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Lectro HM for Wireless Boom

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I've been mulling that over, too. The best thing I can see about the HM is that they're claiming about 12 hours of battery life with 2 AA Lithiums. I was disappointed to find out it doesn't have a "sleep" mode (unlike the SMs). My concern with it is more on the transmission antenna side, but I think this is solvable with good receiving antennas. My boom op pointed out to me the other day that if and when we go with a plug-on, we'll have to modify the boom stand and worry about the connector on that end. (It's always something...)

I'm curious how the HM compares to a belt-pack transmitter, like the 250mv SMQV. And there's also the Zaxcom TRX992, but that requires a whole system approach. (Also, its battery life is considerably shorter, though it does a lot more.)

--Marc W.

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In the past I have used the old plug-on as a wireless boom setup, but the transmitter does take some abuse spending most of the time on or near the ground.  If you have XLR on the end of the pole, the transmitter will become the new bottom of the pole.  If your XLR comes out the side, the transmitter often gets leaned on and tweaked if proper attention is not paid.  Loon makes an adapter for a plug-on transmitter, which makes it safer to use.  The HM is heavier than the UM, at least it felt like it when I checked it out at Coffey, so might make a difference if you use one of the mounts that puts the transmitter by the mic.

In terms of reception, I found it to be just as good as a belt pack, and sometimes better.  The plug-on transmitter is typically held high and away of any RF sucking bodies, which helps a lot.

These days I use it for plant mics, or as a transmitter on a god mic or interview mic.  But if there is a scene where mobility is critical (running or weaving), then I'll suggest the plug-on to eliminate any cables at all.

I expect the performance of the new HM to be similar to that of the UM.

Robert

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glenn   

I disagree with the idea that the TRX992 "requires a whole system approach". This is one of the strongest reasons to use the TRX992. Even if you do not use the the IFB return part of the TRX992, or ZaxNet remote control there are many other features that are worth the price of admission.

Hard wire transmission audio quality ,recorded back up (Pat Pend), talk back com channel, 8 hour continuous battery life, no daily battery expense and use of conventional whip antennas for greater transmission distance to name a few. 

The TRX992 was designed specifically for boom operation where the audio quality of large diaphragm microphones is lessened by the companders and predictors of the analog wireless commonly used for wireless boom. There is of course a difference in price over the analog systems but the TRX992 feature set with or without the use of the ZaxNet system would make it a product to be strongly considered.

Glenn Sanders

President Zaxcom Inc.

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Another advantage of the HM over a beltpack is the built-in phantom power. I'm trying to plan out a way I can do wireless boom and it seems like attaching a beltpack transmitter and a phantom power supply to the bottom of the pole would just add too much weight. Robert brings up a good point about the abuse. I was searching on RAMPS about this recently, and one person had trouble with the UH interfering with 400 series receivers in his bag. I believe it was the 401. When he was booming wirelessly and wearing a bag, the UH would introduce noise if it got too close to the 401. The solution was to strap the UH higher up on the pole, but that made the pole too heavy. 

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I'm still using wired booms for now, but am looking at untethering my boom when I can afford it.  On one hand, the weight savings of not having wire might make the gross weight of the pole lighter, sticking it on the mic side, my Rycote handle in this case, but it would probably feel better with a little conterbalance and placed on the butt end.  I use the Ambient poles with the side mount accessory, so I think that the leather pouch accessory would do a good enough job of protecting the unit from minor abrasions.

The other option, the Zaxcom 992 does in fact look very appealing, though.  My boom op would probably like HM better, but the fact that the 992 is an all-in-one device is certainly a plus.  I personally would rather use 8 AA batteries or something, though, than the VPX.  The new Zaxcom IFB units are also supposed to be AA too.  Since my range on the Ambient ACD301RFA wireless slate is so crappy, having the TC TX strapped to my boom op, who is going to be close to the slate, would be a bonus since the Zax has the TC capability built in too and can use that to repeat the TC signal.  Fidelity would just about seal the deal.  I love your stuff Glenn, but damn, that is a lot of cash to lay out and that is the only mitigating factor that might make me change my mind and go with the HM.

mostly unemployed and living with Aloha...

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the original question seemed to be about any specifics for the new version of the Lectro plug-on, I suppose compared to the previous version of the plug-on TX which it has replaced.

Lectrosonics has made it pretty clear that this was a redesign to provide the plug-on TX with the control capabilities of the SM series of pack TX's, which are gradually replacing the older versions... Also, Lectrosonics said some time ago that they would be moving away from 9v type batteries to AA type batteries, due to the advances being made in AA technologies, as well as the advances in DC-DC converters, which allow AA's to be efficiently utilized.

Keeping in mind that the huge majority of the plug on TX's are sold for the news reporting customers, Lectrosonics also was aware that ruggedness is an issue; I think the new TX is particularly ruggedly built, and the control surface might be the only somewhat weaker link in this application, we shall see.

There would seem to not really be much need for the remote control capabilities in the plug-on configuration, and certainly the majority of the users are not using multiple systems (a news crew typically has one in use!), the TX is in the open and being operated by the actual user (the news person) so hardware on off is all that is typically needed, or the camera person my do a freq change with the TX and RX during set-up.

Fortunately there are several options from OEM's for protecting TX's on the 'bottom' end of the poles, including side mount XLR's, angled adapters, protective pouches, and (my fav) bird cages...

the new Lectro plug-on's are full 100 mw power, and should radiate just as well as the previous version in any given situation...

I suspect the TV crowd is asking for an option to get Plug-on TX's in a black finish, but otherwise they continue to be hugely successful in their target market, and also popular for "wireless boom" use.  A matching plug-on TX to be used with wireless RX's already in the package is a usual part of most kits these days.

historically, the early Nady wireless were plug-on's, and adopted by early adopter rock musicians.  Harry Matayoshi (HME) predicted in the late 80's that they would become as small as the XLR connector alone...then in the late 80's Lectrosonics added a plug on to their 185 series, and the ENG/EJ world went for it in a big way; I remember asking Vega, in the early 90's, if they planned on introducing a plug-on TX  and the response was that that was a small niche item, and the market was saturated; everyone that wanted one or needed one, already had one.  we all know what happened to Vega....

wireless booming took off in the early 90's, and while it may not have been the first, one of the early shows to utilize wireless booming regularly was ER, particularly for those Steadi-cam "crash" shots; those were either a 185 pack TX with a Denecke power supply, or a 185 plug-on, also needing a Denecke power supply. yes, the VHF crystal controlled 185's!! the wireless boom system covered those long moving shots, and rarely, a lav wireless was used for a hard to get line that passed through the scene, or that the scene went past...

Zaxcom has targeted the movie production sound market more singularly, completely, and specifically than others, and has designed a couple products that are more than just plug-on TX's, which they also make. The Zaxcom wireless boom products are well thought out, well constructed, and provide a much more comprehensive solution to the entire specific issue of wireless booming than just a TX and just an RX.  of course 'Senators Law' applies: "you can't please all of the people on jwsound, ever!"  This product will sell fewer units than simple plug-on TX's, so economies of scale in manufacturing them are not nearly as good for the wireless boom products, and the rule also applies: "generally speaking, you get what you pay for"

bottom line: we have options!!

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Oh, I am happy if i can get to record decent dialog - the world is a lot more noisier than maybe it used to be. And to top it all, if i can get a boom in, this is the only way it can happen in many instances.

I dont (WANT TO WANT TO!!) know how the great veteran mixers handled their situations. In some ways, we have it a lot easier, and then more complicated with all this stuff about having no airwaves. Nonetheless, we have to work on, and make the best of what we have.

The UM400H which i got in 2008 helped me a lot in situations wherein cabled booming was not possible. I never had one problem with RF - the tx was mounted straight onto the mic with a jumper cable from the rycote to the Tx - held by an Ambient plate made for this very purpose. I have a good boom op who has worked with 816's in rycotes - so no complaints from him at all, in fact, i would let him decide if he wanted to go cabled or not.

I do have a lot more to say about this, but i have to devote my time to something more pressing as of now. I only hope that we don't lose focus on what we actually want and have to achieve while on the field - i mean in the times to come.

-vin

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I disagree with the idea that the TRX992 "requires a whole system approach". This is one of the strongest reasons to use the TRX992.

Glenn, it's not a criticism, just an observation. I've personally spent more than $20,000 on Zaxcom products, and have recommended them many times to other customers, and I've told post clients many times that we've had far fewer problems with Zaxcom-based projects than most other systems.

The issue I see with the 992 is the need for a transmitter back to the boom op, and a receiver from the boom op. I'm sure somebody could list all the items required (with the relative cost), and it does give me some sticker shock -- even with the integrated SD recorder.

I'm also concerned about battery life, RF range, the limited frequency response of the IFB receiver, plus the proprietary battery in the 992. It's a brilliant design in many ways, but it's fair to say that a wireless boom system presents a lot of tough choices and compromises. I don't see either Lectro or Zaxcom as a 100% slam-dunk solution for everybody.

--Marc W.

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[Marc Wielage]

I'm also concerned about battery life, RF range, the limited frequency response of the IFB receiver, plus the proprietary battery in the 992. It's a brilliant design in many ways, but it's fair to say that a wireless boom system presents a lot of tough choices and compromises. I don't see either Lectro or Zaxcom as a 100% slam-dunk solution for everybody.

I am presently involved in making an evaluation of the Zaxcom 992 boom system for a review to be published in an upcoming issue of the 695 Quarterly. Zaxcom has kindly entrusted me with a system that I used for several weeks on a production. I expect to check it out again to run some controlled tests.

I've been reluctant to join this discussion because I've not completed my tests and because I want to publish in the journal, not piece-meal here on-line. Still, since questions about battery performance have come up more than once, I'd like to say that the battery performance on the 992 was, in my experience, outstanding. As some of you may know, the system was designed to use a battery made for Black & Decker for use in drills and other tools. As fate would have it, Black & Decker discontinued the battery just as the Zaxcom 992 came to market. Zaxcom has scrambled and found a company to make the batteries for them and to their specs.

The unit I tested had these new Zaxcom batteries. With routine power conservation (turning the unit off during set-ups), we easily made it through a whole day (and more) on a single charge. Leaving it on during set-ups, one would still have no difficulty if batteries were rotated at lunch.

David Waelder

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" The issue I see with the 992 is the need for a transmitter back to the boom op, and a receiver from the boom op. "

this is the same requirement for any wireless booming system; Zaxcom has created a more fully designed specialty system for this specific application. As noted this means a more limited potential market, thus reducing the benefits of making and selling in larger volumes...(thus affecting price)...

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glenn   

Hi Mark,

I did not see your post as being critical at all and no offence was taken. I welcome the opportunity to clarify the features and differences between our products and our competitors so that sound professionals can select the products that best fit their needs.

The Zaxcom IFB100 is the transmitter back to the boom op. It transmits return audio, time code, remote control and metadata all at the same time. Its use is comparable to that of a Comtek or Lectro IFB.  While the IFB return frequency response is 12Khz the audio quality is superb as there is no noise or compander artifacts. The Zaxcom digital system has much lower distortion than its analog counterparts.

The boom op can use the private line function that switches the receivers output to a mixer input that is routed just to the production sound mixers headphones.

As David posted the battery life is very good. It is a minimum of 8 continuous hours with phantom power operational. We do now make our own batteries so they will always be available. As part of the power equation, an important feature of the TRX992 is that its phantom power supply is rated for a full 10ma of current. Microphones that are used with the TRX992 handle transients like gun shots in a more realistic way than plug on transmitters with limited 48V current capability.

Because the TRX992 has a screw in whip antenna and a relatively large ground plane consisting of the TRX992 case it is our best radiator. The RF range of this unit is a good 500 feet under normal conditions. (the case could be made that with back up recording the range is infinite) For comparison purposes the range is substantially better than plug on transmitters that when used on boom poles have no ground plane to work with.

I hope you will get a chance to take out a TRX992 on demo, make some recordings and compare the results to other systems. While no system is going to be 100% ideal I hope we have filled a need and introduced a new class of product that will find its way onto most feature and episodic productions.

Glenn Sanders

President Zaxcom Inc.

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Speaking of Plug on Transmitters and the Loon Pole Bat Wing, I have had to replace the cone on 2 separate plug on's in the past 2 years  as the locking mechanisms wear out from the added pressure of holding the plug in.  My boom ops have been big fans of the plug on transmitters and the wing, but they are now using a jumper cable.

Steve

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bigmaho   

Hi All,

I use wireless booms 100% of the time.  My main link is the Zaxcom 992.  I use it with the entire Zaxcom system, so my boom guy just needs the 992.  He monitors his own mic directly and I use the ifb to send him return audio (either my comments or any other mic he needs to hear).  Usually the range of the return feed equals the range of the 992, but on very rare occasions (once or twice a show) he'll grab a Comtek if the return feed isn't making it (usually if there are many concrete walls between me and him.  The UHF will get through but not the 2.4 gig).  Battery life is excellent.  We change once a day at lunch.  We don't use power management.  He leaves the xtr on at all times.  We get 8-9 hours per charge and the batteries charge in 3 hours.  I can control the gain of the 992 directly via the input gain trim on the Mix 12 (I hate to say it... but it's just like a hard wired mic).

As of now my 2nd booms use the older Zaxcom MMT, which is a digital 'butt plug'.  I mostly use a Loon Audio pole with a butt plug mount in the base that holds the xtr parallel to the pole.  I use a couple of rubber bands to hold it tight to the pole.  Otherwise there is some 'give' and eventually the connector will get noisy.  Rubber Bands solve that (as I imagine they would with the Lectro or any other butt plug.

My older MMT's are first generation so they don't have remote gain control or recoprding capability, but the audio quality and range is great (MUCH better than my old Audio Ltd/VDB-48v cable combination) or my Audio Ltd HX/Schoeps  'stick mic'.  I find the range of the MMT better than the 992 because the boom person isn't wearing it on their body.  Zax has an updated MMT in the works which will have ifb control and recording capability.  I'll buy the first one of those off the line when it's ready.  The 'butt plug' is just a slightly quicker rig than the 992 for a 2nd boom.  Just pick up the pole and go. 

All the best for the holidays!

Billy Sarokin

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Very cool. Thanks for the review, Billy -- I'm very impressed from what you say. I hadn't considered that the boom op could just monitor his mike directly, and if the only return feed is just the mixer's IFB comments, there's zero compromises. Very tempting!

--Marc W.

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Stickman   

I have been using a UH400a as part of my system for a while and it works great! I have been using the Ipower rechargeable 9v in my UH400 TX and am getting about 6 hours of life WITH phantom power! I just picked up a couple HM TX for my current job and I love them as well.

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A little off the subject but I have always thought that using a preamp like a Sound Devices MM1 before the wireless transmitter resulted in more natural dynamics, no doubt there are compromises in the preamp built into a tiny wireless transmitter.

Its interesting to hear that alot of people are having success going straight into one of these HM's etc

It certainly is a far simpler solution to make a shot boom-able in a hurry!

Jon Chiles

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bigmaho   

Hi Marc,

It depends on how you work.  Some mixer/boom ops like to hear the mix.  I like my guys to just hear their mic most of the time.  The 992 lets you monitor the mic directly, so it's probably the best possible feed for a boom person.  The 992 also has a clever 'mix' knob that lets the boom op control the mix between monitoring the mic and the ifb return feed.  All the way in one direction and he just hears his mic, all the way the other he just hears whatever I'm sending him (me, the mix, another someones radio, etc).  Usually my boom guy, Goerge Leong, tunes it so he just barely hears me.  That might have something to do with my asinine comments.  btw, there is a certain New York based mixer who is close to Zaxcom who bugged Glenn to put in the mix pot when he was designing the 992.  Rumor is that mixer is very happy with the outcome ;-)

I also use the 992 for remote recording.  In Morocco I'd send George wandering off through the souk (and away from the set and crew voices).  With the 992 he could wander as far as he wanted and then I'd copy or playback the audio off the SD card.  I'd also send my third out on occasion when they were running splinter units (usually doing drivebys).  He could cover them with the 992, he'd get a bump to mixer rate and the camera kids could use any of the time code slates because the 992 maintains set time code even when it's out of range of the sound cart.  Even the editors are happy.  It's win win win.

All the best for the holidays!

Billy Sarokin

Very cool. Thanks for the review, Billy -- I'm very impressed from what you say. I hadn't considered that the boom op could just monitor his mike directly, and if the only return feed is just the mixer's IFB comments, there's zero compromises. Very tempting!

--Marc W.

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Zack   

I mostly use a Loon Audio pole with a butt plug mount in the base that holds the xtr parallel to the pole.  I use a couple of rubber bands to hold it tight to the pole.  Otherwise there is some 'give' and eventually the connector will get noisy.  Rubber Bands solve that (as I imagine they would with the Lectro or any other butt plug.

Thanks for the info Billy, one question though.  I also use Loon Booms (love them).  Are you using the base + wing with your TX to where you need the rubber bands?  I just have a 11' penta boom at the moment, but am looking to get the base+wing attachment for a Lectro HM TX I'm getting soon.  Any issues you can foresee with this set up?

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bigmaho   

Hi Zack,

I use my Loon pole with the base attachment that holds the butt plug parallel to the pole.  I use a couple of rubber bands (or tape or a velcro strap) to secure the transmitter to the pole to keep the connector from taking all the weight.  I found over time if I didn't do that then the connector would start to get noisy.  I don't know it the Lectro would present any special issues.  If their butt plug is a little slimmer it might need a shim or wad of tape to keep it steady against the pole.

Best,

Billy

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I own a UH400A, though my boom ops often prefer the bulkier option of the boom plugged into a MM-1 feeding a beltpack, and usually a Senni G2 for talkback. The hardwired monitoring is hard to beat. Maybe if I had a really good boom-only IFB return it would be different, but most IFB systems (or the ones I have used?) are a bit limited in their dynamic range.

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