Remember that great XLR microphone you love to use with your camcorder? Ever wish you could just plug it into your computer and record? In the past, you might plug the mic into your camera, set up the camera and then run a cable from that to the computer. Sure the mic is great, but the setup and teardown involved might just convince you to use that funky-sounding, plug-n-play mic that came with your computer. Well, maybe not. However, you can skip all the fuss with the Shure X2u.
What it Does
Simply put, the Shure X2u converts an XLR signal to a USB signal. It has everything a video hobbyist who doesn’t have elaborate sound hardware needs. It has three adjustment wheels; the first controls the gain level and works in tandem with an indicator light. The light shines green, yellow or red to indicate mic signal, peaking and clipping respectively. This allows you to tone down hot signals or increase gain for weak ones and receive instant feedback. The middle wheel adjusts the headphone jack volume. With this, you can monitor the mic without the delay it takes for the sound to filter through your recorder and return through your headphones. The bottom wheel adjusts the ratio of live mic to the monitor signal fed back from the recording software.
You’ve Got the Power
Near the bottom you’ll find a button to provide phantom power along the XLR line. This makes the unit useful with both dynamic and condenser mics – no need to leave your favorite mic unused. However, the blue indicator light can dimly illuminate a dark editing room, as it is strangely bright for its size. Using phantom power presents an extra demand on laptop batteries so be sure you’ve got enough juice to finish the job!
The unit has a solid, sturdy feel and travels neatly in the equipment pouch with the almost ten-foot USB cable. It’s heavy enough that it makes good sense to run an XLR cable from a mic to it instead of attaching it directly to the mic. It’s also quite easy to strap the whole unit to a mic stand via the included Velcro straps and convenient anchor slots. The padded back section won’t scratch a nice desktop surface or let the unit slide away.
Working with Computers
Mac users will require a driver from the Shure website. However it installs painlessly, and once done, recording is simple. The X2u tested well with Apple Soundtrack Pro, and the sound quality was superb. Something to keep in mind is that recording close to computers picks up fan noise. The headphone jack, however, will help you hear exactly what is coming through the mic to avoid a messy recording.
When recording in the field, the X2u will keep you from toting heavy audio equipment to get the control you need. Just bring a laptop or portable USB recorder and you’re ready to rock and record. Along with the Countryman B6, these are two solutions will help keep audio headaches to a minimum and let you focus on achieving a spectacular recording.
Frequency Response: 20 to 20,000 Hz +/- 1 dB
Power Requirements: USB-powered, 500 mA, maximum
Digital Noise Floor: (20 Hz to 20 kHz, A-weighted)
Sampling Rate: up to 48 kHz
Bit Depth: 16 bit
Adjustable Gain Range: 40 dB
- Extremely portable
- Solid construction
- Mic gain adjustments with signal indicators
- Allows headphone monitoring close to source
- Phantom power adds drain to laptop batteries
The Shure X2u greatly simplifies connecting computers to any XLR mic. If you find you need to bridge the XLR to USB gap without involving multiple adapters and equipment decks, you’re in luck.
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Niles, IL 60714-4608
Mike Houghton is a freelance videographer and an independent filmmaker.