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Scott Anderson

Looking Into Buying Zaxcom IFB

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I've owned and used Lectrosonics R1a receivers in years past and currently own and use Comtek PR-216 receivers, but its time for a change in that the Comteks just aren't performing as reliably as needed. The signal needs to be consistently clean and clear as the client's opinion of my work is influenced by what they hear over IFB.

 

R1a receivers are rock solid and sound fine, but I want to get away from using 9v with a battery life of 8 hours per alkaline. The several days a Comtek will go between battery changes is exceptional, but the 10mw M-216 Option P7 transmitter and plastic case on the receivers have been weak points.

 

So I'm considering Zaxcom for IFB because it's the other option I don’t have experience with, and maybe I've been missing out all this time?

 

What's your experience with an IFB200 to ERX3TCD? In particular, is the range reliably up to 100’ with Zaxnet using 2.4Ghz? Seems like there are so many devices using 2.4Ghz with everyone having a smart phone etc etc that interference could be an issue.

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Gave up on Comtek years ago.

 

It's R1a's for me........... rock solid and consistently good sound. That's what matters.

 

Steve

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GREAT results for YEARS with the Comteks... Still as good as ever... depends on your set up...  

 

On the 9 volt side... just resign yourself to loading each day with fresh rechargables... Don't try to over reach with your Batts...  Every day, new fresh recharge batts...=NO PROBLEMS for you or your workflow. I use the 720 Ipowers, and you will be trouble free.. Hell, even the 520s...  Those Lectro units rock, always have...  and will for some time. I would seriously think twice about your "plan"...

 

With a BST 25/50 Transmitter, and properly batteried units, I have ZERO issues...  for YEARS!! ( secret)  I still prefer the old PR72 units!!!!   Buy all you can... They STILL WORK PERFECT...  

 

Don't think people put any realization to linking the audio they hear through an IFB and your mix... They don't....  Those who know,  know better, those who don't don't know enough to know anything anyway... besides, you don't want those folks to hear TOO WELL..  You just don't... They are for reference only!!    If anyone DID ACTUALLY ASK, I would say... hey, these are for dialog reference only...

 

R1a's are overkill quality wise...  I don't like the monkeys out in the forrest with those units.... Way too much tool for the monkeys.. Not as long as I am finding them in Vans, gutters, toilets, motorhomes etc.... If they don't care, well then... they get what works for the job... reference only...

 In all my years, a few by the way....... never has one person complained about the feed quality... ever... that speaks volumes... to me at least..

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Like  A Few More Years I have both Comteks and Lectro R1as. I find the Lectro have a little better fidelity and range, but when the peanut gallery starts to play “yo-yo” with them, leave them lying everywhere but where they said they did, I invested in more Comtek units. I have the PR216 series and use the M216 transmitter and am amazed at the range I get with them at times. Plus, they are on the VHF band so it’s one less freq to worry about interferring with my ever shrinking UHF bandwidth options. Most Director’s or Producers I work with understand that what they hear quality wise via Comtek is not the same I am getting at the bag. I can go for days with IPower 520s in the Comteks. I do like the fact that you can send timecode with the Zaxcom though. 

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Hey Scott: I've used all 3 and ended up heavily investing in Zax ERXs. My simple answer is that ERXs have the best sound quality and the worst range Imo. For me the better sound quality along with the dual purpose TC option made it worth the investment. The range is a bummer though. I picked up a Sun Haus 2.4 gig 3 watt amp to boost the signal and the combo definitely extends the range to cover any large set I've worked on. Even out in the rain forest here in Washington. The amp is cheap, and very small but it's still another thing you need to add and power etc. 

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On 09/11/2017 at 8:53 PM, Jason A said:

My simple answer is that ERXs have the best sound quality and the worst range Imo.

+1

 

Working as boom/utility I've used the ERXs mostly on commercials. We've been using a RF venue CP beam to hit set (director/script/erx's on camera), and have been remoting a L-com omni antenna right beside village.

 

For exteriors we've achieved up to 100 ft line of sight with the CP beam (though well always run a range test on the day). Range hasn't been as great with the omni so we'll generally not take any chances and get it as close to village as we can.

 

I've only encountered 1 issue with interference on the ERXs - couldn't pinpoint the source but we changed frequencies on the ERXs and no problems after that. Hope that helps.

 

Past the ERXs I've definitely found the lectro R1a's to be the most rocksolid of the bunch.

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Never an issue with Comtek but yes, could be influenced by your setup, don't know if you're running a phase right antenna or not but that makes a huge change if you don't have one already and is more affordable that swapping systems.

 

Directors, producers, script supervirosrs, etc. that I have worked with all seem to understand that what they hear over the IFB is not a fully accurate representation since it's all being compressed, sent over VHF, output through some small headphones, and that I can't monitor what each and every person is hearing on their comtek. They are just listening mostly for any major issues, cues, making notes, or something else.  They trust that if I hear a problem I will address it and call for another take. A director once held up a set for an hour because his feed wasn't PERFECTLY clean after I repeatedly explained that it was going through like 6 walls, with coats of old lead paint underneath and it likely wouldn't be perfectly clean no matter what we did. 

 

Never been a huge fan of R1A's, but maybe I've just had some bad experiences.

 

Did work with the Zaxcom system recently though and it was fantastic sounding and wireless TC and scratch in one unit makes a nice single box on camera, but range was noticeably less the the R1As and be aware, there are some reports of the IFB200 causing RF bleed if placed too close to the media slot on Sound Devices 6 series. 

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2 hours ago, JWBaudio said:

Never an issue with Comtek but yes, could be influenced by your setup, don't know if you're running a phase right antenna or not but that makes a huge change if you don't have one already and is more affordable that swapping systems.

 

Directors, producers, script supervirosrs, etc. that I have worked with all seem to understand that what they hear over the IFB is not a fully accurate representation since it's all being compressed, sent over VHF, output through some small headphones, and that I can't monitor what each and every person is hearing on their comtek. They are just listening mostly for any major issues, cues, making notes, or something else.  They trust that if I hear a problem I will address it and call for another take. A director once held up a set for an hour because his feed wasn't PERFECTLY clean after I repeatedly explained that it was going through like 6 walls, with coats of old lead paint underneath and it likely wouldn't be perfectly clean no matter what we did. 

 

Never been a huge fan of R1A's, but maybe I've just had some bad experiences.

 

Did work with the Zaxcom system recently though and it was fantastic sounding and wireless TC and scratch in one unit makes a nice single box on camera, but range was noticeably less the the R1As and be aware, there are some reports of the IFB200 causing RF bleed if placed too close to the media slot on Sound Devices 6 series. 

A lot of people liked those.. but the Phase Right Antennas have never in my use with them done any better than the telescoping Antenna that goes into the top of a BST 50 or 25..

    The Mighty mite worked all right, but again,  I preferred those Telescoping versions myself.. Worked well and smaller footprint...  

Sometimes where your units are mounted affects all this..

 

 

 

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8 hours ago, afewmoreyears said:

A lot of people liked those.. but the Phase Right Antennas have never in my use with them done any better than the telescoping Antenna that goes into the top of a BST 50 or 25..

    The Mighty mite worked all right, but again,  I preferred those Telescoping versions myself.. Worked well and smaller footprint...  

Sometimes where your units are mounted affects all this..

 

 

 

In my experience with BST 25-216 and BST 75-216, the Phase Right antennas make a huge difference in range over the rubber ducky for BST 75-216s or the Telescoping antenna for the BST 25-216s.

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12 minutes ago, Jim Rillie said:

In my experience with BST 25-216 and BST 75-216, the Phase Right antennas make a huge difference in range over the rubber ducky for BST 75-216s or the Telescoping antenna for the BST 25-216s.

I have not found those results...  Tested in front of my home, side by side, results were almost exactly the same..  Short and proper coax ... raised @ 5 ft over the cart...  BST-50b 72Mhz  BIG Phase right.  This was NOT with the BST 75 216.. or the Mini mite smaller version for the 216... Just to be clear..  I still have it,  the big (Giant) Phase Right.. 72Mhz,     stuffed in a cabinet...

 

Results in a million situations with the metal telescoping antenna are and have been just great...  216 and 72...

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I ran a series of tests of transmitting antennas for the 695 Quarterly (now Production Sound & Video) a few years ago. We compared the standard telescoping antenna with the Comtek Phase Right, Comtek Mini Mite and Remote Audio Miracle Whip. Measuring distance to drop-outs and interference with clear line of sight, our experience was similar to A Few's; the antennas all had about the same range.

 

However, the Comtek and Remote Audio units were all complete antenna systems while the telescoping whip relies on the chassis of the transmitter for ground plane. This means that the transmitter must be used on the top shelf of the cart for enough headroom to extend the whip. Because the other antennas are deployed remotely, the transmitter can be anywhere convenient.

 

The tests were published in the Summer 2011 edition available here:

http://www.local695.com/Quarterly/3-3/

 

A direct link to the tests:

http://www.local695.com/Quarterly/3-3/3-3-testing-the-transmitting-antennas/

 

David

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Helpful info folks and sharing your experience is much appreciated. Getting a more clear idea as to Zaxnet range using 2.4Ghz that a third party booster is most often used. I do mostly bag work so the extra box (and draw on the NP1) may not be ideal for me. It's looking like sticking with assistive listening devices around 216Mhz may be the best set up for what I use over the shoulder. Thanks again for the input.

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One thing to consider about going the boosted Zaxnet is interference in the bag. Myself and a buddy both run Nomads and were interested in ERXs for IFB and TC. We both tried one of the small Sunhans 2.4 amps that Gene at SGS was tinkering with to see how things played out. In my friend's bag, it caused tons of hiss and static in his recorded tracks, and we linked the cause to be interference entering the recorder via his Lectro SRbs and 411a. I had no such issue in my bag, but I was running all Zaxcom wireless via AES digital in. Plugged in some older 200 series wireless in my bag and sure enough the interference was there. Swapping cables, grounding shells, separate power supplies, etc... only thing that worked was physical distance between the receivers and the amp.

 

I've since moved back to using Lectro R1a to stay compatible with a couple other local mixers in case I need to rent additional units, and by combining an R1a with one of those new Ultrasync One sync boxes, I can replicate most of the ERX's feature set with added reliability and extended range.

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All can be problematic depending on set/location. I've used all 3. If you don't like Comteks, you really won't like ERX. Range is horribly inconsistent without big antennas/amps. Lectro is best more often.

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17 hours ago, Scott Anderson said:

Helpful info folks and sharing your experience is much appreciated. Getting a more clear idea as to Zaxnet range using 2.4Ghz that a third party booster is most often used. I do mostly bag work so the extra box (and draw on the NP1) may not be ideal for me. It's looking like sticking with assistive listening devices around 216Mhz may be the best set up for what I use over the shoulder. Thanks again for the input.

I found that an ifb running 2.4Ghz is not a bag friendly solution.  Needing to power, and use a booster to get sufficient "punch" is arduous.  It was somewhat useful for me for cart use,  for about a year.  Then came the flury of other 2.4Ghz bandwidth hogs - telex headsets for technocrane crews (using spread spectrum transmission), wireless dmx boxes for lighting, preston iris control and preston follow focus units,  Qtake video broadcasting and cellular internet hubs for the mucky mucks  The perfect storm is on a three camera day when you have six preston units, and all of the above.  As wonderful as the audio quality of the Zaxcom Erx units is,  video village is willing to hear something, continuously than something better, intermittently.  I did seek guidance from the mothership,  and the response was "use another frequency".  Wise words.   I have been using  Sennheiser ifb units this year, on another frequency.... band.  No boosters and no interference,  and I can transmit in stereo, if that need arises. 

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I have been using the ERX's for village for several years now.  They're great... until they're not.  With amps, or local transmitters I've always made it work without issue for clients, until recently when the cintenna ratpak dimmers were released.  They make an ERX unusable.  I was told they were going to be built into the new version of the skypanel as well, so it's likely they will be on a lot more sets in the future.  This has forced me back to Comteks for village and R1a's for boom ops.  I much preferred using AA's over 9V's, but it is what it is.  

I still own most of my ERX, and use them on cameras, as well as I know a few script supervisors who prefer them for the timecode display.  I also like having the voting feature for when video village is in an isolated room, or on a bus down the block.  People can take the same headset and walk around with it and get coverage no matter where they are.  The ERX sounds the best to my ears as well.

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I'm using Comteks with good success unless the distance becomes impossible.  There are limits.  Lectro sounds best but are more $$$.  Used a Zaxocm on a job and it was good.

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Larry, I've valued your input on this forum for years. You've definitively answered my question about 2.4Ghz being (increasingly) crowded; in particular, your observation that AC powered devices are able to use the full two watts allowed which would inevitably over power the more humble transmitters. Thanks

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larry,  many thanks for your detailed response.  I had entertained getting the lectro vhf ifb system, but the price for 2 transmitters and 20 receivers was high for a system that I could not audition.  about a month after I purchased the sennheiser ifb system,  the duet was announced....  

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14 minutes ago, ao said:

l[snip]  about a month after I purchased the sennheiser ifb system,  the duet was announced....  

 

I think this is why some people buy antique cars or collectible radios; they don't have to worry that the next new release obsoletes their latest whiz-bang. If you are happily polishing the chrome of your BMW Iseta 300, the fact that the new 2018 Porsche 911 has 20 more horsepower than the 2017 model, doesn't phase you in the least.

Best,

Larry F

isetta.jpg

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Maybe I am wrong here but the "Lectro Quadra" system being talked about here operated in 902MHz to 928MHz not 2.4 GHz. The Zaxcom IFB system does operate in 2.4 GHz. It is a tunable narrow band system and is of course much more than IFB with time code distribution and Zaxnet remote control. While 2.4 GHz has many users our system is great for a short range IFB monitor.

 

Glenn

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Ive been getting shorter range than ever on my nomad>erx system this year. Doing, in the field, doc, 1and2 camera stuff.

Is this caused by what larry is describing above? Or is it possible there is an issue with the transmitter itself? How can i test this? Using original long antenna.

Im not feeling confidant any longer in the scratch track im sending. Cam people are telling me about drop out less than 10-15 feet often.
Ive seen it. Light goes red.

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1 hour ago, glenn said:

 

Maybe I am wrong here but the "Lectro Quadra" system being talked about here operated in 902MHz to 928MHz not 2.4 GHz. The Zaxcom IFB system does operate in 2.4 GHz. It is a tunable narrow band system and is or course much more than IFB with time code distribution and Zaxnet remote control. While 2.4 GHz has many users our system is great for a short range IFB monitor.

 

Glenn

Glenn, you are absolutely correct. My apologies. The Quadra was in the 902 to 928 MHz band and not in the 2.4 GHz band you are using. They are totally different bands. Any place where I said 2.4 GHz should have been 902 to 928 MHz. The 2.4 GHz band does have many applications such as industrial heaters, microwave ovens, Bluetooth and other ISM applications. The most common application being WiFi modems and routers. The 2.4 GHz is channelized so changing channels should move away from a specific interferer. The 2.4 GHz is also restricted on power so interferers would have to be local.  I will delete my post.  I'm afraid the only thing it will leave is the Isetta.

Best Regards,

Larry Fisher

 

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Larry, while your post may have been pointing at the wrong frequency band, the underlying point you were making is a very real consideration in the 2.4ghz band as well, not just 900mhz.  While Wifi is channelized, not everything that operates in 2.4ghz is, and the wide band spread spectrum technology you referenced in your original post is exactly why the Cintenna RatPac dimmers make an ERX unusable, no matter what frequency is chosen.  The RatPac dimmers broadcast in short bursts changing frequencies across the 2.4ghz spectrum multiple times per second.  This seems to keep it clear of interfering with technologies like wifi and bluetooth, however real time audio requires an uninterrupted signal.  The end result being an ERX will still have audio, but that audio will contain glitches a couple times a second, everytime the ratpac broadcasts on the same frequency.  No amount of amplification or moving closer to the transmitter seems to help.  The timecode and remote control functions of Zaxnet still continue to work without issue with a ratpac dimmer running, just the audio stream is wrecked.

I think the power limit set by the FCC in 2.4ghz is 3 or 4 watts assuming no gain at the antenna.  Since Cintenna claims a range of 1/4 mile, I'm sure they are running as much power as they are allowed.

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11 hours ago, fieldmixer said:

Ive been getting shorter range than ever on my nomad>erx system this year. Doing, in the field, doc, 1and2 camera stuff.

Is this caused by what larry is describing above? Or is it possible there is an issue with the transmitter itself? How can i test this? Using original long antenna.

Im not feeling confidant any longer in the scratch track im sending. Cam people are telling me about drop out less than 10-15 feet often.
Ive seen it. Light goes red.

 

Open your mixer and check the Nomad antenna socket is still connected securely.  They can come loose.

 

I have two ERX's, I love them.  Good for IFB in most situations, but also great for sending scratch audio to DSLRs and other things.  On a shoot recently I had one providing audio and timecode to a roving camera, and the other providing IFB to a boom op so he could hear his mic.  Worked very well.

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