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Bubblebee Sidekick & Comtek 216 issue


EnotsMedia
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Anyone using the Bubblebee Sidekick (ver 1) with a Comtek 216 RX?  It appears it doesn’t want to play nice. No sound at all coming through. Tried multiple RX’s, no luck. Sidekick seems to be functioning, tried direct connection to headphone out of mixer (664) and also works connected to iPhone. So unit is functioning. BB says the Sidekick has a “universal 1/8” jack” and looks to be TRRS ....not TRS.. and current unit is “Left Ear/ Mono.” Using a Mono adapter on the Sidekick  “fixes” the issue but not ideal or what i expected. Comtek 216 Rx is mono out ...so what am I missing? My dealer is looking into the issue at the moment but I’d thought maybe I could dig up some more info w/ the JWSound brain trust. ....

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Thanks Rado...this all makes sense in words...but where are these options located- Not on the BB site.(or my usual suspects site) Sure i know I can get anything custom made..Why would it be wrong to think a MONO earpiece would not work on an MONO output -comtek? Rado-do you/ have you used the Sidekick w/ comtek 216? If you can please post a pic of the magical cables you speak of. Thanks! 

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Comtek's headphone output is set up to play out of phase in stereo headphones – this is their workaround for making their unbalanced headphone amp work for both mono and stereo connectors. Bubblebee likely sums the tip and ring of the headphones as 99.999% of trs jacks are wired in phase (and if stereo, it'll sum mono), and audio 101 tells us that when you sum an in phase signal with an out of phase signal you get nothing.

 

Using a mono adapter is the standard procedure for making stereo wired headphones play in phase with the Comtek mono connector.

 

This is a Comtek issue, use an adapter, or modify either your comteks or headphones/BB ear piece. It isn't Bubblebee's problem they went with the industry standard.

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2 hours ago, Shastapete said:
2 hours ago, Shastapete said:

Comtek's headphone output is set up to play out of phase in stereo headphones – this is their workaround for making their unbalanced headphone amp work for both mono and stereo connectors. Bubblebee likely sums the tip and ring of the headphones as 99.999% of trs jacks are wired in phase (and if stereo, it'll sum mono), and audio 101 tells us that when you sum an in phase signal with an out of phase signal you get nothing

Thank you for this explanation. Helpful. 

2 hours ago, Shastapete said:

 

Using a mono adapter is the standard procedure for making stereo wired headphones play in phase with the Comtek mono connector.

BUT....if you purchased a single ear earpiece, labeled MONO....would it be silly to think it would NOT work with a Comtek? - see my frustration? It appears that there isn’t any Sidekick variety  that works w/ a Comtek w/o using a mono adapter. Using an adapter,  in my professional opinion, Using a mono adapter is the standard procedure for making stereo wired headphones play in phase with the Comtek mono connection  adds a break/ failure point in the system. I would think that with the few IFB systems we use (Lectro/ SENN/ COMTEK) that there should be a some kind of notice from BB that it will not play nice w/ Comteks w/o an adapter. I have a hard time thinking that  BB doesn’t know  this is an issue.  Obviously I’ve reached out to BB, and my Usual Suspects.... radio silence. Full disclosure...I’m a HUGE BB fan...I use SO many of their products on a daily basis. Fantastic design, materials and functionality. I was SO stoked to have a Show to utilize the Sidekick on and I feel a bit let down. 

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  • 1 month later...

Hi all, we are aware of this issue. As is standard practice, our mono earpiece is set up to sum the ring and tip to allow a stereo signal to be played as mono, as most professional IEM receivers are set up to output in either mono or stereo. It transpires that the whilst the Comtek PR-216 outputs a mono signal, it will output a stereo signal by playing the mono signal out of phase. This is where the issue emanates from - as our Sidekick Mono will sum a stereo signal, which in the case of the PR-216 will result in phase cancellation. A TRS to mono adaptor should sort this issue. 

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Just wanted to follow up and say that the team at Bubblebee were VERY good about reaching out to me with my concerns/ issues I had with their product and Comtek (as was my “usual suspect dealer”.) The Sidekick sounded SO nice, clean and clear. Absolutely comfortable to wear (the talent forgot they even had in), and it is completely hidden on camera. 

 

Unfortunately putting a  $2 adapter in between two $300 pieces of professional audio equipment to get them to work nicely doesn’t bode well with me. In a pinch sure...as SOP no thanks. I returned my unit for a refund. 

I would love to hear what Doc Justice and the Team at Halter Tech have to say about this. Obviously there’s two ways to go about the wiring  and HT went the other way on a similar product that I use all the time. https://www.haltertechnical.com/field-monitor.html 

What decisions made them wire the field monitor they way did, TS, and INCLUDE  a TRS adapter? 

 

I hope that this isn’t coming across as combative. I’m just curious....but we all know how that worked out for the cat. I am not hating on Bubblebee, the Lav Concealers, the WindKiller, and WindBubbles are my daily go to’s. Fantastic stuff. 

 

 

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This is the way. adapt to all the crazy signal flow. When it doesnt work we make it work, and in this case if it were me and the product at hand was important enough i would customize this with a ts connector to be compatible with my comteks and problem solved. But i know its personal preference

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On 10/22/2020 at 11:26 AM, EnotsMedia said:

Thanks Rado...this all makes sense in words...but where are these options located- Not on the BB site.(or my usual suspects site) Sure i know I can get anything custom made..Why would it be wrong to think a MONO earpiece would not work on an MONO output -comtek? Rado-do you/ have you used the Sidekick w/ comtek 216? If you can please post a pic of the magical cables you speak of. Thanks! 

I dont use comteks anymore.

2 hours ago, EnotsMedia said:

 

Just wanted to follow up and say that the team at Bubblebee were VERY good about reaching out to me with my concerns/ issues I had with their product and Comtek (as was my “usual suspect dealer”.) The Sidekick sounded SO nice, clean and clear. Absolutely comfortable to wear (the talent forgot they even had in), and it is completely hidden on camera. 

 

Unfortunately putting a  $2 adapter in between two $300 pieces of professional audio equipment to get them to work nicely doesn’t bode well with me. In a pinch sure...as SOP no thanks. I returned my unit for a refund. 

I would love to hear what Doc Justice and the Team at Halter Tech have to say about this. Obviously there’s two ways to go about the wiring  and HT went the other way on a similar product that I use all the time. https://www.haltertechnical.com/field-monitor.html 

What decisions made them wire the field monitor they way did, TS, and INCLUDE  a TRS adapter? 

 

I hope that this isn’t coming across as combative. I’m just curious....but we all know how that worked out for the cat. I am not hating on Bubblebee, the Lav Concealers, the WindKiller, and WindBubbles are my daily go to’s. Fantastic stuff. 

 

 

 

I would not and I dont think people use comteks for IEms. plenty of other "better sound" quality choices. Even Sennheiser g3 IEM is prefereble.

Tools have their purpose.

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The PR-216 is a much more fascinating device when you dive into the wiring of it. I ran into the same troubles that Bubblebee is experiencing when we came out with the very first Field Monitor.

 

The Field Monitor originally had a TRRS connector on it. The thought was that this would ensure it would be compatible not just with all IFBs, but with phones and laptops and anything else. The PR-216 proved to be the exception, and would not pass audio. That’s when I reach out to our friends at Comtek to work with them on their signal path.

 

It’s not just that the two poles are out of phase, there is much more going on in the wiring. For example, did you know that there is an Option-7 for the receiver as well as the transmitter? This allows the PR-216 to RECEIVE PHANTOM POWER to power it instead of a battery. They don’t advertise this feature well, but it’s to be used on permanent installs of speakers in locations where running a cable is problematic. I say that as just an example of the unorthodox nature of the headphone jack.

 

Anyway, after figuring out that combining signals to a single earbud just flat out won’t work on the PR-216, we came out with the second generation Field Monitor (the one that’s in stores today). For the people who really want to listen to two channels on audio in a single ear, we include a mono-stereo adapter in the package. This is mostly for camera operators who don’t have menu control over what they’re monitoring, or for dailies editors who hate headphones.

 

Unfortunately, as Comtek themselves confirmed, this was the only solution. I suppose if you want your Bubblebee Sidekick to work exclusively with the PR-216 you could cut off the existing connector and solder on a new connector that is truly mono and not combining signals.

 

Moving forward, Bubblebee will have to make a similar decision that we had to. They can either offer the Sidekick as is, and tell PR-216 users to use an adapter, or they can alter the wiring to be true mono and have stereo users need the adapter. Either way it’s not ideal, it’s just a matter of figuring out which appeals to the highest number of customers.

 

This is also where I point out that the Sidekick is indeed an awesome product, and Poul and Caleb already know I’m big fans of their work. 

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Rado-

Absolutely agree on the sound quality of Comteks. BUT, just so we are CLEAR because these terms are sometimes used ~mistakenly ~  interchangeably and not to get lost in translation. 

 

IFB- is a monitoring and cueing system used in television, filmmaking, video production, and radio broadcast for one-way communication from the director or assistant director to on-air talent.

 

IEM: -devices used by musicians, audio engineers, and audiophiles to listen to music or to hear a personal mix of vocals and stage instrumentation for live performance or recording studio mixing.

 

So one of these NEEDS to be high quality sound, the other not so much. 

 

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-Doc- Appreciate the insight. When I had my issues I stared at my HT Field Monitors and was like ...these are the same product- doing the same thing. Why you not work? I mean it took all but 5 min to figure out my issue with the Sidekick/ Comtek , but the WHY has been much longer and interesting... 

 

- quote -

 

~For the people who really want to listen to two channels on audio in a single ear, we include a mono-stereo adapter in the package. This is mostly for camera operators who don’t have menu control over what they’re monitoring, or for dailies editors who hate headphones.~

 

I’d like to hear of more examples when two channels in a single ear is needed. As a mixer, I’m in control of what is sent - and thus heard - in the IFB. Is the answer as simple as it sounds...no mixer no control? Maybe it’s a different workflow for sound mixers across the pond, I don’t know, just curious. 

 

I’d be willing to bet that,  at least in the US, the  top two IFB’s  used by Production Sound Mixers (not IEM’s) are Lectrosonics and COMTEK. Not that there aren’t others (Zaxcom / Wisycom, etc) but Lectro/ Comtek are ubiquitous in my experience in the field. 


My decision that led me to the Sidekick was that  I needed an “invisible” cueing system for the talent. Even with the Comtek it sounded FANTASTIC, and was INVISIBLE. It was just the use of the adapter that was the issue. 

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1 hour ago, EnotsMedia said:

My decision that led me to the Sidekick was that  I needed an “invisible” cueing system for the talent. Even with the Comtek it sounded FANTASTIC, and was INVISIBLE. It was just the use of the adapter that was the issue. 

Why not just solder the right connector/wiring? Or am I missing something here?

 

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16 hours ago, EnotsMedia said:

Unfortunately putting a  $2 adapter in between two $300 pieces of professional audio equipment to get them to work nicely doesn’t bode well with me. In a pinch sure...as SOP no thanks. I returned my unit for a refund. 

 

Seems like odd logic, as the connector on the end of your BBI sidekick is likely of a similar cost price, as is the female jack on the Comtek. Connectors are cheap. You could have bought a bunch of them, or taken the sidekick somewhere to replace the TRS to a TS jack. Would you have felt better about a $100 gold-plated TS adapter? 

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2 hours ago, Vincent R. said:

Why not just solder the right connector/wiring? Or am I missing something here?

 

Well...right 100%. But when time is money and I’ve already spent $300 on an earpiece.....have you SEEN the Sidekick ? The wires are thin as silk.  

39 minutes ago, Conor said:

 

Seems like odd logic, as the connector on the end of your BBI sidekick is likely of a similar cost price, as is the female jack on the Comtek. Connectors are cheap. You could have bought a bunch of them, or taken the sidekick somewhere to replace the TRS to a TS jack. Would you have felt better about a $100 gold-plated TS adapter? 

So in your professional opinion, a $2 adapter is BETTER then a soldered connection? Yikes! 
Adding an adapter, 100% adds a point of failure. This is logic. 

Again. As a professional was able to  solved the problem in field and move on. I did not purchase the product we the intention of having to ADAPT it to my IFB system. Nowhere on BBI’s site or my USUAL SUSPECTS had any information about this issue. 

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59 minutes ago, EnotsMedia said:

Well...right 100%. But when time is money and I’ve already spent $300 on an earpiece.....have you SEEN the Sidekick ? The wires are thin as silk.  

1 hour ago, Conor said:

I have had one in my hands to check it out, didn't check it for solderability though. But assuming it is, which most likely is the case, it will take you 5 minutes to do so, and you can use your beloved headset. We solder plugs on 300/600 usd lavs all the time to adapt them to different systems, so not a big deal. 

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17 minutes ago, Vincent R. said:

I have had one in my hands to check it out, didn't check it for solderability though. But assuming it is, which most likely is the case, it will take you 5 minutes to do so, and you can use your beloved headset. We solder plugs on 300/600 usd lavs all the time to adapt them to different systems, so not a big deal. 

I do not doubt your soldering skills. Mine are more like, sure I can do it, but I certainly am not wearing my trademark smile. I was never hired based on my soldering skill set. Remote location, gear goes down and something needs soldered. I got you fam, my solder kit is ALWAYS with me. 
 

And...if it was that easy to solder why wouldn’t BBI offer that as option? Simple solution right,  It only takes 5 minutes...apparently. 

 

the whole point of this forum is share knowledge and ask questions. 
 

 No other user has chimed in that has used the Comtek PR216 and Sidekick. 

So. I am sharing information about a previously UNKNOWN issue with products that ~ some - of us use. This information will certainly help someone, I’m sure of it. 
 

The best answer anyone has is, fix it yourself or use an adapter. 
 

I’m sorry but but these are not the Driods you’re looking for....

 

I could not have checked more boxes when researching this product, I called and talked to my Usual Suspects about the application of the unit. I searched and watched all reviews about said product. I read and re read all of the information on the BBI site about said product. Comteks are certainly wired differently to say the least. I’m just saying if I was bringing a product to market I certainly would’ve tested all compatibility with IFB’s that are WIDELY used in our industry. Clearly Doc Justice did and chose a different path with the Field Monitor. 
 

information is power. 

 

That’s all I’m saying my dude. 

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2 hours ago, EnotsMedia said:

And...if it was that easy to solder why wouldn’t BBI offer that as option? Simple solution right,  It only takes 5 minutes...apparently. 

 

I guess if there are loads and loads of complaints, concerns or returns, they would have. 

2 hours ago, EnotsMedia said:

 No other user has chimed in that has used the Comtek PR216 and Sidekick. 

 

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10 hours ago, EnotsMedia said:

I’d like to hear of more examples when two channels in a single ear is needed. As a mixer, I’m in control of what is sent - and thus heard - in the IFB. Is the answer as simple as it sounds...no mixer no control? Maybe it’s a different workflow for sound mixers across the pond, I don’t know, just curious. 

 

I'm referring to people who aren't necessarily monitoring IFB audio. Camera operators (typically in unscripted environments) usually monitor the audio being delivered from stereo hops. The adapter will allow them to hear both channels of the camera's output without the need for the camera itself to be set to mix these signals to mono. This depends on the camera, of course, but it's a good failsafe for any cameras that don't have the ability to switch or mix channels in a menu.

 

The same goes for dailies editors, loggers, assistant editors, or anyone else that needs to quickly confirm two channels and wants to keep an ear open or not where over-the-head cans. Plug the Field Monitor into a computer with the adapter, and get both channels in a single ear. Otherwise, they would only hear the left channel.

 

And of course, there are some stereo IFB systems that don't allow for mixing down to mono either. Users of the Sennheiser IEM or the Shure PSM series can use the adapter to hear both channels in a single ear, if they choose.

 

Basically, the adapter is included for flexibility. It seems to me that the highest number of users monitor a single audio channel with the Field Monitor, but with the adapter we were able to not leave anybody unserved.

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