CARBIDESOUND - Simon Charles - Dubai based location sound recordist
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Sennheiser 6042 Receiver review for Broadcast Pro Middle East

Sennheiser 6042 Receiver review

Sennheiser Middle East gave me the opportunity to test out their latest dual channel ‘slot in’ audio receiver, the EK 6042. This receiver is predominantly designed to be fitted into the audio slot of broadcast cameras (Panasonic, Sony, Ikegami etc) and also the Super Slot in the Sound devices SL6. I had heard about it a while ago and though it was interesting so it was great to get the opportunity to test it out.

One of the first things you notice when you take the EK 6042 out of the box is the build quality, it’s excellent, just as you would expect from a top of the range product from Sennheiser. There is a good weight to it, but it’s certainly not heavy. The top of the unit, the part that will be in view, is quite tall and sticks out slightly more than the WisyCom units that I use. The antennas that are supplied are pretty large with solid plastic and metal SMA connectors at the base and a flexible rubber whip. They do seem very well made and feel like they will survive a lot of abuse in daily use. The slightly larger size of the receiver and the heavy duty antennas indicate to me that this is aimed primarily at broadcast camera operators as opposed to sound recordists.

One of the main selling points of this receiver is it’s flexibility, the EK 6042 is able to receive from digital and analogue transmitters simultaneously. So whether you are using transmitters from Sennehiser’s range topping Digital 9000 series or the ever popular G3 series you are covered. You are also able to receive from transmitters made by other manufacturers as well. I tested it out with my WisyCom transmitters and it worked flawlessly.

The top of the EK 6042 has 4 buttons, 2 SMA antenna sockets, OLED display panel, TA5 Aux output socket and status LED’s for the 2 channels. The OLED display is excellent and easy to read, even in direct sunlight. There is enough information at a glance and you can make most adjustments from the unit itself, but as with most dual channel receivers it can be a little fiddly to do. Sennheiser have added USB web server functionality so you can connect to the unit using a laptop, tablet, or phone and make adjustments. As a sound recordist I would have liked to have seen display options that let you have the display stay on all the time or dim after a certain period of time, when working with receivers in a soundbag, being able to see information at a glance without having to press anything is essential. This is obviously not an issue if the receiver is in a camera. The side of the receiver has an infrared port for synchronisation with transmitters and a micro USB port for connecting a computer for configuration via a web browser.

The basic package comes with the EK 6042 receiver, 2 antennas, USB cable, transport case and the printed manual. To be able to use the EK 6042 in cameras or audio equipment you require a D-Sub adapter for the type of kit you are using. The 25pin D-sub adapter is used for cameras and audio equipment with the UniSlot/SuperSlot interface and the 15pin D-sub adapter is for Sony cameras. If using the EK 6042 in a UniSlot/SuperSlot interface both the audio channels are sent to the camera through the connector, however Sony cameras may only accept audio from channel 1 through the connector. To receive both channels you will have to utilise the 5pin XLR socket at the top of the receiver and use a Y-adapter to send the audio to the camera.

There are a number of optional accessories that are available for the EK 6042, and some are essential. As mentioned above you have the options of D-sub adapters, but, if you want to use the EK 6042 on it’s own then you require some, if not all of the optional accessories. Firstly, you need the Backpanel adapter (GA 6042 BP) which is a metal sled than you slot the receiver into, this has 2 Mini XLR (TA5) outputs (Main output, either analogue or digital AES3, and AUX output), HIROSE power socket, headphone socket and battery pack connections. I found this adapter made the EK 6042 too large, it was hard to fit into my soundbag, and the connectors were resting on the bottom of the bag. I do have quite a compact setup with a small bag so if you are using a larger bag then you may not find the same issues I faced, however it’s still much larger than similar devices from other manufacturers. I feel that there are potential fixes for this but at the time of writing this article there is nothing available from Sennheiser. The other accessory which is available is the Accupack adapter (GA 6042 BA), this adds space for 2 rechargeable Li-ion batteries (BA 61) to the backpanel adapter. This is a very neat add-on, and works very well, it certainly makes the unit even larger and heavier but for standalone situations where you have no other power supply it’s a very neat solution. The batteries have to be purchased separately and do not come with the adapter, they will give you approximately 4 hours of use so probably having at least 4 batteries is advisable if using in standalone setup. These are not standard batteries so a dedicated charger (L 60) is required.

As well as the EK 6042 I was also given Sennheiser’s SK 9000 bodypack and SKM 9000 handheld transmitters to test out. I won’t talk about them much but they are worth mentioning. Both the bodypack and handled transmitters from the 9000 series are digital and sync very quickly with the EK 6042. In fact it only takes 5 seconds. Both are very well made and have a decidedly premium feel about them. They are unquestionably made to last a long time.

The bodypack is about the size of a pack of playing cards and a similar weight, the display is small and gives basic status information, you can change some functionality on the unit itself but it’s recommended to make the changes on the receiver and synchronise to the transmitter. There are 2 battery options, the BA 61 rechargeable accupacks which are the same as I mentioned earlier and also the B 61 battery pack which takes 3 standard AA batteries. The antenna socket is a LEMO connection but this is standard with other high end Sennheiser bodypacks. The microphone connector is a 3 pin LEMO connector, these are small and robust but are certainly more expensive than connectors used by other brands. Most makes of lavalier microphones offer the option for this connector or an adapter.

The handheld has a great feel to it, with a perfect weight. The display is the same as on the bodypack and has the same menu and functionality. There are many microphone capsules you can get, both dynamic and condensers are available in various pickup patterns. There are also 2 Neumann heads in cardioid and super-cardioid patterns. As with the bodypack there are 2 power options, the BA 60 accupack rechargeable battery and the B 60 battery pack which takes 2 standard AA batteries.

If using the B 61 or B 60 battery packs you should only use alkaline or lithium batteries as rechargeable batteries will give an incorrect value in the status display.

After a short time with the EK 6042, I feel that it’s definitely designed for broadcast cameras and the Sound Devices SL6 SuperSlot. Having to buy lot’s of other accessories to make it work in a soundbag without the SL6 makes it prohibitively expensive and way too large to be practical. I believe there may be ways alleviate these concerns in the future, but for now slot in use is the only practical application.

PROS
Flexible options
Excellent build quality
Easy operation
Fast syncing between devices
Web server configuration

CONS
Very large when in backpack adapter
Expensive batteries
Lack of display visibility option