First Look: Betso SBOX-1

by Justin F. Vallis

Here we have the new Betso SBOX-1. With a vibrant timecode display and highly accurate clock - many sound recordists will welcome it as an addition to their kit. I'll attempt to explain its features, how well its crystal kept time compared to the pack, and how easy it was to navigate the Betso's menu and jam a camera.

Nuts and Bolts
It generates all TC frame rates (23,976 fps - 30 fps drop frame / nondrop frame) including 0.5 and 2 multiples (11.98 fps - 60 fps perhaps for slow motion effects) and wordclock 32 - 192 kHz. It has a selectable automatic power on when incoming time code is recognized. And there's a unique function where it can generate accurate time from an optional BETSO GPS module.

At first glance, the sleek size is welcoming – comparable to a deck of cards. My bag appreciated its slim figure. My second impression was how easy it was to read the display and set it up for my job – no binary switch selections for frame rate or periodic blinking lights that require a user manual to decipher. The digital screen has at least 6 vertical menu lines at a respectable font size, which was great for my sanity at the start of a day.

Clock Accuracy
Of greatest interest was how well the Betso SBOX-1 kept time as compared with industry standard alternatives. In a test of the Betso's accuracy, a Denecke DCode GR-1 generated time as the master clock, and it jammed the Betso SBOX-1 and an Ambient ACL 204 Lockit. The TC out of the Betso and the Ambient were sent into channels 1 and 2 of a Zoom H4n and their TC out signals were recorded as raw analog waveforms. All three devices then free ran at room temperature for just over an hour. At the end of the hour, a snapshot suggested all three units were in sync. (Figure 1)

Figure 1. Denecke DCode GR-1, 1 hour after having jammed the Betso SBOX-1 and Ambient Lockit.

To determine the drift, the TC out of the Betso and Ambient sync boxes were each fed back into the Denecke DCode. By holding down the ER switch of the DCode, the error in time beyond 1/100th of a frame can be measured. When performing this operation with the Betso, the Denecke DCode indicated that the Betso held time with the DCode well beyond 1/10th of a frame over the course of an hour. (Figure 2)

Figure 2. Betso SBOX-1 fed into the Denecke DCode after 1 hr of freerun.

The Ambient ACL 204 was on par with the Betso using the same Denecke DCode test.

In a redundant sync confirmation test (I hadn't planned to have the DCode on hand), the two analog waveforms from the Ambient and Betso recorded by the Zoom H4n were imported into an Aux Timecode reading program called LTCconvert. The waveforms from the Ambient and Betso syncboxes were both scanned for time code, and the initial time code frame and final frame time code of each waveform was exported to Excel. Both the TC in and TC out frame of the Betso and Ambient sync boxes matched to the same frame. (Figure 3)

Figure 3. Excel export of TCout frame and TCin frames recorded by the H4n using LTCconvert to translate the timecode signals.

Ease of Jamming Cameras
The Betso jammed 3 popular cameras - the Alexa, Red Epic, and Canon C300 all with ease in field tests. I had more time to play with the Canon C300 on the job, and noticed that even while jammed, the Canon C300 to the naked eye appeared to be lagging the Betso by a number of frames. (Figure 4)

Figure 4. Canon C300 digital SMPTE display lagging the Betso SBOX-1 while BNC-tethered from Betso TC out to Canon C300 TC in.

A representative at Betso claims the real time digital display of the SBOX-1 is accurate to the frame. To confirm the Canon C300 was receiving an accurate jam, I jammed the Canon C300 at the start of the day with the Betso and recorded a head slate. I let the Canon C300 and Betso freerun for the day and then recorded a tail slate 8 hours later. The Canon video clip and SD552 Betso time code stamped audio clip was imported into FCP. The head slate of the video and audio matched exactly to the same frame – confirming that the Canon C300 was receiving a proper jam, but that it's real time time code display is not a frame accurate display. The tail slate of the Canon C300 video was compared with the tail slate of the Betso timecode stamped SD552 audio. 8 real time hours elapsed between the head slate and the tail slate. As you can see in Figure 5, the Canon had drifted by 11 frames, or 1.375 frames/hr.

Figure 5. Canon C300 drift after freerunning with Betso SBOX-1 by 11 frames after 8 hrs.

Battery Consumption
I was concerned the display amenities of the Betso SBOX-1 would come at the expense of battery power. To test the field battery consumption, I started the Betso on a Wednesday morning, left it running over night, and stopped the unit on Thursday the following evening. On 2 x 2700 NiMh mAh AA Powerex batteries, it was depleted less than half way at the end of the day on Thursday. 34 hrs – 60% battery remaining. The Betso SBOX-1 is rated at 50 hrs on a fresh charge.

When the time comes to rent/buy an additional sync box, I'll go with this new product by Betso. While I didn't put the crystal through an arduous temperature change test, it was tested in moderate indoor/outdoor conditions, and the clock accuracy is as accurate as I would need for any of my applications. The large display yet miniature dimension is a real advantage compared to its competitors. And at $500, it will force those competitors to respond.

Justin is a Brooklyn, NYC based location sound mixer and designer. Justin is merging his love of trekking in the wild and natural places of the Earth with his expertise in mobile sound recording. It's his hope that these stories will assist with preservative environmental efforts. More info can be found at

Thanks to Production Junction, AMS Pictures, Hand Held, VideoToolShed and Gotham Sound for the resources to conduct this review.

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