It's shark week! Which means sharkfin antennas if you're a sound mixer like myself! But since sharks are scary, we've decided to test out a few popular antennas that are NOT sharkfin antennas; for when whip antennas are not giving you enough range, but sharkfins are too big and cumbersome, the Betso Bowties and the Lectrosonics SNA600a Dipole antennas have been popular choices for a little extra range out of the bag. I know, a bit of a shark stretch, but which performs better in the field?
Similarities Between Betso Bowties and Lectrosonics SNA600a
Both antennas are pretty low profile, and unlike the more direct sharkfin antennas, these are both omni directional, with the exception of the vertical plane. Similar to sharkfins, Bowties and SNA600's both want to be pointed up or down towards the transmitters, if there is a significant height differential; for example, the Rx antenna is on 5th floor and Tx is on 1st floor, the Rx antennas should be pointed downwards towards the Tx's. However, if they're both on the same vertical plane, if talent walks behind the antennas, there should be no difference in the pickup.
Differences Between Betso Bowties and Lectrosonics SNA600a
One big difference between the two, most may notice is that the Betso Bowties may be a bit smaller and less cumbersome than the "T" shape of the SNA's. Bowties are likely the more convenient option. Although, since they're both omni directional, you can fold the antennas parallel with your bag so not to stick out and catch on so many cables or other things.
Sound Mixer, and Bowtie owner, Aaron Chandler got together with me, a Lectrosonics SNA600a owner and tested these out using the same transmitter. Listen to our 3:45 test below.
Results of Our Walk Test
As you can see, the SNA600a seemed to beat out the Bowties by a bit. Antennas were on the 5th floor of an apartment building, Aaron walked down the hall, into the elevator, where the Bowties and SNA600s were good until the lower levels. I lost him on the whips once he entered the elevator. He then walked outside and about 150 feet / half an avenue (NYC terms) to a street corner with pretty busy traffic. I got him back everywhere downstairs once he exited the elevator but on the whips, there was lots of noise and some dropouts as he approached the intersection. That intersection is where we determined was the limit of the Bowties. The Bowties started to drop out very often and once I plugged the SNA600a's in, I had him back, although, with occasional noise.
The SNA600a's may have performed better because you can tune the center frequency, unlike the Bowties. The SNA600a's have a 100mHz bandwidth, so if a competing frequency is outside of that bandwidth, it can reduce the signal strength of the offender by up to roughly 15dB, depending how far that frequency is on the spectrum. The Bowties' bandwidth is 230mHz (470-700) which does not tune out 5G, albeit, in my experience, 5G isn't making as much of an impact on our equipment as many of us feared. So, there's certainly pros and cons to both antennas, and even for whips and sharkfins. I hope this helps y'all to choose the right tool for your next project!
Brett Ainslie is a NYC based freelance non-union Production Sound Mixer owner/operator.
He has been mixing sound on location for Film & TV since 2010 for narrative feature films, TV commercials, corporate videos, musical and corporate event live streams and broadcasts, digital content, documentaries and network reality shows. Brett has mixed sound for TBS, HBO, Showtime, Bravo, Disney ABC, Discovery, Food Network, Fox, VH1, A&E, ESPN, MTV, National Geographic, Bloomberg, Vice and more.