Real World Experience with the System10 Pro
UHF Airspace Is Shrinking Soon!
The FCC is reducing the UHF space used by all wireless devices, by approximately 60%. There is great concern among all industries using wireless, about the reaming space, how it will be used, and who will get to use it.
The reason for the consolidation is money. There are two big reasons the government needs to raise money. The first is to pay for the tax holiday we received a couple of years ago. The second has to do with 9-11. The government learned a valuable lesson when none of the emergency services and government agencies could communicate when disaster struck New York. When the FCC made all wireless users vacate the 700MHz band, it was to make room for emergency services communication systems. The problem was, nobody has been able to purchase new radio equipment for 700MHz. The FCC will use some of the money generated by the auction of the 600MHz band, to offset the expense of the radio equipment needed by emergency service agencies.
You Gotta Fight…For Your Right…
A team from Audio Technica, including Jackie Green, Vice President of R&D & Engineering, has been on the front lines in Washington DC. They have been working arm in arm with other leading manufacturers (Shure, Sennheiser, Lectrosonics, etc), RF managers, broadcast and entertainment organizations, to educate the FCC and lobby for changes on our behalf. They have done an excellent job!
ASC Stays Informed!
Recently, I attended the SynAudCon “Making Wireless Work” seminar, in Newark, NJ. SynAudCon seminars are brand agnostic. These seminars focus upon proper system planning, design and execution. The strengths and weaknesses of analog, digital and hybrid wireless technologies operating in the VHF, UHF and GHz bands were examined and demonstrated in detail. Now, more than ever, it is important to have lots of experience and options in your audio tool box, especially outside of the UHF spectrum.
When the Audio Technica System10 Pro was released, I was skeptical to say the least. I actually laughed when AT’s national sales manager was in our office, telling me about the System10 Pro. I asked him if he was kidding. AT can’t be putting it’s eggs in that basket. He assured me the technology was solid. I agreed to give it a try, because I don’t know everything, and AT is a company with vast technical resources and had learned from everyone else’s mistakes.
Hearing Is Believing.
Our company had sold all of the proceeding systems from competing manufacturers. None of them performed exactly as advertised. Some of them were individually, in environments with little to no WiFi traffic. The solutions designed for larger channel counts wouldn’t work in the quantities advertised. One of them slowed down wireless networks and was unusable in spaces with lots of 2.4GHz traffic. We had to remove several of these systems when other businesses and residences, in close proximity to our customer’s facilities, added WiFi devices that were not there when we did our initial scan and installation. Had the wireless environment remained unchanged, those other systems would have been fine. We all know nothing remains the same, especially where wireless is concerned.
The first place I tried using the System10 Pro was at one of my church’s campuses. When the youth and children’s rooms were updated, I installed a competing 2.4GHz system. I did this for one reason. We were running out of UHF space. We had issues with it affecting WiFi. WiFi provides internet access to child check-in stations and internet access for Apple TVs to stream content to class rooms. The competitor’s engineering department and the church’s IT management company verified everything was configured correctly on all fronts. We still had issues because of the technology. So, I removed them. The System10 Pro was installed, synchronized and turned on. The system worked as claimed without affecting WiFi traffic. Sold. We have since installed many, many more System10 Pros in gyms, churches, martial arts facilities, health clubs, retirement homes and music venues, where it was applicable.
Our next install was a church installation in Pratt, KS. Pratt has lots of RF traffic, due to agriculture, oil, telecommunications and state radio, high power walkie-talkies, white space devices providing wireless internet and TV broadcasters. Over a period of two weeks, scanning revealed we would not find the sixteen reliable UHF channels required for eight wireless mics and eight wireless in-ear monitors. We consulted a third party RF specialist in the area. He confirmed UHF would not be an option in that location. The church told us two previous contractors had the same problems over the last few years. It was imperative the wireless in-ears work in the 600MHz band, because there were no options outside of UHF. Eight System 10 Pro systems were installed with six ATW-T1002 hand-held transmitters, two ATW-T1001 body pack transmitters with BP-894 headset microphones. The system was very easy to configure. We synchronized and calibrated the mics in couple of minutes. It took longer to read about the process and battery up than it did to do it. This was the first time in over ten years the church has had glitch and drop-out free performance from all of mics and in-ears, every Sunday.
Everyone expects electronic devices to look and feel good. TVs and phones are an example. People expect sleek, esthetically pleasing, and ergonomic transmitter options. One competing manufacturer proposes snapping belt pack transmitters inside of tall, bulky, desktop boundary microphones, to make them wireless. Assembling something can be an obstacle for non-technical users, who just want to set out a microphone, turn it on and speak. AT has provided a purpose built solutions for the System 10 Pro platform that look good and work well.
We have installed the cardioid condenser ATW-T1006 boundary mic transmitter in churches, on lecterns and communion tables. This is a much nicer solution than attaching a body pack transmitter to a desk-top mic, or inserting a body pack transmitter into a microphone case. The switch has multiple talk and mute modes. We generally set them up with “press to mute” mode. LEDs on the front and back indicate the switch mode, battery and charge status.
Recently, we did a job in a martial arts facility, where an electrician was to install a conduit and pull line for us to install a desktop paging microphone at the front desk. We arrived at the site. There was no conduit and no desire for us to cut through freshly finished walls, hard ceilings, and firewalls. Surface mounting a wire in Wiremold was definitely not an aesthetically pleasing option. We installed an ATW-T1007 desktop transmitter and an U857 cardioid condenser with 18” gooseneck. The lights and switches are the same as those on the ATW-T1006. The package looks great, has a solid feel, and provides more function than the customer originally expected, as a lectern mic for special events.
The ATW-T1002 hand-held transmitters have a solid feel and balance well in the hand. I have had an experience with other solutions with very heavy mic heads. In fact, I was holding one at InfoComm and it easily fell forward out of my hand. Children and elderly people with a soft grip would not be dropping the ATW-T1002 transmitter because of the lack of balance. In fact, I installed four hand-held systems in an assisted living retirement community without a worry.
I do not know the origins of the microphone element in the ATW-T1002. It would be nice to have polar pattern and tone options. The simple on/off/mute button on the bottom of the mic is great. It cannot be pushed accidentally while holding the mic by the handle. The spartan display and LEDs are easily at a glance. Many times, with other systems, we would received phone calls for a couple of weeks. Customers would complain that their new mics quit working while someone was talking. The problem was either battery related (no fault of the manufacturer) or a users thumb was on the menu button. Hand held transmitters were easily tuned to another channel. The ATW-T1002 can only be synchronized by opening the battery compartment sleeve. There is no way for the end user to change the settings while speaking into the mic. Very smart.
The ATW-T1001 body pack transmitters are built well. The power and mute switch is in a good spot, right on top. It is a push button type. Push once to mute/un-mute and hold to power on/off. My only initial complaint with the body pack is the battery cover door. The door can be removed completely from the body pack, therefor it can be broken or lost. That said, we have yet to replace a door since we began selling them.
The System10 Pro ATW-RU13 receivers are small devices, smaller than the ATW-T1001 body pack transmitter. One or two receivers may be inserted into the half-rack sized ATW-RC13 chassis. The receivers lock into place solidly. They eject with the push of a button, just enough to grab with your finger tips. The chassis is sturdy, on par with other quality installation solutions.
This is YUGE!
The ability to use the receivers in and out of the chassis adds more flexibility than any wireless system, costing several times more. The receivers may be located up to 300’ closer to the transmitters, via CAT5e. This is much preferred over using a pair of antennae and expensive low-loss RG8 and amplifier to feed the receivers, etc. There is no trade off in RF. There is no increase in noise floor. Noise floor is everything in wireless audio. It is as brilliant as it is cost effective.
The chassis faceplate provides a display and controls dedicated to each channel. The rear panel provides a dedicated audio control pot for each channel. The pots are somewhat inconvenient for an installer with big fingers. They are perfectly sized and placed for curious fingers. There are two audio outputs. Each channel has an RJ45 jack for remote mounting one or both receivers. A pair of RJ11 jacks allows units to be networked together for coordination. Of course, there is a DC power supply jack.
It’s All In There!
AT provides all of the essential jumper cables, receiver wall mounts and hardware to rack mount one unit, or two units side-by-side. I like ordering one SKU and having everything in one box. Nice Job. Some competitors still make us order all of the bits and pieces individually, which is a pain. That has bitten me at the most inopportune time. There is nothing like having to pay next day freight on a $20 item.
More To Come…
An Audio Technica engineer was also at SynAudCon. We spoke between classes about the future of the System10 Pro line. There have been numerous feature requests since it was introduced. AT is going to add some of these features. I gave him my top feature requests. I would like the ability to swap microphone elements, to accommodate stage monitor configurations and performer needs. I would also like to have a point-to point wireless direct box transmitter option. Currently, I am installing these systems in schools, where an existing analog mixer, used at the gym scoring table, needs to send audio wireless to the PA system. A transmitter in the form of a direct box, with the ability to interconnect with computers, phones, iPads, etc would be ideal. Until then, I will keep using the body packs and custom cables. Audio Technica has more ingenious products coming for the hi-end professional and touring sound markets. They currently offer high-end solutions for enterprise wireless conference applications.
The System10 Pro fills a nice niche. For a demo, or to see if it will work for you in your environment, please call or email me today for an on-site consultation.
Brent Handy, Advanced Sound & Communication
(816) 564-7281 (Cell)