Looking for recommendations and licensing questions

Hello all,

I’m looking to purchase 5-6 radios for a small community theater to be used for tech communication between stage manager, stage crew, and booth. It’s a small theater that does not do very complex shows, so full duplex is both unnecessary and prohibitively expensive. I’m looking for any suggestions meeting the following criteria:

[li]Good sound quality, able to carry whispers[/li][li]Minimal delay between pressing button and being able to talk[/li][li]Ease of use[/li][li]2 or more channels preferred, but not necessary[/li][li]Non-in ear headsets available, since they will be shared[/li][li]Rechargable batteries[/li][li]Long range not needed. Longest range would be no more than 300 ft., but would be indoors with a decent amount of interference.[/li][/ul]

I’ve glanced at the Motorola CLP and CLS series, but I’m unsure about the FCC license process. (Questions on that at the end) I also saw the DLR1020, which is license free, but I wonder if it might be overkill for my needs. I wonder if a consumer grade radio would work, but I would want to make sure it has excellent sound quality.

Licensing Questions:
What’s involved in getting the license? Do I only need one license for the organization, or does each operator need a license? Is it renewed yearly? Once licensed, are there restrictions or requirements on using the radios? It’s a non-profit organization (501©(3)), but would there be “commercial” restrictions?

I can’t speak to details of business licences because this varies by country. The advantage of a business licence is that you get your own private channel and there won’t be interference from anyone else on that channel (when used within your licence area.) There are lots of good quality business radios on the market that will do exactly what you want.

As for licence-free radios such as FRS, GMRS (in Canada) and MURS, that really depends on your area. Some places will have many other businesses on the same channels and other areas can be dead quiet. All one can do with FRS/GMRS is to try them out and just hope you don’t get some kid coming up on your channel some day. FRS and MURS don’t require a licence if you are in the U.S. If you are in Canada, FRS and GMRS don’t require licencing.

But having worked a lot in theatre and knowing exactly what you are looking for, I would suggest you will be far happier if you avoid the cheaper consumer radios. I would suggest a better quality business-class radio just for the reliability, long battery life and good audio output.

If you are in a quiet area with few other users, MURS is an option in the U.S. They share five frequencies but there are fewer out there than consumer-level FRS/GMRS.

One thing to keep in mind is that the better quality business-class radios have higher audio outputs, and for your purposes, you want radios that will have good headsets available. Just because you can plug them in doesn’t mean you are going to get the audio quality you want. This is another reason why I would avoid consumer radios.

I have tested the licence-free DLR1060 and DTR550 in a theatre environment that is over six floors of solid concrete, from sub-basement to the very top of the wings. They worked 100% and were very clear. They will easily run good quality headsets.

The only downside to the DTR/DLR radios, as you have probably already researched, is that being digital, there is about 1/2 second delay from transmission to reception, plus about 1/2 second for the handshake to take place (to determine another radio is in range.) This means they are not ideal if you need them for instant cues.

Two-way radios are a poor choice if you need to use them for cues anyway. All it takes is one transmission coming up at an inopportune time and you have missed an important cue. If you have your own business channels and enforce radio discipline during a show, you might get away with them but there is a reason why theatres always use full duplex systems. On film sets, we tend to be spread wider and full duplex would not work, but we always use a “working” channel (channel 1) that everyone stays off during takes, and a common channel for other important communications (channel 2) then they work okay for cues. But don’t forget we might need to cue actions 20 or 30 times a day; theatres might have 600 cues a show.

I think it would be better to consult any of the business assistance companies and get to know about the procedures and the things to do get your business licenced without much difficulties. I had once used the assistance of a business licence registration company called Ontario Business Central for licencing my business and they helped me out with the procedures and made the task a lot easier.

You want to buy inexpensive Family Radio Service radios. No license required and they’ll meet all of your needs.

Alternatively, you could buy MURS radios. They’re more expensive and probably more durable.