Wednesday 27 May 2020

40dB Stereo Pad + Balanced-to-Unbalanced

The 30/40dB pad from my previous post works fantastically well. I have been using it to bring the balanced line-level output from a mixing desk down to an acceptable level for the microphone input on my camera and the sound-quality is crystal-clear. 

But it is time for version 2.0.  The things I want to change:-
  • Stereo. Up to now, the cable I have been using to connect the pad to the camera simply connects the camera's L and R inputs together. It works fine, but the camera records two audio channels and I want to use them. 
  • The first version is nice and general-purpose: it provides balanced output, handy for feeding into a balanced microphone input, if I ever wanted to. But my camera doesn't have a balanced input, so a camera-specific version with unbalanced output to a more convenient connector (phono or 1/4" stereo) would make connecting up a little easier (although I do love how rock-solid XLR connectors are). I'm willing to sacrifice some generality for convenience here.
  • I don't really need it to have a switchable attentuation level.  The mixer has an output level fader and the camera has variable sensitivity on its microphone input. I'm willing to sacrifice the flexibility of a switchable attenuation level to reduce the (slight) risk that the contacts in the switch will become oxidised and noisy at some point.
Here is the schematic for version 2.0

The pad part is mostly the same as the earlier version.  I included some extra resistors (R1, R3, R6 and R8) that I have bridged with little wire links to give myself some flexibility.  If I want to increase the attenuation, I can snip the wire links which will increase the attenuation to around 45dB.  I had the board space (and the resistors) so it seemed a shame not to use it.  At the output, I have given myself a choice of either 1/4" stereo jack output or 2 x phonos.

If I had thought of it, I might have included a way to bypass the pad completely so that I could use this to connect two dynamic microphones (with balanced XLR outputs) directly to the camera input without any attenuation, but I didn't think of it (until now).  That's what version 3.0 is for, I guess.

This is what it looks like:-

I haven't tried it in anger yet, but initial testing is positive.  I'll report back once it has had its first proper outing.

UPDATE January 2021: I have been using this gadget regularly since May and it works absolutely perfectly: I am very happy with the result.  The amount of attenuation is applies is just about perfect and I haven't felt the need to snip the wires bypassing R1, R3, R6 and R8.  I do have about 12dB of attenuation dialed in on the camera's microphone input, bringing total attenuation up to about 42dB, which sounds about right and - more importantly - lands the recorded audio levels just about where I want them.