Sonosax SX-BD1 Mic Preamp/Monitor

The SX-BD1 ($990), essentially a one-pot mixer, is intended for use with ENG, EFP and direct sound for films. It could be a useful tool in the world of DV or miniDV work.
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In classic Jacques Sax style, this elegant, low profile, nicely engineered device helps meet an expanding need: how to overcome the toy-like nature of sound implementation on many popular video camcorders.
Product PointsApplications: Production/location audio, ENG

Key Features: 48-volt phantom mic power; input gain settings (+20 dB, +46 dB, +72 dB), LF cut filter (80 or 120 Hz), headphone monitoring amplifier, 12-segment LED with battery level and limiter check, 1 kHz tone generator, Sonosax Optolimiter, runs on four AAA batteries.

Price: $990 (without microphone); $2150 (Mini-Set Bundle)

Contact: (41)-21-651-0101 sonosax@sonosax.ch, Web Site

Plus

+ Neutral and clean sound

+ Packed with useful features

Minus

- Some ergonomic problems

The Score: Despite some oddities, the Sonosax SX-BD1 is a very useful tool for the sound man in the field.
Features

The SX-BD1 ($990), essentially a one-pot mixer, is intended for use with ENG, EFP and direct sound for films. It could be a useful tool in the world of DV or miniDV work. In combination with, say, a K-Tek microphone pole, a BeachTek DXA-6 adapter and a quality diversity wireless system, the BD1 can go a long way towards "professionalizing" sound input for a host of professional and prosumer DV camcorders with a minimum of fuss.

Built with a light, polymer housing and a rubbery contoured back, the BD1 is designed to be strapped directly to the microphone boom pole, thus affording the operator direct level control and monitoring of the mic's signal.

Residing within this little multipurpose piece are several valuable tools. Sonosax's SX-BD1 includes a very good microphone preamplifier. You will also find 48 volt phantom mic power, input gain settings (+20 dB, +46 dB, +72 dB), an LF cut filter (80 or 120 Hz), a headphone monitoring amplifier, a 12-segment LED meter that can also indicate battery level and limiter check, a 1 kHz tone generator and the Sonosax Optolimiter. All this and a rotary-knob level control too. The unit runs on four AAA batteries.

Included with the review unit was what Sonosax calls its Mini-set, retailing at $2,150, not far off from the cost of some camcorders. This bundle included a Sonosax/Schoeps M4 cardioid microphone - made for Sonosax by Schoeps in satin black. This fixed capsule was hardwired to Schoeps cable terminating in a 3-pin male Binder connector with a bayonet-style positive locking mechanism. This mates directly to the female chassis mount mate on the front of the BD1. Also included in the kit were a Schoeps cavity teardrop windshield and a Shure Bros-style isolation shockmount. Three black elastic O-rings are supplied for mounting the unit to the microphone pole. Two additional accessory cables are in the kit too: one is Binder 3-Pin to XLR for use with other microphones and the other is the Binder 3-pin output to XLR for sending signal down the line.

In use/Summary

My first impression upon opening this cute little grouping was that I wanted one. There is nothing rational about an emotional response like this. Some audio stuff just does it for me. It could be that I am in

postproduction on my most recent documentary and I am sensitized to useful sound tools for the documentary form. Who knows? I am a soundman, not a shrink.

When monitoring with Sennheiser HD25 headphones, the BD1 sounded neutral and silky clean. Frankly, I am not crazy about the placement of the headphone output on the pole. The rotary pot was smooth in operation and ergonomically comfortable for one-handed control. Although this monitoring scheme does not provide for confidence or return from the camcorder, those options are always only a cable or wireless away.

There are some internal switches that let you configure some aspects of the BD1's operation. Among these are an output-level control ranging from 0 dBu to -40 dBu, an on/off toggle for phantom +48 V. Internal jumpers offer options for the LED meter: peak metering versus VU metering, and a three-second memory hold versus bargraph without hold. One can also set the meter so all LEDs light up as the signal gets louder, or one moving LED can indicate level in the economy power mode.

One minor weirdness is that the headphone monitoring level is a three-step toggle switch (low, medium and high) instead of a potentiometer. I also did not like the battery configuration. Although it is nice to use a very light compliment of four AAA batteries, the problem comes when changing the batteries. You must dismount the whole device from the microphone pole to access the battery compartment. To do this, you remove the entire back piece from the BD1, exposing the unprotected interior to the elements and then have the chassis dangling off the pole while you fuss with the four little alkaline cells.

The Swiss-made Sonosax SX-BD1 is a nice, yet pricey, portable mic preamp/monitor for video uses.

REVIEW SETUP:

Sennheiser HD25; PSC Universal Shockmount; K-Tek 16-foot pole; Sheops MK41, Sanken CS3 and Neumann KMR 81 i microphones.