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How to Connect Your DSLR Audio Device for Filmmaking

Professional filmmaking and video production depend on optimum audio quality. That’s why high-end video cameras and audio equipment use high-quality XLR cables. Conversely, your DSLR has a 3.5 mm mini-plug. But the difference between plugs and cables isn’t the only reason you’ll need an adapter.

  • Mini-plug: DSLRs use a 3.5 mm mini-plug for audio input. Microphones sold specifically for DSLR have a mini-plug input. This is the same type of plug that’s on the headphones for your iPod or computer.

  • XLR connection: Three-pin XLR connectors are the industry standard for balanced audio signals. These heavy-duty cables come in a variety of lengths and male/female combinations.

DSLR cameras use a mini-plug for audio input, whereas professional quality microphones use three-pin XLR cables.

Although you can produce acceptable audio with mini-plug, it’s just not versatile enough when you're using higher quality microphones or plugging in to a soundboard.

If you want to use a professional-quality microphone with XLR, you need to get an adapter to make them play nicely together. It’s a relatively affordable accessory that costs anywhere from a few dollars to several hundred. Not only does this device connect microphones to the camera, but it also plugs the camera into a soundboard for optimal recording of events such as concerts, performances, and parties.

This small, lightweight box lets you attach a professional XLR microphone or other audio signals to a camera with only one 3.5 mm mini-plug microphone input.

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These adapters upgrade and expand the audio capabilities of the DSLR to the level of a professional video camcorder.

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Another reason why it’s a good idea to use this device: Your DSLR audio input allows you to use only one microphone because the camera has a single input with an impedance tolerance to interface with only one microphone. Don’t try patching two microphones into this input with a Y-cable — it throws off the impedance balance, resulting in really bad, unusable audio.

Line mixing adapters come with various features. Some models supply condenser microphones with phantom power. They require little electricity to operate. The device that the microphone is plugged in to often supplies the small amount of power. Some models send power out through the microphone cable to power the connected microphone. Others allow you to switch their inputs to accept either mic-level or line-level signals:

  • Line level: Line level is a stronger signal used for transferring audio from another source like an audio mixing board as opposed to an external microphone.

  • Mic level: Set the camera to this setting if you're using an external microphone. Microphones require a lesser signal to record audio. If you set the adapter to Line, it reproduces the sound as loud and distorted.

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