLR cable.

That will give you a balanced signal all the way to the camera and the MA300 can handle it from there and keep it clean.

As far as recording sound to an external source I wouldn't do it for field work or interviews. When it comes time to edit I think you'll start to really be hating life when you have to sync it all up and then try and cut it. The audio off the MM1 will be clean enough for any field work or interview.

I would only use a recorder for music productions that I wanted an extra track for, or in a multi camera shoot that needed a mic placed in a strange location that a camera couldn't go. If your using one camera keep all the audio going straight to it.

If you and the sound person work together to monitor the audio and video during a shoot then you'll create a quality product that will be ready for post right out of the camera. You'll save yourself hours of sync and record time and it's just more professional to keep the good audio and video on the camera.

Hope this helps and sorry that bypassing the 3.5mm plug requires an expensive hardware adapter. Let me know how it turns out. It sounds like your on track for a sweet audio setup.

Ben Lynn
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Old May 9th, 2003, 04:39 PM   #5
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I forgot to mention that I also have a mini-mount for the ME66 so I don't plan using/buying the ME66 (too Canon specific anyway).

I'll probably start with the MM-1 and run unbalanced from it to the cam.
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Old May 9th, 2003, 05:18 PM   #6
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Running off the MM-1 to the camera is a fine start. You can get great audio since the only unbalanced portion of the feed is from the mm-1 to the camera. I wouldn't worry about the unbalanced portion giving you to much grief. And if any hum does occur then you know right where to look.

Unbalanced audio isn't bad, it just takes a little more care to make it sound clean. For most shooting applications that's not a problem and for field work and interviews you'll have time to work with it. If you start to shoot events that require a lot of focus on running the camera and a speedy setup, then babying the audio won't be a good thing and a fully balanced audio feed will be the way to go.

It should sound great with the equipment you already have and a little monitoring as you go.

Ben Lynn
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