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Thread: Help understanding basics of certain cables

  1. Default Help understanding basics of certain cables

    So I'm finally doing a little research and working to figure out exactly what I need. Am I correct when I say that most camcorders do not have a hook up for an XLR cable? I read that XLR cables are what give a much more professional quality of audio. I also read that there are adapters for XLR cables to hook up to the 3.5 mm ports on most camcorders. Is the quality of audio as good using the adapter as it would be if the XLR cable were hooked up to an XLR port on a more expensive camera?

    Finally, is there any point to buying something like the Zoom h4n if you are hooking up the microphone to the camera?

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Feb 2006
    Surrey, UK
    Blog Entries


    XLR is just a connector.

    The capability of longer runs with less interference comes from usingbalanced signals. Balanced signals require three conductors and the right equipment at each end. Two conductors carry the signal, one of which has its phase inverted. A 3.5mm jack only has two conductors (mono) so one of the signals has to be dropped - therefore the benefit of a balanced signal is lost, if you simply use a converter.

    However all is not lost. Beachtek and Juiced link (and no doubt others) makke pre-amps whicc mount under your camera, take a balanced signal in (from your mic) and feed out to a 3.5mm jack to feeeed into your camera. Thus the "unbalanced" signal is only a few inches (no real issue with interference) whilst the longer cable run (which is more likely to suffer interference) is balanced.

    There are several benefits to the H4n, some of which:
    Great for picing up a good stereo ambient sound track, using inbuilt mics (also not bad for "table top" interviews.
    Use with a lavalier mic and put in the pocket of a subject whilst shooting from a great distance (avoiding wireless connections - but be careful as you cannot monitor)
    Ditto above but hand held mic for roving reporter
    Sometimes it's just useful to have a backup audio.

  3. #3


    but be careful as you cannot monitor)
    Just to be clear Tim means you can not monitor when it's in someones pocket not that you can't monitor with a Zoom H4n.

    Finally, is there any point to buying something like the Zoom h4n if you are hooking up the microphone to the camera?
    I haven't noticed any difference from putting a mic into my Zoom or direct into the camera BUT I would presume that would depend on the cameras ability to process the signal going into it. Historically DSLR cameras for example, are not very good at doing this. I believe the new Canon 5D MkIII has improved but this is an exception. You will also find that cheaper consumer level camcorders will not record the audio as good as a Zoom H4n.

    As Tim has said, the way you need to use the equipment is really the biggest factor on whether to use a separate audio recorder.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Mar 2011
    London, England


    I agree, OP should use a short flexible cable from the camcorder 3.5mm and any XLR socket, The same applies to SDHC recorders - indeed one wonders who thought a long-adaptor was a good solution?
    However, to achieve a "balanced" circuit the 3.5mm wiring needs to be changed, either by a transformer - or- a solid-state solution . . . .these are not likley to be easily available although I did see a fancy adaptor for Canon DSLR - this box removes the AGC and (I Think) converts to XLR with phantom-power option. However, thsi is something like 250.

    In general:-
    Camera audio is poor because the children in "Marketing" don't think we are interested in the audio. However, dedicated Audio recorders have only "quality" to sell them . . . so their circuits should be a lot better, if somewhat less convenient. However, I find mine is useful for recoding Foley when out and about, even if the camera is at home.
    Last edited by vidmanners; 07-28-2012 at 09:39 PM.

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