Do you have a favorite superpower? Maybe it’s the ability to fly, have super strength or travel through time. Maybe it’s simply to not feel like absolute garbage after eating a Big Mac. Whatever the wish it’s fun to think about and doubly exciting if it was actually gifted. That’s what one of my favorite audio companies does on a daily basis – they try to conjure something that will benefit the sound community and bring it to fruition.
Lectrosonics opened its doors in 1971 and their products have been in my audio bag since first figuring out quality isn’t a choice but a responsibility. A few of my favorite pieces have been the UCR411a and UM400a, the VR Field Receiver, and the IFBT4 – oldies but goodies. Honestly, I’m too broke to upgrade to pieces like the SMQV and SMV but some of their latest offerings have made me happy I’ve stuck it out before upgrading.
In 2015, Lectro introduced the SSM, a ridiculously small wireless transmitter that can fit into the palm of a baby’s hand. It’s another piece to their Digital Hybrid technology line that features wide tuning. It accompanies the LR, LT and LMb released in 2014 which also carries wide tuning. So with any natural progression, they updated their SR series receivers with the SRc and SRc5P with the similar specs. We talked with Karl Winkler of Lectrosonics to get all the details so you don’t have to… oh, and we looked at some other new gear they’ve introduced over the last few months as well.
I’m sure this has been in the works for quite a while. What went into the upgrade for the new SR?
The SRc and SRc5P is everything we’ve learned up until now which we put into this package. We first introduced the dual channel slot receiver back in 2007 and it’s gone through a number of revisions. From the SR to the SRa and SRb and now the SRc. When we first envisioned it we thought of it strictly as a slot receiver for cameras, but people, particularly location sound mixers, started to adapt it for their bag work. The demand of SR’s performance increased along with it. With each one of the updates we added higher RF [radio frequency] performance and lower noise. With the success of the LR, we took that basic front end design and put it into the SRc and SRc5P.Before diving deeper – what’s the difference between the SRc and SRc5P?
The only difference between the two is that the SRc5P has a 5 pin out board connector designed to be compatible with the Sony cameras which don’t allow the second analog input in the slot connector. It has to be routed externally. We’ve seen the popularity of the SRc5P slowly waning over the years, but to be honest, if you were to get only one, the SRc5P is more universal.
Can you explain what Lectrosonics wide tuning range entails?
With the ever dwindling spectrum, the idea of wider tuning range has come up more and more in the past few years. We did some heavy R&D on the subject and determined that there are significant tradeoffs when offering a wider front end passband on a receiver. Mainly, too wide of an “open window” means that the receiver sees a multitude of undesired signals, namely TV broadcasts which are very high power. Thus, we determined that about 75 MHz was the ideal combination of wide tuning and high performance. We decided to have these newer units cover three of our standard 25.5 MHz “blocks”, thus ensuring compatibility with our older equipment as well.
Like the LR you’ve added tracking filters to the new SR.
Yes. Tracking filters are an additional filter stage in the front end that tunes out band information. This way when you have outside channels near the frequencies you’ve chosen the tracking filters will knock down that RF energy before it gets into the receiver.
We’ve had tracking filters in our units for a long time. The UCR411a probably being the most well-known example, but the thing about the UCR411a is that it’s big and heavy by today’s standards. The new SRc series is designed to work in bags and in tough RF environments where previous SR generations didn’t hold up as well. The performance of the SRc is very close to the UCR411a and in a much smaller, lighter package.
So is this the end of the UCR411a?
No, I wouldn’t say that. The demand for wide tuning range has been with us for a while. We have a number of products out there with wide tuning range – the LR, the Venue 2 – so this is one more receiver with that capability. The 411a is a classic and likely to be around for a while, yet.One of the new features I enjoy is the Infrared Port.
Definitely. The convenience of the IR port makes for a much quicker setup. Once you’ve picked the proper channel on the receiver you can quickly beam it into your transmitter. It saves a lot of time and button pushing.
You took it one step further and added a Smart Tune feature as well.
They do. The SRc and SRc5P has a step by step process like a wizard that takes you through setting up the two channels very quickly. It will do a scan and pick the frequency for channel one and then suggest for you to beam it to the transmitter through IR before continuing to tune channel two. This way, someone with very little experience will be able use the Smart Tune process and end up with good frequencies that will work well at the location based on real world scanning.
I’m glad you brought up skill level. It’s great seeing Lectrosonics take that more into consideration lately.
We’re seeing more and more the need for things to be quick and convenient. Location sound has multiple responsibilities on the job site so we’re trying to make our products easy and confidence inspiring. Features like Smart Tune should take some of the pressure off in order for you to get good results even if time is very short and the pressure is on.
Are the SRc and SRc5p SuperSlot capable?
They are. SuperSlot was introduced by Sound Devices as a universal open platform. It’s a wonderful idea. It definitely expands what you can do with slot receivers and slot equipment. The only product so far is the Sound Devices SL-6 which mates with the 688 mixer/recorder. With the SRb, we offered and upgrade to allow it to work with the SL-6 in terms of a data connection between the two. Now with the SRc series, this capability is built in from the factory.Speaking of built-in. Do we need to replace our accessories?
No. All available accessories for the SR Series can be used on the SRc and SRc5P which makes it a very powerful modular system that can be used for a lot of different things. We did change both circuit boards inside the receiver, and the top panel by adding the IR port, but the SRc is basically identical in size and dimensions as the previous models.
Did you give us any new compatibility modes for use with other transmitters?
We did. Our Digital Hybrid equipment has always had compatibility modes that allow you to use them with older Lectrosonics equipment and transmitters from a few of our competitors. We added an HDX compandor mode so it allows people to use the SRc with Sennheiser’s 2000 and Evolution series wireless transmitters. This is now the eighth mode we’ve introduced in the last ten or twelve years. It’s another expansion of our flexibilities and capabilities.
Can users just upgrade?
We’ve had a few people ask us but it’s not really economical. We would change everything about the unit except the body shell which is the least expensive part of the whole thing. This is really a new receiver with a lot of new capabilities.You’ve also updated your HM plug-on transmitter with the HMa. What’s new?
We just shipped out our first units in March after announcing it in January. It’s very similar evolution from the HM plug-on we had for five years now. We’ve added wide tuning range and the IR port for quick syncing like the LT. We’ve also added the USB port to the HMa which makes it updatable in the field to whoever wants to get the latest firmware. Users can download the firmware from our website and by using a utility app we provide they can upgrade right there on their own. There’s no more need to open the product up or go to a bench tech. The HMa has our standard transmitter of 100mW for the US and 50mW for the European version.Another product that’s flown somewhat under the radar is your IFB-VHF Wireless System.
A lot of our product development concentrates on the crowded and shrinking wireless spectrum we face. The idea behind the IFB system was to get you entirely out of the UHF spectrum. With VHF you’re going to get excellent range and good sound quality while at the same time you’re not crowding where you have your critical talent mics. It’s already been tested at the Rose Bowl and on news broadcasts at Grand Central Station and people have told us the range is as good as UHF even though it’s only 50mW. This is because the propagation characteristics of VHF are better than UHF and the new receiver is slight more sensitive than the UHF version. It’s another part of a suite of tools a sound person can utilize to get the job done despite a challenging environment.
Speaking of a suite of tools. What when into the update to Wireless Designer?
Wireless Designer was originally developed to be on the digital encrypted receiver platform where it does frequency scanning, frequency coordination and frequency motorizing. Since then it works with Venue 2 and the older Venue wide band units. We’ve added the ability to create or import lists of custom frequencies. This allows you to create frequencies that don’t’ exist within the system you are monitoring but are being used on site.
The import feature is powerfully because you can use a program like IAS (Intermodulation Analysis System) from Professional Wireless Systems to do all the preproduction frequency coordination that involves everything to be used on the job site. Then you can make an HTML report and Wireless Designer can import that report so you can bring all these other channels that might exist on site but are not necessarily part of your Lectrosonics system. From there, you can merge any Lectrosonics channels into the active channels for direct monitoring. It’s not just about Lectrosonics products talking to other Lectrosonics products but a more comprehensive approach that takes into count other products that will inevitably be on the job site.
What’s next for Lectrosonics?
I can’t talk specifics, but we are looking at a number of different places in the spectrum to tap into that the FCC has recently made available. We’re constantly in development and it really reflects how much we appreciate our users. They give us ideas. Some of those fly and some of them don’t. But the people who use Lectrosonics are not only vocal and respectful but they do come up with excellent ideas that make sense to them and ultimately make sense to us. We have a very active Facebook users group, for instance, and those discussions and dialogs have become valuable in our development process. We have deep appreciation for that, and look forward to future discussions.