Radio Mic Range Test

Aim

To put together a comparative real world test for different digital and analogue radio mic systems, whilst keeping as many variables as possible constant. With thanks to Audio Dept for providing equipment and a place to test it.

Method

A recorder (Sound Devices 688) was placed in a static position and connected to various radio microphone receivers using balanced analogue connections. Antennas were attached to a Lectrosonics D2 receiver and RF loop out cables with 50ohm BNC to SMA connectors to any other receivers in turn.

Recorder, receiver and antenna setup


All receivers and transmitters were tuned to 607.500MHz (this was a clean frequency on the D2 scan, and covered under the shared license) and only turned on for the duration of their walk test. The Lectrosonics D2 remained powered up throughout for antenna distribution as the antennas remained attached.

For each test the transmitter was put in my left pocket and a bare sanken cos11 microphone was attached to the transmitter and a comparable gain level was set (different on all transmitters). The microphone was held in front of me at chest level (not clipped on). All transmitters were set to 50mW.

I walked out of the door (the recorder was next to it), past some vans in the car park to the gate, turning right by a brick wall and getting to a junction and then walked back along the same route.

Walk test Door to gate

Walk test gate to corner. The house on the left is really quite something.

While running the test I would count out paces, 40 to the gate and 100 to the corner and count on the return journey.

The Wisycom MCR42 was set to 0dBV squelch, none of the other systems had an option to adjust this.

If there were any instances of multiple receivers being able to receive the same signal, then I would use them simultaneously (in the case of Lectrosonics D2 and Lectrosonics LR receivers with an LT transmitter).

I did originally intend on using a Lectrosonics SMDB transmitter and UCR411a receiver alongside the D2 in digital hybrid mode, but unfortunately couldn’t get it to receive either SMDB or SMB transmitters in block 606.

Results

It’s a bit difficult to put these together objectively from listening to the files – especially comparing both digital and analogue systems with different settings. Different systems break up in different ways. I’m going to attempt to describe what happened on each test.

Lectrosonics LT with D2 receiver

Some pops at 26 paces, shash at 43 (behind the wall). ‘Shash’ and major dropouts to 70m when the signal dropped. Returned at 68 paces on the way back relatively clear until it got worse at 55 paces. Reasonably good again from 43paces back, but a couple of instances of ‘raised noise floor’ and low level pops.


Lectrosonics LT with LR receiver

This test is done on the same run as the LT with the D2 receiver. Single pop at 35paces, clean til 43 when shash comes in. Clicky and shashy all the way to 100paces (end of test) and loses signal when turning around, however intelligibility remains. Signal comes back at 84, but is fairly unusable until 65-55 where it’s good with a few pops- then interference comes back until 44 where it’s clean until the end


Lectrosonics DBu with D2 Receiver

This is Lectrosonics’ new digital system, dropouts on this seem to have a ‘thump’ quality to them, in that they have a low frequency element to them when they drop off, rather than the ‘blip’ from Zaxcom and Sony digital systems and may be easier to work with in post. In fact, a single dropout seemed to keep dialogue intact over the top.
In the test we got our first dropouts at 36 and 38 paces. Signal was relatively clean until 43 paces (round the wall) and then became unintelligible from dropouts apart from the odd number. Signal comes back at 70 paces on the way back and remains relatively intelligible with some dropouts until the gate at 40 when it’s clean again til returning

Zaxcom Mono-XR

Zaxcom have a number of different digital modulations which will work on their transmitters and receivers. The first I’m testing is ‘Mono-XR’, their ‘long range’ modulation. Got to 45 paces before a blip, then unintelligible until 55-60 which is intelligible, then it’s basically gone. On the way back 74-68 is intelligible, then unintelligible until 41 and it’s then clean all the way back

Zaxcom ZHD96

This is one of Zaxcom’s modulations designed for lower bandwidth and squeezing more channels into a smaller space. They also recommend this for using in more reflective environments. First dropout was at 46 and 50-55 is lost, but remained surprisingly intelligible all the way up to 80. On the way back, the signal’s properly picked up at 78 and remains intelligible until 46 where it’s clean all the way to the end

Audio Ltd A10

I’m not completely sure we had a fair test with this one, although we had vehicles coming in and out of the car park throughout the day- there was a van pulled up in the gate entrance by the time I did this test, and I’m sure it was putting out a fair bit of RF.
On this run it was clean until 25 paces when some lower level dropouts started. Made it to the gate at 40, but unintelligible by 41. Coming back 69-60 was intelligible, bigger dropouts from 59-41, then clean from 40 til the end.

Sennheiser SK5212 and Wisycom MCR42

Here the Wisycom MCR42 was put in SEN emulation mode to receive the Sennheiser SK5212 transmitter. Heading out had a single splat at 31 paces, then clean all the way to 49 paces. At 53 paces there’s quite a lot of shash on the signal, peaking at 100 and subsiding to some minor pops and shash around 85 on the way back, gradually getting less frequent until it stops at 50 on the way back to be clean the rest of the way.

Wisycom ENR

Wisycom use two of their own compander modes- ENR describes as ‘noise optimised’ and ENC described as ‘voice optimised’. This is with an MTP40S transmitter and MCR42 receiver. Single splat at 30 paces and a couple of very minor ones before 40. More pronounced interference at 49 paces, but intermittent and a good amount of useable audio all the way up to 80 paces. Again, mostly good audio with some interference from 89 paces onwards on the way back, but only being totally clean at 40 paces til the end

Wisycom ENC

This is the other Wisycom compander, which seems to work better in situations with more high frequency transients. Here we had a couple of big splats at 29 but generally minor until 49 paces. Was then bad shash until 82 on the way back and then clean again at 40 paces

Graph

I made a graph! It took far too long

Graph showing RF performance against distance travelled along the route

I’ve roughly divided the audio into what I consider clean (green), Minor dropouts (over 95% good audio), Major dropouts/shash (intelligible but not useable audio) and red for either totally unintelligible or no audio. Distance along the bottom is how far along the route, in paces (sorry, not an SI unit) with 100 paces being the furthest point.

Conclusions

I think there are a number of ways you can look at these results. Basically orange is only useful for comms. Yellow could be described as ‘borderline’ range- you don’t want to be there, but you may get what you need. Green is the only truly “in range” area.

It’s also worth noticing that the digital systems don’t really have any orange, and the analogue systems don’t really have red. The analogue systems keep transmitting (noisy and/or distorted) audio, while the digital systems just fall over. All three digital systems seem to fall over in a different way, though- Audio Ltd seem to have a short fade out, Lectrosonics add some low frequency, while Zaxcoms make a ‘blip’ noise. The Lectrosonics method seems to psychoacoustically cover the gap a bit – it’s harder to distinguish it between something like cable movement and a dropout, though.

Range-wise it seems like as far as picking up useable audio is concerned that the Wisycom ENR came up top, however the Wisycom in SEN combined with the Sennheiser transmitter had the highest ‘green’ percentage. The Lectrosonics LR/LT also had a healthy ‘green’ percentage, and although there’s a fair bit of orange on there, it’s mainly from consistently raised noise floor and audio was lost because squelch can’t be disabled. Would be interested in how a SMDB/411 combo works in comparison to this.

On the digital side of things, the biggest surprise for me was the ZHD96 performance. longest run from the start before a dropout and seemed to keep fairly consistent audio up to 80 paces. I actually expected the other zaxcom modulation to do better.

Solid performance from the Lectrosonics digital, especially on the way back. It seems the the way it deals with the odd dropout is good, but once you get quite a few it’s mush.

It’s also interesting how the D2 dealt with hybrid and digital signals differently, it didn’t do as well as the LR, but it seemed to work in some places where the digital receiver didn’t.

I’m also not sure the A10 got a fair run out here, I think this test may not have worked to its strengths and I’ve heard there are significant performance increases with a recent firmware update, which wasn’t installed.

Further tests

Don’t take this as the be-all and end-all. It’s just one test and probably do with being repeated and may have different results even in the same place on a different day. It wasn’t in a stable RF environment and with the amount of obstacles and metal around was very challenging. It also only tested one transmitter, things could get very different with a bunch of them out, for both analogue and digital systems.

This also doesn’t take into account sound or features, which may both be more important to some users.

If anyone really wants to listen to me counting in a car park, I can send over the recordings (and hide track IDs for blind comparison)

Radio Microphones 2019 update

I’m now having another look at radio microphones, and a few things have changed since the 2011 comparison. There haven’t been a lot of changes to the base technology, although a number of companies have ‘gone digital’ and there have been a number of refinements made. I’m going to comment a bit more about newer features and how useful they are in the ‘real world’.

Analogue and Digital

Audio Limited have gone full digital now with their A10 system and Sennheiser have their 6000 and 9000 series. Lectrosonics have re-launched a new digital system, the D squared (which I’m yet to test). The Sennheiser EK6042 receiver is backwards compatible with Sennheiser analogue systems, however they perform similarly to the digital transmitters. The Lectrosonics D2 can also do this (with Lectrosonics digital hybrid transmitters) and I’ve not been able to compare performance with an analogue receiver.

Digital does have some advantages and disadvantages compared to analogue systems, for more details see Analogue vs Digital Wireless.

Some of the more established digital manufacturers (Sony and Zaxcom) now offer choices of modulation, some of which can offer better range or ability to squeeze more transmitters into an even tighter frequency range, however this is at the cost of higher latency.

Recording Transmitters

There are some jobs where this is the only option and back in 2011, the only option for this was Zaxcom. Zaxcom also have a US patent on this which has stifled competition in the US. Audio Limited now have recorders on the A10 system (enabled outside the US only) and some of the newer Lectrosonics transmitters can be enabled to either record or transmit.

There is also an advantage to the Zaxcom system, in that they simultaneously be timecode jammed and record enabled over Zaxcom’s 2.4GHz ‘Zaxnet’ control frequency. This can save a lot of time over individually jamming a number of transmitters manually, as is currently the case with other manufacturers’ systems.

Small Transmitters

For some time, the limitation in how small transmitters could be made was down to the size of the batteries that could be put in them. We’ve now got access to smaller Li-Ion batteries with higher energy density and a number of manufacturers have incorporated these into wireless (especially given the higher power draw on digital systems). There is a trade-off, however: smaller batteries=shorter run time. Some of the smaller transmitters are also more limited with their output power- I expect as a decision to retain battery life.

The Lectrosoncics SSM and Zaxcom ZMT3 both use the ‘Fujifilm NP50’ standard battery, while Sony DWT-B03 uses their own NP-BX1 camera battery. Both of these are available from consumer camera shops, however there are a lot of ‘fakes’ around which usually don’t perform as well.

Sennheiser use their own proprietary batteries, which are less readily available, however they have the advantage of providing accurate runtime telemetry.

Another company that’s worth mentioning is Q5x, and although they do make their own receivers, really specialise in transmitters. They tend to be very small and flexible so can be fallen on without injury, for example in sports or during stunts. They use analogue transmission and can be received by wisycom and lectrosonics. However a drawback is that the batteries are built in to the transmitters, so they can’t be swapped out in a shooting day, they only solution they have for this is a secondary battery which can be plugged in.

Bandwidth

This is something which seems to have increased across the board. It was only really Wisycom and Audio Wireless providing proper wideband systems before, however now most manufacturers have at least 75MHz to play with, with some of the Wisycom receivers now going from 470MHz right up to 1.1GHz ‘Air band’.

This can allow greater flexibility, both with larger jobs in the UK where site specific licenses are required, or jobs in other countries where the clearest spectrum may be somewhere else

Close frequency Co-ordination

Something which has been said about digital systems is that frequency co-ordination isn’t something you need to thing about any more (I’m not entirely convinced about this), however there have been significant improvements in analogue systems too. Sennheiser introduced an intermodulation suppression mode in the SK5212-II and Wisycom seem to have taken this further in their newer ‘linear’ transmitters.

The ZHD modulations seem to have allowed zaxcom to squeeze even more frequencies in on digital, however this is at the cost of much higher latency and can only do this with 1 channel per receiver using ZHD48

Remote Control

This actually hasn’t changed much, but can be something which makes a big difference, especially with drama when there are costumes which are awkward to get at. There seem to be a few different ways of doing this:

Lectrosonics use the mic itself to play a ‘dweedle tone’ down. It a modulated audio frequency carrier (like timecode), which tells whichever transmitters that can ‘hear’ it to change a parameter (e.g. frequency, gain etc). Although it’s a bit clunky in some ways, it works rather well and the actors actually realise you’re doing something.

Sony and Zaxcom both use a 2.4GHz signal to remote control their transmitters. It’s possible to monitor and remote control a large number of transmitters using Sony’s rack receiver and a computer. A 3rd party program was made to do the same thing with Zaxcom, but it’s now been discontinued- however Zaxcom did show off something at this year’s NAB.

Audio Ltd also use a 2.4GHz communication system involving bluetooth and a phone app.

Serial Communication

We’re now getting some different recorders and radio mics talking to one another. Zaxcom have been doing this for a while, however it’s only been between their own products.

A few years ago, Sound Devices launched ‘Super Slot‘ as a standard. However, it’s only a connection standard:
“The protocol of serial communication is outside the scope of this electromechanical
specification. In addition to the sample commands listed below, Sound Devices will work to accommodate manufacturers’ existing command sets and protocols.”

So, although there is a mechanical standard, it requires the sound devices firmware to be able to interpret whatever wireless manufacturers output or can receive from their devices. At the moment, communication is possible between the Sound Devices SL-6 and the Audio ltd A10, Lectrosonics SRb and SRc, Sennheiser EK6042 and Wisycom MCR42.

Aaton have also made a serial connection system they call ‘Hydra’ which will allow the Cantar X3 and mini to talk to Audio ltd A10, Lectrosonics SRb and SRc, Sennheiser EK6042, Sony DWR-S02 and Wisycom MCR42.

The Mac OS program Wavetool will also talk to a number of (mostly rackmount) receivers in a similar way and can stream audio.

Comparison

I’ve put together a small table comparing features of different systems, as a bit of a round-up. Digital doesn’t necessarily mean good and all the different systems have their advantages and disadvantages. Also (apart from whether they’re digital or not), this doesn’t really have any bearing on sound or performance, it can be quite subjective. Just because a system has all the bells and whistles does not necessarily mean it’ll perform as well as another.

DigitalRecording
TX
Small
TX
100MHZ+
Bandwidth
Remote
Control
Serial
Comms*
Audio Ltd A10xxxx
Audio Wirelessx
Lectrosonics
Digital Hybrid
Either/Orxxx
Sennheiser
6000/9000
xxxx
Sony DWXxxxxx
Wisycomxx
Zaxcomxxxxx

*with other manufacturers’ equipment

Sound Dept and Equipment Rental

This is a bit of an observation on how sound kit rental seems to be viewed from both outside and inside the department. Hopefully this will be useful for both sound recordists and production staff in budgeting and booking sound crew and kit.

Sound Recordist “with kit”

This is a phrase I see very frequently in requests for jobs and it seems to mean that productions want one of two things:

  • An ‘all in’ quote, covering all eventualities
  • Free kit hire

It’s not as simple as that, though. Different jobs have different requirements. Sometimes it’s looking at hundreds of thousands of pounds worth of kit and multiple recordists and assistants, sometimes it’s a mic on a stand. Talk to us! We can give you a quote (or at least a ballpark figure)- the earlier you do this, the more chance you have of getting the budget and expectations to fit. I can do an ‘all in’ price, but it won’t be cheap…

Why can’t you give us free kit?

It needs to be paid for, otherwise we’ll just be losing money. We’re putting really expensive things on actors or members of the public who could drop them or run off with them. Things break, we have to get them fixed or replaced. I don’t go out with the same kit every time and some things which get used more frequently end up paying for other things which I want to have handy, or things that make my life easier. Also, I’d like to be able to give newcomers the chance to rent proper kit and not be essentially ‘paying to play’ on personal projects.

But the DP has got a deal with the rental house…

That’s great! But it’s not something we can do. Because we generally own our own kit, we’ll only occasionally use rental houses for more specific things. We’re not likely to be able to influence a production company to hire a lorry full of lights for our next commercial.

How much?

For context I’m going to put some rough new purchase prices down for professional kit:

  • Boom Microphone kit, £1500-£2500 (£800-£1500 for the mic, £400-600 for full wind protection and £300-£500 for the pole)
  • ‘Bag’ Mixer/Recorder £3500-£6000. £10000+ for ‘cart’ machines
  • Radio mics are where things get expensive. It’s around £3000 for a transmitter and receiver pair. Personal mics for them would be about £3-400 each.
  • A “camera hop” = 2 channels of radio mics, as above and the camera mount will be about £400 too

So, for a boom, mixer/recorder, 2x radio mics and a camera link (so, 4 radio mics in effect), you’re looking at £17,500 worth of kit, not even including the batteries, cables, bags and cases to get it all working and to the job which could all put it over £20,000.

8 channels of radio mics, that’s over £25,000 on its own. And having more starts to bring about the need for RF distribution, remote antenna systems and even more boxes which can be thousands on their own

Can’t you use cheaper equipment?

It’s usually the case that we’ll choose the best tools for the job. Rental rates seem to be based more around what something does than the purchase price and the difference between prosumer and professional kit isn’t that much. Part of this is that the prosumer kit isn’t going to be designed for such intensive use, so will require more frequent repair and replacement (in fact, some manufacturers won’t repair it at all), so may have a higher running cost than the professional stuff.

Some recordists may have some prosumer items in their kit, but again- it’s stuff that won’t last as long and they may have made that call and deemed it the right tool for a particular job.

Can you use our equipment?

Usually no, although there can be some exceptions. Prep time would be required to test and put it together. I also have a co-ordinated set of radio mics. Extra ones from another manufacturer may not be compatible with the same plan, adding more isn’t straightforward- it makes things quite a bit more complex.

Why are UK rental rates as they are?

For a long time, throughout the 80s and 90s we were more limited with the equipment available to us and its capabilities. The kit was by no means cheap, but there was a more limited supply and it had more limited capabilities. An SQN field mixer, a boom and couple of channels of radio mics was all that was required for nearly all jobs (with the addition of a Nagra tape recorder for drama). That kit could last most of a sound recordist’s career- so they could save up, buy it and then rent it out as a ‘kit’ to production on every job. Rental value got to around the 1% of original value mark and stuck around that point.

Now we’ve had an acceleration in technology, it’s giving us the ability to point a lot more cameras at a lot of different things at once. This has meant we’ve become a lot more dependent on (and able to record) multiple radio mics. Now we’ve got small, ruggedised computers effectively. Sound Devices has released 5 different professional multitrack ‘bag’ machines in the last 10 years.

We’ve had 2 major re-allocations of radio frequencies, mandating new radio mic kit and there’s a big investment in digital RF kit to fit all the channels in. Although our microphone technology is staying mostly the same, there may be some increases in rental price coming up to compensate for the rate of turnover of equipment

Budgeting (and where you can save money)

Ok, so how much should you be looking at? I’m not going to put any prices down here (you can probably figure them out from recent quotes), but general guidelines for would be:
1x radio mic system per person simultaneously on camera at a time
1x boom + mixer/recorder per recordist
2x radio mic per 2 channel camera send
0.5x radio mic per set of wireless headphones
1x sync box per camera

Anything that can be hardwired is much cheaper, however moving it is more difficult.

Equipment for drama and commercials tends to charged for more as a ‘kit’. Higher end feature and commercials kits are often specced to cover ‘almost any sound recording situation’ in order to give production and director maximum flexibility. However, it won’t necessarily cover any courtesy feeds for clients or additional sync and playback equipment.

No Gain, No Pain: Sonosax R4+ and AD8+ Gain Structure

Traditionally, when setting up input gain the engineer sets it so that a ‘healthy’ voltage is coming into the system. A certain level of headroom is maintained in order to allow for unexpected peaks.  24bit analogue to digital converters have allowed us more flexibility in leaving headroom before system noise could become a problem.

Here’s a more traditional input diagram from the previous generation SX-R4 recorder:

I’ve been using the latest generation of Sonosax preamplifiers for a while now. I’ve known that they can handle a huge dynamic range since using them but I’ve only just found this in the AD8+ manual:

The thing which is initially quite alarming is that the only gain before the analogue to digital converters (ADC) is a switchable +20dB.  Most professional equipment will have low cut filters, gain and analogue limiters before the ADC stage. If something overloads the ADC, it becomes digital garbage.

In this case, the paired ADCs can take a considerable amount of level- +21dBu (which is 24.6V) and +1dBu (2.46V) with the +20dB option enabled.  To put this into context, most amplifiers are designed to take +18dBu max at input.   So the only “real” gain setting is the +20dB option.  In the unlikely event that an even higher voltage is coming in, there are analogue pots on the line inputs of the SX-R4+ (the small 5 and 6 knobs on the front).

This means more information is coming into the ‘digital world’ earlier in the chain and there’s no limiter- everything is captured as it comes in. The gain on any of the knobs, rather than controlling an amplifier is effectively a multiply function.  Sometimes you’ll need to add gain just to hear a signal, however it now doesn’t really matter where it is added as long as the signal isn’t turned back into an analogue one,  it will have the same result in post production as it will from the machine directly.  Even if it’s sent over AES3, it’s the same 1s and 0s. Whether your post production facility want to work this way is another matter.

So, it should be possible to use an AD8+ as an analogue front end and get the same results without putting any gain on the inputs and adding ‘digital gain’ in another mixer or computer

Wisycom IR interface installation on windows 10

I’ve had a few people ask me about installing wisycom infra red interfaces, such as the UPKmini in order to do firmware updates.

Most are mac users- easiest way is to set up bootcamp and download an image of windows 10 from microsoft.  It’s up to you to get it licensed, but it’ll only shout at you a bit.  Loads of things on the internet will tell you how to do  this.

Next you need to install Wisycom Manager from the (fantastically named) wisycom.com (look under support/downloads/wireless microphones).

Run that- and there’s a picture of the UPK interfaces

If you press ‘help’ there are installation insrtuctions for earlier versions of windows.  Run the 32 or 64 bit driver depending on your OS, may as well install all the parts.

Now it gets a bit tricky: you need to ‘Disable Driver Signature Enforcement’.
Open the start menu and search for ‘Change Advanced Startup Options’

Hit the ‘Restart now’ button and put the kettle on.  It takes A Long Time

When it’s restarted, go to Troubleshoot/Advanced Options/Startup Settings.
and Restart again (this time it’s faster).

Now (and only now) you can ‘Disable Driver Signature Enforcement’.  It’s option 7.  Press it and windows will boot up again.

Now you’re back into windows, you can plug in your UPK thingy.  It’ll install it for a while, but you need to point the right drivers at it.

This can be a bit confusing compared to the windows 8 instructions- look for Device Manager and open it.

Now look under Ports (COM & LPT)

It’ll be the USB Serial Device (may be on a different COM port)
Now, right click and ‘Update Driver Software…’
Then ‘Browse my computer for driver software’

It’ll be wherever you installed it, but is likely to be in Program Files\Wisycom\Wisycom USB Drivers.  Include the subfolders.



And…. finally it should install the driver:

Fire up the update utility in Wisycom manager, and remember to hit the ‘Connect’ button to talk to the UPK.  Lights should come on!

 

Macbook Pro USB-C powering from battery

After getting one of the new macbooks, which only had USB-C ports, I initially thought there was a real advantage running the power through this.  The cable’s replaceable and can plug into any USB-C source, potentially making the computer a lot more mobile.

I’m often in situations where I’m away from power sources all day, so being able to use the computer here is very useful.  When working off a cart I use a 12V LiFePO4 battery, so it would be really useful to be able to charge the laptop battery from this.

USB-C Power Delivery

The USB-C power delivery format is actually rather clever.  If the device on the other end is happy, it can up the voltage from 5V in steps up to 20V.  This allows more power to flow along the (usually pretty thin) cable without it getting hot and even melting, as it would by just increasing the current.

However, it seems to be that a number of manufacturers are getting this a bit wrong, and potentially putting out unsafe devices which could blow up your computer or other things attached.   One of the engineers from google has been testing USB-C cables and peripherals to see if they’re up to spec, and a lot of them aren’t.

USB-C Car adapters

It’s pretty easy to do standard USB power from a 12V battery- car USB adaptors are a cheap and easy answer, you just need to attach an XLR4 connector (or whatever you’re using for power distribution), so thought it’d be the case for USB-C.

After doing a bit of research, I only really came up with one adapter which seemed to be able to deliver a reasonable amount of power (45W).  However, that’s still not as much as the laptop can use going full tilt.  This is the Targus APD39EU.  DC input spec is 11-16V so some NP1 type setups may deliver a bit more than 16V.  I expect it’s fine but they may not pay for a replacement if you blow it up.  It’s also quite a lot more expensive than most of the other USB adapters at around £60 (although I managed to snag a reduced one with damaged packaging).

Due to the fact it’s quite an expensive adapter, and a fair bit longer than some other USB adapters, instead of directly attaching an XLR4 I made up a lead from XLR4 to automotive 12V socket.

12 Adapter and cable12V automotive socket on cable

So far the laptop charges off it and nothing has exploded yet…

Anatomy of a Charger box

I’ve seen a few people lately make boxes for all their battery chargers so they can just plug one them in and then have all their chargers set up.  However, most of them relied on using a number of the different power supplies and sometimes running a power strip, which take up a load of weight and space.  I’ve decided to make one but cut it down to be lighter weight and to also have the option of plugging in to a battery or car DC connection in case of being away from mains.

So, first of all I needed to figure out what to was going in and what was required to power it.  I thought about 20 AA batteries is about the maximum I’d go through in a day (I try not to use any other kinds) .  I also use 2054 style SMbus batteries- both the chargers for these are small but require external power supplies, and they take a 24V input.  I also use USB to recharge my Timecode Systems boxes (and some USB batteries, and *everyone* wants a phone charger).

So (according to the manuals/existing power supplies)
2x AA chargers on 12V (1.5A each)
2x SMbus on 24V (2.5A each 5A total)
USB on 5V 2A

and I need something to power all that…

So, basic electricity time:
Power = Voltage x Current
Components will only work within a specific voltage range (otherwise they don’t work or break) and will draw up to a certain current.  So the voltage is the ‘level’ of electricity and the current is the amount it uses.

So 1A of current at 12V = 12W of power
12W divided by 24V = 0.5A of current
so, to provide the same amount of current at twice the voltage requires twice as much power.

So, the SMbus chargers need 100W, AA chargers need 36W and  USB needs 10W.  In all that would need a 150W PSU to run everything at once at max power.

I actually ended up getting 2 under-specced 90W PSU as they were smaller and lighter, had variable voltage, USB built in and a display.   However it may mean it’ll top out (7.5A) if everything’s on at once, which may mean some things won’t charge as quickly.  It’ll also turn off if it gets too hot.  The second can be used too if I need additinal power or even to power my cart

The 5V line is taken care of but what about either the 24V or 12V? Although it’s usually more straightforward to reduce voltage, I decided to run the PSU at 12V and get a 12V to 24V step up converter which will handle 120W.  This way, it gives the option of swapping the PSU out for a 12V battery.  I made all the linking cables up with 4pin XLR connectors, which is fairly standard for DC power distribution, and means the various components can still be used separately.

Here’s all the individual components connected together:
IMG_1144

Ends were cut off most of the cables to replace with 4 Pin XLR connectors and the 24V output was soldered directly on.  I also used right angled DC jacks to save space and avoid pressure on the cables when in the box.

For the box I used one of the newer Orca accessory bags made of moulded EVA plastic.  It’s considerably lighter than a Peli case, yet still seems rather durable:

IMG_1145

The AA chargers are velcroed to the pockets which contain the PSU, step up converter and USB hub.  It’s a bit top heavy, so I may remove the support straps in the case to let the lid fall back as it falls over if not leaning against something. There’s a channel under the material on the hinge which makes a neat place to run cables too.

The USB cables run to the section to the bottom right, so whatever’s being charged can go there, and the plug can fit there when being transported

Backup rig

Having both the mixer and recorder in one box has really become a standard these days for doco recording.  It’s quite easy to see why, it’s 2 boxes with the size and weight of one.  However, if something goes wrong with it you can be stuffed.  With my old rig, say if there was a problem with either the recorder or mixer it would be possible to either cable to camera and just use the mixer.  Or plug directly into the recorder and just record iso tracks.  Either way, if something bad happened to either box it’d be possible to get something.  If you’ve got one box handling all your mixing and recording and it goes wrong (and it’s a computer!) you need some kind of failsafe.

Since I bought the SX-R4+ I’ve been carrying this rig in the bottom of my bag.  This is partly because I’m only set up to send to camera over wireless or AES3 digital with the R4+ (currently waiting for the XLR5 option board) so it’s had a bit of use, still:

DSC02048

 

It’s a Sonosax SX-M32 3 channel mixer, Wisycom MCR42 dual channel radio receiver (with standalone back and AA battery compartment) and a Sony PCM-M10 recorder (with remote on the right).

All of it will work for a good 5-6 hours from AA batteries (the recorder runs for about 24!).  So say, I run out of Li-Ion rechargeables, or they’re held up in customs I can at least get a runner to buy a load of AAs from a shop.  I can run a boom and 2 radio mics and be cabled to camera or record independently (with no timecode).  Also a feature the PCM-M10 has which the SX-R4+ doesn’t is recording as MP3 (!).

The whole bag weight about 2kg and I’d probably find I can do a great deal of more basic jobs with this rig

Even when I do get the additional output options for the SX-R4+, I still think I’m going to carry this around, just in case…

Kaoss Pad KP3 DC powering

Just as a note as it doesn’t seem to be anywhere else on the internet (and was quite tricky to find out): the power connector for the Korg Kaoss Pad 3 is JEITA RC-5320A JSBP4 standard:

Outer diameter is 5.5mm
Inner diameter is 3.3mm
Centre diameter pin is 1mm

Plug I used was a Lumberg 1636 04

It’s also nowhere as greedy as the PSU is specified, it’ll boot up with as little as 9V 100mA

This may also be applicable to other Kaoss Pads and other Korg products.

And using alien power supplies may invalidate your warranty etc etc

New DPA concealers

Earlier this week I bought some of the newer style DPA concealers- I’ve found the older style to be really useful for hiding body mounted mics, however they’ve made some changes (very possibly improvements).

Quite a few people seem to be a bit confused about them, so I thought I’d show you how they work:

DSC01991

As you can see, instead of one piece, the new concealer’s made of 4,with one piece being slightly smaller than the original concealer.  The back part can be sewn into clothing or used with the clip, as shown here:

DSC01990

There’s also an extra “space bracket” wire which is removable over the top- both of these should keep fabric away from the mic, reducing the chance of rustle against it.  I also think these may be a good way of mounting wind protection without tape, but may require some further experimentation

DSC01989

Here’s a comparison against the old concealer- the new one’s slightly smaller and the plastic’s more pliable. The new ones are a tighter fit and need to be bent a little to get the mics in. As you can see, there’s a 4071 in the old concealer and a 4061 in the new one.  The old ones need specific concealers for both mics and the new ones will work with either:

DSC01988

Here’s the 4071 in the new concealer:DSC01987

DPA’s part number is DMM0021 for a single concealer or DMM0521 for a pack of 5.

Other versions are available for the heavy duty versions of the 406x and 4071 mics and the new d:screet slim.

Sound Network are the UK distributors