How To Connect A Microphone To A DSLR(Tutorial)

In Audio, Camera by Jacob GrozotisLeave a Comment

Audio quality happens to be a crucial part of video production. DSLR cameras generally have acceptable audio qualities. However, acceptable isn’t good enough for the needs of today’s audience. Given that DSLR cameras shoot great videos, it’s only fair to get them out of the pit of “acceptable” audio qualities.  The hunger for great and not just good audio can’t die off. This is why you need a microphone to accessorize your DSLR camera. This article will guide you on how to rig microphones onto your DSLR camera properly.

How do you connect a microphone to a DSLR? There are two main ways to connect a microphone to a DSLR camera. 

  1. Using an XLR cable and adapter- XLR cables are the industry standards when it comes to recording how quality, and balanced audio. They come with three pins, which are connected to an adapter, which in turn is rigged onto the 3.5mm  mini-jack on the DSLR camera. We’ll go into the details on how to rig up an XLR cable a little lower on this article.
  2. Using the 3.55 mm mini-plug. This is the easiest way to connect a microphone to a DSLR camera. Needless to say, it’s also the most favorable one for a beginner. Most DSLR cameras come with 3.5mm jack a port to take up standard microphone rigs. This means that you simply have to plug your microphone into the jack 

Connecting your Microphone; What Do You Need?

Let’s do away with the simpler option first, shall we?

To connect a microphone to your DSLR camera using the mini-plug method, you need the camera, a jack, and the microphone. That’s about it all.

For the XLR method,  you need the following things

  1. XLR Cable adapter-I recommend the Beachtek DXA-SLR PURE Audio Adapter or Beachtek DXA-MICRO PRO Audio Adapter for this. They’re the two best options in the market today. An adapter connects the microphone, and other camera accessories to the DSLR camera through the hot-shoe port at the top of your camera.  To set up the adapter onto your DSLR camera, simply screw the accessory onto the bottom of your DSLR camera as you would do with a tripod.
  2. XLR Cable  An adapter doesn’t do everything for you. It just does the connection part. Great audio recording will often require multiple audio sources. To complement the adapter, you should get an SLR cable. The cable comes with male and female ends.  They also come in varying lengths( from 6ft to 30ft on the extremes).

4. A Microphone– You can’t rig up a microphone if you don’t have any microphone with you. There are hundreds of microphone options in the market. You have to consider a variety of facts when shopping for microphones.

Advantages of Using An XLR Microphone over the 3.5mm

Once again, I have to say this;

Most DSLR cameras have an acceptable level of audio quality. In the past, I have achieved some great videos and audio combinations with a stripped camera set-up using my Canon DSLR. However, the needs of the current audience can’t be satiated with the ‘acceptable’ quality. I mean, I have seen some videos( especially YouTube reactions) torn apart by the audiences for far much less than audio quality.

Here are the advantages of using an XLR Microphone instead of using the 3.5mm mini-jack

  1. An XLR set-up gives you professional class audio– Unlike the 3.5mm microphones, using an XLR microphone gives you pure audio. According to some audio reviewers, videos shot with XLR-audio accompaniment have the purest of audios.
  2. More versatility– With the 3.5 mm microphones, your microphone options are limited to a paltry, and often disappointing array of small microphones. I’m not saying that this small range of microphones doesn’t deliver when called to. That’s hardly the case. Do not, for anything, throw them away because of this. The whole point we’re trying to make here is that there are more versatile options in the XLR range. For instance, you can easily get a boom pole attached to your DSLR camera if you went to the XLR way.
  3. Canceling of the automatic gain control– Your DSLR camera has an inbuilt automatic gain control feature. Just like the automatic ISO feature, the AGC increases the range of audio frequency tapped by the camera if the audio constantly fades away, or if its of low quality. While this sounds like a great idea, it’s not so much the same if you know the end-effect. An increase in the automatic gain control means that you will have less-quality audio. Should you use an XLR microphone, you won’t have to mind about the DSLR camera’s automatic objectiveness messing up your intended audio quality. Moreover, most XLR microphones overpower the 3.5mm options by a mile when it comes to the range of audio-frequencies they can tap from the environment.

Factors to Consider When Choosing A Microphone For A DSLR Camera

Pro-Tip

For really serious shooting, you might use a boom pole to record your audio. A boom pole is what the name means. It’s the tallest or the longest microphone in the dazzling world of microphone options. It also records even the minutest of audio productions. Moreover, it is quite versatile. Should you be using such a microphone, you might need either of these two things; a really long cable to connect the end of the boom pole to the DSLR camera. In the alternative, you can cut down on the cables by buying a wireless plug-on transmitter. I would recommend getting the Saramonic Professional Transmitter because it comes with some amazing range. It’s also quite light and affordable.

How to Rig UP The XLR Set Up on a DSLR camera

While the mini-plug option is quite easy( in fact, it’s just getting a microphone and plugging it in), it won’t get you all the versatile audio quality you are hunting for. In fact, when compared to what an XLR cable can do, the audio from a mini-plug microphone seems like a joke. If you’re serious about shooting a great video using a DSLR camera, getting an XLR cable and adapter is a definite no-brainer.

Setting up the XLR set up is quite easy, once you get the grip of everything you have around you.

  1. The adapter goes onto the hotshot pocket at the top of your DSLR camera. Screw it on.
  2. Connect the male end of the cable to the adapter
  3. Connect the other end of the cable to the microphone

How to Pick The Right XLR Microphone For Your DSLR Camera

Though everything about setting up a microphone sounds like a lesson in a video production which is meant for dummies, the ‘how-to ” choosing what microphone goes onto the XLR cable at any time is the hard one. There’s a lot of factors to consider when choosing what kind of XLR microphone goes with your DSLR camera. Though it’s not rocket science, the dizzying array of microphone options might confuse a beginner.

When shopping for XLR Microphone, check out for the following things;

Cable Length/ Wireless

There’s nothing as angering as a microphone that doesn’t get to where you want it. But that is not even angering enough. A Microphone set up that bogs down your shooting options are certainly more aggravating. It makes you pissed off at everything. Perhaps, this is the reason why a good number of photography directors are considered as all-time Hitlers by on-set actors.

For simple vlogging and point and shoot situations, you don’t need a microphone with a long cable. Alternatively, you also won’t require something with hundreds of meters in wireless range if you chose to go onto the wireless highway. However, for videos that require constant motion, microphone adjustment, or connection to a variety of audio sources, you need yards and yards of cable length. This is why you probably should opt for the medium-range cable lengths. Alternatively, you can throw away the whole cable-and-camera talk, and go absolutely wireless. This way, you won’t have to mind anything about cable-length( well, you still have to think about the wireless range too.)

Type of video to be shot

Vloggers are the most sedentary of video producers. On most occasions, most vloggers just sit behind their cameras and talk( that’s not all they do though.) However, if you think about vlogging in that simplistic light, you will realize that you don’t need a complicated audio set-up to get the best audio on your vlogs. In fact, most vloggers hardly use any external microphones. They’re satisfied with what the 3.5mm jack has to offer, just as well as they’re satisfied with views, shares, and subscriptions( see what I did there, vloggers?)

To cut the whole story short, if you’re shooting simple vlog videos, a simple lavalier microphone, or one of those on-camera microphones will do the trick. However, other kinds of videos call for more than this vlog simplicity. For instance, a wireless microphone is the best option if you’re going to shoot a live presentation. On the other hand, a condenser microphone would be best if you’re doing a singing performance. After all, it’s what you see happening in every studio performance( check out the microphone on your favorite YouTube song covers.) If you’re more into live-music recordings, a cardioid microphone is the only way to go.

Most professional video producers often use a different microphone set-up depending on the site of the shoot. This means that buying a handful of different microphones is far better than having ten microphones of the same kinds. After all, you won’t be shooting videos of the same kind all your life.

The Kind of Microphone

We probably should have replaced the subtitle for ‘ microphone listening type.” However, saying that microphones have “listening types” sounds all wrong even in my ears. After all, all microphones do listen at the end of the day. That’s all they are meant to do anyway. That’s why I chose to call split them into types and kinds, depending on the directional quality of the audio. Yes, there you have it at last. Microphones can be classified further when you start thinking about whether they are mono-directional, omnidirectional, bidirectional, cardioid, or shotgun in make.

The microphone type you need heavily depends on the kind of shooting environment you use frequently. It would be foolish, for instance, to use a lavalier microphone inside a large hall. A boom pole would do the job best in that respect.

Here are the top three most common types of microphones

  • Shotgun microphones

Most XLR microphones would somehow find a way into this class, were it not for the fact that we’re talking about exclusive shotgun microphones here.

Shotgun microphones can be used from the top of microphone. They are the most commonly-purchased microphones in the market. Aside from the fact that they are smaller than some other microphones, their placement at the top of the camera means that you won’t have a lot of cable to haul.

Shotgun microphones are also easy to set up. Since they come with a shotgun connection, and a microphone jack,all you need to do is to get the placement right. This implies that they can be used by videography beginners quite easily too.

  • Headset Microphones

Headset microphones are the kings of the noisy environments. In case you want to cancel out background noises, a headset would do that for you quite easily.

 

  • Lavalier Microphones

Lavalier microphones are the smallest units in this group. They are clipped onto the subject. Apart from being small and light, they also provide a versatile range of recording choices.

  • Handheld Microphones

Some people prefer having the physical microphones in their hands( read Journalists.) This implies getting a microphone connected to yuor camera. For this, you need a handheld microphone.. While I’m no big fan of handheld microphones, they provide great quality audio.

 

While shopping, it is pertinent to get some expert advice on the microphone’s ability to be versatile.  I know you’re out there looking for that, but we have to take care of everyone’s questions. This might be a rather general article if you’re looking for in-depth advice. While there are a number of microphones that perform uniformly across different kinds of shooting environments, those same microphones appear poor and inadequate when compared to what professional-grade microphones can do in the same environment.

Mounting

I know we have talked about XLR mounting and all.

In fact, that’s all we have been talking about on this article. For anything, we have exhausted everything to be said about XLR mounting. Well, have we?

Bad news. We haven’t. What we have done instead, is scratch the surface of the whole mounting conversation. It would take dozen-plus articles to go through everything on the different types of mounting.

Fine, we know about XLR mounting right? If you still don’t how about scrolling a little upwards. I mean, you probably missed the answer in bold(I hope you didn’t…)If you did, XLR mounting involves mounting your microphone as you would do with a hot-shoe flash. You simply screw your XLR microphone onto the top of your camera. On the other hand, you can also use the more rudimentary(and definitely less effective) 3.5mm jack, if you have one of those puny little 3.5mm microphones( hello amateur vloggers.)

Stereo or mono?

The general consensus among video producers is that shooting in stereo-mode is better than using mono-audio. I beg to digress. In fact, that consensus is just about a way of legitimizing post-editing laziness( because you don’t have to edit, merge, splice and do all that when using mono-audio.)

I’m not saying, for anything at all, that shooting using stereo is any way inferior to using mono audio. To be honest, comparing stereo to mono modes is just like comparing a brown eggshell to a white one. At the end of the day, both of them are simply eggs, they break when thrown to the wall. This article on whether you should shoot in audio or stereo is pretty much correct, apart from the simple fact that it demonizes mono-audio a tad too much.

Before I digress further, let’s go back to the basic issue, shall we?

Some microphones are made specifically for mono-audio recording. They take the audio notes independently. If you’re a fan of mono audio recording(I am,)going for a specialized mono-microphone should be your path. However, getting a mono-recording microphone means that you have to constantly shoot your video, and record your audio in mono. It might get tiring at some point.

On the other hand, stereo microphones, which are darlings for amateur video producers are easier to use. Most stereo microphones are medium range in nature. They provide quality recording without compromising on the final footage.

Price

Even though the price of a microphone is not much of a concern, looking out for a microphone that offers real value for the cash is a major concern. I know, that we can have the cheapest of microphones. However, sometimes the “cheap’ can cost you way more in terms of audio quality.

For most video producers, the medium-range microphones are often the best options. They are not too expensive. On the other hand, they also offer enough value to accommodate the ever-changing needs of the discerning producer.

Amazon has a catch that tells me not to mention the exact price of a product when reviewing them. Here’s a tiny snippet though. When hunting for XLR microphones, think about what you want to. If you can’t afford a boom pole, something smaller, and less costly should be a fine replacement for the time being. After all, photography is not a competition where the person with the most expensive, and often ridiculous gear takes the day. It doesn’t work like that, at least not always.

About the Author

Jacob Grozotis

Jake(me) is a fan of photography, traveling writing, and free food. He has been behind the camera for more than ten years of his 29-years of life.

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