Since the dawn of microphones, there have been two greatly different types of signals: balanced and unbalanced. Since the dawn of powered electret condenser microphones, there have been two very different ways of powering them externally, which respectively are phantom power (typically 48 volts on balanced connections, although some devices accept between 12-48 volts) and bias voltage (typically 3-5 volts on unbalanced connections), more commonly known as plugin power. Before now, no off-the-shelf solution to bridge these two powering worlds existed, although a few very persistent people have resorted to special built-to-order and homemade ones. RØDE has now changed audio production history with the VXLR+, an upgrade to the original VXLR. This opens up a huge world of possibilities for unbalanced TS, TRS and (via an SC3 adapter) even TRRS microphones that require plugin power to be able to be—at last— used with professional XLR inputs on camcorders, mixers and recorders that exclusively offer the much higher voltage phantom power, while simultaneously matching a balanced input to an unbalanced source. Ahead you’ll find examples of such mics, from brands like Audio Technica, IK Multimedia, ModMic, MXL and RØDE. You’ll also learn other improvements in the VXLR+ beyond the power feature and impedance conversion, and even get a guest appearance from Art Garfunkel.
Art Garfunkel concert song
Some unbalanced mics that require plugin power and can take advantage of the VXLR+
- ATH-AG1x headset with mic with included adapter/extension with the with optional SC3 TRRS-to-TRS adapter from RØDE, reviewed here with recordings, Amazon • B&H)
- iRig Mic Lav (with optional SC3 TRRS-to-TRS adapter from RØDE, covered here, Amazon • B&H)
- iRig Mic (with optional SC3 TRRS-to-TRS adapter from RØDE, Amazon • B&H)
- ModMic5 headset mic (reviewed here with recordings, Amazon link), the one I used to test the VXLR+ (Amazon • B&H) with my Zoom H5 recorder (Amazon • B&H) as shown in the photo above.
- MM-130 handheld condenser mic (with optional SC3 TRRS-to-TRS adapter from RØDE, covered here, Amazon • B&H)
- MM-160 lavalier (with optional SC3 TRRS-to-TRS adapter from RØDE,covered here with recordings, Amazon • B&H)
- HS2 headset mic (reviewed here with recordings, Amazon • B&H) which will also take advantage of the locking nut.
- SmartLav+ (when used with optional SC3 TRRS-to-TRS adapter, Amazon • B&H)
For a more details, see my article TS/TRS/TRRS/TRRRS: Combating the misconnection epidemic (illustrated above).
Compatibility with different types of TS and TRS microphones directly
Beyond the TRRS microphones (which will be connected via an SC3 adapter as indicated above), it is good to understand how it will work with different type of TS and TRS microphones. The VXLR+ (Amazon • B&H) offers:
- full compatibility with TS mono microphones
- full compatibility with TRS mono microphones (which have the Tip and Ring shorted)
- partial compatibility with true stereo TRS microphones, where it will receive the left channel of the stereo mic, but not the right.
Extra feature: a belt clip which acts as a strain relief
Whether its a handheld, lavalier or head-mounted mic, there needs to be strain relief when such a narrow lightweight unbalanced cable joins a thicker, heavier balanced cable. With traditional XLR lavalier mics, there is often a belt-mounted box which often contains a battery provides this strain relief.
In this situation, the VXLR+ takes the place of that belt-mounted box, supplies the proper bias voltage (aka plugin power) to the unbalanced mic. Thanks to Francisco Arbolí for modeling for this photo, and allowing the use of his Sony PXW-X70 for the main image of this article.
Does the VXLR+ offer a balanced signal the the device it feeds?
As defined in my recent article Balanced audio: benefits and varieties (illustrated above), there are at least three approaches to balanced audio, including transformer balance, electronic balance/active balance and the yet little-known impedance balanced. After conversing with RØDE in depth, I discovered that the VXLR+ uses the ingenious impedance balanced approach, or at least a semi-impedance balanced.
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