Tascam DR-40 Recorder Review

Tascam DR-40
The Tascam DR-40 is another entry into the basic audio recorder category. It can record up to 4 tracks at once – the two internal mics and / or the two external outputs. While you can record 96khz 24bit thats probably a bit of a waste and 48K 24bit is all you’ll really need. My main interest in this unit was to add it to my sound bag when working with my mixer to add on board recording. While I do have a DR-680 that I really like, its big in comparison and I was looking for a small light solution. I normally either have the mixer or DR-680 in the bag at any given time, not both.
The DR-40 is compact enough for the job running on 3 internal AA batteries for hours. It uses standard SD cards for recording that easily go in and out of the side of the unit. It comes in fact with batteries and a 2gb card to get you recording as soon as you open the box. While 2gb is ok, I had a 8gb card I used instead. I formatted the card in the recorder before using it for the first time as the DR-40 does want to have its own folder. It records standard  WAV, BWAV and MP3 files. The DR-40 will function as a USB SD card reader so you can directly access the SD card and dump the sound files onto your mac or pc.
Out of the box you’ll note the 2 built-in mics have wire metal bumper guards. With the mics facing in they will do the job as I carried this unit around for a couple of days in my pocket and all was well.
There are several side switches and buttons on the front. If you have worked with other Tascam products the menus will be familiar. They are simple and easy to figure out without reading the manual for the most part. Even just playing around with the unit for a few minutes I ran thru all the options and pretty much figured out what I needed to get the unit setup the way I wanted. The actual LCD display itself is reasonably contrasty and has a backlight with programable stay on time. Also of note is that the REC button has a nice plastic ring around it lit by a LED that makes it easy to see you are ready to record or all ready rolling.  Getting into record is basically instant and there is a pre-record feature if you need or want it.
The manual is available here http://tascam.com/content/downloads/products/706/e_dr-40_om_va.pdf and I’d suggest taking a few minutes to go through it.
Phantom Power : Yes this unit has phantom power which is selectable for either 48V or 24V. When you turn phantom power on via the side switch the unit will prompt you on the front display to enable it. This is both a safety precaution and to prevent higher power consumption on the unit by accident. Running phantom power tends to use up a lot of battery power. This is true on ANY device that must convert 4-12V up to 48V, not just the Tascam.
The HOLD Switch : Located on the side of the unit is a hold switch. Its a good idea when you are in record, moving around and want to be sure you stay in record. The problem is if you move the switch, by accident of course, into the hold position with the power off.  The unit will not come on if the hold switch is on. It will act like its dead or your batteries are. It took me several minutes to catch this one and get the DR-40 to turn on after changing the batteries twice. I suppose one might be able to argue this feature could save an accidental power on and your batteries.
Sound Quality
I put a Schoeps CMC-64 into the inputs direct using 48V phantom power. It worked, it sounded pretty good. You could record dialog and be happy for a lot of work.  I’d best describe it as having more bottom end and less high end. Less detail in comparison to feeding it with my mixer.
The preamps have a very low noise floor and the mic itself is pretty quite. So if your main criteria is noise levels, these preamps pass with flying colors.
So note this : I screwed up these tests a bit. I recorded low levels because the meters in the unit ( see below ) are really kind of deceptive. Literally 80% of the meters are dedicated to what looks like the area below -18db. The last 20% is the range  you really care about, the range of  -18db to 0db. What looked like good healthy levels was in fact recorded by me low. Live and burn sometimes, that’s why you do tests ! That said, my error wasn’t the worst. In fact I’d say in all fairness it represents the sort of error I think a lot of people could of made using the unit for the first time. Know your gear, right ?
Putting my mess up aside, boosting the low recording levels with 18-24db of gain was still very clean compared to some other recorders I’ve used. If I had to test how quiet the preamps really are, this was a great test… I just hadn’t intended to do . Please keep this in mind when listening to the recording samples.
Schoeps CMC 64 direct feed into DR-40 MP3 [ original files no longer available ]
In comparison, using my FP33 to feed line level into the DR-40  had a more accurate sound. It had more detail in the upper end. I’m pretty sure I had the low cuts on the mixer turned on so I probably biased the recording samples a bit in them having less bottom end.
FP33 Line level feed into Tascam DR-40 Sample [ original files no longer available ]
Line level sounded cleaner which is almost to be expected. My mixer has transformer isolated inputs and outputs along with a lot of head room if properly powered. So using this unit with an external mixer or pre map and feeding it line level is probably the best thing to do for best sound quality. If you are using this for recoding podcasts or news a mic on the direct input will be fine. I”m being critically picky here and in reality most folks will probably be happy with the built in pre maps for everyday recording.
The built in mics are also ok. They seem to have a lot of gain which makes them seem more sensitive than I think they really are. The built in mics sound decent. They are good enough for quick ambient recording or typical news gathering, especially if kept close enough. Of course keeping a mic close enough is important no matter what mic you have. Good mic placement is 50% of the game at least !
Built In Mic Recording Sample of the  Tascam DR-40 [ original files no longer available }
There are furry wind covers you get get if you want to use the DR-40 outside. Tascam does not provide any basic foam windscreen though I’m sure some foam is inside the head of each mic. If wind rumble is a problem you can engage the low cut filter with 3 different cut in points as a starting point.
With the 2 built in mics you can record with them facing each other at 90 degs or flip them to face out. The unit will detect this and ask you to change from XY to AB recording modes. The DR-40 also supports MS recording and playback. I could easily picture facing them outwards for hand held interview recording.
The one down side is that the built in mics will pick up handing noise. So if you hand hold the unit don’t be rubbing your fingers on it or otherwise messing with it. Perhaps a pair of thin gloves might help if you really have to. I did use the unit a couple of times to get some ambient material with out a problem.
Recording modes
The DR-40 can record in a variety of modes including :  X/Y or A/B stereo, MS stereo, Ch3/4 dual (linked), CH3/4 separate, any combination of 1/2 internal mics and or 3/4 external inputs, and can even record in a basic overdub mode playing 2 channels while recording. You can record 44.1, 48 and 96khz in 16 or 24 bits to various file formats.
The DR-40 also has a built in safety recording feature. You can record from any input pair and then record 2 more channels from the same source with some level of input reduction. This is the sort of split level records I’ll manually do sometimes when things are very unpredictable and you expect you may have hot levels you aren’t ready for. Safety is good !
Another very cool feature is the ability to add delay in ms to the external inputs. This is to compensate for delay when using external mics ( or board feed ) far away in comparison the internal mics so sound is in sync.
Here is a sample of the MP3 192kbits recording from the unit. I’m not thrilled with compression quality at all. Also consider I did boost the levels up which is aggravating, but if you did this on your job – MP3 recording format and levels a bit low you may not be happy with this.
MP3 sound sample from DR-40 [ original files no longer available ]
Input Processing
There several compression / limiting modes on the inputs. The manual is really a bit fuzzy on these, but they sound like none, hard peak limiting, auto levels and “limiting” thats more like soft compression. I didn’t have a lot of time to mess with these so you’ll want to try them on your own. I went with the hard peak limiting as I was usually using a mixer in front of the DR-40 and letting its limiters do the real work when needed.
There is a peak LED indicator on the front of the unit which is a nice help. As long as you don’t see it more than flash once in a while you should be good.
Input Levels
Every recorder seems to be a bit different. When working with my FP33 I set tone to +4db analog and then set the DR-40 to what I thought was -18db. This gives me about 14db of headroom before the FP33 limiters kick in and a couple more db before hitting digital 0. This seems to get reasonably good levels for me. The DR-40 seems to have a bit more gain on the inputs at line level as I set its internal input levels all the way down. Perhaps its set up for -20db consumer line level, or the Tascam engineers found that people tend to record levels that are a bit too low ( like I did the first time around ) and always want more gain. I didn’t have that problem with my mixer feeding the unit line level. Given how clean the preamps are this is a reasonable plan to give the user more gain when they could use it.
The meters on the DR-40 seemed pretty responsive and well tuned. Interesting side note :  buried in a menu  there is  a tuner function in the DR-40 !
What was strange though was that the actual recording levels of the 48K 16bit wav files seem to be a lot lower than what the meters where telling me. This was true in both direct feed and mixer feed. I found myself applying 18-24db of gain in premiere pro to the clips to get them into the -18db to -12db range for normal dialog and what I thought I had been recording.
As I noted, this was my mistake by misreading the meters. Dear Tascam, please change the meter markings. Make the left 30% -128db to about -24db and use the rest of the meter space for -24db to 0. That would be a lot more useful !
When I did bring the levels up they where clean thanks in part to Premiere Pro’s high quality audio handling. Usable for most work but I should of gotten better levels in the files. Next time !
Output
The DR-40 pretty much does everything  you’d want – playback 2 or 4 mix down channels with mix level and pan, M/S decode, delay effects and even variable speed playback. The only down side ? the only output is the 3.5mm headphone jack. There is a small speaker on the back of the unit for quick checks though.
Power
The unit runs for several hours on 3 internal AA batteries. I never managed to drain my rechargeables during testing of several  hours on and off. I did watch the battery meter and it seemed accurate so I changed out on one bar rather than taking it all the way down.  Tascam sells an external battery pack if you need extended recording time.
As for external power connector, there is none. OK, not the usual coaxial power connector just about everything has including other small Tascam recorders. Instead the choice was to use the USB port. I think this is a poor choice on every level. While you can power it from your laptop, or use a 12V->5V USB power adapter or wall power to USB adapter its far from being the ideal power connector. I’d tried it and it does work, but it won’t charge the internal batteries if you are using recharables and you should be. I’d recommend finding a right angle mini USB cable if you are regularly going to power this unit externally.
Sync
If you shoot dslr’s that’s about a 12 minute take per roll. Sync in my tests at 70deg F was 3500 samples or so off. At 24 fps its 2000 samples per frame or 2002.02 samples @ 23.976 but I like easy math. My measured distance was 3571 samples or nearly 2 frames difference at 12 minutes. Bummer because thats a noticeable sync difference. On the other hand, what do you expect for $150 or so? My DR-680 which costs 5X more does hold sync out to 12 minutes with a drift of about a 1/2 frame. What can I say, you get what you pay for ! Just be glad you’re not schlepping a Nagra around with its 10 D cells. So the bottom line is this recorder won’t hold usable sync for more than about 6 minutes at 24fps. At 30fps this would be 20% shorter before hitting 1 frames.
You could use this for sync sound, but you would be cutting your clip every 5 to 6 minus to slip it forwards a frame and then patch the gap. While this is possible to deal with it would not be my personal choice. Its also possible Plural Eyes can deal with the sync slippage too but I’m not sure this. If it can, or FCP X can the DR-40 may be very workable and affordable for you.
Conclusion
Its a great little recorder thats very affordable. Its perfect for simple recording work like taking a board feed of your band or news gathering. Its small size lets it fit in your pocket. Where the  unit falls down is for sync sound over a few minutes. Its possible that with  some variance in manufacturing you might get a unit that holds sync tighter or not. I don’t know. Either way the Tascam DR-40 should meet a lot of people’s needs for a small high quality inexpensive audio recorder.

Sennheiser HD280 Headphones Review

Sennheiser HD280 headphones
Sennheiser HD280 headphones

Headphones, especially ones for field production really aren’t glamor items the way high end mics are. In fact its one place I see people often going with whatever is cheapest rather than what is good. Good headphones are very basic and essential tool for monitoring your recording where it counts most – at the initial recording.

Perhaps the most common headphones I see out there are the Sony 7506’s folding headphones. They are certainly very common for good reason: decent sound, reasonable price, they fold up small and the other guys and gals all seem to be using them. They are something of a standard. However I think the “everybody uses them” think more than the rest is why they are so common. Personally having used them, I can’t say I’m thrilled with them. Why ? well for starters they are always falling off your head. That one thing alone drives me crazy because try booming on the run and all of a sudden your ‘phones are hanging over your shoulder in the middle of a shot. Then there is the fact they have pretty poor isolation which means cranking the volume up. This is very bad for your ears, and when working close to your subject there can be bleed or feedback.
Enter the Sennheiser HD 280’s for about the same price, give or take literally a couple dollars.
What I Like About Them
They Stay On Your Head. Go ahead, run with them on and they stay put until you take them off. Look up, down, around and they are still on. If you wear a hat with a brim, they’ll also still stay on. This is a huge advantage over many other sets of ‘phones in the market. I’ve even split worn them. That means putting just one side on your ear, the other on the side of your head. This way you can also slip on a set of intercoms too at the same time. This is very valuable when doing live TV shots in the field and you need to hear the truck, the director and your own sound all at once.
The other major advantage of these headphones is their isolation The HD 280’s are a closed style design. They offer 32db of isolation blocking out external sound. This lets you monitor with lower levels which is better for your ears. It also helps a lot in deciding if background noise is really intruding too much into your good sound or not. Lower monitoring levels is a very good thing that you should not underestimate, especially if you do sound as a part of your income.
Sound Quality
The overall sound quality is very good with specs of 8hz-25khz, although no graph is supplied. However, thats still way more than good enough for normal dialog and music recording. They tend to be reasonably neutral sounding with minimal sound coloring. This is good because you want headphones that tell you the truth about what you are getting.
Real World Use
In everyday use, I find they are very honest about what I am getting. They are detailed and don’t color the sound in any significant way. This means I’ll usually hear even really small stuff in them that you’ll not normally notice in the edit room even with decent speakers. Its always better to hear everything and be able to decide if it matters rather than not. You eventually learn to know what matters and what doesn’t.  The improved isolation is a part of this experience. By reducing external noise you get a much better sense about what you are getting without having to over crank the volume to hear that. Saving your ears is a big deal, especially if audio is a part of your normal income making.
Durability
I have one pair that lives in my audio bag full time. They store into my Petrol Pegz-1’s front compartment and then route to either my FP33 mixer or DR-680 recorder. I swap out the mixer or recorder depending on the job. I’ve been using one pair now for several years. They have worked literally in falling snow, rain and hot summer sun without a problem. Thats what you expect. Even with several years of use, they have very minimal signs of wear.  UPDATE : many years later and they are still holding up despite harsh conditions and weather.
If you do managed to shred up the ear pads, they are replaceable.
The HD 280’s have a 1/8″ ( 3.5mm ) jack as its native connector. Included in the box is a screw on adapter to get you to 1/4″ if you need it. This is the same 1/4″ screw on adapter that is used on Sony’s. If I have any complaint, its going to be that the connector is a straight connection rather than a 90 degree one. I know most headphones come this way and its not great because it makes them much more easy to break. For these headphones and just about any I highly recommend putting a 90 deg adapter on them. There are even 1/8 to 1/4″ adapters if you look around a bit. Generally speaking if you find them online they are pretty cheap so getting 2 or 3 is often a good idea to have a spare or for your other headphones you may have around.
Recommendation
I’m doing audio for national networks ( live feeds and ENG ) and there are no excuses or second chances. You get it right or you don’t work again for them. In this kind of high stakes environment you tools have to work correctly every time. A quality set of headphones has to be a sound person’s most important tool after their mic and mixer. For once its nice not to go broke for quality gear that performs. Its certainly easy to spend a lot more for pro level headphones, but the HD 280’s are real performers that work day in day out and won’t break the bank. Its nice to have reliable quality gear at a very reasonable price.

EV RE50 Mic and Sennheiser G3 Plug On Wireless Transmitter Review

To say I have been busy the last weeks is an understatement. I’ve been prepping for 3 shoots in 2 countries over the last couple of days. In any event, here is my video review on the ElectroVoice RE50 hand held dynamic mic and the Sennhieser G3 hand held plug on wireless mic transmitter. I compared the RE50 both on the transmitter and hardline XLR direct into my DR-680 recorder. Overall, its a great mic especially for the price, as is the G3. Take a look.

Sennheiser Evolution G3 Wireless Review : Updated

The G3 wireless units from Sennheiser have been out for a while now. I decided to try a set out since one of my Lectro 195 transmitters bit the dust a few months back on a shoot. I’ve had the G3 unit now for a good month or so, and used it on a couple of real shoots. I’ve also done some simple but I think real word testing that shows both the good and bad in these units.
Sennheiser G3 Wireless Mic Review from Steve Oakley on Vimeo.
What got my attention with these units was the price and reputation for being considered the low end of pro quality wireless, at least for the G2 series.  I figured the G3 must be better as a newer generation product. I’ve spent a little bit of time using the G2’s in the past, but I have used a lot of Lectrosonics units. I’m quite familiar with how Lectro’s just work and sound great, once you get past the price. The G3’s certainly have their compromises to hit the price point that they do, but still offer solid performance. Lets take a more detailed look at them.
Audio Performance
The overall sound quality of the G3’s is very good. You can certainly get more then usable dialog sound through them. They have a lot more bottom end then I am used to, mainly because the transmitter lacks a LF cut filter. Its really pretty amazing that they left this key feature out. Low frequencies can make for all sorts of badness in the audio gain chain when its not usable sound such as mic or wind rumble messing with your limiters. Even so, I didn’t have any problems with overall signal handling with the units.
The G3’s have quite a bit of headroom overall when used with mics. The transmitter has a large range of adjustment which runs from -60db mic level to line level, adjusted via a menu. While I didn’t get to try running a true line level through these units, I’ve always found a -10db or -20db pad was required when using the G2 transmitters because it was easy to push them into clipping. The closest test was running the headphone jack from my laptop into the transmitter. Once I got the level trimmed, it worked great without any problems. This was a very handy way of running music and dialog through the transmitter to test its overall performance using uncompressed and original sound files.
On a shoot with a lot of air handling noise, I didn’t hear any compander noise. Quite room tests also seemed good. I did my test with a Sanken COS-11 lav.
The Included ME2 Lav Mic
If you don’t have a lav mic, it will get sound for you. If you want to have a mic you don’t care about for use in situations where the mic could be damaged, its fine. Its overall sound quality is very bright and its not anywhere near as good as the sound the G3’s can transmit. I had Trew Audio make an adapter for me to go from Lectro wired TA5 to 1/8″ mini jack. With this adapter I can use my Lectro wired lavs on either transmitter. With a good mic in place, I found the sound quality was somewhat better them my older 195’s. There was more bottom, and more HF. Overall it was better, fuller sound. However, if you don’t put a good quality mic onto the G3, you won’t hear it. So I’d very much recommend that you save the ME2 as a back up mic, and use something better.
The transmitter also has a weird control called “cable compensation”. Reading the manual, this is supposed to be used when simulating a certain length of guitar cord when used on an instrument. My educated guess is that this adds some capacitance to the line cutting HF. I’ll certainly say that the unit does sound brighter then my 195’s with it off. I’d recommend leaving it off.
The receiver’s specs indicate line level output levels of +11dbm. In reality, I have no idea where that number comes from. Setting the receiver to +12db on its output is still a low line level signal that required opening up the channel level higher then you would normally want. The receiver really is a mic level output, and it works best this way. Used with a quality mixer or recorder, you’ll get the best and cleanest gain structure this way. Trying to run at line level will not result in a quiet clean signal.
Ergonomics
This brings me to a key point with this sort of lower priced compromise product, every adjustment is done in a menu. There are no external controls on these units such as a easy to get to a trim level. The transmitter does have a MUTE switch, but thats it. This means you must flip the battery cover door down to fiddle with the adjustment, then hit enter to make it stick. I do dearly wish that they had an external level trim control.
On the receiver, its the same thing – no output level, no head phone level, or a headphone jack at all. I’ll note that the 1/8″ output jack will not drive a standard set of headphones, at least not to a useful level. Having a headphone jack is handy simply for checking your signal at the source, as well as having a spare output when you need it.
The receiver is not bag friendly at all. First is that the menu display is on the side of the unit where you can’t see it, and second you don’t have any controls to work with on the top. More annoying is that the output jack is on the top of the unit. If this wasn’t enough, there is also the lack of a real external power connection to run on bag power. There is a charging connection for use with the Sennhieser battery packs, but I don’t know if it can be used to really power the unit.
Can you use it in a bag ? sure. Will you like it ? probably not. My Lectro receivers simply live in the bag and never get moved, the G3’s would require constant removal to adjust them, change frequencies, power them on or off, and change the batteries. If you can find an odd way of mounting them so you can see the display and not over flex the 1/8″ output jack, this might work for you.
The receiver certainly works fine on camera. I had a bracket they were able to grab, or you could remove the wire clip and velcro them on where ever they fit. The kit also includes a plastic hotshot adapter mount. The mount works, but I would not call it a long term mounting solution. It works best as that once in a while problem solver.
The mounting clip is an odd piece of spring steel that is identical on both units and the same as G2’s. Out of the box its way too stiff to slip into most people’s clothes. Bend it out a bit and it looses its grip, but if you don’t, you won’t get it onto thin light fabrics. Sennheiser seriously needs to redo the mounting clip to a more conventional spring loaded clip like those of other brands have. The mounting clip is a serious failing, I’ve seen G2’s bent up and useless way too many times. Perhaps there is an aftermarket bracket that can be found and mounted with double sided foam tape.
The 1/8″ or 3.5mm  Jacks
I’ll say it, of ALL the connectors they could of used – TA5, TA3, Lemo, they choose the worst possible connector. I’m sure this was in part to keep the costs down. Now the 1/8″ jack does have a screw collar to lock the plug in, and its the toughest looking 1/8″s jack I’ve seen, but either way its a poor choice. If anyone could mod these units for TA3/5 connectors, they would have a very steady stream of customers getting their units modified.
Exceptional Battery Life
Using a set of new 2500ma AA’s I got 12+ hrs of continuous use on the transmitter. The receiver went maybe 18hrs or so. Compared to my power sucking Lectros, is is great. It should be noted that the transmitters are only 30mw. This is typical of cheaper units. The lower power of course translates into longer battery life compared to other units at 50, 100 and 250mw.
As much as you may want to argue that great receiver design is critical, and it is, having more RF power always helps. RF power is especially important when you want to go for some distance, because the inverse square law applies now matter what brand of wireless you are using. Put more simply, a hotter RF signal at any distance always wins in my book.
RF Performance
The new G3’s are diversity receivers. There is one antenna sticking out of the top of the unit, and the ground of the output wire is used as the second. Does it work ? yes.
The receivers can scan their frequency ranges for in use channels. It seems to work ok, even when I tried them in a major US city as well as more rural locations. Whats very cool is that once you setup the receiver, and select a frequency, you can transmit your setup info via infrared to the transmitter. This feature is brilliant and works great.
There are 1628 channels in the frequency band my unit covers. They are separated into banks with sub channels. You can use all the frequencies in the bank’s subchannels safely together without worry of intermodulation problems. This is a great feature to have and makes multi unit use much simpler. There is also a user programmable bank as well. You can also manually set frequencies if you want too.
I ran my urban RF performance test. I setup the transmitter and fed it from my laptop’s headphone jack playing itunes. I also used a Y splitter to feed my lectro 195 transmitter for a side by side comparison of a unit I knew well.
I was able to easily transmit through sheetrock and wood walls without a problem inside the house. Outside of the house generally worked fine too. I then went for a walk around my neighborhood. I”ve run my lectros 500 to 1000 feet or more with this test.This warm summer night I was testing, neither unit wanted to go much further then a few hundred feet outside the structure. The lower RF output power of the G3 certainly seemed to limit the distance it would go compared to the Lectro at 100mw of RF power. I think that result was to be expected. However, the diversity design did generally give me better reception then I expected while I was in range.
My conclusion is RF performance is fine for close range work. Walls shouldn’t present much of a problem. You could certainly use these units for mixer to camera hops if you wanted to, and feel safe you were not going to have major problems. Sure I know purists will argue you should be using a digital type transmitter for a camera hop. However not everyone can drop $5k for a digital wireless setup especially if you don’t need it everyday. Sometimes issues of safety, convenience, and the need to move fast in congested situations mean you do what you need to order to get the job done. I think that for close use like this, the G3’s are good enough quality for most people’s needs and reliable enough. I”ve certainly used G2’s a couple of times like this for broadcast gigs and no one has every complained.
UPDATE : Using your Lectro 195 transmitter with a G3
This isn’t supposed to work, but it does. I was able to tune a G3 RECEIVER to 475.375MHZ manually to match a Lectro 195 transmitter, and guess what ? it works ! The G3 receiver was happy to see the 195’s pilot tone, and open up. Sound worked ! This means that G3 receivers can be used as spare or backups for 195 transmitters if you can get every one tuned the same. It did seem like the audio performance wasn’t quite as good, but it worked. OTH, using the G3 transmitter would not get the lectro 195 reciever to work. If I had time to fiddle I could probably of turned off the pilot tone on the 195 and gotten it to work.
UPDATE : Using your modern Lectro Transmitters or Receivers  With G3 or G4’s
If you set your Lectro reciever to compatibility mode of 3 it will work with a G3 transmitter just fine. Likewise if you set your Lectro transmitter to Mode 3 it will work with a G3 receiver.  This is really handly if a camera has a slot in lectro receiver, but all you have are G3 transmitters.
Conclusion
The only real downfall of these units is the lack of top mounted displays and controls for bag use and the mount clips. If you can work around this, the price is right, the quality of the audio is very good, and RF performance is decent. The very long battery life is great for any application where its critically important. If you can deal with the quirky ergonomics of the units, they are a bargain. They are great starter units if you have nothing but spend a little extra and get a better lava mic. The G3’s are also good secondary wireless units for backup or extra channels when you use up all of your primary premium brand wireless.
Special Thanks to Guy Cochran at  DVinfo.net for special support on this review