The advent of DSLR cameras has meant a tremendous leap forward for video producers at every level, from beginner to professional. Almost by accident, novice users can achieve stunning high definition images not previously possible, while pro shooters can produce TV commercials, documentaries and full-length features worthy of Hollywood.
For all their video excellence however, DSLRs have developed a well-deserved reputation for producing lousy audio. Poorly performing preamps, lack of headphone monitoring and level meters, the inability to attach professional level XLR [http://www.videomaker.com/community/forums/topic/recording-microphone-sound-into-video-camera-xlr-vs-35mm-jack] microphones and more, have contributed to the audio insufficiencies of these otherwise amazing instruments of artistic expression.
To address these issues, manufacturers have set out to develop adapters capable of compensating for these inadequate or altogether missing features. Recently we had the opportunity to try out one such adapter and found Beachtek’s DXA-SLR PRO audio adapter to be a DSLR shooter’s dream sequence come true.
For all their video excellence, DSLRs have developed a well-deserved reputation for producing lousy audio.
The DXA-SLR PRO arrived encased in a healthy layer of protective foam along with two small cables and an operating manual. A coiled cable, with right-angle 1/8-inch (3.5mm) jacks at either end is used to transmit the audio signal from the adapter to the camera. The right-angle, short RCA cable is for playback monitoring. The unit may be powered using either an alkaline or lithium 9-volt battery, neither of which is supplied.
Build quality appears to be very good with no loose fitting parts. All the knobs and switches are snug, with smooth, positive actions. Ports hold their cables firmly with no sloppiness anywhere. Although the unit feels very solid it doesn’t add a lot of weight. At 18 ounces even run-n-gun shooters will barely know it’s there – except where it counts.
The top of the adapter has a standard 1/4-inch 20 screw protruding through the rubberized mounting surface. The material protects the bottom of the camera from scratches and provides a very solid grip. A large, easily accessible tightening wheel pulls the camera snugly into the rubberized pad. The underside of the unit has a 1/4-inch 20 receiver mount for tripod use.
The adapter retains the typical DSLR form factor so when mounted, it almost feels like part of the camera. Battery access is from the front so batteries can be easily swapped out without removing the camera.
Dual XLR inputs on the left side of the unit allow you to connect professional-level mics from two separate sources. Attachment is very solid, with locking ports. Once the cable is attached, it isn’t coming out until the lock release tab is pushed in.
At the rear of the unit are the various switches and dials that make the audio magic happen. At the left side of the adapter, just below the camera’s viewing screen, is the built-in VU meter. A quick glance from the camera to the VU meter’s sizeable LCD screen makes visual monitoring of audio levels quick and easy. Three decibel increments on the meter and independent left/right output controls make setting levels a snap. Dual three-way switches let you specify the type of input for each channel. LIN is for mixers, MIC is for self-powered mics and wireless systems and PH is for mics requiring phantom power. The phantom power switch toggles output from 12-volt to 48-volt.
A gain switch per channel gives you 20dB of gain on the HI setting with a LO setting of 0dB for more sensitive microphones. Two more switches provide onboard limiting to prevent clipping distortion. Dual indicator lamps light whenever the function is activated. The M/S switch specifies mono or stereo use depending on how many channels are used. The phone jack, volume dial and Play/Rec switch allow headphone monitoring of audio during both recording and playback.
A welcome feature for those with cameras having full-time Automatic Gain Control (AGC) is the AGC disable switch (AGC DSBL). AGC can cause unexpected, and often times undesirable, results as it adjusts audio gain in reaction to sounds coming from the surrounding environment. When all is quiet AGC can cause excessive hiss as it attempts to bring levels up. AGC DSBL combats this problem by disabling the AGC function altogether.
With our DSLR, pro shotgun mic and headphones hooked up to the DXA-SLR PRO we went out for some shooting. The whole package is very manageable in terms of overall size and weight. Being able to record professional audio along with amazing DSLR images directly in-camera is truly magical. The easy-to-read VU meter, headphone monitoring, HI gain, limiting and AGC disabling all worked together in concert to produce quality audio without the added step of syncing in post. This is one accessory no serious shooter should be without.
For video producers who want to add truly professional audio to the mix, Beachtek’s DXA-SLR PRO may be the solution you’re looking for.
Contributing Editor Mark Holder is a video producer and trainer.
Company and Product info:
DXA-SLR PRO: $449
Maximum Input Levels: Mic – -3dBu; Line – +14dBu
Output Level: Normal Mic levels
Frequency Response: 20Hz to 20kHz (+/- 0.5dB)
Total Harmonic Distortion: Less than 0.001% @ 1kHz, -30dBu input
Signal-to-Noise Ratio: 85dB @ 1kHz, -30dBu input
Gain: Lo gain – 0dB; Hi gain – 20dB
Phantom Power: Dual regulated 12- or 48V power supplies; Current to 14mA (direct shot)
VU Meter: -16 to +3dB in 3dB increments
Battery Type: 9V alkaline or lithium battery
Battery Duration: 3 hours typical with alkaline battery (no phantom); 8 hours typical with lithium battery (no phantom)
Dimensions (LxWxH): 6” x 3.8” x 1.8” (152mm x 95mm x 44mm)
Warranty: Limited two year warranty
- Dual XLR inputs
- Provides phantom power
- AGC disable function
- VU Meter
- Low noise
- Switches are small and may be hard for some to operate