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Shoot Review — BeachTek DXA Series and SVU Series

XLR adapter and stereo VU meter ensure solid sound MiniDV audiocapture.

The DXA series XLR adapters fit a wide variety of MiniDV camcorders,including Sony’s VX1000/VX2000 and Canon’s XL1/XL1S.

Perhaps it’s the growing number of surround-sound video playbacksystems in American homes, or maybe our ears are becoming moresophisticated. Either way, more videomakers are putting an emphasis ongood audio acquisition. No longer is it enough to rely on the camera’sonboard microphone. There must be a better way — and there is,thanks to an innovative little company in Canada.

The BeachTek DXA series Dual XLR adapters and the SVU series StereoVU Meters are built rock-solid. For the minimal investment theyrequire, both deliver rich dividends. BeachTek was the first firm tobring these types of products to market seven or eight years ago. I’veused two similar products from other companies and wasn’t nearly asimpressed.

In my book, next to a wide-angle lens adapter, the most essentialaccessory for your camcorder is a BeachTek audio adapter. With a DXAXLR adapter, your camera, and one or two high-quality microphones (suchas the popular Sennheiser ME66 shotgun microphone or an Azden or Shurewireless system), you can capture outstanding audio. Simply connect theattached 1/8in. plug to the camera’s mini-jack audio out port, and thenattach two high-quality balanced mics with XLR cords to the DXAadapter. Then you can control the levels of each channel. Or hook up amic and a line-level audio source like a CD recorder, so you cando narration and music mixes in the field.

The BeachTek DXA-4 has two balanced inputs for XLR microphones andvolume control knobs for each channel.

Because the adapter is a passive device, it’s literally noiselessand requires no batteries. BeachTek makes several versions to fitdifferent camera sizes, and one version provides phantom power forhigh-end studio mics. Any of these XLR mics is 10 times better thanwhat’s in your camera.

The first thing a good video professional learns after framing isthat audio must be monitored constantly to be captured effectively.Monitoring the sound at all times with a pair of high-quality,closed-ear-design headphones will help ensure that what you hear iswhat’s being captured to tape. Actually seeing the sound levels thetape is recording is the next best thing.

This is where a BeachTek SVU series VU meter comes in. Working withany recording device, the meter features a bright LED display thatshows levels from -21dB to +6dB. RCA for stereo audio and video in/outand pass-through means you can monitor just about any device. Calibrateboth left and right channels with a jeweler’s screwdriver by adjustingthe signal level via a recessed port.

The SVU-2 stereo VU meter includes a headphone amp to allow you tohear the audio that’s being captured to tape.

One of the features I like best about the SVU-2, the model Ireviewed, is the included headphone amp with its smooth-action volumecontrol knob. Whenever I shoot a music video it’s always hard to hearthe sound being captured to tape, but with the SVU-2 it’s no problem.The powerful headphone amp makes the signal loud enough to overcome anyambient noise.

The SVU-2 uses one 9V battery and does not add any discernible noiseto the audio signal. When you can’t have headphones on, you can stillhave an instant visual representation of your audio levels. Very handyindeed.

A camera-mountable VU meter, the BeachTek SVU-2 lets you see thelevels of the audio you are recording.

With solid metal housings, both the DXA adapter and the SVU meterare very well built and will stand up to years of use on the road.While other companies have tried to imitate them, these are bothstraightforward devices with few faults.

My only gripe with the DXA is that I didn’t care for the notch knobsthat control volume; I’d prefer the smooth volume control found onother BeachTek products. However, the notch control knob lets you knowexactly what level you’ve selected. On the SVU-2 meter, the LCDs couldbe a tad larger. Although they are plenty bright and very viewable in adark nightclub, broad daylight sometimes presents problems.

While both products can easily be mounted to each other and to thecamcorder via their tripod screw holes, if things get too crowded youcan use a Mini Rover accessory bracket from Videosmith. The bracketallows you to mount all this gear onto your camcorder moreconveniently. But with both products onboard, a handheld unit can getheavy in a hurry, so using a good fluid-head tripod is advisable.

The emphasis on audio — for everything from broadcasting tospecial interest and corporate videos — is here to stay. Theseaccessories will ensure you capture the highest-quality audio at areasonable cost. With products like the BeachTek DXA adapter and SVUmeter, your audio canvas can be painted with a rich level of soundquality for a better overall viewer experience.

BOTTOM LINE

Company: BeachTek
Toronto; (416) 690-9457
www.beachtek.com

Product: DXA series Dual XLR adapter; SVU series Stereo VUmeter

Assets: DXA adapter has two balanced XLR inputs, volumecontrol knobs for each channel, and a mic or line selector; form-fittedfor various cameras. SVU meter shows levels from -21dB to +6dB; SVU-2includes headphone amp.

Caveats: Use an accessory bracket if your camera getsoverloaded.

Demographic: MiniDV shooters in search of high-quality audiocapture.

Price: $119-$149 for SVU meter; $129-$299 for DXAadapter.

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