With the increasing public awareness of the ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) and its mandates, the need to provide hearing assistance systems in public venues has become a hot and profitable topic. A minimum of four percent of a public venue’s occupancy must be provided with access to hearing assistance devices, and as one might imagine, portability is key. And although it does not fall under the mandates of the ADA, hearing assistance for sound and AV systems in houses of worship has become the norm rather than the exception. Not only portability, but hi fidelity and agility are key features required to meet the needs of multisystem venues such as movie theatres, schools, museums, courtrooms and the like. Phonic Ear’s OnWave Direct Digital Synthesis FM wireless listening system is a candidate for fulfilling this need.
Product PointsApplications: Churches, auditoriums, courtrooms or any location requiring wireless monitoring for the hearing impaired.
Key Features: Agile frequency selection; multiple input source accommodations; internal tuning tone; user programming lockout feature
Contact: Phonic Ear at 800-227-0735, Web Site.
The OnWave system ships in a configuration consisting of a transmitter, four receivers with earbuds, batteries, a small-format whip antenna, a line level interconnection cable, a tuning tool, a hearing assistance sign and a wallwart power supply. The half rack unit is compact and pretty straight-forward. The front panel sports a large blue function display, soft touch level up and down buttons, a function button, a speech/music button, line/mic select, bass cut and power buttons. There’s an RF fault LED that indicates the disconnection of the antenna or a bad cable as well as an audio overload LED. The back panel provides connections for the antenna via an RF LH-TNC type connector, speaker level input on a terminal strip, a mic/line input using a universal XLR with concentric 1/4-inch TRS jack and a power input jack for the wallwart.
The minimally technical manual supplied with the unit is lean and very well organized, and speaks to a wide audience from the technician to the end user. It includes diagrams for those who like pictorial guidance and makes it easy for anyone to install, program or use the system.
Getting sound into the unit is pretty simple. Choosing between microphone, line and constant voltage sources, one can connect a dynamic or phantom powered microphone, a line level output source, or a 2, 10, 25 or 70V speaker line source. To have the unit recognize which input is being used, you must select the appropriate setting using the function buttons on the front panel, toggling through functions on the display and adjusting the input level with the level “+” and “-” keys.
Accompanying the system is a programming decal that affixes to the top of the transmitter or the sound cabinet. Also included is a marketing tool kit that I found quite interesting. The kit contains sales and marketing information for the contractor unfamiliar with the opportunities in the wireless listening marketplace. I always appreciate getting good marketing information from manufacturers that will make selling units an easier proposition.
When powering up the system, it loads an internal program from flash ROM. This takes about a second or so and then the bright blue screen displays the bass shelving frequency (40 Hz, 80 Hz, 160 Hz or 320 Hz), the selected input source and the operating frequency channel (A through J). Pressing the channel button toggles through the available channels. Setting the channel is a sequenced step, there is no way to go backward, so if you go past the desired frequency, you just have to keep going until you get to the one you want.
Selecting between music and speech is done with a single button. For setting up the receivers Phonic Ear has included a test tone. By pressing the function button and the “speech/music” button, the unit sends a tone out on the selected frequency, allowing the user to use the provided “tuning tool” to dial in the proper reception. Be careful to make sure all receivers are turned down all the way before attempting this. Once all the functions of the transmitter are set and the receivers are tuned, you can lock out the user from tampering with the settings by simply pressing the function key and the “level -” button to lock in the settings. The screen will then display an “L” next to the source type icon.
The receivers are made of molded plastic and operate with two provided AA batteries. Also provided are the newer-style mini dual earphones in their own small case. The case is useful for storing such delicate units and the nifty wind-up style case makes it a snap.
The fidelity is good, and for most speech applications the sound quality is adequate. I noticed some noise when the source audio was down, but the ratio of signal to noise is such that the speech is intelligible and music is represented faithfully.
The OnWave system is a good choice for many wireless listening situations, although not suited for critical monitoring, it certainly covers all the bases for its intended use.