Category Archives: Location Sound

Information of interest to location sound mixers, and those who hire production sound personnel.

An unhealthy obsession

with fake Sennheiser MKH416 microphones

UPDATE: 7/18/2017: REFUND RECEIVED!!!  In recent weeks, at least 2 more sellers of fake 416’s have popped up on ebay, all from China. That makes at least 4 ebay sellers to date.  

Fake MKH416 refund received! Thanks,  Lam Tin Hung!

Fake MKH416 refund received! Thanks, Lam Tin Hung!

UPDATE: 7/10/2017 An Ebay return claim was filed based on counterfeit goods, and the fake 416 is on its way back to China. They fronted the return cost of shipping (US$54), and say they will refund the purchase price upon receipt of the mic. They have been very cordial in the transaction. 

Last month I knowingly purchased a fake MKH416 so I could compare it with a real MKH416. It just arrived today, with case, in a padded envelope.

OK, we’ll get right to the good stuff first. If you are here looking for an competently made, uncompressed audio comparison between a real 416 and a fake 416, its just below.

Listen/Download the Real vs Fake MKH416 Comparison Audio File Here

After listening to the file, and maybe reading the below saga, bookmark this page, as I will be documenting my efforts in refunding the $490 spent on this mic from ebay. In the process, I’m developing somewhat of a relationship with the seller, and hope to get an interview.

The file is a 24bit, 48k stereo wav file, with the fake mic on one channel, and the real on the other. See if you can determine which is which. The file is 45MB, about 2:00 minutes. Recorded interior and exterior at different distances, on and off-axis. Use your favorite playback utility that allows you to solo A/B either channel into both ears. Or split the stereo track into two mono files and solo them. Can you identify the real 416? Left or Right?

The two mics were recorded using a Sound Devices Mix-Pre D into Audacity running on a Macbook Air. The mics were plugged straight into the side of the Mix-Pre D, setting them about an inch apart.

Which mic is which? Is the fake Mic 1 on the Left, or Mic 2 on the right? Any mixers out there confident enough to take a chance on being wrong? Leave a comment.

Background

Fake MKH416’s have been in the marketplace for at least 3 years. They were/are sold primarily through ebay. Prices were initially very low, about US$300. When users discovered that the market was tainted by fake 416s, the sellers responded by raising the price of the mics on ebay, to make them seem more like their genuine counterparts. Sennheiser eventually took action and managed to respond with various cloak and dagger stuff on which they don’t wish to expound. They expanded their website to respond to counterfeit inquires, and added holographic labels to the boxes, stuff like that. At least with the 416, their efforts seem to  cut down much of the distribution of fakes.

Real 416 (L) and fake (R). Notice paint underspray inside XLR, and silver vs gold pins.

Real 416 (L) and fake (R). Notice paint underspray inside XLR, and silver vs gold pins.

However, there are sellers on ebay peddling fake 416’s. Who knows if there are hundreds stored in some Shenzhen warehouse?

I have a sideline business that upgrades the older 416 T-power mics to 48 volt phantom at www.416Tupgrade.com. Resultingly,  I’ve been particularly interested in the daily street value of the 416 microphone, as I have ended up with a pile of them from R&D efforts. I’m interested in how the sale of counterfeits  and other marketplace factors effects the mic’s value. So I’ve been following the sellers of fake 416s on ebay for a couple of years. And my fascination with the affair led to me buying my own counterfeit 416, just to get my hands on one, and test it, compare it, and follow the seller’s trail through an ebay purchase. Down the rabbit hole I go!

A quick review of everything we know about spotting a fake Sennheiser MKH416:

They are typically sold on ebay from sellers in China. The box is the old-style blue striped Sennheiser Box. The plastic case often has the blue “Sennheiser” painted poorly. The label on the box may have the “U3″ inverted to “3U”  The foam windscreen is squarely cut and looks cheap. See photos below.

Fake 416 Windscreen

Fake 416 Windscreen with its chopped off head…

DSCN1624

Many have said this case paint job is sloppy. This one looks pretty good.

Rusted staples on the manual, WTF?

Rusted staples on the manual, WTF?

Shipping manifest from "Bill"

Shipping manifest from “Bill” over in Hong Kong

These titled photos are being sent to eBay along with the return authorization

These titled photos are being sent to eBay along with the return authorization

I've been alerting eBay about these auctions for months. This time, I'm the buyer!

As an observer, I’ve been alerting eBay about these auctions for months. This time, I’m the buyer!

Spelling errors in the manual

Spelling errors in the manual

More spelling errors

More spelling errors

Fake box label. The early fakes had the U3 inverted. They've since fixed that.

Fake box label

Fake 416's come in this colored box. -Pretty dog eared. The inventory's probably been moved around quite a bit

Fake 416’s come in this colored box. -Pretty dog eared. The inventory’s probably been moved around quite a bit

Here’s some internal construction photos of a fake 416 (top) and a real 416(below)

Fake top, real bottom.  The interior probably came off their production line for vape pens.

Fake top, real bottom. The inside assembly look straight from a mass production line for electric vape cigarettes.

Teardown, Fake top, real bottom. Fake is an electret condenser design.

Teardown, Fake top, real bottom. Fake is an electret condenser design.

The fakes have none of the RF suppression properties of the real thing. They will noise-up around plug-on transmitters and walkie-talkies.  The output is about 3db lower than the genuine. (compensated for in the above sound file.) The painted lettering on the mic’s side is uneven and the letters are taller than the originals. The “Made in Germany” insignia is roughly stamped,  unlike the authentic mic.

Oh, and they sound very similar, if not almost just like the real thing. Did I mention that its very difficult to to tell the two apart by ear? Well, it is.  Anyone purchasing one of these fakes who didn’t know any better (like a student, amateur docmentartian or a wedding photographer) would be very happy with it.

The fake sounds miles better than the noisy 416 wannabe Aputure DIety. Those guys could learn a thing or two from our counterfeit friends. Much simpler design, too. See Rastop’s cool teardown video of a fake below. (He’s Gotham Sound’s repair technician). We immediately see that the build quality of the circuit board is pretty nasty.  The FET and 1 gigohm resistor indicate a passive electret capsule is mounted above the circuit board.

I see no need to replicate Rastop’s efforts. I’ll soon be making my ebay refund request, and I want to keep the sellers from making a damage claim. And if ebay’s policies follow through, or the seller responds negatively,  I may be able to keep the mic anyway, like a war trophy.

Some details on the counterfeiters:

The ebay auctions will always describe the 416 as “99% new”, or even “90% new”, as they feel this exempts them from having to respond to counterfeit claims.

The current (June 2017) ebay seller’s ID is vpower.hk8 or emma2012g.

They also have an alternate ID of w3vpower.hk 

The seller seems to be a Chinese company that makes parts/batteries for electric bicycles. 

They sell bicycle parts, kitchen utensils, hello kitty ice cube trays, camera filters and fake Sennhieser mics on their ebay seller pages.
 
The company’s web address is http://www.vpower.hk
 
They provide phone, email, and physical address info on their site. Email: contact_us@vpower.hk
Phone: +852 98199088
Address:
1st Floor, 12 Unit, A Building
Yupi Industry
Dongcheng Street,
Yongkang City
Zhe Jiang,China
The individual who handles the paypal account calls himself Tin Hung Lam and gives an email address of in31amp@outlook.com
The fake microphones are currently shipped from (probably a showroom)
HOCO Technology Limited
Room A 10/F Tower A Billion Centre
1 Wang Kwong Road
Kowloon Bay , Kowloon Hong Kong
Tel 00852-36102558
Email borofonebilll@hotmail.com
HOCO Technology is a firm in Shenzhen who makes a wide variety of products and mobile phone parts. More info about them at their homepage and at this supplier aggregator site. 
authored by Pete Verrando

Sennheiser T-power upgrade to 48 volt phantom is here.

www.416Tupgrade.com

The Sennheiser T-Power upgrade to 48 volt phantom website is now on-line. There is now a further means to eliminate T-power barrel adaptors and T-power battery supplies from your kit. Like the Schoeps CMC4 upgrade, our service allows the Sennheiser 416T “family” of RF condenser microphones to operate directly from 48 volt phantom power.

After requesting and receiving an order form from 416Tupgrade.com, include it with your microphone and ship to the address on the form. Turn-around time is typically 5 days. Please visit the site for further details on having your 416T shotgun upgraded to 48V phantom power. Thanks to all the intrepid sound mixers who fearlessly let me take their Sennys “under the knife, ” as we hashed out a robust and reliable conversion process for upgrading T-power shotguns to phantom power.

Happy New Year!  -Pete Verrando

Sennheiser 416T upgrade to 48 volt phantom power

some of our prototype microphones for the 416T 48v phantom upgrade.

Zoom F8 backup bag rig

I’m pairing up the Zoom F8 recorder with my size-modified Lectrosonics Venue Field receiver. See txsound’s Venue mod for details on how I trimmed about 1″ of thickness off that box for potential bag use.

The actual bag is a Canon 1EG camera gadget bag, about $64. (Don’t hate on me, K-Tek)

I created a little “front box” for easy access to transmitters and other stuff.  Before it gets used for anything serious, I want to run it through its paces as a backup to my Fusion rig. There’s always a lot to learn about the peculiarities of a new recorder.\

F8 bag rig and Deva Fusion rig

 

txsound zoom f8 venue bag

Sennheiser 416T upgrades offered Septemberish 2015

 

416Tupgradepic1

We’ve had many Schoeps CMC4 owners use our 48 volt phantom upgrade service to free themselves from cumbersome T-Power barrels and power supplies. This led to inquiries as to the possibility of upgrading the venerable Sennheiser 416T shotgun to 48V phantom power. After a more than a few willing 416T owners subjected their mics to our electronic musings, we’ve worked out a solid process for converting 416, 415, 815 and 816 T powered Sennheisers to 48 volt phantom. There’s business/website/details to be worked out, and we are looking to get things up and running by September’s end.  As seen in the photo above, the 416T will be branded with a thick aluminum, weather resistant PH48 label to remind users of the  48V phantom upgrade. The cost of the 416T upgrade is still being examined.   As with the Schoeps upgrade, the 416T will perform exactly as it did prior to the upgrade. Sennheiser’s proven RF design- providing immunity from RF or humidity- will remain intact.

Obviously, there will be additional circuitry added to the 416T interior that is not a part of a factory-issued 416.

Just one of the many versions of the 416's interior circuitry

Just one of the many versions of the 416’s interior circuitry

 

An important consideration is servicing after the upgrade.  Service issues that arise on upgraded mics must be handled through us. If the issue does not rest with the phantom upgrade, further service may be required by Sennheiser, which we are prepared to facilitate.

Like the Schoeps upgrade, each 416T will be tested prior to, and after upgrading, with before/after test recordings, serial numbers and condition photos kept on file.

If you are reading this, you already know about hassle of using T-Power barrels in location sound work.  They are cumbersome and ill-fitting on the cart or in the bag. Those additional XLRs between mixer, jumpers, boompole and mic invite connection trouble and grounding issues. Accidentally connecting other mics to T-Power inputs invites disaster.  Screen Shot 2015-07-28 at 6.08.29 AM

 

Consider retiring your T-power barrel adaptors and power supplies.  We are looking at offering a tag-along service to convert those old T-power adaptors into  attenuators…. perhaps very useful when interfacing with the Arri Amira, which has non-standard line level inputs. ( Gawd- not more barrels!)

Screen Shot 2015-08-14 at 8.39.51 PM

If you don’t own a 416, now may be the time to scan ebay or your favorite vendors used equipment listings, as 416T’s can be found for very good prices.

By Pete Verrando

Debtors: David Ross of Mpressive Films, and Delano Bryant “Gibraltar Pacific” ?

A scourge of hellish vanity film production-destruction descended on our fair city a couple of years ago.  Enter and sign-in, please: Mark David Ross, dba Mpressive Films.rosspic1

I was, admittedly, suckered in. After 26 years of production mixing, I thought I’d learned to spot the occasional con-artist. I’ve also learned to be wary of last minute, day-before production calls. But somehow, as I was in the midst of a separate, 70-day job that kept pushing its start date, I failed to spot these beggars among thieves:  A con-artist, represented by a bench-warmer producer, supposedly referred to me by a friend, for a last-minute, day-before call, who BEGGED me to take the job, calling me back even after I first turned it down.  The producer was Franklin Delano Bryant.

Screen Shot 2015-08-14 at 5.27.23 PM

Nice selfie, Del. Pretty bad-ass dye job on the goatee.

Bryant seems to be perpetually pitching low-budget projects, or shooting wedding video, or real estate video listings on a Canon 5D. Virtually everybody I’ve asked in the DFW film production crew base has never heard of him, or his internet placeholder Gibraltar Pacific Productions.

Screen Shot 2015-08-14 at 6.24.55 PM

Well, as most normal folks tend to chalk these things up to bad Karma or whatever, I pursued the pair in court, if nothing else, just to see what would happen next. As a sole-provider of a family of 4, I admittedly get a little hot-under-the-collar when I’m not paid for a completed gig.

True story: about 20 years ago, a producer was about a year late in paying our crew. On an impulse, I took a mechanics lien of sorts, using his camera as collateral. This produced terrific results. I was immediately escorted by his accountant to the nearest ATM. At the time, little did I (or he) know,  that I was committing a felony.  Ah, the impertinence of youth!

Tough to collect on lawyer commercials in the late ’90’s. I could write a book

I easily obtained a judgment  on both Del and Ross in small claims court, to the tune of about $2500, (including court and process server costs, and a 5% per- year increase). Of course, a judgment doesn’t mean you should expect to be paid.  But, there are various remedies to be pursued: writs of execution and garnishment, liberal use of collection agencies, credit reporting on the debtor, and generally being a pain-in-the-ass to the poor fellows, which I like to do between gigs, or whenever I feel like it. Like now, for instance.judgment pic

Ross was particularly hard to find, as he does his fly-by-night act pretty well. The last judgment I found on him, for over $10000, shows that he uses at least four home addresses.Screen Shot 2015-08-14 at 5.54.42 PM

 He has over 30 dba’s in Dallas county, and even uses his 23 year-old son (facebook link) as a signee on some of them. Since he did this with Mpressive Films, I had to sue his son, as much as I would have liked to leave the poor boy out of the picture.

Delano Bryant was very easy to find, as this man, in his 50’s, still lived at home with his Mom & Dad. I served a writ of execution on him at the house, (which really pissed off his 84 year old Dad- they share the same name. It turned out that Del has no real assets in his own name.  Despite the house having 3 or 4 vehicles and a Harley and a pimped-out pickup truck, they were all owned in title by his parents or his siblings. He told the Constable that he was unemployed, and had no personal assets of any kind. But his family is willing to tote-the-note on his shiny truck and motorcycle. Hard times, Del? Not great marriage material.

Anyway the story is not nearly over, as I have several more surprises for this pair of malcontents. My real work as a sound mixer keeps me a little too busy to turn the screws on these two on a regular basis. But, a judgment lasts 10 years in Texas, and is renewable. Maybe I’ll take it up as my hobby when I retire.

We eventually found Ross living with his son and a momfriend (as opposed to a girlfriend) in a hovel, nestled in a sketchy south Dallas neighborhood. It’s actually not his Official Address;  for that, he uses his real Mom’s house. Notice a pattern?

This was kind of funny, since he is fond of telling folks he lives in affluent Highland Park, Texas.  Like he does here on the Stage 32 website:Screen Shot 2015-08-14 at 5.48.38 PM

 

Anyway, as Ross is now easily found, It’s hard not to pay the guy a visit now and then. David calls the police pretty quickly when confronted. He also tends to spin some tall tales when backed into a corner. So after my visit a couple of months ago, and David’s inevitable 911 call, I couldn’t help but create a little mash-up video of my visit and the 911 call.  So here it is. Enjoy, and look for the next episode, coming whenever I feel like it! Of course, they could just pay the bill, and I’ll hit the delete key. But I think David and Del must be gluttons for punishment.

To the guy who envies my job in TV

Well, I speak for myself, but production can be the most utterly tedious process imaginable. Extreme hours, within a 12 hour day(minimum), one may actually “work” less than half the time, the rest of the time spent waiting to work. Other days are techno-slams. So, one’s engagement often switches away from the actual craft, and more to the social dynamics of a traveling band of heroes and misfits. Of course, these days, crews spend less time being social and more time tapping smartphones. It is often a fireman’s job, going from boring, rudimentary tasks, to suddenly faced with baffling problems involving things like sweaty people, jewelry, paper bags, radio propagation, flaming egos, dirt, animal shit or microelectronics, all while the “grownups” breathe down your neck as you solve them.  Set-life can be very much like junior high school- rampant insecurity, arrogance, hierarchal selection, misplaced wealth or privilege, ego, mind games,  and an all-time major dedication to Looking Good, Being Right, and Staying In Control.  Entertainment industry divorce rate is among the highest of any profession. Many voluntarily leave the film business. Stay too long, and the film business leaves you. What did Hunter S Thompson say about the TV business?

 

The above being said, as a mixer without anywhere near the credentials of these Hollywood sound giants that lurk here, I do love the job.  I embrace the insanity, every day is like visiting a circus/asylum, and I get to go home to my fams at the end of most days.

-Pete Verrando

A saga of Kentli Lithium-Ion 1.5 volt AA rechargeable cells.

Many folks are very excited to see the first rechargeable Li-Ion AA battery, made by Kentli. 

KENTLI-8pcs-1-5V-2800mWh-font-b-AA-b-font-rechargeable-Li-font-b-polymer-b

Kentli AA Lithium-ion rechargeable cells and charger.

 

 Here’s a cut-away view of their exciting new AA cell:

so_8

The guts of a Kentli Cell.

The Kentli AA Lithium-Ion cell was perceived as an exciting development, because all Lithium Ion cells are normally 3.7 volts. So even if the cell could fit into the AA form, the voltage was too high for 1.5 volt applications.  What Kentli did was cram a 3.7 volt Lipo cell into an AA enclosure, and also stick a 3.7volt-to-1.5volt regulator inside there as well.  The charging groove (see diagram) allowed the cell to be charged directly by the charger at 3.7 volts, bypassing the “motherboard” (regulator).

Why would we want a Li-on AA cell, anyway?  The perceived advantages:

1. Ni-mH cells, the current rechargeable of choice, provide only 1.2 volts per cell.  That missing 3/10ths of a volt can really add up when using multiple cells in series (battery)! The lower voltage also increases current draw, shortening the power-up time of the cell.

2. Lithium Ion cells maintain almost their rated voltage right up till they die  Other cells, the voltage slowly drops as the cell discharges.  Many digital devices will shut-off when the supply voltage falls to a certain level, leaving much potentially live-giving energy in the cell.

3. For their weight, Lithium-Ion cells currently provide the most deliverable power than any other type of cell. They charge fast, are very reliable, and last for many charge cycles. They are also tolerant to recharging at various states of discharge.

More Advantages:

4. Rechargeable batteries create less land-fill waste.

5. Rechargeable batteries create incomeas you can bill the client for these batteries like disposables.  So, they can routinely add about $20 or more to your daily rental income, without buying disposable batteries.  Over a year, that can add up (conservatively) to about US$3000. (that’s if you work only about 14 days a month as a professional location sound mixer)

So how well do Kentli Li-ion AA cells work?

As Chinese Industry is prone to do, Kentli did some slight-of-hand marketing with these products. They listed the capacity in milli-watt-hours, so they could print that big 2800 mWh on the side of the cell.  For people who don’t pay attention, this rating gives the mistaken impression that they are more powerful than 2700 mAh (milli-amp-hour) Ni-MH rechargeables. 2700 is a common value when looking for a high quality Ni-MH rechargeable.  At 1.5 volts, 2800 mWh translates to about 1867 mAh,  so the Kentli cell technically has less power. But Kentli claims their cell lasts as long as the Ni-MH, because the regulator allows the 1.5 volts to be maintained till the cell is completely exhausted.

The street price for these Kentli AA cells is about US$11 per cell, and the charger about US$20. More expensive than Ni-MH rechargeable. They are shipped directly from China through a few distributors, including sellers on ebay.

 

lectrosonics smv verrando txsound

A Lectronics SMV transmitter. 1/3rd of the package is for the cell.

We bought 12 AA cells and 2 chargers to give these units a workout in our Lectrosonics SMV transmitters.  The SMV uses only one AA cell.  A disposable Energizer Lithium AA will power it for 5 hours (the longest). The best NiMH rechargeable will power it for about 3.5 hours.

And the result? A fresh Kentli AA, right out of the box ,will power the SMV for 3.5 hours. Same as a high quality, 2700 mAh Ni-MH rechargeable.

But here’s the rub, in a few easy steps.

1. In my application, Kentli AA’s take their internal cell from a full charge to near-exhaustion in every cycle. Over the long term, I think Li-Po rechargeables prefer a lighter charge-discharge cycle. so with this workout, these Kentli cells won’t last for very many cycles. A Lectro SMQV would treat the cells more gently, distributing the current draw between two cells, and possibly resulting in better performance.

2. Kentli AA’s use a 3.7v Li-Po cell and convert it to 1.5 volts. There is inherent inefficiency in this conversion process.  The Lectro SMV then takes the 1.5 volts and inverts it up to 5 volts, and 3.3 volts, to serve the various internal functions. Every time you convert a voltage, you lose some efficiency and power, in the form of heat.  The Kentli is already stretching the capacity to the max of its tiny 3.7 volt, 760 mAh cell, every time it is charged and used. With the SMV, there are multiple conversions, and those power losses add up.

3. These days,  the “power down” mode of many devices is not a true power-down. Even after its turned-off, the SMV draws a tiny “quiescent current.” This is simply power to enable the SMV to power back up with a momentary button-push. The Kentli sees this quiescent current, and therefore keeps its motherboard alive, affecting a continuous drain on its cell. So leave a freshly charged Kentli in the SMV overnight, and it will be dead in the morning.

4. Maintaining AA rechargeables for location sound use is a pain in the ass. They get lost easily. I lost one in the snow on the very first shoot! They are difficult to keep separate between used and unused. They require chargers to be travelled and plugged-in. They require extra time to sort and charge and check at call and wrap.  They create a level of uncertainty in the production process. Will this be the shot when the battery dies for good?

5. And obviously, in the SMV, a rechargeable will run for only 3 hours, and a AA li-ion disposable will burn for 5 hours.  In most cases, 5 hours is enough time to get us to lunch, when the battery can be replaced.  The SMV is designed to accept a cell that swings from 1.9 volts to .9 volts, and before it dies, will suck every last ounce of power from the cell!

6. Don’t talk to me about the Lectro SMQV, the double AA version. I know they will run twice as long. I don’t care. I like the smally-small SMV for so many reasons. I use it as a drop-weight when running the lav cable down shirts and blouses and pant-legs. The SMQV is almost as large as a UM400A, Lectros classic 9-volt transmitter, of which I already have a shit-ton.  The SMV is great for use on children, with their tiny pockets and elastic waistbands. It also has the lowest profile in a pocket or bra-strap.

Oh, and the Kentli Chargers tend to die. 

kentli charger txsound

The Kentli Charger with its ring-groove contacts. They contact directly with the Li-Po battery and charge at 4.2 volts.

kentli, location sound mixer, txsound.com

The innards of the Kentli AA charger

P1010256

A 5 volt phone charger inserted into the 5 volt rails of the Kentli charger. Fixed!

Of the two Kentli chargers I originally ordered, one died a couple of months in. The dealer asked for photographic proof that the charger was dead. They sent a replacement from China, which never arrived, and then sent me another.  Eventually I received both chargers, so now I had four. Then the other 2 chargers immediately died.  Taking this opportunity to either throw away the dead chargers, or take them apart, what do you think I did? The charger consists of a very flimsy switching power supply converting your AC house current to 5 volts DC. The voltage is then applied to a smart charging circuit for the AA cells. The flimsy switch-mode supply was the obvious culprit, so it was replaced with an outboard 5 volt phone charger, of much more robust design. So now we have 4 chargers.

 

Then, the Kentli AA’s start to show signs of age.

This is about the time that the Kentli AA cells stopped delivering 3 hours of power to the SMV’s.  This is not the cell you want in a transmitter that goes out on a competition shoot, where you don’t have access to the talent once the action begins. I would guess I got about 100 charges on my Kentli’s before they began to show signs of expiration. The chargers show a full charge even on the cells that have stopped performing. In a less-demanding environment, (like an LED flashlight or an ipod dock) they may give better service.

And Alas! one Kentli drops to the floor and pops open like a Zippo Lighter! (Also the shrink wrap on the cell will begin to tear and peel with daily use. )

kentli AA txsound.com

Pops open like a Chap-Stick!

kentli txsound sound mixer verrando

The Kentli regulator board.

UPDATE : Curious about the quiescent current draw of the Kentli Cell, on its own, we hooked up a micro-amp meter between the regulator board and the Li-Po cell. The result:

kentli AA self discharge txsound

Kentli AA cells discharge on thier own, with a constant current draw of 29 microamps from the internal “motherboard.”

You guessed it. The Kentli motherboard is drawing 29 microamps from the cell at all times.  By comparison, Lectro transmitters, when powered down, draw about 5 microamps from the cell.  This is in conflict with the advertising claim made on the Kentli promotional material:

discharge claim kentli txsound.com

Advertising claim from Kentli’s promotional materials

 P1010251And whats this? A 3.7 volt, 2.66 wH li-po cell! That’s 2660mWh, or 718 mAh! Not 760 mAh, as the label claims!

So there’s no doubt the Kentli folks are really pushing the envelope with this initial attempt at a 1.5V Lithium-Ion rechargeable. A little more conservative design paramaters are required for location sound use. But for flashlights and home use, I’m sure theres no telling! And no telling of what’s to become of my little AA canisters for a location sound mixer on the road!

Why I like Sennheiser G2/G3 systems for everything but talent wireless

sennheiser G3 wireless

Sennheiser G3 wireless microphone system.

Here’s just a few reasons why I love G2/G3 for IFB/scratch track feeds over Lectro or Zaxcom IFB solutions:
– The mini plug input/output is highly compatible without need for custom cables. You can feed a scratch track to  a Red Epic with a standard ipod cable. Transmitter Mic/line input selectable thru tip or ring on the cable. You can hook up to anything with a good set of adaptors. Have you sent audio to a Black Magic camera yet? Non-standard, strangely wired 1/4″ jack inputs, but no problem with a Senn and an ipod cable with a headphone adaptor.
– you can feed  hops and Ifb with same transmitter. 1 less frequency to coordinate.

-Less weight and RF mess in a sound bag. I’d rather carry around a 2 ounce, 30mw G3, than a 1/2 pound, 250mw flamethrower like the Lectro T4.

– I purchased my first set for scratch track hops in 2005. I now have 6 transmitters, 4 plugs, 6 receivers and 15 IFB’s. All purchased on ebay, and on average, less than half of retail. (Many misguided soundies and one-off project users buy these, then dump ’em. )

I’ve yet to have one break.  I’ve replaced many antennas at 5 bucks each, if you can solder well, you’re good.
– huge battery life. 3 days with a pair of lithium AA’s
-audio/rf metering on every unit
-Better range than lectro R1a or zax 2.4 gHz IFB units, owing to  external whip antennas
-transmitter won’t RF swamp a sound bag
-some venues now restricting 2.4 gHz devices as they compete with wifi (Zaxcom IFB)
-super wide input/output audio level settings. It’s easier to set the level on the Senn than dig around on the cryptic Red Epic’s audio screen. So why bother?
-instinctively intuitive to use. Big, understandable, backlit display
-great for feeding video assist, pa systems, or pulling feeds from PA or press feeds
velcro them together for 2 channels, and they are still a very small receiver pkg.
-They’re Great crash wireless for talent- (about the only time I’ll put one on a talent).
-30 mw is low for transmitter power, but as an IFB, the pack is not against somebody’s body.
Instead, it is out in free space on your cart or bag. So no RF absorption from a sweaty cast member’s body.

I’ve have found that the Lectro IFBs are better if your crew needs to change receiver channels frequently to listen to different sound units. WIth Lectro R1a’s, They just push the volume button to cycle thru programmed channels, without needing to look at it. (Don’t know if the ERX can do this).

-Senn’s butt-plug transmitters are also cheap and great for a quickn’dirty wireless handheld for PA or voice-of-god mic for AD’s

On a recent commercial, with one Senny transmitter, I fed scratchtrack to  two Alexas, video assist, client-lounge PA speaker and 15 IFB’s. Excellent range, kinda nice.
-iem headphone amp VERY loud. Even the regular receivers can drive a headphone at +6

-easy to coordinate freqs with internal pre-selects/rf metering, or use the freq finder app.

IEMs and beltpack receivers will also receive acceptable audio sent from more powerful lectro IFB transmitters.

-I could go on. I’ve got buckets of these things.

But I never will use them as frontline talent wireless. They breakup a little at high audio frequencies (sibilant sounds) unless you stay well within the headroom, like half-level.

-By Pete Verrando www.txsound.com

 

Sound Bag Abyss

deathSoundbagHow about an ongoing gallery of some of the more outrageous sound recording configurations for run-n-gun use? Such as the above. Is somebody supposed to wear this on their chest? Don’t forget the Ipad (right), which packs, oh, I don’t know. Where do we put the Ipad? Across the top. This rig is also good for lunch break, you can just eat right off the rig, you don’t even have to sit down. Throw a napkin down first, of course.

large production sound bag

Looks Great, Just don’t run.

heavy location sound bag

Nightmare location sound bag. Not mine.

large production sound bag mixer

backbrace not included, unlimited stern looks.

Video Blow Torch Transmitter Interference for Wireless Microphones

gx-68 wireless video transmitter swamps wireless mics

The GX-68 Swamping Video Transmitter from Canada.

Imagine yourself listening to your favorite music on an Ipod with some really nice headphones. Maybe those Bose Quiet-Comfort 15’s, my fave on airplanes. They really sound great.

Now imagine you’re at a Skrillex show, 1st row, next to a massive stack of loudspeakers, while still listening to your Ipod with those great Bose headphones. What? Can’t hear your Ipod? You might say you’ve been swamped or more technically, de-sensed. Your headphone audio can’t compete with a Skrillex speaker stack. Bass, highs, no matter. Can’t hear a thing. No matter how great those headphones are, Skrillex’s speakers are overwhelming them.

Skrillex is swamping your headphones. The only remedy is physical distance between you and Skrillex.

lectrosonics, scans, wireless microphones, interference

Various Lectro Scans…Top left- pretty swamped! Bottom right- wide open.

The whole hop affair requires robust, expensive wireless audio systems. But, like my Bose headphones, my fine audio receivers had to share 1st row with the blazing Skrillex video flamethrower, and were de-sensing as a result of the powerful RF eminating from said blowtorch. The receivers have a frequency scan function (Lectrosonics UCR411a), and it was showing complete RF obliteration with the video transmitter switched on. A solid black block, floor to ceiling. When a powerful RF transmitter comes shoulder-to-shoulder with an RF receiver, de-sensing happens. The trans RF overwhelms the circuitry in the receiver, regardless of frequency selected. The only cure is distance.

Move the transmitter 3 or 4 feet away, and everything’s OK! But the only place for the video transmitter and my receivers to live were on the side of the camera. So who’s problem is this? Why mine, of course! Camera and director could not work without the little wireless video system.

No problem, the director says! We’ll just go “hard wire” from sound to camera for the entire week. Dark storm clouds formed over my head, images of water skiing behind camera, with an audio-cable tow rope, inside a wrecked-out house. Outside of interviews and other “tame” shoots, the last time I went hard-wire to camera was probably sometime in 1998.

Cameraman: Works great at home, he says. You can take the camera home tonight and “work it out.”

Lectro Lectrosonics scan swamped

Another Swamped scan on a Lectro Receiver

So, my 1st day goes down with the cable tether, as the production was in 1st day freight-train mode, and no down time for a little audio troubleshooting. I trudge the camera home that evening to perform the “prep” that should have happened the day before the shoot. On the bench, I learn that the transmitter is tunable from 512 thru 800 mHz. From the internet I learn about the transmitter, specs & how to set the frequency, as camera dept. hadn’t a clue about their little black box. I try different combinations of transmitter and hop frequencies, looking for those that play well together. No go. The video transmitter swamps everything from Lectro Block 21 thru 26 and beyond, regardless of frequency setting.

I try some surgery on the video transmitter’s antenna, running a tightly looped wire around the antenna and soldering it to the BNC shell. This detuned the antenna to the point where it became a less effective radiator. However, this may make matters worse by raising the vSWR of the antenna, which may cause the transmitter case radiate RF, or even burn out the transmitter.

I finally mount the transmitter way forward on the camera, tucking the antenna under the viewfinder, and set it to 800 mHz (channel 69). I mount the audio receivers at the extreme rear of the camera, using Lectro block 21 (520 mHz). Doing a scan, this gets the swamping down to the 50% point on the scan display.

Using 100mw transmitter hops, I send audio to the camera and walk test it in the backyard. Amazingly, no dropouts or hits! The Lectro wireless are robust enough to deliver clean audio despite 50% RF interference levels on the receivers. This is using UCR411a Receivers. I’m not sure I could have accomplished the same feat with the less-robust Lectro UCR401 receivers, or SRa’s, which are the equivalent of 401’s. Looks like camera’s gonna have to lug around a little extra weight on the side!

Regardless, I keep a minimum distance from the camera throughout the week, to make sure those hops were solid. I also ran 24 bit backup audio files on everything. Camera dept. refused to do a free-run sync of timecode with my recorder, something to do with the antiquated notion that sequentially coded files digitize faster. No argument from me. If they need the backup, hello Plural Eyes.

Lessons learned! Good times!      by Pete Verrando www.txsound.com