The Beachtek DXA-Pocket: I can’t live without it

This little guy is the biggest thing in DSLR audio. Heck, I’ve been trying to review it since June of this year, and it took me this long to get to it – because I was too busy using it.

If it takes me that long to get a piece of equipment out of my hands to review it, it’s darn good.

Simplicity is key when you’re doing a rushed shoot (or any shoot, for that matter), where the possibility of forgetting an important setting can make or break you – and the Beachtek DXA-Pocket has been a heaven-sent combination that is simple as could ever be, without a single sacrifice to quality or functionality.

That’s why this Beachtek DXA-Pocket has grown itself into my very heart and soul, ever since I was sent this pre-production model to test. I’ve been sent other equipment from Beachtek for beta purposes (See my DXA-Connect review if you wish), but the Pocket has taken the cake as my go-to adapter for just about everything. It can slide into the smallest of camera bag with my EOS-M and a small lavalier microphone. While the same cannot be said of my tripod, just having a simple, pint-sized video rig has its advantages.

The DXA-Pocket was originally intended for the Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera – and it works well on mine. Unfortunately, I cannot say the same for the versatility of the Blackmagic camera itself. As a result, I’ve wound up making the DXA-Pocket a permanent fixture on my Canon EOS-M. I love the simplicity of the EOS-M for quick shoots, and the DXA-Pocket compliments the EOS-M as if it were made for it. I especially like the hot shoe mount, which has been much more workable than mounting the Pocket below the camera. No tedious disconnects for battery swaps!

The beauty of the DXA-Pocket is that you have all of three connections, two trim dials, and one battery to worry about. That’s it. You have three 3.5″ TRS inputs on the left side of the unit – one left channel, one right channel, and a third for a single stereo L/R input, for units such as the RODE VideoMic. Your V/U meters are right in front of you where you need them.

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This combination can pull off most shots as good as a 5D M2 with any expensive audio adapter – with half the frustration (mirror doesn’t snap down every 15 seconds!) and half the weight. It’s an ideal rig for a monopod shooter.

I’ve used the DXA-Pocket with Sony UWP-V1 wireless lavalieres in addition to the ATR-3550’s with equal success. The wireless setup adapts itself particularly well to the front of the unit – shown here on a film school’s EOS-M. They loved working with the DXA-Pocket on the EOS-M – but who wouldn’t?

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I’ve taken it a step further with mine and added a Boostaroo amplifier (which used to be offered by Beachtek as the AMPKIT) for monitoring audio – and while the rig has grown, the Boostaroo been a worthwhile addition. You may miss some ambient noise until you ramp up this amplifier to check. Unfortunately, the EOS-M doesn’t allow for monitoring from the camera, so you have to verify that the camera’s preamp is roughly synchronized with the levels of the DXA-Pocket before shooting, and ride the levels with the trim dials on the DXA-Pocket. Even though it is generally wiser to monitor audio from the camera itself, the EOS-M lacks an audio jack. And you know what? It doesn’t matter. I get better reliability and results with the EOS-M and the DXA-Pocket than I get trying to get any of my Blackmagic cameras (on firmware v1.9.3) trying to get a good signal-to-noise ratio – the “right” way or any other way.

I can hear some of you are groaning out there about the lack of XLR inputs on this unit. Big deal. Both Sony and Sennheiser’s wireless lav microphones include a 3.5″ TRS mini jack which firmly plugs into the DXA-Pocket’s stereo input and wastes half the space that you’d need to do the same with a balanced XLR cable. I don’t have anything against XLR cables, but why bring a backhoe to weed a flowerpot? I’ll say it again: I can get better consistent results with the EOS-M/DXA-Pocket combo with an unbalanced lavalier then I can do with my BMCC or BMPCC with the current noise-laden firmware.

Fact is, it’s the results that count, and I’ve done shoots with the DXA-Pocket connected to the rock-bottom $40 Audio-Technica ATR 3550¬†wired lavalier microphone atop my EOS-M – and most people wouldn’t believe that it wasn’t shot on a 5D Mark II with Sennheiser ew G3 lavaliers if you forced them to guess (mind you, if I had a choice, I would have used a wireless microphone – but I didn’t have a choice). The interview shots in the video below were done with this rig – and other than light compression in Adobe Audition, the audio was not altered any further than what you hear here:

The Pocket continues to be a permanent staple on my EOS-M, and I’ve seriously considered getting another EOS-M and DXA-Pocket for event videography in place of my Blackmagic BMCC and BMPCC. Case in point – all the blown-out footage you see here was because the BMCC lost communication with my 24-105mm L-series Canon lens; the second time it has happened on Blackmagic Camera v1.9.3 firmware. As I said earlier, quality and simplicity can make or break you, and the BMCC came close to breaking me through a lack of both.

I should find myself with time to finish the video review of this little gem sometime. Stay tuned.

-Kurt

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