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One way to improve the quality of your in-camera audio when shooting video with an HDSLR camera is to utilize an external adapter box (called a Camcorder XLR Adapter). These gizmos attach to the base of your camera and enable you to connect multiple XLR microphones to your camera’s lowly mini-plug mic input. However, one major drawback is that your ergonomically comfy camera body will now have a pointy metal box affixed to its bottom. Thankfully, the designers at Beachtek have addressed this situation with their new DXA-SLR PRO, which features a form-fitting chassis with rounded edges, a rubberized grip and an overall “born to be attached to a DSLR” design. In addition to these improvements, there are many new features that will help you achieve superior sound.
For more information on the ins and outs of Camcorder XLR Adapters, be sure to check out this B&H InDepth Buying Guide.
Recording clean audio on any kind of video shoot is a challenge, and the audio limitations of HDSLR cameras make it even more difficult. Most HDSLRs lack a headphone output and audio meters, so you can’t monitor the sound. To make matters worse, many cameras have a feature called Automatic Gain Control (AGC), which adjusts the audio recording levels for you. In some shooting situations, AGC really helps, but there are many situations where it makes your audio worse. AGC is similar to the “autofocus” function on a video camera. If you’re trying to shoot a professional-looking interview video and the autofocus suddenly starts “hunting” for focus in the middle of a take, your work is going to look amateurish. AGC does the same thing to audio levels.
The new DXA-SLR Pro offers solutions to all of these problems and empowers you with a few extra tools to really sharpen your sound. It’s kind of like a “greatest hits” album of Beachtek’s most popular songs, with a few new chart-topping tunes thrown in. Like any good Camcorder XLR Adapter, the new DXA-SLR PRO features two XLR inputs with phantom power that you can switch to accept mic or line-level signals. The ability to switch to line level makes it possible to connect your HDSLR to a mixing board at a live event or a wedding reception. Similar to the Beachtek DXA-SLR, the new DXA-SLR PRO has a 3.5mm headphone output with a dedicated volume knob, and the ability to disable a camera’s AGC. Like the Beachtek DXA-5DA, the new DXA-SLR PRO features VU meters to easily check for proper recording levels. Similarities aside, this new Beachtek has a few additional tweaks that give it an edge. Both XLR inputs feature fast-acting limiters that prevent clipping and distortion from overly loud sounds. The limiters aren’t necessary for every situation, and can be turned on and off with dedicated switches. Its XLR inputs are also transformer balanced, which offers greater isolation and enhanced circuit protection. The DXA-SLR PRO has a new, DLSR-friendly chassis, with cutaways that allow easy access to its thumb wheel (which is used to affix it to the tripod thread on the base of a camera). Like all Camcorder XLR Adapters, the DXA-SLR PRO also features a tripod thread at its base, so you can still attach your camera rig to a tripod.
Some microphones require no power at all, while others just need a little charge, and some demand a full 48 volts. That’s why the new DXA-SLR PRO lets you switch between zero, 12 or 48 volts of phantom power (if you’re not familiar with phantom power, it’s clearly explained in the B&H InDepth Camcorder XLR Adapter Buying Guide). If you’re using a hypercardioid microphone to record interior dialog and your microphone only needs 9 volts of phantom power to operate, you can switch the DXA-SLR PRO to 12V, to conserve battery power (a single 9 volt battery is required for operation). Another energy-saving touch is that the phantom power can be turned on and off individually for each channel.
The DXA-SLR PRO features a “loop back” ability which enables you to listen to the audio from the camera, but only when you’re playing back video clips that have already been recorded. It’s a useful feature that can really help you determine how good your audio sounds in the field. Without the loop back feature, the only way you can hear the audio during playback on most HDSLRs is through the camera’s tinny built-in speaker. You connect your camera’s A/V output cable to the 3.5mm “MONITOR IN” jack on the DXA-SLR PRO. When you play back a video clip on your camera, you can flip the “MONITOR Switch” on the DXA-SLR PRO to the PLAY position, enabling you to hear the sound from your recoded video clip through your headphones.
Out of the box, the new DXA-SLR PRO is completely compatible with Canon HDSLR cameras. If you’re using a Panasonic Lumix GH1 or GH2 camera, you can use a 2.5mm to 3.5mm adapter to connect the included 3.5mm to 3.5mm cable to the camera’s sub-mini mic input. Lumix users can also purchase the separately available Beachtek SC25 cable, which was made for this purpose.
The mic input on many Nikon HDSLR cameras is more sensitive than other kinds of cameras, and therefore an additional attenuation cable may be necessary. You can use a Sescom LN2MIC-ZOOMH4N cable in the place of the included 3.5mm to 3.5mm cable. The Sescom cable simply lowers the level of the audio by 25 dB. The Whirlwind WHH4NL3.5 cable is another option that does the same thing and features a right-angle connector.
The new DXA-SLR PRO has lots of little touches that make it an excellent companion to your HDLSR of choice. Its preamplifiers were designed for low-noise performance, so you can capture audio into your camera with ample dynamic range. There are High and Low gain switches for each channel, which can really help you get a proper level with microphones of varying sensitivities. The power LED glows green with a good battery, turns red when the battery is running out of juice, and the battery door was designed for easy access. Behind the many rubber bumpers of the DXA-SLR PRO is a tough yet lightweight aluminum enclosure. At the end of the day, your picture is only as good as your sound. Get it right with the DXA-SLR PRO.
|Inputs||2 x XLR, 1 x 3.5mm monitor input|
|Outputs||1 x 3.5 mm camera output, 1 x 3.5 mm headphone output|
|Maximum Input Levels||Mic: -3 dBu, Line: +14 dBu|
|Output Level||Nominal mic levels|
|Frequency Response||20 Hz to 20 kHz (+/- 0.5 dB)|
|THD||Less than 0.01% @ 1 kHz, -30 dBu input|
|S/N Ratio||85 dB @ 1 kHz, -30 dBu input|
|Gain||Lo gain: 0 dB, Hi gain: 15 dB|
|Phantom Power||Dual regulated 12 or 48 volt, current to 14 mA (direct short)|
|VU Meter||-18 to +3 dB in 3 dB increments|
|Battery Type||1 x 9 volt alkaline or lithium battery|
|Battery Duration||3 hours with alkaline (no phantom), 8 hours with lithium (no phantom)|
|Dimensions||6 x 3.75 x 1.75" (152 x 95 x 44 mm)|
|Weight||18 oz (0.51 kg)|