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Tuesday, October 4, 2011

DPP Solutions: Que Audio DSLR-Video Microphone Kit

Step up to a compact microphone system for your camera rig

The audio side of your DSLR isn't at the same level as its image quality unfortunately. The built-in microphone in any DSLR isn't the strongest component of the system, to say the least. To make matters worse, the location of the mic element itself—typically, on the front of the camera body—is seriously compromised. It's right where your hand needs to be for zoom or focus operations, making for a muffled sound. And the in-camera mic has an uncanny knack for picking up all kinds of mechanical noise, handling vibrations and the like.

Pro video camera operators usually use highly directional shotgun mics, which can be large (up to 20 inches long) and unwieldy for DSLR-style applications. A new entry from Australian microphone manufacturer Que Audio is the DSLR-Video Microphone Kit, which offers a compact system providing pro performance in a small, lightweight package.

The system includes a pencil-sized mini-shotgun mic, a detachable two-foot coiled cable terminating in a standard 1⁄8-inch mini-plug, a cold-shoe camera mount adapter, an elastic mic suspension mount, a one-inch vibration-isolation post mount, a foam windsock and a Wombat fur-style windscreen. The entire kit packs into a custom foam-lined carry case and even includes batteries to operate the mic electronics.

The mic is powered by two AG4 mini-button cells that insert by unscrewing the mic base and stacking them inside. This requires a somewhat delicate operation of holding the mic upright while inserting the cells, then carefully screwing the body back together to avoid damaging the finely machined threads. Once in, the batteries provide 100 hours of continuous use. The mic doesn't support plug-in power provided by some cameras, although an optional three-pin XLR adapter allows operation from 48-volt phantom-power sources, such as professional mixers, preamplifiers and recorders like the popular Zoom H4n.

Battery life can be extended via a small switch at the base of the mic body. Hooked up to a Panasonic Lumix GH2, the camera's display sent me a reminder message to turn on the power of the external microphone, which was a nice touch. However, just to be sure, I suggest leaving the mic on throughout your shoot, so you don't forget to turn it back on between takes.

On Location
The system works well for location use. Placing the system on the camera is a breeze. I particularly liked the swiveling gimbal feature on the cold-shoe mount, which provides 360 degrees of rotation along with angle adjustment for height. The combination of the short vibration-absorbing post and the elastic shock mount assured complete isolation from handling noise while holding the mic securely in place. The foam windscreen takes care of most wind situations, and the Wombat wind filter may look odd, but it does the job in extreme wind situations.

Overall, the Que Audio DSLR-Video Microphone Kit delivers a robust and capable package at a very manageable estimated street price of $299. It's compact and flexible. The mic is monaural, but offers a big sound that's natural and clean. The pickup pattern is definitely directional—effectively rejecting sounds coming from the sides and back—without being so tight that sounds or voices slightly off-axis drop out.

Contact: Que Audio USA, (310) 320-6060, www.queaudio.com.


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