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How to hook an XLR microphone to a 1/8 jack

Steve Hovland , Oct 01, 2010; 10:40 p.m.

If you're just starting with video you need to know that "sound is 60% of video." People will tolerate low-res visuals, but not low-res sound.
The key to getting good sound is getting the microphone close to the speaker, which often means running some length of cable.
Most professional microphones have the 3-pin XLR connector which allows you to run a long cable without picking up hum.


The business end of a microphone.

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Steve Hovland , Oct 01, 2010; 10:47 p.m.

The key to making this work is the Lo-Z to Hi-Z transformer. This one is the Audio-Technica CP8201. About $20 at Guitar Center. Radio Shack has something similar.


Low-impedance to high-impedance transformer

Steve Hovland , Oct 01, 2010; 10:48 p.m.

Then comes an adapter from Radio Shack and others to go from 1/4 female to RCA male:


1/4 F to RCA M

Steve Hovland , Oct 01, 2010; 10:51 p.m.

Then an RCA Splitter, F to 2 Male, to make two channels of sound.


RCA splitter

Steve Hovland , Oct 01, 2010; 10:54 p.m.

Steve Hovland , Oct 01, 2010; 10:56 p.m.

Finally, two F to F adapters on one end of a stereo cord, a stereo cord about 3 feet long, and an RCA (two F) to 1/8 stereo adapter from Radio Shack.
This is a lot of bother for a short distance, but you can put a long XLR cable between the microphone and the transformer to mike a subject that could be 100 feet away. In that case you would want to use a battery-powered condenser mike. I have a Rode M3 which I like a lot- around $150.


The rest of the connection

Michael Chang , Oct 01, 2010; 11:26 p.m.

Hi Steve, that seems like more adapters than necessary.

It's probably easier to use a direct XLR to 1/8" adapter which will also alleviate the weight that the final 1/8" receptor must bear. You then use a XLR to XLR cable of necessary length from the microphone to the adapter:
[Link]

Steve Smith , Oct 02, 2010; 02:40 a.m.

The transformer option (or a pre-amp with balanced line input) is the best and correct way to do it. However you could get a simpler method to work.

Get a 3 pin XLR cable fit socket and a 1/8" jack and some shielded cable to connect them together. Connect XLR pins 1 and 3 to the ground connection of the jack plug using the outer shield of the cable and connect XLR pin 2 to the tip connection of the jack plug using the centre conductor.

The microphone source will be a lower impedance than the input to the pre-amplifier but it should be o.k. as this is a preferable scenario than the other way round.

EDIT - Like this: http://www.mediacollege.com/audio/connection/xlr-jack-mono.html

Steve Hovland , Oct 02, 2010; 10:31 a.m.

Michael - true. I did this mostly with stuff in my electricals junk box collected over many years :-)
One thing to watch for with adapters is that manufacturers don't seem to follow any standards for dimensions, so sometimes the connections are sloppy. I had a 1/4 to 1/8 that was really bad. That one I threw away.
Steve: Preamp is a good idea. I think I would prefer to buy one built in to something like a Mackie 402-VLZ mixer. That way I have stereo outs with level control over each channel. I have also thought of getting a Rolls MP13 preamp.
The "problem" with the mixer or preamp is that you get a line level out rather than mike level. This is OK if you are doing dual sound and your recorder has a line level input option.

Steve Smith , Oct 02, 2010; 11:07 a.m.

The "problem" with the mixer or preamp is that you get a line level out rather than mike level. This is OK if you are doing dual sound and your recorder has a line level input option.

Agreed although you could make a lead with a potential divider at the recorder input end to drop the level down to microphone signal level. Not ideal but it does work.

I have also thought of getting a Rolls MP13 preamp.

That little pre-amp looks ideal for this sort of thing. I make microphone pre-amps myself but not portable, on location types like that one: http://www.freewebs.com/stevesmithphoto/valve.html


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