We did some interesting RF measurements on a simulated two way bag system to see how much the bag transmitters would affect the bag receivers' sensitivity. A two way bag system will typically consist of multiple receivers to receive audio signals from the talent, a portable mixer to mix the audio and one or more transmitters to retransmit mixed audio to the video cameras. The immediate question is "If the receivers and transmitters are on different frequencies why should the transmitter reduce the sensitivity of the receiver?" One obvious answer is that the RF front end of the receiver is not a perfect filter and can let strong, nearby frequencies pass through and overload the first amplifier. In addition, transmitters do not produce a single sharp frequency but have some noise 5 Mhz or more from the carrier. The levels are very low but bag systems have antennas that are very close together. In the same way, the local oscillator in the receiver produces some noise many MHz away from the desired frequency and acts the same as having noise in the transmitter. Instead of trying to calculate all this stuff it is simpler to just measure a simulated system. Though these measurements were made on a UM200 transmitter and UCR201 and UCR210 receivers, the numbers should be comparable for the current UM400 or SM transmitters and the corresponding UCR401 and UCR411 receivers.
To see what kind of interfering levels would exist in a bag, we put a transmitter 12" (30cm) away from an antenna mounted on a power meter and measured an average signal of -5dBm (.5mW) from a transmitter with 20 dBm output (100 mW). This is a very strong signal to bleed into a receiver but will be very typical of a bag system with 12" of antenna separation. We used this level for the interfering transmitter for all the sensitivity tests. We then checked the receiver sensitivity with the transmitter off and then on and measured the reduction in receiver sensitivity. We then repeated the measurements for different frequency offsets between the transmitter and receiver. To simulate a bag system where the talent's transmitter is on 540 MHz and the bag is re-transmitting mixed audio to the camera on 550 MHz, we would inject a 550 MHz signal at -5dBm into a UCR210 receiver set at 540 MHz and see how much that affected the receiver's ability to pick up the desired 540 MHz signal. We attenuated a block 21 UM200C transmitter set at 550 MHz down to -5 dBm and combined it with a weak 540 MHz signal from a signal generator, set the receiver to 540 MHz and checked the sensitivity with the transmitter off and then on. With the transmitter off, the receiver had a normal sensitivity of -107 dBm for 30 dB SINAD. (Same as "signal to noise ratio" at these values) With the transmitter on, the sensitivity fell to -104.7 dBm for a decrease in sensitivity of 2.3 dB. The receiver was desensed by 2.3 dB. This means that with a real bag system having a 10 MHz offset in the two systems' frequencies and with the antennas 12" apart, the usable range from the talent to the bag would have been reduced to 77% of normal range. This is a pretty small reduction and surprised me. I thought it would be much worse. (There is no reduction in the distance from the bag to the camera since the receiver at the camera is not near a transmitter.) To simulate a worst case situation, we reduced the frequency separation to only 0.5 MHz with the talent transmitter and bag receiver still at 540 MHz and the bag transmitter now at 540.500 MHz. The desensing was now much worse at 20 dB. This would reduce the talent to bag range to 10% of normal and is a good reason to never operate with only 0.5 MHz frequency separation. Here's some more measured values for a UM200 UCR210 system. I'll put frequency and then resulting range as a percent and also in actual feet, assuming 300 feet for a normal system.
Here are the results of UM200 and UCR210 at 12 inches apart:
Some users have wondered how the UCR201 would perform in a bag even though this was not our intended use for the 201. This time the numbers are more in line with what I would guess, since the 201 is definitely weaker in this test.
Here are the results of UM200 and UCR201 at 12 inches apart:
As can be seen from comparing the numbers, the UCR201 needs twice the frequency separation before the ranges are comparable. The 3 MHz number looks funny but that's what we measured. The 50% of normal range is reached by the UCR210 at 5 MHz of frequency difference while the UCR201 needs 10 MHz of separation. I would recommend separation of at least one of our blocks (25 MHz) between the 201 receivers and transmitters in the bag. On the other hand, the UCR210 can operate inside the same block with a little care. The difference is due primarily to the tracking front end in the 210 and secondarily due to the higher power level of the first RF transistor in the front end of the 210. Once the signal is past the front end, both receivers are essentially the same.
A quick measurement with the antennas between the bag transmitter and receiver at 18 inches instead of 12 inches as above, showed a reduction in interference power of 5 dB. This is a huge change, is faster than the usual square of the distance rule and would allow you to more than double the range for some smaller frequency separations.
The results for all of this are:
More separation is better, particularly physical distance.
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