Our interpretation equipment review
In a previous article, we discussed some transmitters and microphones for starting your interpretation kit. In this article we discuss receiver options.
Portable is everything
Let’s face it, most of us will not be organizing 2000-people events with interpretation right away. For one thing it would be very expensive to do it with your own equipment. So the first thing we plan is how to manage small interpretation jobs. After whispering interpretation and voiceover have reached is limits, you need some simultaneous interpretation equipment that you can take anywhere and use in field visits. And let’s face it, if you are in interpreting you are expected to cover different situations and have some flexibility. We can call this the interpretation starter kit. You need a portable transmitter with a decent microphone and at least a few receivers. I recommend starting out with at least 5 translation receivers and move up slowly from there. Later on you might find that after a certain number of interpretation receivers its easier and more affordable to just rent the equipment from agencies or from fellow interpreters. If you buy 100 receivers, chances are, depending on the market, that you wont recover the investment in years.
RF not IR
Once portable is the objective then RF: radio frequency, is the way to go. IR, infrared equipment is impractical to use in a moving situation. We will discuss IR in another article.
Basically an RF interpretation transmitter is a small radio broadcast station. By now most transmitters have the ability to work with different frequencies, so you can use several at the time on different frequencies to accommodate different languages.
Some interpretation receiver options
The criteria you have to balance when looking for interpretation receivers are flexibility, cost, and quality.
The extra affordable option
Buy used! Check ebay regularly and you will probably find a good deal every now and then. Look in the 72 to 76 Mhz frequency, as most equipment we have found in our careers function in that range. A good example is this: the classical Williams Sound R7 receiver.
This is an old analog receiver for a single frequency. It has a wheel that acts as on/off switch and as volume control and a LED light indicating power and battery status. You can adjust the frequency by opening up the unit and adjusting a coil, which is easily done with a precision screwdriver. You can also find the similar R7-4 receiver which allows you to use 4 different frequencies. All of these units have a 3.5 (mini) plug for mono headphones. They work with 9V batteries, the square ones that provide a longer lasting charge.
The affordable and flexible option
The Enersound R-120 receiver is a Chinese digital RF multi frequency receiver working on the same frequency range. It looks nice and modern with its blue screen and round shape. Unlike the aforementioned receiver, this one is digital, it features an LCD display, can be used on 20 different channels and provides stereo sound through its 3.5 mm jack. At roughly 75.00 USD per unit (including standard stereo Enersound headphones) these units are significantly cheaper than American higher-end counterparts. That is their great advantage.
On the other hand these units are flimsier, they are not meant to sustain any kind of abuse. Therefore you must treat them with care and if they break you will be hard-pressed to find someone who can repair them. The headphones that come for the unit are fragile as well. They provide the option of using them on both ears or just in one, and they are pretty comfortable. You will find however, that if you are not careful you will start losing the foam covers. The Enersound R-120 uses two AAA batteries which helps maintain its small size and light weight. However if you do not store it properly or transport it in a specially designed case, the power button will be easily activated and the battery drained, and next time you take out the unit, the batteries will be dead. So storage is a concern with these units, unless you remove batteries every time you store or transport the units. It might also be worth considering that rechargeable AAA batteries are not as easily found in some parts of the the world as AA.
A Great-quality Option (that won’t break the bank)
Again from Williams Sound, we can recommend a unit we currently use: the PPA R37. This unit goes for about 100 dollars, depending on where you buy it. It features the same size jack, and can use mono or stereo headphones. It is digitally synthesized so it is very good at rejecting interference and providing excellent reception. One feature we really love in this unit is that it allows the user to control volume and nothing else. You can set the frequency of the unit via a hidden scan button in the AA battery compartment that automatically sets the unit to the frequency being transmitted. This of course, will give you a little extra work, but will avoid the usual complains of customers who think the unit is broken…when they just haven’t selected the right frequency. It has a lightweight, durable design, with a nice form factor.
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