Tag Archives: verrando

An unhealthy obsession

with fake Sennheiser MKH416 microphones

UPDATE: 7/18/2017: REFUND RECEIVED!!!  In recent weeks, at least 2 more sellers of fake 416’s have popped up on ebay, all from China. That makes at least 4 ebay sellers to date.  

Fake MKH416 refund received! Thanks,  Lam Tin Hung!

Fake MKH416 refund received! Thanks, Lam Tin Hung!

UPDATE: 7/10/2017 An Ebay return claim was filed based on counterfeit goods, and the fake 416 is on its way back to China. They fronted the return cost of shipping (US$54), and say they will refund the purchase price upon receipt of the mic. They have been very cordial in the transaction. 

Last month I knowingly purchased a fake MKH416 so I could compare it with a real MKH416. It just arrived today, with case, in a padded envelope.

OK, we’ll get right to the good stuff first. If you are here looking for an competently made, uncompressed audio comparison between a real 416 and a fake 416, its just below.

Listen/Download the Real vs Fake MKH416 Comparison Audio File Here

After listening to the file, and maybe reading the below saga, bookmark this page, as I will be documenting my efforts in refunding the $490 spent on this mic from ebay. In the process, I’m developing somewhat of a relationship with the seller, and hope to get an interview.

The file is a 24bit, 48k stereo wav file, with the fake mic on one channel, and the real on the other. See if you can determine which is which. The file is 45MB, about 2:00 minutes. Recorded interior and exterior at different distances, on and off-axis. Use your favorite playback utility that allows you to solo A/B either channel into both ears. Or split the stereo track into two mono files and solo them. Can you identify the real 416? Left or Right?

The two mics were recorded using a Sound Devices Mix-Pre D into Audacity running on a Macbook Air. The mics were plugged straight into the side of the Mix-Pre D, setting them about an inch apart.

Which mic is which? Is the fake Mic 1 on the Left, or Mic 2 on the right? Any mixers out there confident enough to take a chance on being wrong? Leave a comment.

Background

Fake MKH416’s have been in the marketplace for at least 3 years. They were/are sold primarily through ebay. Prices were initially very low, about US$300. When users discovered that the market was tainted by fake 416s, the sellers responded by raising the price of the mics on ebay, to make them seem more like their genuine counterparts. Sennheiser eventually took action and managed to respond with various cloak and dagger stuff on which they don’t wish to expound. They expanded their website to respond to counterfeit inquires, and added holographic labels to the boxes, stuff like that. At least with the 416, their efforts seem to  cut down much of the distribution of fakes.

Real 416 (L) and fake (R). Notice paint underspray inside XLR, and silver vs gold pins.

Real 416 (L) and fake (R). Notice paint underspray inside XLR, and silver vs gold pins.

However, there are sellers on ebay peddling fake 416’s. Who knows if there are hundreds stored in some Shenzhen warehouse?

I have a sideline business that upgrades the older 416 T-power mics to 48 volt phantom at www.416Tupgrade.com. Resultingly,  I’ve been particularly interested in the daily street value of the 416 microphone, as I have ended up with a pile of them from R&D efforts. I’m interested in how the sale of counterfeits  and other marketplace factors effects the mic’s value. So I’ve been following the sellers of fake 416s on ebay for a couple of years. And my fascination with the affair led to me buying my own counterfeit 416, just to get my hands on one, and test it, compare it, and follow the seller’s trail through an ebay purchase. Down the rabbit hole I go!

A quick review of everything we know about spotting a fake Sennheiser MKH416:

They are typically sold on ebay from sellers in China. The box is the old-style blue striped Sennheiser Box. The plastic case often has the blue “Sennheiser” painted poorly. The label on the box may have the “U3″ inverted to “3U”  The foam windscreen is squarely cut and looks cheap. See photos below.

Fake 416 Windscreen

Fake 416 Windscreen with its chopped off head…

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Many have said this case paint job is sloppy. This one looks pretty good.

Rusted staples on the manual, WTF?

Rusted staples on the manual, WTF?

Shipping manifest from "Bill"

Shipping manifest from “Bill” over in Hong Kong

These titled photos are being sent to eBay along with the return authorization

These titled photos are being sent to eBay along with the return authorization

I've been alerting eBay about these auctions for months. This time, I'm the buyer!

As an observer, I’ve been alerting eBay about these auctions for months. This time, I’m the buyer!

Spelling errors in the manual

Spelling errors in the manual

More spelling errors

More spelling errors

Fake box label. The early fakes had the U3 inverted. They've since fixed that.

Fake box label

Fake 416's come in this colored box. -Pretty dog eared. The inventory's probably been moved around quite a bit

Fake 416’s come in this colored box. -Pretty dog eared. The inventory’s probably been moved around quite a bit

Here’s some internal construction photos of a fake 416 (top) and a real 416(below)

Fake top, real bottom.  The interior probably came off their production line for vape pens.

Fake top, real bottom. The inside assembly look straight from a mass production line for electric vape cigarettes.

Teardown, Fake top, real bottom. Fake is an electret condenser design.

Teardown, Fake top, real bottom. Fake is an electret condenser design.

The fakes have none of the RF suppression properties of the real thing. They will noise-up around plug-on transmitters and walkie-talkies.  The output is about 3db lower than the genuine. (compensated for in the above sound file.) The painted lettering on the mic’s side is uneven and the letters are taller than the originals. The “Made in Germany” insignia is roughly stamped,  unlike the authentic mic.

Oh, and they sound very similar, if not almost just like the real thing. Did I mention that its very difficult to to tell the two apart by ear? Well, it is.  Anyone purchasing one of these fakes who didn’t know any better (like a student, amateur docmentartian or a wedding photographer) would be very happy with it.

The fake sounds miles better than the noisy 416 wannabe Aputure DIety. Those guys could learn a thing or two from our counterfeit friends. Much simpler design, too. See Rastop’s cool teardown video of a fake below. (He’s Gotham Sound’s repair technician). We immediately see that the build quality of the circuit board is pretty nasty.  The FET and 1 gigohm resistor indicate a passive electret capsule is mounted above the circuit board.

I see no need to replicate Rastop’s efforts. I’ll soon be making my ebay refund request, and I want to keep the sellers from making a damage claim. And if ebay’s policies follow through, or the seller responds negatively,  I may be able to keep the mic anyway, like a war trophy.

Some details on the counterfeiters:

The ebay auctions will always describe the 416 as “99% new”, or even “90% new”, as they feel this exempts them from having to respond to counterfeit claims.

The current (June 2017) ebay seller’s ID is vpower.hk8 or emma2012g.

They also have an alternate ID of w3vpower.hk 

The seller seems to be a Chinese company that makes parts/batteries for electric bicycles. 

They sell bicycle parts, kitchen utensils, hello kitty ice cube trays, camera filters and fake Sennhieser mics on their ebay seller pages.
 
The company’s web address is http://www.vpower.hk
 
They provide phone, email, and physical address info on their site. Email: contact_us@vpower.hk
Phone: +852 98199088
Address:
1st Floor, 12 Unit, A Building
Yupi Industry
Dongcheng Street,
Yongkang City
Zhe Jiang,China
The individual who handles the paypal account calls himself Tin Hung Lam and gives an email address of in31amp@outlook.com
The fake microphones are currently shipped from (probably a showroom)
HOCO Technology Limited
Room A 10/F Tower A Billion Centre
1 Wang Kwong Road
Kowloon Bay , Kowloon Hong Kong
Tel 00852-36102558
Email borofonebilll@hotmail.com
HOCO Technology is a firm in Shenzhen who makes a wide variety of products and mobile phone parts. More info about them at their homepage and at this supplier aggregator site. 
authored by Pete Verrando
seebpic1

Seeburg 1000 “Window Unit” Background Music Player restoration

A recently edited presentation of our Seeburg 1000 BMC player. We call it the “Window Unit”

Seeburg 1000 players employ special 9″ records with 2.5″ center holes. The device plays both sides of each record, then lifts the stack to the top of the spindle for replay. Seeburg BMS (background music systems) were In widespread use in department stores, restaurants, and other retail and industrial locations from the early 60’s through the late 70’s. They have become very popular mid-century modern artifacts.   The thousands of  music selections were individually crafted by professional musicians and studios, and are utterly representative of  a unique and often forgotten part of American culture.   The 16 rpm records are widely available on ebay.

This is my 4th complete restoration of a Seeburg 1000 player.  Thanks for watching!

-Pete Verrando

A saga of Kentli Lithium-Ion 1.5 volt AA rechargeable cells.

Many folks are very excited to see the first rechargeable Li-Ion AA battery, made by Kentli. 

KENTLI-8pcs-1-5V-2800mWh-font-b-AA-b-font-rechargeable-Li-font-b-polymer-b

Kentli AA Lithium-ion rechargeable cells and charger.

 

 Here’s a cut-away view of their exciting new AA cell:

so_8

The guts of a Kentli Cell.

The Kentli AA Lithium-Ion cell was perceived as an exciting development, because all Lithium Ion cells are normally 3.7 volts. So even if the cell could fit into the AA form, the voltage was too high for 1.5 volt applications.  What Kentli did was cram a 3.7 volt Lipo cell into an AA enclosure, and also stick a 3.7volt-to-1.5volt regulator inside there as well.  The charging groove (see diagram) allowed the cell to be charged directly by the charger at 3.7 volts, bypassing the “motherboard” (regulator).

Why would we want a Li-on AA cell, anyway?  The perceived advantages:

1. Ni-mH cells, the current rechargeable of choice, provide only 1.2 volts per cell.  That missing 3/10ths of a volt can really add up when using multiple cells in series (battery)! The lower voltage also increases current draw, shortening the power-up time of the cell.

2. Lithium Ion cells maintain almost their rated voltage right up till they die  Other cells, the voltage slowly drops as the cell discharges.  Many digital devices will shut-off when the supply voltage falls to a certain level, leaving much potentially live-giving energy in the cell.

3. For their weight, Lithium-Ion cells currently provide the most deliverable power than any other type of cell. They charge fast, are very reliable, and last for many charge cycles. They are also tolerant to recharging at various states of discharge.

More Advantages:

4. Rechargeable batteries create less land-fill waste.

5. Rechargeable batteries create incomeas you can bill the client for these batteries like disposables.  So, they can routinely add about $20 or more to your daily rental income, without buying disposable batteries.  Over a year, that can add up (conservatively) to about US$3000. (that’s if you work only about 14 days a month as a professional location sound mixer)

So how well do Kentli Li-ion AA cells work?

As Chinese Industry is prone to do, Kentli did some slight-of-hand marketing with these products. They listed the capacity in milli-watt-hours, so they could print that big 2800 mWh on the side of the cell.  For people who don’t pay attention, this rating gives the mistaken impression that they are more powerful than 2700 mAh (milli-amp-hour) Ni-MH rechargeables. 2700 is a common value when looking for a high quality Ni-MH rechargeable.  At 1.5 volts, 2800 mWh translates to about 1867 mAh,  so the Kentli cell technically has less power. But Kentli claims their cell lasts as long as the Ni-MH, because the regulator allows the 1.5 volts to be maintained till the cell is completely exhausted.

The street price for these Kentli AA cells is about US$11 per cell, and the charger about US$20. More expensive than Ni-MH rechargeable. They are shipped directly from China through a few distributors, including sellers on ebay.

 

lectrosonics smv verrando txsound

A Lectronics SMV transmitter. 1/3rd of the package is for the cell.

We bought 12 AA cells and 2 chargers to give these units a workout in our Lectrosonics SMV transmitters.  The SMV uses only one AA cell.  A disposable Energizer Lithium AA will power it for 5 hours (the longest). The best NiMH rechargeable will power it for about 3.5 hours.

And the result? A fresh Kentli AA, right out of the box ,will power the SMV for 3.5 hours. Same as a high quality, 2700 mAh Ni-MH rechargeable.

But here’s the rub, in a few easy steps.

1. In my application, Kentli AA’s take their internal cell from a full charge to near-exhaustion in every cycle. Over the long term, I think Li-Po rechargeables prefer a lighter charge-discharge cycle. so with this workout, these Kentli cells won’t last for very many cycles. A Lectro SMQV would treat the cells more gently, distributing the current draw between two cells, and possibly resulting in better performance.

2. Kentli AA’s use a 3.7v Li-Po cell and convert it to 1.5 volts. There is inherent inefficiency in this conversion process.  The Lectro SMV then takes the 1.5 volts and inverts it up to 5 volts, and 3.3 volts, to serve the various internal functions. Every time you convert a voltage, you lose some efficiency and power, in the form of heat.  The Kentli is already stretching the capacity to the max of its tiny 3.7 volt, 760 mAh cell, every time it is charged and used. With the SMV, there are multiple conversions, and those power losses add up.

3. These days,  the “power down” mode of many devices is not a true power-down. Even after its turned-off, the SMV draws a tiny “quiescent current.” This is simply power to enable the SMV to power back up with a momentary button-push. The Kentli sees this quiescent current, and therefore keeps its motherboard alive, affecting a continuous drain on its cell. So leave a freshly charged Kentli in the SMV overnight, and it will be dead in the morning.

4. Maintaining AA rechargeables for location sound use is a pain in the ass. They get lost easily. I lost one in the snow on the very first shoot! They are difficult to keep separate between used and unused. They require chargers to be travelled and plugged-in. They require extra time to sort and charge and check at call and wrap.  They create a level of uncertainty in the production process. Will this be the shot when the battery dies for good?

5. And obviously, in the SMV, a rechargeable will run for only 3 hours, and a AA li-ion disposable will burn for 5 hours.  In most cases, 5 hours is enough time to get us to lunch, when the battery can be replaced.  The SMV is designed to accept a cell that swings from 1.9 volts to .9 volts, and before it dies, will suck every last ounce of power from the cell!

6. Don’t talk to me about the Lectro SMQV, the double AA version. I know they will run twice as long. I don’t care. I like the smally-small SMV for so many reasons. I use it as a drop-weight when running the lav cable down shirts and blouses and pant-legs. The SMQV is almost as large as a UM400A, Lectros classic 9-volt transmitter, of which I already have a shit-ton.  The SMV is great for use on children, with their tiny pockets and elastic waistbands. It also has the lowest profile in a pocket or bra-strap.

Oh, and the Kentli Chargers tend to die. 

kentli charger txsound

The Kentli Charger with its ring-groove contacts. They contact directly with the Li-Po battery and charge at 4.2 volts.

kentli, location sound mixer, txsound.com

The innards of the Kentli AA charger

P1010256

A 5 volt phone charger inserted into the 5 volt rails of the Kentli charger. Fixed!

Of the two Kentli chargers I originally ordered, one died a couple of months in. The dealer asked for photographic proof that the charger was dead. They sent a replacement from China, which never arrived, and then sent me another.  Eventually I received both chargers, so now I had four. Then the other 2 chargers immediately died.  Taking this opportunity to either throw away the dead chargers, or take them apart, what do you think I did? The charger consists of a very flimsy switching power supply converting your AC house current to 5 volts DC. The voltage is then applied to a smart charging circuit for the AA cells. The flimsy switch-mode supply was the obvious culprit, so it was replaced with an outboard 5 volt phone charger, of much more robust design. So now we have 4 chargers.

 

Then, the Kentli AA’s start to show signs of age.

This is about the time that the Kentli AA cells stopped delivering 3 hours of power to the SMV’s.  This is not the cell you want in a transmitter that goes out on a competition shoot, where you don’t have access to the talent once the action begins. I would guess I got about 100 charges on my Kentli’s before they began to show signs of expiration. The chargers show a full charge even on the cells that have stopped performing. In a less-demanding environment, (like an LED flashlight or an ipod dock) they may give better service.

And Alas! one Kentli drops to the floor and pops open like a Zippo Lighter! (Also the shrink wrap on the cell will begin to tear and peel with daily use. )

kentli AA txsound.com

Pops open like a Chap-Stick!

kentli txsound sound mixer verrando

The Kentli regulator board.

UPDATE : Curious about the quiescent current draw of the Kentli Cell, on its own, we hooked up a micro-amp meter between the regulator board and the Li-Po cell. The result:

kentli AA self discharge txsound

Kentli AA cells discharge on thier own, with a constant current draw of 29 microamps from the internal “motherboard.”

You guessed it. The Kentli motherboard is drawing 29 microamps from the cell at all times.  By comparison, Lectro transmitters, when powered down, draw about 5 microamps from the cell.  This is in conflict with the advertising claim made on the Kentli promotional material:

discharge claim kentli txsound.com

Advertising claim from Kentli’s promotional materials

 P1010251And whats this? A 3.7 volt, 2.66 wH li-po cell! That’s 2660mWh, or 718 mAh! Not 760 mAh, as the label claims!

So there’s no doubt the Kentli folks are really pushing the envelope with this initial attempt at a 1.5V Lithium-Ion rechargeable. A little more conservative design paramaters are required for location sound use. But for flashlights and home use, I’m sure theres no telling! And no telling of what’s to become of my little AA canisters for a location sound mixer on the road!

Robocop Memories- Callsheets, Scripts, Photos, Comics, Video

robocop, Dallas, 1986,pete verrando, In 1986 I was a new freelancer in Dallas, TX, and was hired to assist with on-set video playback for Robocop. I had never been on a movie set prior to this, my experience limited to industrials, tabloid television and the like.  This was a new world for me. I’ve recently came across a stash of items I had saved from those days-  callsheets, photos, scripts, etc., so I thought I’d post a few here.   I ended up providing this “24 frame video service” to about 40 motion pictures shot in Texas throughout the mid-80’s to mid-90’s. At the bottom of the article is my video demo reel from my playback days.

Video Playback” was a position similar to music playback on a set. Except, I was working with videotape or providing computer & camera feeds. These sources fed televisions, monitors or computer screens in the camera frame.  The sound department often pulled a feed from the video, and I was tasked with hitting the playback on cue with what the actors were doing on set. I also sychronized the film camera to the video. The film camera had to be in-sync with the TV screens, or the 30 frame screens would flicker against the camera’s 24 frame shutter. Interfacing and controlling the camera dept’s raison d’etre  called for technical competence and diplomacy.

robocop, video playback, verrando, txsound, texas location sound mixer

The Boardroom were Murphy blows away Jones. Notice ED209 hiding around the corner!

video playback, 3/4" u-matic, robocop, board room, ronny cox, verrando, texas location sound mixer

The VTR’s used to feed the boardroom monitors in the final scene.

robocop, robert wald, sound mixer, sound cart, verrando, texas sound mixer

Sound Mixer Robert Wald’s, C.A.S. sound cart on the set of Robocop. Notice the FM radio headsets used for Comteks in 1986. Vega wireless, Stereo FM Pilot Nagra. This was the first “location sound cart” I had ever seen.

ed209, robocop, verrando, video playback, sound mixer

ED209- the life-size model present on the set of Robocop.

Robocop, video, board room, murphy, verrando, production sound mixer, blog

The 2nd to last page of the Robocop script- boardroom scene

Robocop, murphy, board room, video playback , verrando, texas location sound mixer

Last page of the Robocop script where Murphy shoots Jones in the boardroom.

robocop, call sheet, verrando, texas location sound mixer

Call Sheet from Robocop – 1986- hand-written in those days!

robocop, call sheet, 1986, film, verrando, texas location sound mixer

The primary cast of Robocop, as listed on the call sheet, with their call times.

Robocop, call sheet, ED209, comics, verrando, texas production sound mixer

A little set humor was added to each day’s call sheet on Robocop, 1986.

Here’s the demo I would peddle to various productions when they came to Texas. “Need any video playback?” Productions were surprised when they learned the service was available in Texas!

Nagra 3 Tape Recorder Repurposed to ipod Speaker Amplifier

Nagra tape recorders were the de-facto industry standard for motion picture film sound for almost 40 years. Made in Switzerland by the company Kudelski, there was no higher standard for battery-powered, analog audio recording. Nagras are an object lesson in quality engineering and excellence in manufacturing. Now that digital recording has largely replaced tape in motion picture production, there are thousands of Nagras in disuse, deep storage, or on the shelf of the vintage audio collector. On the bright side, audiophiles and tape recording enthusiasts have embraced Stereo Nagras as the primary record/playback device in their very-expensive listening rooms.

INdeck Of the many Nagra models, I have a particular attraction to the Nagra III. The III was the 1st culmination of Kudelski’s hard work in addressing the needs of professional audio recording for film and many other fields of sound acquisition. Even since its introduction and acceptance in the early 60’s, technical specifications for analog recording have rarely been exceeded. Using mostly germanium transistors, and all fixed-value components, the Nagra 3 can achieve recordings with 70db signal to noise ratio, just about the limit for analog, (with no noise reduction). There are no trimmer potentiometers under the deck. All alignment is done by changing/soldering fixed value components. Its meter, the modulometer, was a far more precise instrument in gauging record level than any ordinary VU meter. The III could record in either NAB or CCIR equalization curves at 3.75, 7.5 and 15 ips. The single motor is hand-assembled, and has rock-stable servo-controlled speed regulation. Upon playback, even the internal speaker is loud and robust, probably more so than any Nagra since. The tape transport allowed fluid movement of the tape for racking/cueing, loading and unloading, and has a grace that surpasses the models IV, 4.2, etc. Moreover, the III has an aesthetic that represents a labor of love. It is a study in circles. A simple form factor with few controls performing many functions. A classic Swiss Army knife! A feel and solidness that exceeds all the models that followed.INsideview

Why then would I hack up a beautiful machine like the Nagra III and force feed it lowly compressed digital files of pop music? I used these machines on a daily basis in the first 10 years of my sound career. Countless 12-hour days staring into the face of these machines. Thousands of recordings, head cleanings, reloads, battery changes, expensive service tuneups- cleaning, rebiasing, lubrication. Enduring blistering hot and icy cold condtions. Lugging over the shoulder, or perched atop a recording cart. A thousand drained D-cells.

Well, then, with the advent of digital, it was all over.

Suddenly I was working with a little clock-radio affair, a DAT recorder, at less than half the cost of my time code stereo Nagra IV-S. The DAT had superior specifications to the Nagra, but none of the tangible, hands-on, craft-feel of sound capture that the Nagra gave me daily. Every day I turned my DAT machine on, I did so with a prayer that it would not fail, because I was no longer in control. It was all inside that tiny machine with its rotating head, a mere spec of dust might shut it down. In summer, it ran so hot, I could not keep my palm flat on its lid. It would be another 5 years before digital recording disposed of tape transports entirely. Those were 5 long years of praying that clock- radio would continue to function. Back then, in the heat of battle, I didn’t think much about the retirement of my Nagra IV-STC and 4.2. It was nice not to hear tape hiss in my headphones. Thinking they would soon be more valuable as boat-anchors, I sold them to pay for my new digital machines. INpwrsup

I have restored a few cast-off Nagras. My goal with these machines is to bring them to as close to original condition as possible, both technically and cosmetically. A few years ago, I acquired three retired Nagra III’s in various states of repair, for $240 all-in. That purchase is what really got me started. Out of the three, plus one other, I created two near-perfect examples of the Kudelski Nagra III. One was sold to a audiophile in Japan for $900. The other is mine and always will be. Its fun to have. Lace a tape, plug in a microphone, and record some stuff. Play it back. Work the controls. Rack the tape. Listen to the robust, boomy, sound of analog, full-track, monophonic recording. INidlersMy restorations efforts left me with a lot of parts and two Nagra III’s that were shells of their former selves. Ipod popularity had gotten me and a lot of other re-purposers thinking about the Ipod Dock, that plastic affair on the shelf of Best Buy. There’s so much discarded technical equipment from the days of old that can be re-upped into a Gestalt of past and present. For me these Nagra III’s are at the front of the line. I like to play with my old tape recorders, but I rarely have the time. With my Ipod Nagra, I can keep it useful, every day. It now plays music, podcasts, internet streams, with room-filling volume, and a happily bouncing modulometer. It delights all who see and hear it. It lives again. by Pete Verrando www.txsound.com
INsideview


One-of-a-kind Ristaucrat Automatic 45rpm Turntable Record Changer

Ristaucrat Commercial 45RPM record player changer

Ristaucrat Commercial Record Changer

About a year ago, I restored this Ristaucrat M-400 commercial record changer. A collector in Utah recently purchased it. This device plays both sides of a stack of 45 rpm records. Then, it lifts the stack back to the top of the spindle for replay. Originally designed for background music in restaurants and department stores. It behaves like a pinball machine while functioning. Lots of clacking, abrupt sequencing and high torque motors. There are spinning clutches in this device that use cork as the slip-plate when engaging. The bat-handled switches and chrome carry-handles were added by yours truly. I have only seen 1 other example of this device in the 20 years I have been building/restoring electronics. There is a video demonstration on youtube (below). -by pete verrando www.txsound.com

The photo below shows the device as found from a swap meet.

Pete Verrando – www.txsound.com

ristaucrat m-400 verrando

Ristaucrat M-400 as found

Time lapse Deva Fusion Multitrack breakdown, repair assemble

After a recent rainy shoot, fader #3 started behaving erratically. The fading action would jump around, regardless of the fader’s position. I ordered a new pot and replaced the fader, but this did not cure the problem. Going back in, I re-soldered the new pot and also re-soldered a past repair on fader #3, which was probably the issue,a Surface mount resistor. I don’t have a proper SM soldering iron, so I had to wing it with a pinpoint soldering tip. Normal soldering tips can obliterate an SM component and the surrounding traces.
by Pete Verrando

bountyxmtr2

Car-to-Car with Lectro’s SMV

   Recently, I was on a shoot following bounty hunters around a city every night for about 10 days. Both cars worked together, with two hunters in each. Each car had a camera operator inside,  and both “hunters” were mic’d with Lectro SMV’s , transmitting directly to an SRb 2-channel receiver on the camera. 

    Camera mic was on channel 3/4.  Now the fun part–   a plant mic was placed in the car’s headliner dead center, and fed to an external SMv transmitter on each car. Both SMv’s at 250mw full power, and taking 12 volts  from each car’s cigar lighter. Our follow vehicle had two Lectro SNA-600 dipoles mounted about 12″ above the roof on fiberglass poles, feeding a Venue Field inside the van. The Field received the 4 officer’s wireless, & the two plant mic wireless.  

Rubber band pulls transmit antenna away from car to maximze range. Fixed to glass with heavy-duty Velcro.
Transmitter  then covered in gaff tape 
Follow vehicle SNA-600 antennas fed a Lectrosonics Venue Field inside. 


On the road, the follow vehicle could reliably  hear those plant mics  up to 1/2 mile away from the hunter cars-  sometimes more in the countryside!  In the city, we would routinely loose the cars in traffic, but could usually still hear them.   This made for great follow vehicle IFB, & two clear recorded tracks of car interior when bad guys were loaded in the car. 

-by Pete Verrando

fusion22

Fusion teardown to remove faceplate dirt

Poor R3. Explanation below.

The Zaxcom Fusion series of touch-screen multitrack recorders are designed for field use, but after a few months, dirt accumulation around the touch-screen can impede functionality. I’ve torn-down my Fusion to clean the dirt accumulation, and took some photos to document the process. This is more of a documentation, and less of a how-to. I disavow any responsibility to those who attempt to use this as a guide.

There’s also some rules broken here that I normally don’t break.  I should have had an nice ice-tray to keep all the nuts and bolts organized. I should have also cleaned up my bench before starting ! Also, one should be very careful around Surface-Mount circuit boards as the miniscule components can break off with an errant bump of a screwdriver, and you’ll never be the wiser, until you’ve re-assembled the machine and something doesn’t work.

After the main cover is removed, the Fusion presents thusly:

All the knobs get removed as well. Then there’s the business of removing the faceplate from the body, attached with side screws. The multi-pin connectors on the back of the faceplate need to be carefully loosened and disconnected.

There’s also a pair of wires that must be disconnected from the mic-input board- these are for the slate mic. The connector can be carefully loosened off the input board with a small screwdriver.

The slate mic connector is the small white one right under the 25pin d-sub.

The red-black wires at the bottom are the slate mic wires. The connector is right above the headphone jack.

The front panel, still hanging on by the slate mic wires.
Once the frontplate is disconnected from the box, the gentle operation of removing the nuts surrounding the circuit board can proceed. A nut driver is preferred. If you use a pair of needle-nose pliers, you risk slipping off the nuts, and crashing into one of the surface-mount components, breaking it. Like I did.
Lucky I know how to solder surface-mount components. I wacked into R3, very close to a nut.
For God’s sake, use a nut-driver, not a pair of needle-nose, like I did.

Once all the nuts are removed, hold the assembly faceplate-up  for separating the circuit board from the aluminum front plate. If you have it circuit-board up, the LCD screen will fall out of its holder, and hang by its ribbon cable, which is unsettling. So hold it faceplate up and separate the pieces carefully:

Here is the circuit board with the faceplate off. Be very careful, the surface-mount components on the underside are fragile!
The LCD screen will fall right out of its holder, so handle it carefully. At this point I removed all the dirt that accumulated on the screen edges, between the buttons, and around the potentiometers.
Dirt accumulates/sticks to the edges of the screen.
Dirt surrounding the pot shafts
Dirt around the edges/at bottom of button assembly
And most importantly, I scraped off the sludge that adheres to the underside of the faceplate:
yucky
After cleaning, re-assembly is easiest by holding the parts vertically, so the LCD screen doesn’t fall out of its holder, and the screws can be lined up through the holes of the circuit board. Then, flipping it over like a sandwich,  All the nuts can then be carefully tightened on the component size of the circuit board.  Careful around those SMT components!!!
Re-assembly is the reverse of disassembly, but it is difficult to get the slate mic connector back on its pins. The easiest way to do this is by loosening the DB25 d-sub output connector, and pushing it in the box. This creates an access hole to push on the slate mic connector. You can also see me adjusting the potentiometer for the audio level of the slate mic. My level arrived from the factory very hot.
I fully test the machine before final re-assembly, I want no surprises on the job. Remember- in my first attempt, I bumped a pair of pliers into R3, a tiny surface-mount resistor. I didn’t realize my error until testing, when fader #3 refused to post fade.  Magnifiers and a steady solder-hand were required to find this problem and repair it.  If I had used the right tools, I’d have saved a bunch of time.
Maybe I should build a one-room apartment in there…
Even after cleaning up the dirt accumulation under the faceplate, a single dusty/dirty shoot can restart the ingress of dirt inside the recorder. Using fingers, a firm and gentle pushing down of the LCD from all four corners will often free the debris. I believe Zaxcom has recently added a machining process to the aluminum surrounding the LCD to minimize this problem. Of course, if your machine lives on a cart, dirt accumulation is less of a problem. However I just finished a bag job, hog hunting in the Rio Grande. I’m sure I’ve brought home some of that good red clay inside my Fusion!
-by Pete Verrando