Way back in the dim distant past I used to be a CB radio fan. No, not the freaky type as described in that ghastly country and western song “Convoy” (some time in the 80s), but a general-purpose user who was fascinated by communications technology.
And it never quite left me. There is some sort of magic in talking to someone via 2-way and a mobile phone experience just doesn’t cut it in the same way.
And whilst the smartphone has certainly revolutionised communications, there are many areas where radio reigns supreme.
In the area of filmmaking and events for example, radio comms is a must as information and instructions are needed on a real time basis, often between a large number of personnel including director and crew.
So when comms specialist Hollyland contacted me and asked if I’d like to review their MARS T1000 wireless intercom system I said of course “yes please”!
And a week or so later it arrived in a large box and comprised of a base station unit with a headset and 4 belt pack sender / receivers with headsets.
The base station either be powered by a supplied 240v – 12v adaptor or alternatively, using optional F970 batteries.
There is provision to install a couple of these on the top of the base station, and Hollyland say that if fully charged, each battery will supply up to 20 hours of operation. A bonus is that when operating on battery, change over to the second can be achieved without losing power.
There are 4 USB-A ports for charging the belt packs, a USB-C port for firmware updates and an RJ45 Ethernet port. Two RF antennae are supplied and are screwed in on the rear of the unit.
Controls and menu functions are very straight forward and that of course makes the system very easy to use and there is little to master beyond a volume control, up / down buttons that (double duty as left and right buttons), remote mic mute and a menu confirm button.
The belt packs are equally no-fuss making for easy understanding and operation. Unlike “cheap” walkie talkie type units, these are solidly built with metal casings. The top of the belt pack has a single rotary on / off / volume rotary control, two built in RF antenna and a 3.5mm headset port. The right-hand side has a single talk / mute button, USB-C port for external charging and a Tally port.
(Tally ports are used to communicate to an operator of say a camera or playback device that they are live on air).
For tripod or other externalmounting, the base of the belt pack has a standard ¼” thread.
Fully charged belt packs are good for 8 hours use.
There is not too much to report here. The headset is a typical over the ear unit with an expandable headband and a mic on the end of an arm that has about a 300 degree of rotation. A 1 metre cable with a 3.5mm plug is connected for plugging into the belt pack.
There are no controls on the headset itself with things like volume controlled from the belt pack.
The system was very easy to set up and basically does what it says on the tin. From a comfort point of view, the headsets can be worn for an extended period with no pressure points to give a headache. The ear shell fully covers the ear, which in a hot environment I am guessing there may be a sweat issue.
The MARS T1000 is a full duplex system meaning that conversations can be two way simultaneously. In our test, this worked flawlessly and is a major advantage over off-the-shelf walkie talkies. The ability for the user of the base station to mute a unit that has been left “open” inadvertently is a bonus.
The MARS T1000 uses the 1.9GHz wireless frequency and we found it good for 150 metres in line of sight with no issues. The manufacturers claim 300 metres, but that would have to be under absolutely perfect conditions which are rarely if ever found on set!
What I didn’t pick and found via a bit of accidental research is that this is – perhaps coincidentally – the same maximum distance as an SDI cable.
If you need more than the five headsets that come with the system (by the way you also get spare antennas, headset shells and carry bags included in the price), you can daisy chain a second base station via the Ethernet port. That is the maximum though, you cannot keep adding base stations after the second.
For use on a small set, in a church AV setting, local theatre group etc, this a relatively inexpensive way of keeping everyone in touch.
The MARS T100 is a rugged, solid system that as I mentioned previously, does exactly what it says on the tin and does it very well.
If you haven’t considered such an investment before, I’d suggest it would be a worthwhile investigation. Sure you can buy 5 walkie-talkie units such as those by GME at Jaycar etc, and they will do an admirable job but with major restrictions compared to the flexibility of the MARS T1000.