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Daniel Ignacio

Audio Limited A10 for talent.

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I’ve been hearing about the wonders of Audio Limited’s A10 system, but it’s almost exclusively been in the context of wireless booming. Would anyone like to talk about using the A10 for wiring talent? Curious about how it performs in that capacity, especially since it’s similarly priced to the Lectrosonics SRc receivers and LT transmitters.

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Daniel,

 

I’ve been using the A10 system here in LA since they came out, having replaced my Audio Ltd. 2040’s. I couldn’t be happier. We use them with DPA 4060’s almost exclusively, although occasionally we will use Sankens in certain situations. They sound fantastic, hide easily with smooth edges, have a simple and well thought out menu, and the range is good (although not quite as good as my old analog 2040 system, but then that’s digital for you).

let me know if you have any specific questions.

Regards,

Moe

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What types of batteries do you run on the transmitters? I've heard they can get hot with Ni-Mh rechargables. How's the range in feet/meters and what type of antennae are you using? How have the transmitters coped with sweat? Have you needed to use the recording feature, and if so, how are the files named? Is downloading the cards on the transmitters a lot of trouble at the end of the day?

I'm really intrigued by how insanely good the A10s have sounded in every demo I've heard. I'm a bit torn between the A10 system and wideband Lectros, so I'm in a similar place as Daniel. I'm going to get 4060s with any system I'm getting, love those lavs.

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Depending on what sort of jobs you are doing, the size of the transmitter could be a problem. I know Moe Chamberlain was one of the first to buy and use the A10 and as his post above states that he has had success with them. Moe works primarily in commercials but I imagine that if you were dealing with talent that has gotten used to the really small transmitters, like the SSM from Lectrosonics or Zaxcom's ZMT, they would not be too happy when presented with the larger transmitter. Maybe in the near future there will be a smaller A10?

 

As for the "insanely good" sound that Ilari Sivil mentions, this is absolutely true ---- they do sound great, far and above any other analog or hybrid wireless, but this is mostly due to the fact that the A10 is a pure digital wireless. I was a huge fan of the Audio, Ltd. analog wireless and really only stopped when I could no longer use them (my series 2000s were not even frequency agile!). That's when I was introduced to Zaxcom Digital Wireless and insanely great sound. My recommendation to looking into buying any new wireless would be to go all digital and go with Zaxcom that has an over 10 year head start over most of the other manufacturers.

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(although not quite as good as my old analog 2040 system, but then that’s digital for you)"

 

Range on a digital wireless can be better or worse than that of analog wireless. It depends on the system. At Zaxcom we have done a lot of work to make sure that the transmission is as bullet proof as it can be. RF Reflections often cause the majority of dropouts and can cause the transmission to be very "fragile" in many circumstances. This is why we have different modulations to fit each environment with the best range and drop out protection.  "Insanely good"  audio quality is not uncommon to digital wireless. You have to work really hard to make digital wireless sound bad. The most important thing at this point is the limiter distortion of the transmitter. This is something we at Zaxcom have eliminated with Neverclip and this is a dominant factor when discussing wireless audio quality. Other things to look at is remote control range of the transmitter, the ability for the transmitter to play back audio from the pack in order to re-record in real time at the sound cart or sound bag, integration of remote control that works over 100s of feet,  bodypack size, weight, heat output and  no need to time code jam a pack  from a cable are all factors that should be looked at in a purchase decision.

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Well, I’ll respond to the original questions first.

First, I use lithium AA batteries, so no comment on whether or not rechargeable batteries get hot. I’ve not noticed the A10 transmitters getting hot at all, nor have we had any complaints from talent in that regard.

Second, when judging range around LA, one must factor in the fact that it’s a big place. Sometimes it’s great, other times it’s so-so. But that’s true of all wireless systems, regardless of brand. Having said that, after some initial tweaking, I’ve found the range (distance) to be well within my satisfaction, all things considered. For instance, just last week we were working in the LA Coliseum, with four talent running all over the stadium. We were forced to set up in the mouth of the tunnel (all who’ve shot there know this dilemma). We experienced no drop outs the entire day, despite our talent being 100 yards away at times (perhaps further). However, I’ve also filmed out in Van Nuys where 50 feet was about it. But like I said, that was true with my 2040’s as well. The point is, I’ve noticed the range to be about the same as my analog system. Sometimes better, sometimes not.

Regarding antennas, I’m using the Wisycom “shark fins”.

As for putting the transmitters on talent, we have had a very hot summer here, and I can report back that they often come back to us dripping wet. No issues. Take out the batteries, let everything dry out as you normally would. They’ve never stopped working yet, so I can’t say it’s not a problem that I’ve experienced.

As for the recording capabilities of the A10 system, that feature is not something I can report on, since it’s still a patent dispute here in the US.

I could go on and on about how great these radio mics sound, how well built they are and how well thought out the menu system is, but I’ll paraphrase what a great mixer once told me about radio mics: whatever system you end up buying is the BEST that’s made, because that’s the only way you’ll be able to justify the purchase to yourself. So, having said that, the A10’s are the BEST!

 

Regards,

 

Moe

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49 minutes ago, Moesound said:

...

I’ll paraphrase what a great mixer once told me about radio mics: whatever system you end up buying is the BEST that’s made, because that’s the only way you’ll be able to justify the purchase to yourself. 

...

 

Great quote!

 

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Thank you, Moe, for your followup post to answer the questions coming from our members. Since it seems there are only a few people in the US that have purchased the relatively new A10, your detailed real world report is very much appreciated.

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Thank you @Moesound!

 

On 9/11/2018 at 10:57 AM, Ilari Sivil said:

I'm a bit torn between the A10 system and wideband Lectros, so I'm in a similar place as Daniel.

 

Another thing that makes me consider the A10 over Lectrosonics’s wideband offerings is the ability to change transmitter settings via Bluetooth. Wondering what you think about that, Ilari.

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Not sure if this is too picky or anything, but looking at the specs of the LTD compared to Zaxcom (ZMT3 specifically) gets about 4Khz more of dynamic range. According to the specs the A10 transmits 40-20Khz and the ZMT3 goes to 16Khz. 

 

I tried to find information on other versions of the Zaxcom transmitters and Lectrosonics but couldn't find anything on them.

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36 minutes ago, Erob said:

Not sure if this is too picky or anything, but looking at the specs of the LTD compared to Zaxcom (ZMT3 specifically) gets about 4Khz more of dynamic range. According to the specs the A10 transmits 40-20Khz and the ZMT3 goes to 16Khz. 

...

 

That's not dynamic range; that's frequency response.

 

Keep in mind that specs are created so you can admire the handiwork of the advertising department.

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Regarding the Bluetooth feature of the A10’s, we use it all the time. It’s quite handy for all the obvious reasons, and yes, we’ve used it during shots. Mostly we use it to put the TX to sleep or adjust the LF without having to bother the talent. 

But while this feature is very cool, the range is not. Perhaps 10 to 15 feet. This has been my experience on my iPhone; other devices may improve distance. 

 

Regards,

Moe

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44 minutes ago, John Blankenship said:

 

That's not dynamic range; that's frequency response.

 

Keep in mind that specs are created so you can admire the handiwork of the advertising department.

 

 

You are correct, I misspoke there.

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7 hours ago, Erob said:

Not sure if this is too picky or anything, but looking at the specs of the LTD compared to Zaxcom (ZMT3 specifically) gets about 4Khz more of frequency response. According to the specs the A10 transmits 40-20Khz and the ZMT3 goes to 16Khz.  (edited for clarity)

 

Not picky at all and a great thing to point out.

 

Limiting the frequency response of the Zaxcom wireless to 16KHz was a conscious decision we made along time ago and one of the best ones we made when defining our system. With the limited RF bandwidth available for a wireless mic channel (200KHz at the time) there were many decisions to be made in order to provide the best transmission possible. Transmission reliability, modulation type, audio quality, RF bandwidth, audio bandwidth, sample rate and other factors must be carefully balanced for the best results. In the world of production sound there is no content generated by any actor above 16KHz. To not waste bandwidth transmitting content that does not exist was and is still today a no brainer. The benefits are enhanced transmission reliability (better range/fewer dropouts) and higher audio quality for the content below 16KHz.  We have never had any user question the 16KHz limitation in the 16 years the system has been available. I would not change a thing.

 

In the FM analog wireless domain all transmission systems compress and expand the audio. This results in lost audio fidelity. In the digital domain we have much better control to make it as close to a hard wire as we can get.

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Thanks for the insight @Moesound! I was also about to ask about the bluetooth app. Does the receiver frequency change when you Bluetooth a change on the transmitter? I think 10ft is perfectly fine for inconspicuosly changing something, less intrusive than a dweedle tone if the talent needs to really focus.

To respond to @Daniel Ignacio, I sort of consider the bluetooth remote comparable to the dweedle tones on Lectro systems, which have been an awesome feature with handling talent.  I don't always get gain settings or frequencies right on the first go, so it's great to be able to change them without having to go under people's clothes.

Personally, I really care about the remaining 4kHz, but that's also a matter of taste and use cases. I like having the highs there. I hear a difference when it's not full range, even on dialogue. There are overtones up there, which can be essential to have, especially for SFX recording or music. Just yesterday, I needed to record a grand piano with wireless, and I'll probably need to do similar things again. Looking forward to that, actually!  For dialogue use alone and for the technical aspects, I totally get limiting the audio bandwidth to 16kHz. It makes a ton of sense, and I've heard great stuff recorded on Zaxcom gear. I'm just really, really drawn to getting audio up to 20kHz on wireless.

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2 hours ago, Ilari Sivil said:

There are overtones up there, which can be essential to have, especially for SFX recording or music. Just yesterday, I needed to record a grand piano with wireless, and I'll probably need to do similar things again. 

 

But you don’t record music or sfx with wireles, right? But certainly the claim: „ rivals a cable“ is not true

 

7 hours ago, glenn said:

In the FM analog wireless domain all transmission systems compress and expand the audio. This results in lost audio fidelity. In the digital domain we have much better control to make it as close to a hard wire as we can get.

 

So you are saying Zaxcom radio systems do not compress audio at all? They transmit 32kHz audio uncompressed?

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18 minutes ago, Constantin said:

But you don’t record music or sfx with wireles, right? But certainly the claim: „ rivals a cable“ is not true 


I do when it's required, and I did record music on wireless yesterday. The job I was on needed me to record a grand piano without mics in frame, could not have done it cabled. Hid everything on the underside of the lid of the piano and they shot from the other side.

By the way, didn't you have an A10-TX and an A10-RX on sale a while back? How did you like them when you used them?

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2 hours ago, Ilari Sivil said:


I do when it's required, and I did record music on wireless yesterday. The job I was on needed me to record a grand piano without mics in frame, could not have done it cabled. Hid everything on the underside of the lid of the piano and they shot from the other side.

 Oh ok, that makes sense. 

 

I still do have that for sale, by the way. 

I liked it, overall. Build quality feels great, sound is fine, range is ok. Bluetooth range is terrible, though. I don’t get why that is. On the Tentacles the range is much much greater. 

I have not tried the on-board recording. On a regular day I have no use for it, but would come in handy on some special occasions. 

 

Unlike others here in this thread I have not noticed „insanely good sound“ on any of the digital systems I‘ve tried and that includes Zaxcom and Audio Ltd. The noise associated with the algorithm (or what I think is the combined noise from the preamp/converter/[de-]compression algorithm) makes all digital systems somewhat noisey compared to others. In return of course you always get the fullrange sound. Or no sound at all. It seems to be a matter of personal opinion which is better. 

 

I decided to sell this, because I came to the view that it’s no ideal to combine different systems. 

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I normally wouldn't jump into a thread where users are asking other users about a particular piece of gear, but since Jeff and Glenn from Zaxcom (a direct competitor) jumped here, so will I.

 

On 9/12/2018 at 8:16 PM, glenn said:

In the world of production sound there is no content generated by any actor above 16KHz.

 

Based on the comment above from Glenn from Zaxcom, I believe Audio Limited (and Sound Devices) have very different philosophies when it comes to audio performance. For applications using the A10 wireless, users are not limited to solely (speech) content generated by an actor. Audio sources on the A10-TX are not limited to bandwidth-limited lavalier microphones designed for speech. We regularly see users connect high-performance condenser microphones to the A10-TX for speech and other sources, including sound effects. The A10 system operates at 44.1 kHz internally, and the system has linear response to 20 kHz.

 

As Glenn mentioned, fitting digital data into the limited RF spectrum is a challenge, and a balance needs to be found. The A10's 44.1 kHz sampling rate was chosen specifically because it saved a few percent of bandwidth versus a 48 kHz system. 32 kHz audio sampling (16 kHz bandwidth) was a compromise Audio Limited didn't want to make.

 

Remember that the microphone preamplifier and A/D converter at the wireless transmitter may well be the only preamplifier and A/D in the entire audio chain. That is a benefit of digital. Audio Limited recognized that and didn't want to compromise audio performance.

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Jon, I think it is totally appropriate for you to jump in here, please do not hesitate to participate in these discussions. I encourage everyone to be part of these discussions including manufacturers and dealers, engineers, creators and designers ----  the only limits I put on companies and those working for the companies only applies when people enter into general posts with full on advertising and promotion for a given product. This is something which has been abused in the past by a few companies which is unfair to those companies that have paid advertising on the site. 

 

Now, as to the topic at hand, Jon's clarification on sample rate and overall  frequency response of the A10 wireless is significant and is, as Glenn Sanders pointed out, something which had to be considered very carefully when designing a pure digital wireless system. It is also true that frequency response alone is only one of many very important aspects of a wireless system. Most people know that I am not really a numbers kind of guy  ----  for me it is all about how it sounds. I have listened to many of the most commonly used wireless systems (un-named but I think we all know) that spec out with a frequency response of 20 to 20K but to my ear don't sound very good. If I was in need of discovering a pure digital wireless system today, specific frequency response numbers would not be my main focus. I would be looking at the various features and functions, the stability of the RF modulation and most importantly how it performs in the real world, how it sounds.

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"Based on the comment above from Glenn from Zaxcom, I believe Audio Limited (and Sound Devices) have very different philosophies when it comes to audio performance."

 

We have only one "philosophy" when it comes to our products. Make it insanely great. Invent, innovate and give the customer an experience they can not get from any other piece of gear.  Zaxcom wireless is in no way "Limited" to speech or performance from an actor. 1000s of sound effects, and musical recordings have been made with outstanding results.  Doing this without transmitting the wasted  content above 16KHz that limits transmission distance and RF performance is a major advantage of the Zaxcom system. Our customers demand the security of recording wireless that will not break up when transmission is difficult due to reflections or interference. Zaxcom has this covered like no other.
 

More important than a systems audio cut off frequency,  Zaxcoms Neverclip with its elimination of limiter distortion is an important factor in providing the best audio quality from a wireless microphone.    As you point out Jon  "Remember that the microphone preamplifier and A/D converter at the wireless transmitter may well be the only preamplifier and A/D in the entire audio chain."    If the transmitter limiter is in play the audio is distorted throughout the chain. Zaxcom wireless with NeverClip eliminates this problem and provides real fidelity that matters.

 

Glenn

 

 

 

 

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I think we can agree that at this point all the major manufacturers of wireless make incredible products with outstanding audio quality, so it all comes down to personal preference of features and, strangely, irrational sympathy. I always wonder why I sometimes prefer one company over another even though both make great products, and it seems that this is a common thing (just read the canon, nikon, sony forums ; )

 

back to topic, some of the features of the A10 look fantastic to me (balanced P48!) and I'm sure they sound great. Would love to get some, but can't justify new wireless at the moment.

chris

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I just wish we could move away from expressions like „insanely great audio“. This kind of hyperbolic rhetoric really is not going to help anyone. 

And in my personal opinion there is not one single wireless system that actually achieves even great audio, let alone insanely great. Sorry to say this, but to me both Zaxcom and Audio Ltd. so not live up to „insanel great“. Nor does Lectro or Sennheiser or whoever. 

With both systems I can hear artifacts from compression noise (data compression). I couldn’t care less about the presence or absence of a limiter as long as there are compression sounds. Please, don’t pretend like there isn’t. I can hear it in the final product, too. Post can’t even properly get rid of it. 

 

So I think we need to scale back the rhetoric a bit. Yes, the new generation wireless systems sound good, much better than their predecessors. But there is still lots and lots of room for improvement. 

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