XLR plugs and connectors

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Ken Wilson
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XLR plugs and connectors

Post by Ken Wilson »

I posted this under another heading but no-one has yet replied. Perhaps it is hidden there or maybe no-one has the answer to it. But here goes again just in case:
I have bought a new Sony camera (model HXR NX100) with XLR microphone sockets. I have tried plugging in two different Sony mics from our Z5s and also a Sennheiser directonal mic plus the Sennheiser radio mic. Beyond these I have acquired a collection of connectors and adaptors and have messed around trying numerous configurations. The basic problem is that most of the XLR plugs do nothing when plugged into the new Sony camera.

There is no signal...totally dead! But the radio mic works as does a Rode video mic connected via a XLR plug to mini jack socket. So from a collection of various cables, plugs and sockets, only the two described above will work.
The XLR pins look slightly thinner on some plugs than on others, but the differences are minute. I need to find some way of connecting existing mics to the new camera.
There are various connectors/ cables and plugs to sockets on the internet (such as Amazon) but how do you know which will actually work and anyway, why is this such a problem. Any comments or suggestions would be very welcome. Thanks.
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TimStannard
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Re: XLR plugs and connectors

Post by TimStannard »

Ken, I did not post any response because I have not come across this. I'm guessing others who might know have similarly no experience. I do know that it is possible to wire XLR cables so that they are not balanced (which rather defeats the object), and that sticking a converter to a 3.5mm or 1/4in jack on the end will gave a similar effect, but beyond that I've only ever come across XLR cables/plugs that are created equal. Sorry.

Just a thought. I have a Rode Videomic. It provides an unbalance signal via a 3.5mm jack. So you mean it is connected via a converter that has a 3.5mm socket and an XLR plug, yes? If so this is probably not providing a balanced signal to the XLR socket on your camera. The radio mic might be the same.

Is it possible the NX100 is set to accept a non-balanced signal only.

Alternatively - do the mics that don't work require phantom power? If so, are you sure phantom power is switched on (if indeed available)?

There you go. For someone who thought he had no idea, I've come up with a couple of avenues of exploration...
Tim
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ned c
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Re: XLR plugs and connectors

Post by ned c »

Michael Slowe
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Re: XLR plugs and connectors

Post by Michael Slowe »

Ken, I too have just got a new camera (Sony PXW-Z150) and also had mic problems initially. I found that the little switches that select for the various inputs have to be very carefully set. As you must know, for Radio Mics with their own power source (batteries), have to be set to 'mic', not for the 48 Phantom Power. I found that on my camera this was critical, the two notches had too be exactly aligned otherwise I was not recording. I also had problems with camera powered mics when switching back. By the way, did you not have XLR inputs on your previous cameras?
Ken Wilson
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Re: XLR plugs and connectors

Post by Ken Wilson »

Right here is the latest on this one! Thanks to you all for the help. Ned, the link you sent to me was very useful and has proved a solution, albeit with another question...read on.

Yes Michael, the previous Sony cameras, Z5s did have XLR sockets and also similar switches to select the mic inputs and channels so on. But these cameras were supplied with a basic (cheap) Sony microphone. When these cameras were first used in 2010, everything was plugged in and switched on, eye cup added, lens cover added and with a charged battery, away we went. This time, things are different.

No microphone included for this one, but also some changes in switches and a backwards step that more things are accessed via menus. Not a good idea when you are in a hurry! Another oddity that the previous Z5s 2 accessory shoes are down to just 1 meaning an add on double-up bar for mic and light is needed! But I digress.

I have gathered a selection of mics over a few years, so Sennheiser ones (3) a Rode one and the two Sony ones supplied with the Z5s. One of the Sennheisers is a radio mic. So some of these have their own battery and the two Sony ones don`t. The Rode and one Sennheiser have mini jack plugs so were connected with cables and adaptors. Yet all these worked with the previous cameras right out of the box. I only had to choose the one I wanted and which channel it had to go to. So directional mics for some things, a radio mic for say the vows at a church wedding and perhaps cheap Sony mic or internal mic for the very loud music played by a DJ for the evening dancing at a wedding when stood feet from a huge speaker. All of this was well practised at changing and switching from one to another depending on the situation.

But this time, the mics in whatever configuration didn`t work "out of the box." I messed around with all kind of permutations. As most of the mics had their own power via battery, I assumed that the phantom power switch (+48v) shouldn`t be used. In addition, the instruction book (always ambiguous) warned of dire consequences if the +48v switch was used with the wrong mics! (Eeek...do not touch!) So I didn`t!

Then after the posting here, a phone call to H. Prestons camera shop brought the suggestion that perhaps I should explore the menus again. (Oh no not the menus!) But this was to no avail. Then Ned`s link and the suggestion that I should try the +48v switch. But in the meantime I had contacted Sony for help and this morning received several messages from various departments and asking for details of my enquiry.

I again explained the above in brief. One very nice man said he would immediately send a replacement camera which would arrive next Tuesday. At this Ken is delighted, but now trying the +48 switch despite the dire warnings and in the belief that the camera will be replaced next week anyway, suddenly sound comes through loud and clear on all mics and both inputs! But this also includes mics with their own battery power!!! So why is this. I had almost got my head around what is going on here when the battery powered mics proved to also wotk with the switch at +48v??!! So why and how?
Answers to my psychiatrist please.
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TimStannard
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Re: XLR plugs and connectors

Post by TimStannard »

Ken, thanks for following this up.
My immediate reaction is cease and desist from switching phantom power on for mics that are battery powered.This is what the dire warnings are about. I would not be worried about damaging the camera but you may well damage your mic!
I still don't understand exactly what's going on here (I'm not sure what combination's you have tried)

Mics require some sort of power.
Some XLR connections (like those on both your Z5 and the NX100 are able to provide phantom power. Do not use in combination with batteries as you are giving it two lots of power.
Some 3.5mm sockets also have something called "plug-in power" which I believe is a similar idea, but I've never used it.

It does not surprise me that mics with batteries (switched on) will work with phantom power, but they are not designed for this and may cause damage.
It is also possible that the mics and /or camera havesome sort of circuitry whic senses when phantom power is available and deals with it accordingly. Indeed if this is the case, could it be that your Z5 always had +48v phantom powere switched on - which is why everything "just worked"?
Tim
Proud to be an amateur film maker - I do it for the love of it
Michael Slowe
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Re: XLR plugs and connectors

Post by Michael Slowe »

Well, Ken and Tim, I too have read the dire warnings about using phantom power with independently powered mics. However, in past years,I have often mistakenly left the power on when using battery powered radio mics and no harm ever seemed to come from it, a fact I have often pondered as I diligently switch everything correctly. I'm glad that Ken now seems to have everything working, he can't risk missing the dreadful Best Man speech at the next wedding he films!
Ken Wilson
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Re: XLR plugs and connectors

Post by Ken Wilson »

Hi everyone and thanks to one and all for your comments/ advice and ideas. It has all been very puzzling.
Like Michael, it appears that I too have plugged and unplugged various mics into the same socket in the hurry of shooting a video and whether they have batteries in them or have not, each have gone accidentally into the +48v socket. So no harm done at all! But I accept that this is probably not a good idea to do it intentionally.

So all seems to be sorted out. Now I know that the mics with no battery must go into the +48v position or nothing is coming through. Mics with a battery should ideally only be connected with the switch in the mic position, but work ok in the +48v position. But a puzzle remains!

This one oddity is the directional Sennheiser mic which DOES have it`s own battery but DOES NOT work unless the switch is in the +48v position. This seems to contradict the rules for everything else but I have just tried it again to double check and this is certainly the case. So I guess electronic circuitry in either (or both) microphone and camera are in this case doing their own thing. No wonder I was so confused. This is the mic I use the most so was baffled and tricked into thinking the plugs or socketsd were faulty.

Conclusions.
1/ Once things are working, (cameras/ mics/ computers) leave them alone and don`t worry what is going on because you can`t always figure it out.
2/ Sony are very prompt at answering a query from a customer and without question offered to send a replacement camera immediately.
3/ This forum is full of people with invaluable knowledge. Thanks again to one and all.
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TimStannard
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Re: XLR plugs and connectors

Post by TimStannard »

Ken, Which Sennheiser mic? I have a ME with a K6 capsule which I used to run with a battery but now use on phantom power.
A couple of things spring to mind. Have you tested it without the battery with +48v ( this is how I use mine). Should work fine.

When it is battery operated, the power led comes on momentarily when it is switched on - does this happen on yours? IF it's a similar model, it may be it is not actually drawing any battery power at all and never has?

One other thing - from memory, the battery (AA) is not inserted the way round I would expect it to be. Might be worth double checking.
Tim
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Ken Wilson
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Re: XLR plugs and connectors

Post by Ken Wilson »

Hi Tim. Thanks for that. Yes that`s the Sennheiser mic I have also. I think you have finally solved this last puzzle. I bought it from someone on these forums so it was second hand. It worked fine except that the on/ off switch and the little LED light didn`t seem to work. But I put a battery in it and it worked. I has assumed that the battery was powering it as there was really no reason (and no way) to check otherwise. But just now following your comments, I have removed the battery and everything is still ok so power is obviously coming from the camera. So perhaps as the switch was faulty, a battery has never powered it as I had assumed?
One point though, sometimes touching the mic casing produces a hum, does yours?

The only other issue now is finding a way to get the mic higher out of camera shot. The older Z5s had an accessory shoe at the rear but this camera only has a single shoe at the front making the mic stick out a lot and it has to be angled upwards to avoid getting in the shot. It cannot be clamped into the side mic holder for the same reason. The fluffy wind gag / dead cat is in view. I have been looking at some kind of bracket or bar to elevate it. I always wonder if designers actually use the equipment they produce?

But that has solved the puzzle. Thanks again.
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TimStannard
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Re: XLR plugs and connectors

Post by TimStannard »

Hi Ken,
Isn't it useful in troubleshooting when someone else has the same bit of kit? I'd never come across a hum when touching the mic case (though i can't think why I'd be touching the mic case anyway - it is so, well, microphonic!). So I thought I'd give it a try.
It turns out I can produce a hum, but it seems to require me to hold the XLR plug at the mic end first and squeeze it a bit, then it seems to help induce the hum if I point it at an electric light. Touching the camera at the same time, as one might expect, seems to have an effect on this. Once I've got the hum, it seems to stick around well, but getting the hum in the first place is a bit touch and go! I only played around for 5 mins but couldn't get of my tests to repeat consistently so I'm afraid I can't give any precise answer.

However, if I don't touch the mic (which I don't when recording) I don't have a problem.

As for getting the mic away from the lens, one of the double shoe adaptors here might do the trick.
[Tim: this simple-minded system requires the actual URL and not the kind of "public title" you would give a link on a normal website. You can edit your post by clicking the pencil symbol at top right. Dave.]
Sorry all. I didn't check back that I'd inserted the URL properly (it's the problem of different forums working differently and - let's be frank - laziness on my part. Anyway, as Ken has found an adaptor I shall continue my laziness and say its was somewhetre on the b-hague site!



I suspect manufacurers don't really expect a mic of this length to be put on this sort of camera. Anyone with cameras like you are using is likely to be using mics on camera for syncing or capturing ambient audio only. A more highly directional mic like the ME66 is more likely to be on a boom, much closer to the talent.

Or, equally likely, it would add a few pence to production costs ;)
Last edited by TimStannard on Fri Nov 25, 2016 10:59 pm, edited 2 times in total.
Tim
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Ken Wilson
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Re: XLR plugs and connectors

Post by Ken Wilson »

Thanks again Tim for all the feedback. Yes I have had the hum a few times and especially while messing around with the plugs, cables and mics sorting this issue out. But it does also happen when near electical equipment and in certain environments.

I use the mic on camera for all kinds of filming but for all the wedding work in particular. The Z5 was a longer camera with the shoe two-thirds of the way towards the rear so it didn`t really stick out much. This new one has the shoe at the front but anyway it`s a shorter camera. But I think I have located a special bracket from Amazon which should be here next week and I hope this solves this little problem. I don`t really see why manufacturers wouldn`t expect this mic to be used on these cameras. I have always avoided booms as 1/ we have no-one to hold one and 2/ my tests on this method years ago produced too much handling noise, but that is another issue and was covered in FVM.

I will conclude the post when the bracket arrives to update for any future readers with similar problems. Thanks.
Michael Slowe
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Re: XLR plugs and connectors

Post by Michael Slowe »

Ken, you should get a 'crew' to hold your mic, there is one near you called 'Carol' I believe.
Ken Wilson
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Re: XLR plugs and connectors

Post by Ken Wilson »

Although we have slightly drifted off the original topic of plugs etc we are still talking mics and sound recording, plus, as promised, I wanted to add the latest bit about the mic bracket which arrived a week or so ago.
It cost £54 which I thought a bit pricey, but, if it solves the problem...

It is made by Rycote, a well known and well respected name and has a few bits added to it to help you choose which way you want to use it. But I clamped it in and as it was plastic on plastic it did swivel around in the holder. I solved this by wrapping a few small elastic bands around the barrel and this grips it all nicely.

It gets the microphone higher and so even with a windshield/ dead cat around it, it`s well out of camera shot, so that was the main issue. My main concern with it is that it is ALL plastic! In the pictures on Amazon it looked like metal but it`s not, so it`s springy and does seem a bit fragile. But I think all this may be so that it minimises sound vibration/ transfer which you could get with metal. So let`s see how we go.

Yes Michael, Carol could be boom operator, but at a wedding she is on camera two.
tom hardwick
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Re: XLR plugs and connectors

Post by tom hardwick »

Ken, you say, 'and perhaps cheap Sony mic for the very loud music played by a DJ for the evening dancing at a wedding when stood feet from a huge speaker.'
In fact you need the opposite, you need a very good mic so that the diaphragm doesn't bottom out and cause horrendous distortion when working at such sound pressure levels. Not using your camera's inbuilt mics when working on such an environment doesn't give them the day off, their diaphragms are still pounding to the bass whether they're feeding the audio track or not. I've found my Sony inbuilt mics very capable in situations such as this.

As to the +48 volts conundrum, although it sounds a lot of volts (and is) it is at miniscule amperage levels so nothing should be damaged if switches are misplaced.

Anyway, glad you got it all sorted in the end.
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