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Sony XDCAM EX Pro Handhelds
Sony PXW-Z280, Z190, X180 etc. (going back to EX3 & EX1) recording to SxS flash memory.

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Old January 18th, 2010, 12:54 AM   #1
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EX1 Pre Amp Good Enough?

I am upgrading to a Neumann KMR81i and am planning on running it thru the EX1, but is the EX1 good enough? A system is only as good as its weakest link - I don't want to waste $1500 on a mic that sounds the same as a $700 (like my NTG 3 which will only be used for events).
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Old January 18th, 2010, 04:32 AM   #2
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What is your target source, are recording voice, music or what? You need to choose the microphone according to the task in hand, there is no one-fit-for-all and you need to get the mic in the correct position.

The EX1's audio circuitry is not the greatest in the world and you need to take care to avoid limiting, peaking around 50% on the lcd meter seems to be about optimum.

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Old January 18th, 2010, 04:35 AM   #3
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While I agree the limiter is not the greatest one, other than that the EX1 sound quality is very good, and certainly deserving a good mic.
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Old January 18th, 2010, 05:51 AM   #4
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The bad news is you cannot disable the limiter, the good news is the limiter is a pretty darn good one.
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Old January 20th, 2010, 10:57 AM   #5
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You might find this discussion useful.

Below are some quotes from another thread which you might find useful. The quoted discussion is as follows:
John Peterson
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Markus and Craig. During and after posting this thread:


I did a lot of internet research on this problem. Let me summarize what I found:

You can't use most field mixers with the Line Input. The expected levels don't match. Use the Mic Input and set it to external. Then you have to watch out for your settings due to the limiters and adjust the Trim in the menu depending upon what you are recording.

Here are the most useful quotes I found regarding the External Mic input settings:


One precaution users of the EX1 must be aware of is that there are non-defeatable limiters which are very crude in their ballistics and have nasty "ducking" effects when triggered in the slightest degree. It is imperative that one uses the attentuators to set the recording level, and NOT the record level dials on the outside of the camera. These should be set at "5", as this is the point where no further increase in recording level can be attained with a maximum level at the input before limiter threshold. Higher settings increase noise floor, lower settings will attain clipping at less than digital FS.
Be familiar with the expected SPLs when you are recording. To avoid limiter artifacts, no peaks should ever exceed the 4th white segment before the red segment on the EX1's on-screen meters. I generally record concerts and pyrotechnic events and set attenuators so that average level is about mid-scale on the meters--that way the peaks are well under the limiter's trigger point.


There evidently are TWO limiters in the EX1: One appears just downstream of the attenuators; the other downstream of the record level controls.
This can be observed by feeding signal to the camera’s input jacks at gradually-increasing levels, while the record levels are set to 5. At some point, the sound will start to take on a “broadcast on the radio” quality, as the dynamics will be flattened out. Turning down the record level won’t change this compression effect, though it will reduce the record level going on to the SxS card.
The only way to remove the effects of the input limiter is to increase the amount of input attenuation. The smaller the number, the greater the attenuation. The numbers refer to the signal level that is needed to be present to achieve a reference recording level. Since they are negative numbers, smaller is bigger. By increasing the attenuator setting (so it is less sensitive) the signal peaks will be reduced below the limiter threshold and the sound will pass pretty much un-altered.
Even if you set the attenuation correctly, you can still hit a secondary limiter if your record level is too high. I find that a setting of 5 is optimal. Any higher than 6 and there will be an increase in the noise floor. If you need more gain to record quiet content, like nature sounds, it is more effective to reduce input attenuation than to turn up the record gain.
An observation about the Auto gain control setting: it completely ignores your input attenuator settings. The camera will not be able to handle high SPL situations in Auto. Use Manual gain and set levels conservatively. You can always normalize in post, but you can’t fix badly-compressed and clipped audio in post.
In conclusion, if you want to get the most out of the audio system on the EX1, you must set both the attenuators AND the record gain appropriately for the situation.
Here are my suggestions, vis--vis the Rode NT4 (dB SPL levels are peak, not average):

Quiet nature scenes, SPLs under 70dB. Set attenuator for -38dB (good to 106dB)
Small acoustic or singing ensembles. Set attenuator for -32 or -29dB (good to 115dB)
Jazz ensembles with moderate amplification. Set for -23 or -20dB (good to 124dB)
Loud disco or rock band concerts. Set for -14 or -11dB (good to 133dB SPL)
Fireworks should use the -14dB range, if you’re close enough to need earplugs.

Record level of 5 will pretty much provide full-scale (full scale without limiting is 3 dots short of the red dot on the EX1’s audio level meter scale). A level of 6 will push things toward more limiting on the secondary limiter stage and a little more hiss from the preamp. 5 is really pretty optimal, with adjustments to attenuators for expected maximum SPL.
With careful adjustment for the given situation, the EX1 can provide near-audiophile-quality recordings of musical, pyrotechnic and natural sound events without the need for separate audio recording methods.

Last edited by Eli Schmukler; January 20th, 2010 at 11:05 AM. Reason: Deleted reference to another discussion as the text of that discussion is in the quoted material I included.
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