Camcorder XLR Adapters

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What is a Camcorder XLR Adapter?

A Camcorder XLR Adapter is a small, lightweight box that enables you to properly attach two professional microphones and other audio signals to a camera with only one 3.5mm mini-plug mic input. Camcorder XLR Adapters upgrade and expand the audio capabilities of a basic camcorder to the level of a professional camera.

Camcorder XLR Adapters are compatible with all kinds of video cameras, from consumer camcorders to high-end HD video-enabled DSLRs. Some models have specific features that would benefit specific cameras more than others, but in general they’re all interchangeably compatible.

Why are they called Camcorder XLR Adapters?

The name “Camcorder XLR Adapter” tends to be a little confusing. People generally think of audio adapters as small plugs that fit onto the ends of cables. This is not the case in regard to a Camcorder XLR Adapter, which takes the form of a box that mounts beneath the camera.

Why should I use a Camcorder XLR Adapter?

When you need to plug more than one microphone into a camera that only has a single mini-plug mic input, a simple Y-cable won’t solve the problem. The microphone input on the camera only has an impedance tolerance to interface with a single microphone. Patching two microphones into this input with a Y-cable will throw off the impedance balance, resulting in really bad sounding, unusable audio.

Camcorder XLR Adapters solve this impedance imbalance issue with passive electronics called “transformers.” The transformers correct the signal flow, allowing you to plug two microphones into a single mini-plug microphone input with excellent-sounding results.

One of the main advantages of a Camcorder XLR Adapter is that it will enable you to use microphones with XLR connectors with a camera that only has a mini-plug input. XLR jacks make a three pin connection and lock into place. They sound better, and being able to use XLR equipment with your camera opens up a whole new world of creative possibilities.

How can I tell if my camera is compatible with a Camcorder XLR Adapter?

Camcorder XLR Adapters are compatible with any kind of camera that features a mini-plug (1/8” or 3.5mm) stereo microphone input.

Some Camcorder XLR Adapters are laid out so their controls are positioned more ergonomically with specific models of cameras. In these cases the model name of the Camcorder XLR Adapter will reflect the model name of the camera for which it’s been designed. But besides being optimized for ergonomics, these specialized Camcorder XLR Adapters are still compatible with any camera that has a mini-plug microphone input.

How do I attach a Camcorder XLR Adapter to my camera?

Most Camcorder XLR Adapters have a screw that attaches to the tripod thread at the base of a camera.

Can I still attach my camera to a tripod if a Camcorder XLR Adapter is attached?

Yes. All Camcorder XLR Adapters that can mount to the base of a camera also feature a tripod thread at their bases to mount onto a tripod. When set up in this manner, a Camcorder XLR Adapter will be affixed between the camera and the tripod.

Is there anything else a Camcorder XLR Adapter can do?

Some Camcorder XLR Adapters are very basic, while others have more capabilities. For example, some Camcorder XLR Adapters can supply condenser microphones with “phantom power.” There are Camcorder XLR Adapters that have the ability to switch their inputs to accept either “mic-level” or “line-level” signals. Some Camcorder XLR Adapters have headphone outputs for monitoring your audio, while others even include LED audio meters so you can monitor your audio levels visually.  

What is phantom power, and why would I need it?

There are certain kinds of microphones that require a little electricity in order to operate. This little flow of electricity is called phantom power. Phantom power is usually supplied by the device that the microphone is plugged into. Some Camcorder XLR Adapters have a little switch that sends phantom power out through the mic cable, which powers the connected mic. The Camcorder XLR Adapters that can supply phantom power require batteries in order to operate.

What’s the difference between line-level and mic-level signals, and why should I care?  

A line-level audio signal is a much stronger signal than a mic-level audio signal. The external microphone input on a camera is only capable of properly interfacing with a mic-level signal. If you plug a line-level signal into a mic-level input, the audio recorded into the camera will be a loud, distorted mess.

That’s why some Camcorder XLR Adapters have little switches that let you select between “Line” and “Mic.” If you switch a Camcorder XLR Adapter to accept a line-level signal, its internal transformers will adjust the signal flow of the audio going into the camera. This enables you to feed a line level signal from a mixing board into your camera. For example, this is a handy way to capture the sound from the DJ’s mixer at a wedding reception.


The Benefits of Using a Camcorder XLR Adapter

Not Using a Camcorder XLR Adapter

Using a Camcorder XLR Adapter

Total number of mics

1

2, 3 and 4

Compatible microphones

Consumer mini-plug mics

Professional XLR mics

Phantom power

No

Some models

Line-level inputs

No

Most models

Added bulk and weight to the camera?

No

Yes

Mic input channel level control

No

Yes, rotary knobs

Impedance transformers

No

Yes


The Takeaway

  • A Camcorder XLR Adapter is a box that lets you attach multiple mics and other audio signals to a camera with only one 3.5mm mini-plug mic input.
  • Patching two microphones into a Y-cable throws off the impedance balance on a camera, resulting in unusable audio.
  • Camcorder XLR Adapters enable you to use mics with XLR connectors with a camera that only has a mini-plug input.
  • Camcorder XLR Adapters are compatible with any kind of camera that features a mini-plug (1/8” or 3.5mm) stereo microphone input.
  • Camcorder XLR Adapters feature a tripod thread at their base to mount onto a tripod.
  • Some mics require electricity, called “phantom power,” in order to operate.
  • Some Camcorder XLR Adapters can supply condenser mics with phantom power.
  • Some Camcorder XLR Adapters can accept either “mic-level” or “line-level” signals.

Items discussed in article

8 Comments

Hello,

I am considering purchasing the Rode NTG2.  A youtube video demonstrated the difference between using this mic with a audio recorder versus plugging directly into the camcorder using a mini jack.

The signal going directly into the camcorder came with a lot of hiss.  I presume that's becuase there was a change in the impedance.

Does this adapter solve that issue?

Thank you for your insight.

Richard

Hi Richard -

You are most likely experiencing an impedance mismatch.  A quality DSLR adapter will typically correct the issue.  A very simple solution is this cable:

The Kopul LMT100 cable simply enables a microphone or mic-level device to be input into a high-impedance 3.5mm mini input found on DSLRs, camcorders, and other devices. It is 1.5' long and has a 3-pin XLR female connector on one end and a standard 3.5mm mini plug on the other. It is designed for use with mono microphones.

Matches low-impedance XLR output to high-impedance 1/8" (3.5mm) audio input

Ideal for plugging professional XLR microphones into DSLRs, camcorders, and other devices with a 1/8˝ microphone input

For use with battery-powered and dynamic microphones

Designed for a mono source, but will split the signal to both channels of a stereo device

Please contact us via e-mail if you have additional questions:  [email protected]

Hi,

 I have a sony handycam model HDR- CX260V, I want to record a clear voice with out any sorrounding sound / wind - noice,

Will this product help me to record a clear voice by selecting (Line In) option. Please reply me , were i can get it in India (Asia) at - Bangalore city, 

Hi Daniel John -

One of these devices, coupled with a shotgun or lavalier mic with the proper wind muff (furry), if used outdoor, would vastly  improve the audio of your video recordings.  This camcorder is currently discontinued and no longer available.

Please contact us via e-mail if you have additional questions:  [email protected]

Sounds like an excellent product! Congratulations.

Currently I'm shooting a Canon7D with the DX5-5DA. May I assume that this pro model is also compatible with the 7D?

In particular I want to find out whether I can use the loop-back feature?

What do you think will be the main advantages that will motivate me to upgrade?

Sorry for so many questions. I have a separate DX5-5DA quesztion. I have voice-over that I recorded that will play on my iMac, iPad, iPhone 4 with earbuds but not with iPhone 4 speakers--this is my problems.

I do have AGC-disable turned on. I was using a wireless mic that I plugged DX5-5DA's XLR. I set the input to be mic-level. I accidently set the unused left input to be line-level. Could this be cause of extra noise and the problem of not being able to hear the voice-over on my iPhone speakers? Any way to salvage by filtering?

Hello -

It is entirely possible that the noise issue could be caused as you describe.  This  type of problem occurs all the time and you should be able to easily filter out the spurious noise in post with your recording software.

The new BeachTek DXA-SLR PRO HDSLR Audio Adapter allows the "loop-back" function with the 7D.  Reading our new  InDepth review may provide all the motivation necessary to upgrade.

I read both articles regarding solving problems with camcorders with 3.5mm mic input.  I own a Sony Nex-VG10 and I use a Rode Videomic Pro to catch audio usually at school concerts and shows.  so far i have not been satisfied with the audio.  even though I would like to purchase an XLR adapter box to enhance audio, I am wondering if capturing audio "only" through th euse of a digital recorder and sync it in post (Final Cut Pro 10) woudl be a better alternative.  I realize I need some kind of a clap bord to help the sync.

thanks

Hakim Benkrid

Hello -

Using a portable digital recorder with high quality microphones may yield the best results.  You can eliminate the need for a clapperboard by using simply amazing sync-ing software from Singular Software Inc called Plural Eyes.  You may also want to check out an article we recently featured on the Tascam DR 100mkII portable recorder as well.

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