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Forums Audio Engineering 3.5mm or XLR for DSLR video?

  • 3.5mm or XLR for DSLR video?

  • Ryan Atkins

    October 3, 2011 at 6:03 am

    Yes I know, DSLRs cannot take XLR mics (without adapters). However, I’m talking about using an external recorder and bypassing the camera for recording audio.

    In your opinion, which is better? XLR or 3.5mm microphones/external recorders? I’m looking to get an external recorder and possibly a new microphone. Most all recorders support 3.5mm connections, but not all support XLR; they are or can be more expensive. Is XLR worth the money both for microphones and external recorders?

  • Bob Kessler

    October 3, 2011 at 6:45 am

    XLR connections are “locked”, which means that they are more secure. Low impedance (grounded/shielded) devices, which are usually associated with XLR, also means longer cable runs and less audio interference. These prosumer and professional devices also tend to have more, or at least more focused, production sound related features.


    Filmmaking is the art of the invisible;
    If anyone notices your work you haven’t done your job right.

  • Peter Groom

    October 3, 2011 at 8:22 am

    XLR all the way. Pay the extra, whatever it is, if your end product matters to you.
    3.5mm jacks are “unbalanced” This means in laymans terms that they are MUCH more likely to have interference / mains hum picked up on them.
    And if you must use 3.5mm jacks, keep the cable length to an absolute minimum to reduce this risk. Xlr s are balasnced. ie they still have the intereference but it is removed from the signal by the additional cores and electronics being in antiphase to eachother.
    And anyway, xlr devices like the Zoom recorders are buttons cheap. How cheap do you want to go??

    Post Production Dubbing Mixer

  • Ryan Atkins

    October 3, 2011 at 2:56 pm

    I thought this would be the case. I’ve been comparing two models. The Zoom H4N and Tascam DR-100. Both are very similar in build and price.

    I have used the Zoom a little bit, but have also heard good things about the Tascam. The fact that it has a rechargeable battery is also selling me on the unit.

    Any suggestions? I’m looking to stay within $300-$350.

  • Ty Ford

    October 3, 2011 at 3:00 pm

    Hello Ryan and welcome to the Cow Audio Forum.

    The name of this forum is “Audio Professionals.” Bob and Peter are giving good advice here.

    Balanced and properly shielded XLR audio is of higher quality than 1/8″TRS.

    Balanced audio is not perfect, but it’s much better. There is more signal over a balanced pair so you’re higher above the noise floor of the system. You are also higher above any interference that may be present. Then there are the features Bob and Peter mentioned.

    You don’t know until you know. I had a pro audio friend recently tell me about his experience the first time he used a Sound Devices 442 mixer. After plugging in some mics and listening he said he noticed a very noticeable difference in the quality of the sound (even over other balanced professional mixers). I own a 442 and knew exactly what he meant.

    So going XLR brings you up to a new level, but even within XLR land, all are not equal.

    If you are planning on making a living with your craft, buying right once means you never have to make excuses to yourself or your client. Good recorders and mics will last a long time and not be obsoleted like cameras.


    Ty Ford

    Cow Audio Forum Leader
    Want better production audio?: Ty Ford’s Audio Bootcamp Field Guide

  • Bob Kessler

    October 3, 2011 at 4:46 pm

    Both the DR-100 and H4n suffer from low volume levels when used for production sound. They are aimed at the music crowd, and its higher volume levels. If I had to choose between the two I would lean towards the the DR-100; the build is much more solid. I’ve heard too many stories where the H4n was turned into a paperweight after being dropped.

    If you can scratch up the extra cash go with the Marantz PMD-661, Fostex FR2-LE or Tascam HD-P2, all in the $600 to $800 range – entry level professional devices with much better pre-amps and real production sound features


    Filmmaking is the art of the invisible;
    If anyone notices your work you haven’t done your job right.

  • Ryan Atkins

    October 4, 2011 at 2:33 pm

    Thank you for the advice, Bob!

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