Tutorial: How to Mod This Dirt Cheap Preamp for Use on Your Video Projects
A little soldering, a little hot gluing, and you've got yourself a nice budget preamp that you can mount to your DSLR.
Controlling the audio on most DSLRs can be a huge pain in the neck, but adding a decent preamp to your camera setup can save you a lot of time and effort while providing you with higher quality sound. Many times, though, they can be a little expensive, but Caleb Pike of DSLR Video Shooter has found a way to modify the Saramonic SmartRig, a $20 smartphone/tablet preamp, for DSLR video use.
Now, before we get to the mod itself, it might be helpful to explain the benefits a preamp can offer filmmakers. As I mentioned earlier, DSLRs are notorious for having poor sound, which often produces a significant amount of noise. A preamp helps boost/clean up your signal so you can record higher quality sound. Furthermore, they not only add XLR inputs, but they allow you to control audio without having to click your way through your DSLR menu, which of course saves you tons of time.
Now, on to the mod. It can be incredibly helpful to some, but others might wonder why all of the extra work is necessary, especially if you could just use a TRRS to TRS adapter to connect to your camera instead of having to cut wires and solder everything. Well for one, the mod turns the headphone jack into an output so you can use a short 3.5mm stereo cable to connect to your camera. Second, it gets rid of that long built-in wire so you don't have it getting in your way as you try to shoot. The addition of the knob and cold-shoe are also pretty great, but I doubt many people need convincing of that. (Just make sure you're not putting too much weight on top.)
But, if you're not confident with a soldering iron or simply want the benefits of the SmartRig preamp without having to do a bunch of mods, you can just purchase a TRRS to TRS adapter for around $15 and use that to connect the preamp to your camera. (Pike recommends this one from RØDE.) Yeah, you're left with a pretty long and unwieldy cable and a knob you may not like too much, but it's a hell of a lot easier than taking the SmartRig apart.
Pike does a few tests with the preamp (and shows you how to connect it to the TRRS to TRS adapter) in the video below:
There are definitely a ton of different ways you could mod or create workarounds for this preamp to make it conducive to your production's needs, as well as your personal shooting style. Feel free to share any alternative approaches in the comments below!