horse rider/trainer communication -- selection advice?

I need to communicate over line of sight only 300 feet or so, need voice-activated, headset or earbud (option for bluetooth or other wireless earbud system, and/or clip-on mic would be amazing). Would like, but not require, the option of output to an audio plug that would plug in to my video camera so I could capture what the trainer was saying to my husband during training sessions. Other good features would be small size, selectable channels.

When used in training sessions the instructor would have one unit and mic and I would have the other unit, either to listen to or to place near the camera or plug in to the camera. At shows the trainer is allowed to talk to the rider, but there is noise and he can’t hear the trainer, so he would have the second unit and the earbud, preferably wireless so there is no wire to get tangled up in what is going on.

I’m at the beginning of my learning curve on this. There are commercial units for this market, but they either cost more than walkie-talkies and are unreliable, or cost over a thousand dollars for the starter kit.

Is there a need for the learner to talk back? The biggest problem is vox operation. You can get headsets for many types of radio, but they all need to hear a voice to switch it to transmit, so you always miss the start of each transmission, unless you develop the ‘pup’ technique where you start each transmission with a burst of wind from the lips, immediately followed by the talking.

If it was me, I’d use a radio microphone transmitter and in ear receiver if I had plenty of budget, but this is an expensive solution. cheap walkie talkies with headsets and vox are probably the best solution of cost is vital.

Nothing to stop you having another wired to the camera - the audio quality is quite poor, being severely band limited, so a bit tinny - but of that’s ok, it’s just taking the audio from the radio and choosing an appropriate connector for the camera. Ideally you would use an L pad in the connector to drop the level down, but leaving the output low usually matches well enough.

Thank you for your reply, paulears. I have learned some things since I started this quest, but don’t know what a radio transmitter is. I assume it is one-way? I have heard of “full-duplex” two-way radios, bu haven’t found examples of them in the family spectrum. Vox is important because the instructor is also on a horse and may be managing cattle, so doesn’t have a hand free to push a button.

Thanks also for your advice about camera connection.

I am looking at the Midland MU350R. Am I headed in the right direction? So far I can’t tell if you have to PTT when using the bluetooth. I think some sort of headset would be essential, and a wireless one would be highly preferable.

You mean the Motorola MU350? It’s a cheap low power radio. They should be pulled up for misleading advertising - 35 miles range - but reading the small print, it’s 1 Watt, and 35 miles is from mountain top to valley bottom - a neat trigonometry solution to line of sight transmission. Expect much, much less - perhaps no more than the ones you’ve already tried.

It can have vox operation - just keep in mind the bit about cutting off the first syllable.

Very, very few hand held radios are full-duplex. Cell phones are. It just means that while you are speaking to the person at the other end, the radio is also able to listen. Like phones do. Walkie-talkie style radios are either simplex or semi-duplex. You push a switch to talk and while you are talking the radio cannot hear anything. Vox - Latin for voice - operation works by the radio listening to the microphone. When it hears anything louder than average background noise it switches top transmit, so is kind of a crude switch.

A transmitter sends to a distant place, a receiver is the process in reverse, listening for distant transmissions?

The only snag with Vox operation on a horse, is that any local conversations ‘managing the cattle’ will be transmitted as well as conversations intended for the radio. The radios you mentioned are ok, as far as cheap radios go - but the hype is misleading. If you buy a few - they will have headset operation, if it will do what you want.

Hi Texan, as I understand it , these are your requirements:

[li]line of sight communication[/li][li]only 300 feet or so[/li][li]need voice-activated headset or earbud (option for bluetooth or other wireless earbud system, and/or clip-on mic)[/li][li]the option of output to an audio plug that would plug in to my video camera so I could capture what the trainer was saying to my husband during training sessions.[/li][li]small size[/li][li]selectable channels[/li][/ul]

Given the requirements, the Motorola MU350R may provide a minimal solution for you. From what you describe this is an open area. 300 feet is only 100 yards which is not a great distance and would be within range of the MU350, perhaps even on FRS channels.

The MU350R is Bluetooth capable and would certainly allow you to use a wireless Bluetooth earpiece. It also has VOX. Although VOX operation can be hit and miss sometimes as paulears said, you do have some flexibility as the sensitivity can be adjusted on the radio and you may be able to tweak it enough to do what you need. The real challenge is finding a Bluetooth headset with VOX.

The Motorola connectors are proprietary, so connecting it to the mic or line input on a video camera can be a challenge, particularly if the video camcorder has trouble accepting a mono connector in a stereo input, as I have experienced. However, there are ways to work around the connector issue, and I don’t think its too difficult to achieve.

The MU350 isn’t the smallest radio out there, but it’s not overly big and bulky, either.

As far as PTT issues, there are headsets and earpieces that have oversize PTT switches or finger PTT buttons that can wired in such a way that it is easily operated without much conscious effort or physical maneuvering to do so. A lot of bikers use such PTT options, others use VOX, and it is possible you may be able to use their approach to hands free radio communications on horseback as well.