DoddleREVIEWS: The Beachtek DXA-SLR ULTRA Audio Adapter

Written by James DeRuvo (doddleNEWS)

There are plenty of audio adapter units on the market, including Tamrac, JuicedLink and Beachtek. And some would argue that their favorite is the best of the bunch. I honestly don’t know what would be the the best. But I can tell you this, if there is a Cadillac of Audio Adapters, Beachtek is at least the BMW. And you know what? I’ve always preferred the Beemer. And for the DSLR or Mirrorless shooter, having the ultimate recording machine would help a bunch.

“The DXA-SLR Ultra bridges the gap between HDSLRs and professional video cameras by enabling professional audio features that facilitate high quality audio recording directly to the camera.” – Beachtek

DSLRs and Mirrorless Cameras just have a 3.5mm stereo jack and cheap preamps built in that were designed for the onboard mics, not a professional grade microphone input. So most indie filmmakers usually take to recording their audio through an external recorder, like a Zoom H4n and then sync it up in post with something like Plural Eyes (which is amazing). But that adds to your post production workflow.

The Beachtek DXA-SLR ULTRA takes the XLR inputs of a professional shotgun mic or boom mic and runs it though professional grade stereo preamps that do all the heavy lifting before it runs the audio into the camera through that tiny 3.5mm pipe.

Specs include:

  1. Detachable 15mm rod support base. Includes two threaded 3″ rods
  2. 3.5mm input to loop back from camera for playback monitoring
  3. Built-in headphone amplifier with volume control and 3.5 mm phone jack
  4. Switchable 12V/OFF/48V phantom power for both channels
  5. Built-in limiters prevent distortion from overly hot inputs
  6. High/low gain setting for each channel and MIC/LINE switches
  7. Easily replaceable 9-volt battery and low battery indicator
  8. Transformer-balanced inputs for isolation and enhanced circuit protection
  9. Sturdy die-cast aluminum enclosure

05_DXA-SLR-ULTRA-BackLet’s do a Walk around. The DXA-SLR ULTRA is very well made. That’s the one thing I like about Beachtek is that it’s robust workmanship makes for a solid design that’s going to take a beating in the field and on location and still perform like it was brand new out of the box.

The DXA-SLR ULTRA also comes with a rail system, too, so shooters can add it to their system without having to sacrifice their follow focus or other rail attachments due to alignment issues. It also includes a coiled 3.5mm stereo cable for transferring your audio signal into your camera, and an optional composite stereo to 3.5mm jack.

Additionally, what I like about Beachtek, they don’t go cheap. They think through their design and give you everything you need to make the product work as it should. This is evident with including the rail system attachment with it, rather than selling it as an optional product for a stupidly high price point.

Powered by a single 9v battery, the DXA-SLR ULTRA can provide phantom power for mics that require an external power source, and has a rated battery life of 3 hours when using a 9v Alkaline battery, or 8 hours when using a lithium ion variant.

The Beachtek DXA-SLR ULTRA has dual stereo XLR imputs on the left side, that are built with the Neutrick XLR Sockets which are designed to seat the XLR connectors solidly into the DXAU. It also comes with a monitor in and out jack with which to plug in your headphones to see the difference.

On the main control board, users will see plenty of dials and switches by which the cameraman can really dial in his proper recording and playback. These include four gain limiter switches, a left and right balance knobs, a main volume knob, on/off power, LED limiter lights for L/R channels, Line/Mic/Phantom (PH) – switch (great if you want to have a line in from a sound board), Phantom power voltage adjustment to save on battery power, Headphone playback monitor plug and switch from playback to recording (this way you can hear the difference), and finally a mono/stereo switch.

The cool thing is that if you’re only using one mic, you can set the Beachtek DXA-SLR ULTRA to take the signal from only one channel and route it to both L/R audio tracks by setting the M/S input setting. Finally, there’s an LED VU meter to the left side. Lastly, there’s a ¼-20 mount screw to marry the DXAU to your camera and then to the included rails and the Tripod you’ll be placing it on when you lock the camera down.

To set up your camera to receive the DXA-SLR ULTRA signal, the top lid of the box offers calibration settings for best performance, which includes setting Canon cameras 1 click above off, -12DB on Panasonic cameras, and between LO-5 on Nikon cameras depending on their age. The chief goal here is to record at a level between 0 and -12 db on the LED VU meter of the DXA-U. Other settings include turning your sound recording option to “manual,” through your camera’s setup menu.

Beachtek also recommends doing a test recording to make sure all the settings are properly set. This will ensure that you’re not getting too hot or blowing out the audio feed, or that you are stuck in stereo mode with one mic when you need to be in Mono to lay down both tracks from a single feed.

From there, you need to set your input settings on your camera, as previously mentioned above, to manual and adjust the levels so that the camera won’t affect the incoming signal from the DXA-U. If you have an older camera, this is where updating your camera firmware will benefit you from being able to make that manual adjustment.

My only real beef with the Beachtek DXA-SLR ULTRA is that it doesn’t have an SD card slot with which to record a backup copy of the audio. Granted, the unit is loaded already, but how much more room or cost would it take to add a microSD card slot so shooters could have a backup audio recording? But other than that, the DXA-ULTRA has everything you need to put higher end audio recording directly into your camera rig.

So for under $500, the Beachtek DXA-SLR ULTRA everything you need to get higher quality audio into your camera without having to use an external recorder and then inserting and syncing that audio in post. All told, it’s money WELL spent.

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About doddle 16509 Articles
Doddlenews is the news division of the Digital Production Buzz, a leading online resource for filmmakers, covering news, reviews and tutorials for the video and film industry, along with movie and TV news, and podcasting.

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