A bit ago, I reviewed the original Viviana Straps from Soundfish. I was a big fan of them, particularly because I had been previously using Neopax and, quite frankly, there is no comparison in my opinion (unless you’re trying to stay warm in the winter, because those things are thick and very hot). You can see the review of the original straps here.
Fast forward to present day, and the sequel has arrived.
This added grip to the inside of there straps is what primarily separates the eXtreme straps from their predecessors.
Starting with the ankle strap, you can see in the photo above that while the original strap (pictured on the bottom) has a smooth cloth finish, the eXtreme strap has a spotted grip. The original straps had to rely on the tightness of the wrap to hold themselves onto the leg, while this new grip has that extra element to keep it steady. This could be particularly useful if an operator is needing to secure the strap higher up on a subject’s leg for comfort reasons. The original strap might slip down as they walk, but the eXtreme strap is unlikely to do so, and, in my field tests, this was proven to be the case.
On the thigh version, the comparison is a little more interesting. The original strap did actually come with a grip on the inside. As you can see, this one had two solid strips run along the interior instead of the spotted pattern on the eXtreme. I can say that on the many projects of which I had used my original thigh strap, it never ever slid down. It was my go to choice for women in one piece clothing. But, I can see why they switched to the spotted pattern because the original grip didn’t breathe as well as this one does, plus having the grip extend to the entire interior ensures that the strap stays firmly planted across its surface area.
And on that note, I did actually have a couple of actresses with sensitive skin mention to me that the original strap’s grip had given them a small rash, but that they didn’t want to complain too much because they never had to worry that the pack would slide down their leg. I have received no such complaints thus far with the eXtreme.
The only other thing that I will add is that, as you can see in the photo above, the eXtreme thigh strap appears to be just a bit longer than the original. It’s not like it could hurt, in case you find yourself mic’ing someone with larger than average legs.
Finally, on the waist version, the comparison is similar to that of the ankle version. No interior grip on the original, and the same spotted grip on the eXtreme. I would say that I very much appreciate having an option for a waist strap with a grip because of the frequency at which the subjects move and contort their midsections. It’s easy for a non grip strap to shift, and possible to cause unsightly bulges in the clothing.
Something that I noticed about the grip on the eXtreme was that it ran under the transmitter pouch as well. This could possibly be because of the greater ease of manufacturing. They could make a large surface, entirely cover with the grip, cut to the size needed, and then attach the pouch over top of it. It could also be done specifically to give more grip to the transmitter. Either way, this is a bit of a criticism that I have. Some people might like that extra bit of hold over the transmitter, but, for me, the transmitter was always so tough to force into the pouch (for good reason), that I never felt that I needed any more help keeping it in there. So this ends up just making it even more difficult to store the transmitter. It really isn’t that big of a deal, but I would have preferred that there be no grip inside of the pouch. To each their own.
On that subject, here we see me inserting a Lectrosonics LT transmitter into the pouch of an eXtreme strap. Pretty darned snug, if you ask me, and that’s in no way a bad thing. Difficult to force in there, but with the stretchy material, it will go in. And without question, it’s not going to fall out unless someone takes knife to it (if only that was a guarantee on every set….).
Above is a list of the transmitters which Soundfish claims will fit in the strap, but anything in the size ranges will work as well.
In summary, I think that the eXtreme straps are a great evolution of the original Viviana straps. The grip does an excellent job of adhering to skin and clothing, and it’s just another way that the already excellent, breathable, stretchable, and elastic straps make our lives as sound professionals that much easier. I wouldn’t totally replace my original straps because sometimes sensitive skin calls for a softer interior, but in general these are now my go-to transmitter attaching solutions! Go pick some up, you wont regret it.
Jared Elkin is a professional sound mixer located in Minneapolis, Minnesota.