Rio Rancho, NM (May 8, 2020) — Lectrosonics has launched its new DPR digital plug-on transmitter and the DSQD/AES-3 receiver for location sound recording, intended for use on a variety of applications including boom miking. Both products are part of the D Squared wireless family platform.
The DPR digital plug-on transmitter is fully compatible with the DSQD digital receiver and features a tuning range of 470 to 608 MHz (470 to 614 MHz for the export version). The new transmitter includes specially developed circuitry for extended operating time on two AA batteries, and offers RF power selections at 25 and 50 mW. AES 256-CTR encryption is provided for high level security applications, and the unit sports phantom power, selectable to off, 5v, 15v or 48v to accommodate a range of microphone types.
The DPR features DSP-controlled analog limiting, and input gain is adjustable over a 55 dB range in 1 dB steps to allow an exact match to the input signal level, maximizing audio dynamic range and signal to noise ratio.
The DPR can be configured as either a transmitter or a recorder, with files stored on microSD card memory in the Broadcast Wave .wav (BWF) format at 24 bits, 48 kHz sample rate. A 3.5mm TRS jack on the side of the unit allows jam sync with timecode, and Lectrosonics says the unit’s timecode accuracy is better than 1PPM due to the temperature compensated crystal (TCXO) clock. The DPR also responds to remote “dweedle tone” commands, available via third-party apps such as New Endian’s LectroRM and PDRRemote, allowing users to change settings including frequency, audio level, lock/unlock, and also to start and stop recordings.
The machined aluminum DPR housing is the same size and shape as the previous generation plug-on units including the HM and HMa so that standard accessories are compatible with the new unit, including the PHTRAN3 pouch and the HMCVR silicone cover. The input wiring is also the same as previous generations, allowing the use of existing cable and barrel adapter accessories including the MCA5X and MCA-M30.
The DPR features an audio frequency response of 25 Hz to 20 kHz +0.0, – 3dB, a dynamic range of 110 dB before limiting and a flat in-band phase response, allowing it to be used as a wireless test and measurement link with calibrated microphones, for audio system alignment and monitoring.
The new DSQD/AES3 digital receiver is a four-channel, half-rack design with high-resolution color display, analog or AES digital outputs, and rear BNC antenna ports with “loop-thru” buffered BNC outputs to another receiver. The new receiver is compatible with the latest Lectrosonics all-digital transmitters. The DSQD/AES3 is also backward compatible with any Digital Hybrid Wireless transmitters. Three different receiver diversity schemes can be employed depending on the needs of the application, including switched (during packet headers for seamless audio), Digital Ratio Diversity, or Digital Frequency Diversity. The DSQD/AES3 includes digital talkback capability when used with any talkback-enabled transmitter.
A headphone jack is included on the DSQD/AES3 for audio monitoring per channel. Ethernet and USB ports allow the receiver to connect to Lectrosonics Wireless Designer software for programming and monitoring. Antenna bias power can be engaged in the menu, and front panel LEDs show the status. Each DSQD/AES3 ships with half the rack hardware needed to mount two units together, yielding 8 channels in 1RU.
The Lectrosonics DPR Digital Plug-on Transmitter and the DSQD/AES-3 Receiver will be available in Q3, 2020.
The DA-8s is one of the latest, solid-state, Bluetooth enabled, desktop-style 2-channel speaker amplifiers, from Shenzhen ShuangMuSanLin Electronics Company (S.M.S.L), based in Shenzhen, China. S.M.S.L has been making amps since 2009 and primarily focuses on the compact, and medium-size players, amps and DACs. The DA-8s comes from a long legacy of amps from S.M.S.L including the D Series, SA series, A series and Q series of amplifiers. Most notable is the DA-8s’ higher performance brother the DA-8, which lacks the Bluetooth but makes up for it with higher SNR and lower THD+N. S.M.S.L is part of the wave of smartly designed, affordable, featured filled, and sleek looking amplifiers coming out of the Pearl River Delta. Let’s see how it stacks up.
The DA-8s is a very practical and straightforward amplification solution with big ambitions towards driving small home shelf speakers or a PC setup that’s also used as an entertainment center for movies etc. While the size is a little bigger, or longer specifically, than some other desktop amps out there like the Fosi BT20A or Sabaj A4, it makes up for it with a more sleek look that fits in better with home electronics (yes, looks do matter). Having XLR, RCA and BT inputs on a desktop-style amp say right away S.M.S.L’s ambition for this device is to drive the newer generation of bigger shelf, desktop, and auxiliary PC speakers very well (more on the results below). The addition of the BT5.0 receiver so you can stream through the device plus an added remote control and price of around $170 makes it an attractive value for an attractive device.
The DA-8s uses the Germany-based Infineon’s Class D amplifier chipset which really is useful for lower power consumption and its smaller size is perfect for compact devices. The DA-8s deploys Infineon’s MERUS IC amp and chip module technology, which was designed specifically for portable and compact HiFi audio solutions. Class D is known for its efficiency but has been bemoaned for sound quality issues, but the new technology has evolved as the new chipset is what I think is the difference-maker in this device. The Infineon chip is also packed with PQFN thermal efficient materials which reduces the need for heatsinks. All of this is great for small desktop style devices – keeping it small, but efficient and cool. The balanced input-to-speaker design of the DA-8s, combined with a patented sound and treble/bass adjustment feature created by S.M.S.L engineers, gives the user the control to match any speaker or music genre to their taste through the settings.
The engineers at S.M.S.L also added an NJW1194 electronic control chip from Japan’s Nagano Japan Radio Co., Ltd. The chip, which generally has more industrial uses, in the DA-8s provides for a much higher grade of volume control that also reduces distortion. The chip adds a smooth feel to the volume control either on the device or in the remote that seems to provide an amazing range of volume which makes it easy to find the sweet spot for your particular mood or setting.
While it’s not the first desktop amp to use Bluetooth (BT) as an input, I find it very relevant for the intended use cases of the DA-8s, which includes a BT 5.0 chipset, including Qualcomm aptX. BT 5.0 codec touts lossless audio and imperceptible aural lag (perfect for gaming). It also extends range, reception, and streaming sound quality. This adds a number of great uses for the device – including high-res streaming. Combine that with the balanced design of the device, and you can stream high-res tracks with great end-to-end reproduction from the speakers. But the key to why this is so important is that you can use your phone or BT enabled DAP to easily pair up and stream in high-res. So you get a really good amp for your desktop setup that allows the freedom to easily pair and use a BT device which then lets you control your music experience. This makes it more attractive especially to the younger audiophiles that expect BT.
As I mentioned in the intro the DA-8s was designed with XLR, RCA and BT inputs, giving a wide variety of input options and makes adapting a DAC into the kit very easy and this is needed as the DA-8s’ DAC is Bluetooth only. There is also a 5-way binding post on the back for connection to your two-channel speakers along with an AC port that uses a specially crafted adapter for better regulation of power to the device. You will find no digital inputs though other than the BT so there must be a DAC inside for the Bluetooth feature, but it’s most likely a component of the BT chip with no external input. Polish this off with all gold-plated inputs and outputs, onboard heat protection for the board and also a low power standby, up to spec for EU, and you have an effective, quality device that punches above its weight.
Building on a solid device design, the DA-8s also offers a bunch of features, although here there was some room for improvement. Yes, it has an OLED display on the front, but it’s very tiny and narrow, and hard to see in some lighting situations. Adding a little size here would have been nice as I was squinting at times going through the menu. However, they did include a remote, which almost makes up for this, as once you learn the simple controls you can work every setting from the remote. The remote was also nice and not a lot of amps at this price include a remote, which makes having the amp a little less laborious, especially if you like lots of different types of music or use it for your speakers while gaming.
One place where the DA-8s is a winner is that they managed to pack all that cool tech into an all-aluminum alloy CNC precision processing shell with anodized surfaces. It reminded me a lot of the look of the original Sony Discman and was similar in size. The front has a single scroll wheel where you interact with the UI. The shape, while longer, paid dividends in that it was so thin it was easy to slide under a monitor or PC stand, which is perfect for desktops.
The menu includes 7 pages, input selection menu, BT setup, EQ menu (I’ll talk about this more in a sec), treble adjust, bass adjust, main UI, and dimmer function (it can get very bright). You will notice there is no main menu EQ feature, which I miss. However, and probably owing to the control chip, and S.M.S.L’s onboard proprietary sound DSP, you can feather the treble and bass to get it just where you like it. It kind of reminded me of the two treble & bass knobs that were on my Pioneer deck in my 1993 Civic. There are also a few presets, one is S.M.S.L’s default, based on the same sound technology.
It also includes a feature that when you slide the control wheel in any direction in the BT menu it forgets the paired device instantly, then slide it again to re-pair to a new device – meaning you can easily switch between BT devices, without the labor of opening a menu, deleting an old device and re-pairing. This makes the DA-8s BT setup experience much smoother. However – the downside is that if you accidentally slide the wheel in the wrong menu – you may un-pair your device and have to re-pair the source – they made it so easy it’s almost borderline too easy. I was excited to get it plugged in.
I had to borrow some gear to be able to put this puppy through its paces. So off I went and collected some gear in addition to what I had at home. To test the DA-8s I got my hands on a Topping D90 DAC to test the XLR ports, then a Xantech XT-DAC-12 to test the RCA input, one of my favorite DAPs is my Fiio M11 Pro with THX AAA amplification which I used to test the BT input and a set of wood-finished Jamo S803 speakers for my left and right and a Fosie BT20A amp and Sabaj A4 amp for comparison.
The Jamo S803s I was lent are Walnut Wood grain finished and offer a power handling up to 160W @ 8 Ohm, separate Soft Dome Tweeter and a 127mm Polyfiber Woofer and are a relatively nimble 12 pounds. The Jamos are best used right on the shelf or on a large desk. The S803s offer a very resilient sound overall and have a very, very warm sound to them. This was very good to help offset some of the v-shaped sound coming from the DA-8s.
Using my computer as the source, I connected the Topping D90 to the XLR ports on the DA-8s using a QED Reference XLR interconnect, which was in turn connected to the Jamos via Audioquest Type 4 speaker cables. I am a huge hip hop fan – so I went right into Tupac’s “To Live and Die In LA” – and probably just got kicked out of my building. The sound reproduction was exceptional with exceptional tonality, and an extended feeling of warmth and presence and of course bass. The relatively V-shaped sound was OK for my tastes and could be offset by using the sound setting or speakers that add more range in the middle. The noise floor was excellent, with no pops or hisses or crackles even with the DAC signal being fed in, it was the same while playing tracks too, nice and clean in the empty spaces.
I went on to a live recording and had to reconfigure the DAC to a lower DB setting to avoid alarming my neighbors once again. The Doors’ live version of “Alabama Song”, came through with great presence, I noticed some background sounds peaking out, mumbles of the crowd, the pick on the guitar strings, and that feeling of being in the room and then you notice you have been tapping your feet to the beat for like 3 minutes before realizing it. The 3D-like presence of the sound being projected in front and behind me was exceptional. This is the tell-tale sign of high-end sound reproduction from an excellent recording. This was where the S.M.S.L really shined, and was the best setup in terms of sound quality of all the inputs, by a wide margin. This is a situation that comes down to just having the right components in the right configuration – that makes a huge difference.
Using my computer as the source again, I then used the XT-DAC-12, using the RCA inputs with stock cables. This is where the DA-8s did not shine – there was a major drop off in quality that was immediately noticeable. The cymbals at times hissed, and bass thudded a little more at higher volumes – I shouldn’t have listened with the XLR setup first. I replayed the same two songs, all the way through and it just sounded bland and dim in comparison to the XLR which also sound really balanced on the left and right, whereas the RCA did not reproduce the left and right as faithfully. The tone and range were just not the same and dropped off at higher volumes at the top and bottom.
I had the expectation that the BT quality would be a drop off, but here I was also really surprised. I paired my M11 Pro and using the same settings on the Topping DAC. I replayed the same two songs and was VERY surprised to hear the difference. The BT provided that same sense of space and being in the room of the recording versus being in your room. I jumped back and had to A /B between the XLR, and RCA inputs and the BT several times to see that the XLR inputs still resulted in the best overall sound reproduction, but the BT was a hairsbreadth away from the quality produced when using the XLR setup and computer as source, and I have some ideas why down below.
Overall, the DA-8s performed very nicely and above where I would have thought – way above. I believe this is due to the new Infineon Class D chips, which seem to punch above their weight. While the manual says you can get 80W per channel, usually at 50W or so you start to hear distortion in this range of devices. But it felt like the power per channel was closer to around 60W+, without distortion and if I cranked the DB on the Topping higher and increased the volume, it could have filled a large room and powered a small two-channel home movie system with ease, in my opinion. This was true for the BT input too, possibly due to having an additional onboard DAC for decoding the BT signal + the S.M.S.L proprietary DSP. I have two amps I got last year and I tested them to compare as they were in the same price range and also Class D amps with BT in the $100-$200 amp product range of solid-state amps the DA-8s goes right to the top of the pack.
My Fosie BT20A offers very similar sound reproduction (and now costs about $80 less) as the DA-8s when in XLR input mode, and packs a much higher wattage per channel (100W @ 4 ohms). However, the BT20A lacked anything except RCA input and outputs, and a more technical, dumbed-down manual UI and only BT 4.2. So maybe you get a bit more wattage and similar sound but the spec of the DA-8s is way better and so are the design and features.
I have a Sabaj A4 that I use with my Sony 7.1 channel BDV-E385 home theatre system which I use in my living room and it delivers great sound as well and it also has a direct subwoofer output and also a digital optical input, which is nice to have as that is more standard these days for home audio. It also costs a little less ($129) than the DA-8s, which is nice, but you give up your XLR ports and BT 4.2 instead of BT 5.0 and remote. The Sabaj does look a lot nicer than the Fosie and is more in line with the look of the DA-8s as it does have more of a sleek look, but still has a simple manual UI.
Overall I was very surprised by the little amp, it’s looks, features and design are above average – I would happily exchange either of the ones I have for this one without hesitation. As a simple Bluetooth amp solution, when combined with the Jamo S803’s and Topping D90, it created audio magic right in my living room. The S.M.S.L DA-8s really brought out all the Jamo’s had to offer – if I had gone full-throttle on both the AMP and Topping DAC I could have melted the Jamos for sure. Honestly, besides the RCA input being off-color (although possible due in part to the difference in DAC input), the rest of the DA-8s is pretty flawless for its price and does punch way above its weight. As I said above – having the right components that work well together in concert often result in surprising results. For me the Topping D90 + QED Reference XLR Interconnects + S.M.S.L. DA-8s + Jamo S803 speakers = magic. The DA-8s is a straight-forward amplification solution, and it kicks butt in its category, and I highly recommend it, it certainly has replaced my current favorite Sabaj A4 until I have to give this back. If you don’t mind not having BT and are looking for a single-ended solution try the more performance-oriented brother, the DA-8.
Let me introduce you to the FiiO UTWS1 True Wireless
Bluetooth Module, a true breakthrough in the technology. How’s that? Let me
It seems that everybody is jumping on the True Wireless bandwagon, something that I don’t quite get as it seems to be a step backward. My first Bluetooth headset, about thirteen years ago, was a small module about the size of a hearing aid that fit into your ear and came with a special charging case. It was all a bit inconvenient to me. One, the cases were always getting broken or lost and the only way to replace them was to buy a new Bluetooth headset. Secondly, you had to walk around with them in your ear all the time whether you were using them or not, I mean what could you do with them, if you put them in your pocket they would get damaged or trigger accidentally and by the time you got them out when a call came in you would miss your call. This was so annoying for me that I attached mine to a lanyard and wore it around my neck. After about a year I noticed that others had followed suit.
The first real improvement was installing mini USB ports (and later micro USB and finally USB C) on the headsets themselves and ditching the charging cases. Then came the stereo units which had the receiver/DAC/amplifier as a separate lightweight module about the size of the remote control on wired IEMs designed for smartphones built into the cable between the IEMs (Like the Dodocools I reviewed when I first came to Headphone.Guru). After that, someone came up with the idea of building the receiver/DAC/amplifier into a collar piece and attaching their standard IEMs to it (Such as the 1More Triple Driver reviewed here). A variant has been the Bluetooth amplifiers built by FiiO and others that work with any IEM offering far superior sound quality. And that has been the state of the art until mid last year when the True Wireless units hit the market, which as I have noted, appear to be a return to the beginning with all of the comfort and sound quality issues of the original models.
FiiO has decided to one-up the concept by combining the advantages of True Wireless with the versatility of a Bluetooth amplifier, hence the FiiO UTWS1 True Wireless Bluetooth Module. This has several advantages. First, they will work with most IEMs including customs, as they come fitted with extended MMCX connectors (presumably more reliable and easier to connect than standard MMCX) or 0.78mm 2-pin connectors. Secondly, since they wrap around your ear like eyeglasses or high-end IEM cables, they are both comfortable and secure. And thirdly since they securely hold the IEMs in place, you can pop them out of your ear canal when you are not using them and just leave them in place, which also had the advantage of the fact that you don’t have to have a seal for them to work, like when you are taking a phone call. I don’t know about you, but I don’t like talking with my ears plugged, it makes it hard to modulate your voice and impossible to maintain awareness of your surroundings.
FiiO UTWS1 True Wireless Bluetooth Module:
So down to brass tacks. The FiiO UTWS1 True Wireless
Bluetooth Module amplifier/DAC/receiver/battery is about the size of a standard
smartphone remote, approximately 1 ¾” long, ½” wide and 3/8” deep with an
approximately 1 ¾” coiled pigtail ending in the MMCX or 0.78mm 2-pin connector.
Each unit is fitted with a standard micro USB port for charging and they come
with a convenient Y cable so that both units can be charged from a single USB
port (on a computer, cell phone charger or a cell phone battery backup unit).
There is a single button on each unit that provides all of the Bluetooth
Qualcomm QCC3020 chip supporting Bluetooth 5.0 and custom-tuned for sound quality and signal to noise ratio with an improved over reference design LRC circuit.
Dual Direct Connections for lower latency and better stability (each unit connects directly to the phone rather than each other).
QCC Intelligent Noise Cancellation (ANC using incorporated DSP and dual microphones).
aptX/ACC/SBC Bluetooth format support.
Custom FPC Bluetooth antenna for improved signal reception.
8 hour continuous music playback battery life with 180 hour standby time.
Individual/Binaural listening modes
Multi-function Button provides Pairing, Power On/Off, Play/Pause, Next Song, Last Song, Answer Call, Hang Up, Volume Up and Volume Down functions.
Waterproof Nano Coating (IPX5 life waterproof).
Titanium Memory Wire for earhook.
Zippered Hard-shell Case.
Duel-head Charging Cable.
Living with the FiiO UTWS1 True Wireless Bluetooth Module:
When I agreed to review the FiiO UTWS1 True Wireless
Bluetooth Module I was intending to review it with the JadeAudio (FiiO) EA3
IEMs, but when I received them I discovered that I was sent the MMCX version as
the 0.78mm 2-pin version had not as yet been released, so instead I used the
FiiO FH7 IEMs. For source I used my Essential PH-1 and the FiiO M11 DAP.
The packaging was simple and elegant, a small square white box with a clear plastic window and an outer picture sleeve. Inside the box was the zippered hard-shell case, inside of which was the UTWS1s and the dual-head charging cable, the owner’s manual was underneath.
Pairing was a simple matter, though they did need to be paired separately, once paired they would connect ready enough when turned on. One advantage of having the function button on a separate unit is that you don’t have the problem of activating it while seating the IEMs in your ear.
For the weeks leading up to actually writing this review, I used them mostly for taking phone calls, which I did without making a seal as I find this more comfortable as mentioned above. Clarity was excellent and parties on the other end said that my voice came through well (an issue I have had with other True Wireless IEMs).
The multi-function buttons decide what function you are choosing by; time pushed, repetition and which unit is being activated; IE: Pressing the button for 10 seconds clears the pairing and puts the units into pairing mode, pressing the button for 5 seconds will power on or off, pressing the R for 2 seconds will track advance, pressing the L for 2 seconds for go back a track, double-click the R for pause, single-click either will resume play, single-click of the R causes volume to increase (a tone sounds when maximum volume is reached, though that was louder than I could listen), single-click L to volume down (this I was able to verify the beep on), a single-click of either side will answer or disconnect a phone call, double-clicking will decline to answer, and double-clicking L will activate the voice assistant.
Launching Qobuz on my phone I selected Alexandra Savior “The
Archer” as the first thing that caught my eye. The sound was very haunting with
a large sound stage and Alexandra’s vocal. The piano of the opening track “Soft
Currents” was rich and crisp, with a sense of being about 30 feet from the
stage with the piano parallel to the piano.
Next I chose Landgren & Lundgren “Kristallen” which
turned out to be piano and horn with the same sense of space and distance and a
very natural tone.
Switching to the FiiO M11 so that I would have access to my regular playlist I cued up “Teen Town” by Weather Report from “Heavy Weather”. The bass and percussion were tight and snappy with plenty of dynamic range. One thing I did note was that the volume on the player and the UTWS1 were independent, so I turned the player up full and used the UTWS1 volume to set listening level.
Conclusions on the FiiO UTWS1 True Wireless Bluetooth Module:
The FiiO UTWS1 True Wireless Bluetooth Module is everything I want in a True Wireless headset. It is comfortable, convenient, versatile, has enough power to drive any IEM (there is some mention in their Amazon ad of noise floor issues with extremely efficient IEMs, but I did not experience this with the FH7s), has a good microphone and active noise cancelling for phone use, allows you to use them with or without a seal (though you would obviously want a seal for music as there is no bass without it), and the sound quality is about as good as you can expect from a Bluetooth amplifier of their size. The range was excellent requiring me to leave my house to lose signal even with several walls in the way.
They also match incredibly well with the FiiO FH7 IEMs
giving good detail and a large soundstage, though not exactly forgiving, they
are fairly musical and not muffled and boomy like most of the True Wireless I
have heard, in fact they are the first True Wireless I have listened to that I
would consider using for music on a regular basis. And at $45.99 they are
considerably more affordable than most True Wireless offerings.
Los Angeles, CA (April 15, 2020)—On ABC’s reality series The Bachelor, sound contractor and equipment supplier RGEAR turned to Lectrosonics gear, including DCHT stereo digital transmitters and M2R wireless IFB stereo receivers, to capture the incessant high drama that goes on throughout a season of the long-running series.
“We might have up to 14 cameras running at the same time,” says Dan Norton, audio supervisor on The Bachelor. “For each camera, there’s a mixing person running around with an audio bag to capture all the different scenarios. DCHT transmitters ‘hop’ the stereo mix from each bag to the M2R receiver, which is also stereo, that’s mounted on each camera.”
“Though we record multi-track audio at the location and in the field, we’re also recording ENG-style direct to the cameras, which is what the Lectrosonics gear is for,” adds RGEAR owner Gregg Kita. “Due to the time crunch factor, the post-production crew only uses the multi-track audio when they need to. They like to rely on the ENG mixers to give them good stereo mixes on the cameras. Our crews are trained to send properly gain-staged sound to the cameras, which have a high-quality audio input stage. With the fidelity of the DCHT and M2R, the camera audio is good enough to be what you hear on television much of the time.”
To stay on top of all the developing intrigue, one or more producers patrol the location and need to be able to hear any cast conversation at any time, often quickly switching if a given interchange gets particularly interesting. For this, “we also have an M2R with an in-ear monitor on each producer’s hip,” says Dan Norton. “The M2R has a feature called Flex List, which is basically a list of mixes and the frequencies they’re on. It can save up to 16 of them, and you can give them custom names [in Lectrosonics Wireless Designer software]. So, a producer can elect to hear the output of any bag’s DCHT at any time themselves, without having to call on an operator to send them a different mix — almost like changing stations on a car radio.”
Norton elaborates, “Back in the day on The Bachelor, we needed two transmitters in each bag and two receivers on each camera. Then we needed a third transmitter-receiver pair because the producer wanted to hear a mono mix. So, 14 cameras times three is 42 frequencies, and that’s before we’d even miked up a single cast member! The show traveled all over the world in all kinds of RF surroundings, so frequency coordination was always time-consuming.”
“Using the current setup, we’re down to 14 frequencies to cover all the hops and IFB,” says Kita. “With the M2R, producers can opt to hear a stereo mix, a mono fold-down, or each channel separately. The infrared pairing between the receivers and transmitters is fantastic, and the frequency co-ordination that used to take several hours when we first arrived at a new location is down to about an hour.”
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