The ATR6650 comes with everything needed to start operating.
When starting out in video, most people probably think that it’s all about getting good video. That quickly changes when you discover how hard it is to get good audio to go with your pretty shots.
A shotgun microphone is one tool to get better audio, and it doesn’t have to be expensive. For example, meet the $55 Audio-Technica ATR6650.
As shotgun mics go, the Audio-Technica ATR6650 is traditional: long and slim. It is an electret mic powered by an internally mounted AA battery. The 11-inch long barrel has slots near the front, a slide switch to power the mic on near the middle and a coiled audio cord at the back.
In addition to getting the mic for its fairly low price, the ATR6650 also comes with a foam wind screen and two mic-holding adapters: one for a camera’s hot shoe and one for a standard microphone stand.
The cable is tipped with a standard 3.5mm audio plug. This is a three-conductor plug (tip-ring-sleeve), although it provides unbalanced mono audio. Identical audio is on both the tip and ring conductors, so that the same audio gets recorded on both left and right channels when you plug the mic into a camcorder.
The power switch has three positions: Off, Normal and Tele. More about that in a moment.
The ATR6650, although looking pretty big, weighs only four ounces.
The ATR6650 mounts easily on a camera's hot shoe. (Photo: Mary Ellen Dawley)
With the power switch in the Tele position, the Audio-Technica ART6650 is quite an effective shotgun mic. It is much more directional than a standard cardioid handheld mic and much more effective at picking up sound in front of it than the camera’s built-in microphone.
The ATR6650 works as a shotgun mic with the power switch in the “Tele” position. In the “Normal” position, it’s supposed to function as a standard handheld mic without a lot of directionality. After using it for some time, I always set it in Tele mode, even when I use it to record voiceovers.
Using the standard hot shoe mount, I placed the mic on top of my dSLR-style camera, plugged the connector into the camera’s audio port and started shooting. Right away, the sound from talent in front of the camera was much better than it was using the camera’s built-in mic. Sound from the ATR6650 is clear and has good frequency balance—it simply sounds natural to me.
Any sound from the side, such as cars passing by or a nearby leaf blower, is considerably muted. Sound situations that would have been impossible using the camera’s built in mic are now easily attainable with this inexpensive shotgun mic.
Optimum distance for talent when using the ATR6650 is four to 10 feet. When working indoors, the more distance you are from the sound source, the more likely it is that you will get room reverberation. However, using the ATR6650 still gets MUCH better sound than relying on the camera’s built-in mic.
MORE INFO MODEL: Audio-Technica ATR6650
STREET PRICE: $55
I also used the ATR6650 to record narration, and it worked fine there. It is susceptible to wind and breath noise even with the wind screen on, so I had to hold it about a foot away to get a breath-free recording. The sound quality was clear, bright and natural. Here’s a video that I recorded using only the ATR6650 mic: https://youtu.be/DzvuLFoNEtk.
Two downsides to using the Audio-Technica ATR6650: It’s big and it sometimes gets into the camera shot if I’m not paying attention, and it is susceptible to wind noise even when using the wind screen.
The single AA battery lasts for hundreds of hours of use; just be sure you turn the mic off when you’re not using it.
I am impressed by the cost/benefit ratio of the Audio-Technica ATR6650. For 55 bucks, it could be the least-expensive thing you can do to improve your videos the most.