NAB 2017 Wrap: Miniature TC Box Buyers Guide

It’s safe to say this year was the year for timecode boxes. Four new miniature timecode boxes where announced the Thursday before NAB. Now every timecode sync box company makes a sub-$500 miniature product. Here is a quick spec list refresher of whats on the market in this new category of timecode boxes. The buyers guide is below the refresher.

Timecode Systems now offers the ULTRAOne.

  • Diversity Wireless sync
  • 35+ Hours of Battery Life
  • Soft Textured Plastic Chassis
  • 5v USB Rechargable Battery
  • Separate Mini Coax TC IO ports
  • 0.2ppm
  • Auto-Detect Frame Rate
  • $299 USD

imageAmbient now offers the NANOLockit:

  • 0.0ppm
  • 35+ Hours Battery Life
  • Rechargable Battery
  • Wireless Sync
  • Metal Chassis
  • 5pin Lemo
  • Auto-Detect Frame Rate
  • Ships with a 5pin Lemo to TRS 3.5mm IO cable (Tip is TC Out, Ring is TC In, Sleeve is a shared ground)
  • Charges via 5v USB
  • $299 USD



Tentacle Sync Prototype:

  • 35+ Hours of Battery Life
  • “Same Tentacle You Know And Love”
  • Bluetooth Tethering for Control
  • Recharable Battery
  • TRRS Port for TC IO+ Reference Mic Signal
  • ABS Plastic Chassis
  • Price:  … “A little more then the current model”

qbit_01-500x333Moze Gear Tig QBit

  • 3/4 cubic inch
  • 4pin Hirose Cable for Power
  • Recharable Battery with 4.5 Hours Battery Life
  • Dial Switch Uses to Set Frame Rate
  • Aluminum case
  • Shared BNC port for I/O
  • $199 USD

denecke_sb_4_syncbox_time_code_generator_1479317183000_1287863Denecke Dcode SB-4

  • 30+ Hours; Approximately 15+ Hours With Back Light Continuously ON.
  • AA Batteries
  • 3 Methods to Power the Unit
  • BNC for TC Out
  • 5pin Lemo for TC I/O + Power
  • Metal Chassis
  • 0.1PPM
  • $425 USD

So which one do you buy?

What if I said it doesn’t matter?

These new miniature budget friendly sync boxes out perform almost everyone’s needs.  Most will run nearly 2 days (Minus the Qbit, which if supplied with external power will run for as long as you have a camera.) And generally speaking all are so accurate now that none will drift before lunch. Which is really all that is needed in the end. Few of us will do documentary reality shows in the jungle where stopping down for a proper lunch sometimes is a luxury.

If you own any Ambient wireless ACN products odds are you will stay in the ACN network. Same goes for Timecode Systems. No longer are you saving hundreds by choosing one brand over another box, now its more like you’re saving  $20. It’s the accessories needed that could kill your budget.

Now if you are new to buying into a timecode ecosystem there is some questions you should ask yourself.

  1. How many cables do you need to buy to handle your current projects? This will be a quick indicator as to which system you may want to buy. For example the Qbit is the cheapest but doesn’t ship with a 4pin Hirose cable so immediately you will need to add $40-60. But if you often work with Sony camera, you only need to purchase a cheap BNC to BNC cable plus BNC to (Whichever connector type your mixer has.) If you work with RED or ARRI cameras a lot, the cost of dual 5pin LEMO cables adds up quickly and could be the difference between purchasing 3 sync boxes and 4.
  2. Is wireless syncing important to your workflow? Only a few ofter this option.
  3. Does your next sync box need to be made from metal or will plastic do? Half of these boxes are metal and other half are plastic. The velcro on the Tentacle Sync is super strong so adhering it to a camera isn’t a worry.  All the others require aftermarket velcro to the added to the units.
  4. Is buying American something important to you? Only Denecke, Microframe, and Horita are designed and manufactured in America. I personally own both the Microframe and a Horita but given the feature set and prices of this new batch of TC boxes, its hard to justify buying any of these older budget friendly TC systems. Unless you need a large TC readout for slating or found them really cheap on eBay (I spent $15 on my Horita PG2100 on eBay) buy one of the TC boxes listed at the beginning of this article.

After playing this game of “Guess Who” you will find the perfect TC box for you. Go forth TC will be able all the fringe benefits the product can offer your workflow. That said, if you work for episodic network TV you could care less about this buyers guide as the networks really only approve the use of Denecke or Ambient. Some sound mixers have told me about how your post turnaround times are insane and allow zero room to experiment with any new toys in this realm.

profile-picAbout the Author

Andrew Jones is a location sound mixer based in Los Angeles. He started in the TV and Film industry in 2004. You can email him at


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