Road Test: Kaltman Creations Invisible Waves RF-id SOLO

If working with wireless is part of what you do for a living, the SOLO deserves a place in your toolkit

Menus & Settings
The basic menu headings are Range, Gate, and User.

The first two menu selections apply mainly to the actions of the internal RF scanner, while the User category opens a sub-menu for choosing button functions and other preferences.

Range adjusts the RF-id SOLO to scan in either the 1 MHz to 2.6 GHz, or the 10 Hz to 50 MHz band.

For all pro audio purposes, the first range is where it will be used, with the aid of the included antennas. The latter range requires a high impedance input source, and is included for specialized measurement purposes.

Gate provides a selection of time windows for the RF scan, with the default position being 0.064 second, which results in a reading to three decimal places (527.625 MHz) as is typically specified in wireless microphones and similar equipment.

A second setting – 0.64 – yields a reading at four decimal places, and is also recommended in the manual for a slightly finer resolution. Other settings include 0.064 milliseconds (ms), which resolves to the megahertz level (638 MHz, for example) and the slower 6.4 seconds, which goes out to five decimal places – a resolution to the nearest 10 Hz. 

User leads to a list of options for Save, Hold, View, Filter, and Auto-Off. Settings of Auto and Off are offered for Save and Hold, the Filter and Auto-Off are either On or Off, while View leads to a list of frequencies that have been saved.

Choosing Auto for both the save and hold functions will automatically save any measurement the user has made, just by holding an active transmitter close to the SOLO.

A rendering showing some of the RF-id SOLO screen functionality. (click to enlarge)

Otherwise, manually saving a frequency is as easy as pressing the Hold button when you have the desired measurement, and then pressing the Menu button to place it into a memory slot in the View menu for later access.
The normal setting for Filter is on, because when it is off, the unit seems to continually detect weak ambient frequencies and the display flashes through various readings; when a transmitter is brought close, the SOLO locks in to its frequency.

The Unit In Use

Using the RF-id SOLO is as simple as turning it on and holding a wireless transmitter close to it. Immediately, the frequency is displayed to up to 4-digit accuracy – 502.4257 MHz, for example. With the push of a button, this reading can be held on the display, and with a second push it can be stored for later recall.

In practice, the small nearfield antenna detects and reads wireless devices at a distance of 6 inches or closer – so you can be sure which device you’re detecting. The far-field antenna extends the measurement range up to perhaps 18 feet when is positioned so that it’s exactly polarized with the transmitter, and about 4 feet when it’s perpendicular to the transmitter’s RF output.

The signal strength bargraph meter that appears at the bottom of the LCD screen when a transmitter is detected can be useful to roughly detect the relative strength of the transmitter, though no numerical scale is provided. With the near-field antenna, only the first bar is typically visible when an accurate, consistent reading is displayed, because the signal is highly attenuated. 

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Using the far-field antenna exercises the signal strength meter, and when a transmitter is nearby, most or all of the bars appear; the frequency is accurately displayed at one bar. This meter might be useful in detecting the polarity of the transmitter’s signal, since as you rotate the SOLO, the displayed level changes.

Moving through the displays and menus is fairly simple once you get the hang of it. A quick click of the Menu button leads to the main categories, and a second quick click leads to the selections. To get back out to the main screen, hold the Menu button for a couple seconds.

The exception to this rule is in the User menu, where two click-and-holds to return are required. In addition, waiting 20 seconds without pushing a button will return to the main screen.