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Old June 24th, 2012, 10:02 AM   #1
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Zoom 4Hn vs Beachteck pre-amps

I've asked this question in a different thread with a different topic and did not get any answer - so I decided to open a specific thread for it.

I have delved into DSLR videography just lately (after many, many years of using proper camcorders). I was considering buying a Beachteck pre-amp in order to be able to connect any decent mic to my 5D Mk2 (probably the new DXA-SLR Pro) and in order to have phantom power. However it occurred to me that for the same price, if not cheaper, I can buy the Zoom H4n and I can still attach any mic to it and either output the audio to the 5D or else I can have the added facility of recording on the Zoom as well as outputting to the Canon. Hence the Zoom is a much better option than the Beachtek. Or is it?

Am I right or am I missing something?

Thanks.
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Old June 26th, 2012, 11:28 PM   #2
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Re: Zoom 4Hn vs Beachteck pre-amps

See my post to you on the other thread for more info. but...

If you have the time to slate on-location and sync in post, double-sound will always be superior to in-camera/ pre-amps. The audio recording on any DLSR cam just can't match that of the dedicated recorders. BUT, it's sync sound, and that trumps a LOT of things. You'll have to decide that for yourself.
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Old June 27th, 2012, 01:04 AM   #3
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Re: Zoom 4Hn vs Beachteck pre-amps

Of course, it depends on the recorder.

With a JL/5D2 and Magic Lantern, I measured a better signal to noise ratio than the H4n or DR-100. (Hint: the 24-bit setting on a recorder only makes a difference when the S/N ratio exceeds 16-bit quality.) On the other hand, the 5D2 had the low-cut filter always engaged, and the sound quality is crisp but somewhat harsh. I hear that Alex's latest Magic Lantern can disable the wind-cut filter on the 5D2. Again, I haven't tested the 5D3 so I don't know if its preamp and overall sound quality has improved.

But if you use a Fostex FR-2LE or better, then you get it all: 24-bits, excellent S/N ratio, limiters... But the box is so big that it would be unwieldy for solo shooting aside from sit-down interviews where you can just place it on a table. For solo shooting, I much prefer recording straight into the camera - either with a lav and a juicedLink or a VideoMic Pro for lazy, on-cam audio.
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Old June 28th, 2012, 01:54 PM   #4
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Re: Zoom 4Hn vs Beachteck pre-amps

FWIW, I normally use the H4N to record audio, but had a job where capturing sound in camera was really the only way it would work, I almost decided to use my HPX-170, but knowing they have made nice improvements with sound on the Mk3, and I really wanted to use my new camera, I decided to buy an adapter cable and go direct to see how it sounded.
Vast improvement!
There was a bit of static, but a modest bit of noise reduction at the default settings in post gave me rock solid sound quality.
I didn't measure S/N or anything like that... just use my ears. I don't care about the #s.
It worked like a champ with a nice boom mic direct into camera.

I'll probably continue to use the H4N out of a little paranoia, but this made me pretty happy!

If you have to have perfectly quiet sound captured in camera, then this is not the answer for you. But if you want the convenience of camera and audio together and don't mind dropping a NR filter into the audio track, you are good to go!
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Old July 4th, 2012, 12:00 AM   #5
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Re: Zoom 4Hn vs Beachteck pre-amps

John, would you mind elaborating on your direct to MKIII setup?

Which mic did you use?
By direct you mean no preamp?

I've been having good results with the H4N but also would like to try recording (more than just reference) audio to the camera for some situations where I don't want to go through the syncing process. I've got an Azden SGM-2X mic, but I think that requires a preamp--if I used an XLR to mini cable but no preamp would the signal be hot enough? Also considering getting a Rode Videomic...
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Old July 4th, 2012, 10:33 AM   #6
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Re: Zoom 4Hn vs Beachteck pre-amps

Sure thing... although there's not much to elaborate on...

I'm using a Sennheiser ME66 mic to boom. XLR out of the mic to a generic adapter that I picked up from Guitar Center... it's an XLR to mono 1/8" cable. The adapter cable is about 5' long so the weight of the xlr connectors rests on the ground rather than dangling in the air and tugging at the connector on the camera, as well as having a right angle connection where it goes into the camera. Both of these I believe help a great deal in not stressing on the camera connections.

The levels into the camera are set at a pretty modest 40% (or there-about) so there's not a lot of noise added by the camera. There is some hiss for sure, but adding some noise suppression in post at the generic settings gets rid of all of it. What's left sounds great.

With the mono connector to the camera, I only get signal on one channel. This is not a huge deal since I can't control the levels of left and right independently anyway.

The reduced complexity and increased speed of the shoot more than makes up for the extra step of removing a little hiss in post.

If you have multiple mic sources, like 2 or 3 wireless lavaliers to deal with, recording on only one channel could be a problem, but for a single mic source such as a boom mic, it works great.

There are plenty of situations where this might not be the best solution, but for a simple one-mic setup it is the simplest/best solution for me.
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Old July 4th, 2012, 10:39 AM   #7
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Re: Zoom 4Hn vs Beachteck pre-amps

Oh, and no preamp in this setup either... but I would assume your mileage will vary based on which mic you choose... The ME66 sounds great, but also since I'm booming, I'm getting a lot closer than I could with a mic mounted on the camera. This certainly will affect the amount of background noise you get as well as the audio levels set on the camera. Getting the boom mic nice and close allows me to set the levels a little lower, which lowers any hiss added by the camera.

Still, this is worlds better than what I have experienced with DSLRs in the past!!
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Old July 12th, 2012, 10:45 AM   #8
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Re: Zoom 4Hn vs Beachteck pre-amps

Quote:
Originally Posted by John Carroll View Post
FWIW, I normally use the H4N to record audio, on the Mk3,
What are your setting when using the H4n with the Mark 3. I have the same setup and would like to know if I have maximized the Mark 3. Currently, I am recording from the onboard mic and the H4n at the same time. I have no idea as to which bit rate should be used in what setting. Also, what is S/N (sound/noise ????)?
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Old July 12th, 2012, 11:01 AM   #9
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Re: Zoom 4Hn vs Beachteck pre-amps

On the zoom, 16bit - 48Khz .wav format will work great for you. I don't know the signal/noise ratio... I try not to clutter my brain too much with numbers if I don't have to. This setting will work perfectly for you. Very quiet!
You could use 32bit if you wanted to, but it will just eat up your card space faster and you won't hear any difference.

Audio recorded straight into the camera will actually be 32bit @ 48Khz, but there is a little bit of hiss present because of inferior preamps built into the camera.

But add a little noise reduction in post, and you will not be able to hear the difference.

Just finished shooting 12 interviews over the past 2 weeks recording sound directly to the Mark3 in this fashion and I couldn't be happier with the results. Greatly simplified audio setup! Since I was shooting all of these interviews by myself (no audio guy on set...) it really helped to speed things up.

Don't sell the zoom yet, but for me this is working great!
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Old July 12th, 2012, 11:12 AM   #10
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Re: Zoom H4n vs Beachteck pre-amps

Thanks John! I'm not an audio guy and some would suggest that I am barely a videographer. I bought the Zoom H4n so that I had something that is capable of professional/high quality audio recording. I have played around in CS4 Soundbooth and can use it about as well as I can read and comprehend the Chinese language. That being said, I really don't know what good audio sounds like. Does that make sense. I posted a video on Vimeo and one of the comments was that I needed to get an alternate source for the sound. I actually thought the sound was fine. What do you or others think. Feel free to comment on anything as it will only help me to get better.

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Old July 12th, 2012, 11:32 AM   #11
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Re: Zoom 4Hn vs Beachteck pre-amps

I would say there is nothing wrong with the quality of the audio in that clip, but it sounds like it was recorded with an on-board mic. This is due to the wind noise and the fact that it sounds a little "ambient".
If this was recorded with a higher quality mic such as a boom or even a wireless lav, it would probably sound quite a bit "closer". With wind noise, you'll either need some special accessories that are designed to reduce or eliminate those noises, or just try to get alternate takes that don't have the wind noise present.
Either way, you have to make sure to monitor the sound as you record so you'll know when that's happening... and ask for another take if possible.

In any case, I don't think that if you had recorded this with an off-board recorder it would have sounded any better at all. This sounds the way it does all because of mic choice and mic placement.

Using the right mic in this case, and better mic placement, even recorded directly into the camera, would have made the difference... not recording in on a separate device.

And just to be clear, we are talking about the 5D Mark3... no other DSLR that I know of will provide satisfactory results recording audio directly to camera...

But honestly for a "man in the street" type of shot like this, I think the audio is just fine. I don't think the viewer would be expecting studio quality audio in this case... Just my opinion.
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Old July 12th, 2012, 02:14 PM   #12
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Re: Zoom 4Hn vs Beachteck pre-amps

I must have mistyped earlier. This audio is direct from the Mark 3. It was the first clip that I had shot with the camera and honestly, I didn't know a thing about the audio (an still don't) I believe that the Mark 3 has a feature that allows you to turn on a windscreen or something like that.

Thanks for listening and when I can get to my camera, I will go into the settings and make the necessary adjustments. And just to be clear, I have not purchased the sescom cable. I just assumed that it wasn't necessary because the camera has a mic input; thus, when I record with the H4n, it connected straight to the camera via the mic jack.

As a side note to the gentleman inquiring about the beachteck adapter, here is a video that I found that may provide some insight. I haven't had a chance to watch it so I apologize if it doesn't help.

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Old July 12th, 2012, 03:46 PM   #13
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Re: Zoom 4Hn vs Beachteck pre-amps

Like I said, I didn't really see anything major wrong with the audio in your clip. pretty clean for the built-in mic I thought. An additional mic would help more than a separate recorder.

Interesting little video clip... but honestly you don't need to use a beachtek (or similar) to get good audio.
The adapter cable plugged directly between the mic and camera works just as well. Also, you can adjust the audio levels on the headphone to a comfortable level quite easily... it's in the manual.
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