Production

RØDE SC6-L with an XLR microphone (or 2)? Yes, but with important details

You can absolutely use a dynamic or certain electret condenser XLR mics with a passive cable to TRRS to the SC6-L, but you must understand some important details.

I have covered the intriguing RØDE SC6-L audio interface in prior articles. The SC6-L is unique since it’s so tiny and inexpensive, yet acts as an dual-channel, bi-directional interface to get separate (or combined) mic sources into an iOS device via Lightning. And yes, the SC6-L thankfully does its dual A-to-D conversion at 48 kHz/24-bit. The SC6-L is primarily promoted to work with unbalanced TRRS microphones. In my first tests, I successfully used it with the ModMic5 head microphone via a TRS to TRRS cable, but later I wanted to test using it using a passive cable with XLR microphones, both dynamic mics and those few electret condenser XLR mics that can operate with low-voltage “plugin power” supplied by the SC6-L (rather than the much higher phantom power voltage demanded by many). The good news that the SC6-L works very well with a very specific passive cable from Sennheiser (exact model and link ahead). However, you should know more details if you plan to use it with a dynamic mic and an electret condenser simultaneously, one on each input, as I describe ahead.

Prior articles about the SC6-L converter with preamp and ADC/DAC:

Here are some of my prior articles about the under-promoted, ingenious SC6/L.

 

Refresher article about TS/TRS/TRRS

If you are confused with this terminology, here is your refresher article: TS/TRS/TRRS/TRRRS: Combating the misconnection epidemic.

What do I mean by a passive cable

When I say a passive cable, I mean one that has no circuitry inside: no pre-preamp to boost the level, and no components to block power.

Finding the ideal female XLR to TRRS passive cable

There are many passive cables that go from female XLR to TRS, but that’s NOT what we need, since the microphone inputs on the RØDE SC6-L (AmazonB&H) are TRRS. Of the very few cables on the market that do go directly from female XLR to TRRS, most have a pigtail for monitoring, since they were originally designed to go directly to the TRRS port of a smartphone or tablet. However, in the new era of the elimination of the analog TRRS port on smartphones, and to use with the SC6-L, that monitoring pigtail is not necessary or even useful. That pigtail adds undesired bulk, since the SC6-L already has a latency-free TRS output for monitoring. Fortunately, I found what we need.

After much searching, I found the above Sennheiser KA 600i ≈US$20 (AmazonB&H) passive cable that goes from female XLR to TRRS. The i suffix in the model number is vital, since it refers to the version that terminates in TRRS, not TRS. The combination between the RØDE SC6-L and the Sennheiser KA 600i might be called a joint venture between Australia (RØDE) and Germany (Sennheiser) 🙂

I proved that it worked both with a dynamic XLR microphone (details ahead) and with one of the few XLR electret condenser microphones that work with the lower voltage bias voltage (“plugin power”) which is supplied by the SC6-L.

 

Th electret condenser microphone I used is the MXL MM130 (shown above, AmazonB&H) without its included Y-cable, only with the Sennheiser KA 600i ≈US$20 (AmazonB&H) passive cable that goes from female XLR to TRRS.

Does the RØDE SC6-L have enough gain for a dynamic mic connected passively?

I made a test recording with this SC6-L using the Pyle PDMIC78 (illustrated above, reviewed here, AmazonB&H) dynamic microphone using the enormous presidential Shure A81WS windscreen (AmazonB&H). I had the Pyle PDMIC78 connected to one input of the SC6-L, and had no source connected to the second input.

Later, I made several recordings the same way with the headless Samson Q2U (illustrated above, AmazonB&H),  covered in Samson Q2U headless mic with Shure A81WS presidential windscreen.

I set the RØDE Reporter companion app to record separately at 48 kHz/24 bit and I set the level appropriately. Then, in post-production using Hindenburg Journalist Pro, I separated the fake stereo recording to independent tracks and erased the silent track, before trimming and normalizing.

Hindenburg Journalist Pro, continues to be my favorite multitrack software for Mac for audio storytellers (also available for Windows). After that, I exported them as mono 48 kHz 16 bit WAV. See my related Hindenburg Journalist Pro articlesAll audio production & distribution should go 48 kHz and also Understanding 24-bit vs 16-bit audio production & distribution. Use this link for a free trial followed by a big discount on Hindenburg Journalist Pro.

I am quite impressed with the quality of the preamp and A-to-D conversion of the US$79 SC6-L, even from a dynamic mic, whose output is much lower. I found the quality to be comparable to any other interface I have ever tested under US$500 with a dynamic microphone. But what happens when one of the two mics is dynamic and the other is electret condenser?

What happens when one microphone is dynamic and the other is electret condenser?

Obviously, when connecting the dynamic microphone passively, without any pre-preamp to give it some pre-gain, the gain setting of one microphone will be quite different than the other. Sadly, the gain of the two channels in the RØDE Reporter app is ganged (at least with the current version), so we can only adjust the gain of each channel together. I am not sure whether this is an omission in the UI (user interface) of the current version of the RØDE Reporter app, or perhaps it simply reflects the capabilities in the preamp chip used in the SC6-L, which may be incapable of adjusting the two channels independently. If it’s the former, I hope that RØDE will update the RØDE Reporter to allow individual gain for each input channel. If it’s the latter, we have to deal with it another way, now and forever. Here are five different options:

OPTION A

  1. Set the level in the RØDE Reporter app to be proper for the louder microphone (the electret condenser), knowing that the softer microphone (the dynamic) will need more amplification in post-production. Recording at 24-bit will minimize the artifacts, as covered in this article.
  2. Separate the fake stereo file into separate tracks and either normalize each one in your multitrack DAW software, or send each raw WAV file to Auphonic.com to be processed using the multitrack crossgating, which I described in detail in My multitrack crossgating audio workflow to eliminate crosstalk. (Part of that process is Adaptive Leveler, Adaptive Noise Gate and Crossgate. )

OPTION B (not ideal for reasons explained)

 

Use a pre-preamp on the dynamic mic. In this case, it would be the iRig Pre from IK Multimedia (reviewed here back in 2012, shown above, AmazonB&H).

I know that this would work perfectly, but I reject it because it ruins the simplicity of a mobile setup with the SC6-L, since it would add much more bulk and require the use of a battery.

OPTION C (not ideal for reasons explained)

Add an attenuator to the cable coming from the electret condenser mic, to lower it to match the one coming from the dynamic microphone. I know that this would work, and would be less of a Frankenstein than option B, but is still two much for what I am seeking in an ultra-simple mobile dual microphone, two-track setup.

OPTION D

Use two dynamic microphones. If you use two dynamic microphones, they will both be very close in level.

OPTION E

Just use two condenser microphones connected via TRRS, the way RØDE intended. Then each one will be much closer in level.

I like options A, D and E the most, and I would avoid B and C.

Conclusions

I am very glad to have found the Sennheiser KA 600i ≈US$20 (AmazonB&H) passive cable, which works perfectly with the RØDE SC6-L (AmazonB&H) for use with dynamic XLR mics and some of the electret condenser mics which are capable of operating with low voltage “plug-in power” or self-powered with internal batteries.

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FTC disclosure

No manufacturer is specifically paying Allan Tépper or TecnoTur LLC to write this article or the mentioned books. Some of the other manufacturers listed above have contracted Tépper and/or TecnoTur LLC to carry out consulting and/or translations/localizations/transcreations. Many of the manufacturers listed above have sent Allan Tépper review units, including MXL, RØDE and Senheiser , although in this case, Allan Tépper purchased the Sennheiser KA 600i cable with his own funds for this test and article. So far, none of the manufacturers listed above is/are sponsors of the TecnoTur , BeyondPodcasting CapicúaFM or TuRadioGlobal programs, although they are welcome to do so, and some are, may be (or may have been) sponsors of ProVideo Coalition magazine. Some links to third parties listed in this article and/or on this web page may indirectly benefit TecnoTur LLC via affiliate programs. Allan Tépper’s opinions are his own. Allan Tépper is not liable for misuse or misunderstanding of information he shares.

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Born in Connecticut, United States, Allan Tépper is an award-winning broadcaster & podcaster, bilingual consultant, multi-title author, tech journalist, translator, and language activist who has been working with professional video since the eighties. Since 1994,…

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gkanai

Alan, thank you for this information. I have the SC-6L and really like it. The Sennheiser coiled cable you mention is interesting but sort of short for anything but say a table-top interview situation. This Saramonic cable might also be compatible and much longer.

https://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/1452894-REG/saramonic_sr_xlr35_microphone_cable_for_connecting.html