Small and Powerful
Small and Powerful
If you've ever been disappointed with the sound from your camera's built-in microphone - and who hasn't - you've probably considered buying an external mic. There are literally hundreds of options, many costing more than your video camera.
But maybe you don't need all the fancy stuff and would just like to upgrade your stereo recordings. If you're looking for a solution to the built-in-mic blues, the Azden SMX-10 is a great place to start.
Small Is Good
The Azden SMX-10 is a little microphone. In fact, it looks just like a baby shotgun mic waiting to grow up. This size is perfect for small handheld camcorders, and it won't weigh down the front end or dangle into your field of view. It measures just 7 inches long with a diameter of less than 3/4".
The body of the mic sports a simple on/off switch and a lo-cut switch to minimize rumble and wind noise. Twist off the back barrel to install a single AAA battery, which Azden claims will last up to 400 hours. Exiting the back side is a short, permanently-attached coiled cable terminated with a stereo 1/8" plug - perfect for plugging into the microphone input on your camera. Some users prefer a 90-degree plug on the end of accessory microphones, and it's easy to see why. Given the odd locations many manufacturers choose for their microphone inputs, it's a given that the plug will get bumped or stressed in some way. An angled plug would minimize potential damage to the fragile jack. If this is a major concern for you, angle adapters are available for a couple of bucks.
Completing the package, the SMX-10 comes with a unique shock mount and a simple foam windscreen.
Although its looks might lead you to believe this is a shotgun microphone, the SMX-10 is a stereo model with great isolation. The pickup pattern may be a bit narrower than that of other stereo models, but it still produces a nice stereo image.
We tested the SMX-10 with a Canon GL2, comparing it to the built-in microphone. After clipping the microphone into its shock mount, we slid it into the accessory shoe on the GL2 and tightened the locking collar. With the camera on, we also plugged in a pair of headphones to monitor the microphones.
First up, we listened to the camera's built-in microphone. It seemed to pick up everything. Mixed into the sounds of birds and traffic noise were some motor noises from the camera. In addition, every time we touched the camera for zoom, focus or record start, the mechanical sound was telegraphed into the microphone. It also picked up a fair amount of sound from the rear of the camera, clearly recording voices, foot shuffles and even some clothing sounds.
Still rolling tape, we plugged in the SMX-10, and most of the noise simply vanished. The birds and traffic were still there, but the extraneous sounds were minimized to very acceptable levels. The shock mount did a good job of isolating the microphone, and most of our previous issues went away.
The benefit of separating the microphone from the mechanics of the camera was obvious. The windscreen did a serviceable job of minimizing wind noise, but anything more than a breeze produced some audible rumble. Finally, we flipped the lo-cut switch, which helped a little bit, but not much. Overall, the Azden SMX-10 did an admirable job of cleaning up the recording.
But How Does It Sound?
Regardless of features or specifications, the true test of any microphone is the sound. I'm happy to report that the Adzen SMX-10 sounds very good. Stereo pickup is nice, if not panoramic. Of course, normally the sound you want to capture is in the camera's view, so this isn't a problem.
What it did pick up was clean, natural and believable, with good stereo placement. Rejection of sound behind the microphone was significant and should minimize all but the loudest noises. Self-noise was minimal and virtually impossible to distinguish from any noise produced by the camera's electronics. If there is a downside, it's the lack of low-frequency content. Azden rates the frequency response as 100-18,000Hz; based on our informal tests, that sounds about right. The lo-cut switch eliminated even more of the lows, but it didn't make a huge difference in the sound.
Plug It In
The Azden SMX-10 is a good solution to a universal problem. If you want to upgrade the sound from your built-in microphone, this microphone provides instant gratification. Your recordings will be cleaner and more professional too. With an MSRP of $100, it won't break the bank either. It's hard to go wrong with the Azden SMX-10.
Type: Stereo electret condenser
Frequency Response: 100-18,000Hz
Sensitivity: -40dB @1kHz (1V/Pa)
Output Impedance: 1.5k ohm @ 1kHz
Signal-to-Noise Ratio: 60dB (1kHz @ 1Pa)
Dynamic Range: 66dB
Power Supply: 1.5VDC (AAA battery)- not included
Max. SPL: 100dB
Battery Current Drain: 0.5mA
Battery Life: 400 hours with alkaline battery
Weight w/o Battery: 52g
Dimensions: 177mm long; 18.2mm diameter
Output Cable: Attached with 3.5mm plug
Supplied Accessories: Camera hot-shoe mic holder, windscreen
- Small size.
- Included shock mount.
- Foam windscreen.
- Clean, natural pickup.
- Sketchy documentation.
- Limited low-frequency response
- Straight 1/8" plug
The Adzen SMX-10 is a serious, affordable upgrade for anyone who's tired of the sound from a built-in microphone. Easy to set up and use, this microphone will instantly improve your recordings.
Contributing Editor Hal Robertson is a digital media producer and technology consultant.
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