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Hollyland Solidcom M1 Review – A Full-Duplex Wireless Intercom Solution

December 9th, 2021 Jump to Comment Section
Hollyland Solidcom M1 Review – A Full-Duplex Wireless Intercom Solution

In this guest review, Florian Lindenberg discusses his experience with the Hollyland Solidcom M1 system. Since this wireless intercom system is far more affordable than those of the established major brands in this field, the question arises: Can the Hollyland system offer just as much and can it convince in terms of reliability and usability? Let’s find out!

As we shoot a lot of S35 multicam productions with at least eight team members (mostly 15+), we have been looking for an affordable and reliable wireless intercom solution for quite some time. Here in Europe, we have major brands like Riedel and Green-Go (comparable to Clear-Com and Altair).

These are phenomenal systems, but crazy expensive and not exactly straightforward to use. We’ve spent thousands of euros to rent them, and most of the time you need an extra technician to set them up.

As a reference, this year we paid around 3,500€ (excl. VAT) for a complete package with 20 beltpacks plus technician. Beyond that, if you want to invest in a system from one of the established manufacturers with a comparable feature set to the Hollyland Solidcom M1, you will have to spend at least five times as much. For example, a single Riedel Bolero Beltpack costs around 2,200€.

Hollyland Solidcom M1 headset with connector
Hollyland Solidcom M1 headset with connector. Image credit: CineD

Hollyland Solidcom M1

We came across the Solidcom M1 in mid-2021 and were lucky enough to get our hands on a demo unit. We quickly realized that it was super simple and quite reliable. So we immediately ordered a complete set of eight beltpacks (M1-8B). Together with the demo unit with 4 beltpacks (M1-4B), we were able to cover most of our upcoming productions with it. In the meantime, we have ordered another M1-8B. So to preface my conclusion a bit: Yes, the Hollyland Solidcom M1 system is really quite good, especially since it is a comparatively inexpensive Intercom system.

The quality and robustness of the wireless connection is simply incredible. Even more so when you consider the price. Even though we had events with more than 1500 guests and distances of at least 200m with a huge stage in between, there was literally no degradation of audibility or loss of connection. Not even concrete bunkers like the Wiener Stadthalle could affect the system.

Hollyland Solidcom M1
A base unit in the studio. Image credit: Florian Lindenberg

A plus point is that you can daisy chain the base units with CAT cables to extend the range more or less indefinitely. The beltpacks are smart enough to automatically register with the next available base unit. If you are in a no-fuss venue with a straight line of sight, you can remove the omnidirectional antennas and even increase the range with the internal antenna.

What’s great about the Hollyland Solidcom M1 system

Here’s a list of things we’ve discovered while using the Solidcom M1 system on real jobs. It really is a reliable system, and since it’s truly easy to use, it quickly fades into the background a bit on the job, which is of course a good thing. An intercom system should just work and not be an annoyance. However, we did find a few problems and odd details. I guess that’s just the way it is, right?

  • Included is almost everything you will ever need. The kits come in a hard case with foam inserts. A charging station for eight beltpacks and an additional eight batteries (which are also included; four spare batteries in the 4B kit and eight in the 8B kit). Omnidirectional antennas, lanyards, single-ear headsets including storage pouches and all required cables.
  • The setup is absolutely foolproof. Once you turn on the base unit and the beltpacks, they will connect automatically. If needed, assign different beltpacks to one (or more) of the three groups directly from the base unit or the app and you’re ready to go.
Hollyland Solidcom M1 charging dock
Hollyland Solidcom M1 charging dock with 4 handsets and 4 spare batteries. Image credit: CineD
  • The base unit has a built-in 2-wire to 4-wire converter. So you can integrate it into existing systems.
  • The build quality is absolutely fine. The beltpacks are very light and small. They have a high-quality Lemo connector, an additional standard 3.5mm stereo jack plug and replaceable antennas.
  • 5-6 hours runtime with one beltpack battery. So far, we have never run out of battery.
  • The base unit can be powered by Sony NP-F batteries or even via PoE (Power over Ethernet).
  • The included headsets are quite comfortable.
Hollyland Solidcom M1 base station connectors
Hollyland Solidcom M1 Base station showing all the inputs. Image credit: CineD
  • As already mentioned, exceptional range and quality of the connection.
  • The price is for a complete package, no hidden additional costs.

Real-Life observations

  • The horizontal orientation of the beltpacks is unusual (at least for us). You can remount the belt clips for a vertical orientation, but it quickly becomes clear that this is not really intended by the manufacturer.
  • The Lemo connector is definitely a high-quality connector, but it’s also much harder to maintain and replace when it breaks (compared to a 4-pin XLR connector used in most other commonly used systems).
  • The beltpacks have (flexible) antennas, which makes them pretty small and you can replace them easily. But you will also constantly snag them with your shirt or the cable. Smaller stub antennas (like those of the predecessor model Hollyland Mars T1000) might have been more practical.
Hollyland Solidcom M1
The beltpack is attached rotated by 90 degrees. Image credit: Florian Lindenberg
  • With Riedel or Green-Go beltpacks you have the option to switch between push-to-talk and “always on”. The Solidcom beltpacks only have an on-off button. But you get used to it.
  • Hollyland also offers two-ear headsets (sold separately for about €180).
  • The headsets have a built-in switch that disables the microphone when you flip it up (probably the first thing to break).

What we didn’t like

Please note: At the time of writing this article, Hollyland has sent us a new firmware that addresses most of our feedback/criticism, but we haven’t had time to review it yet. Please refer to this Google Doc directly from Hollyland that goes over the new features.

Hollyland Solidcom M1 headset
image credit: CineD
  • No replaceable ear cups. That is really a bummer, because you simply have to (or want to) replace them from time to time.
  • You cannot assign “listen-only” to dedicated groups. For example, we have the use case where the steadycam operator and his focus puller have their own group to communicate with each other all the time without the other groups hearing them. So far, so good. But if they need to hear the director’s instructions as well, they need to be added to that group, and now everyone in the director’s group also hears the steadycam operator’s group. Previously there was no way to accomplish this. With the new FW (V1.1.2.7) this should be possible by assigning one of eight working modes to different beltpacks via IP accessibility.
Headset of the Solidcom M1 system. Image credit: Florian Lindenberg
  • The headsets have thresholds that disable the microphone below a certain noise level. A great thing if you’re in a noisy environment and don’t want everyone to hear a heavy wind noise or people yelling all the time. BUT, on jobs where you need to be reasonably quiet, like talk shows, conferences, comedy/cabaret shows, etc, the director has to more or less whisper, which is then cut off by the gates. Pretty inconvenient when the intercom automatically mutes the director and there’s nothing you can do about it.

Thanks again to Hollyland! They have also added different mic gain modes that can be set individually for each beltpack. If you want to learn more, Nino’s review of the predecessor model Hollyland Mars T1000 can be found here.

Hollyland Solidcom M1 Set
One base unit and 4 beltpacks. Image credit: CineD

Considering the price, the scope of delivery, the quality of workmanship and the customer support (especially when implementing feedback), we can recommend it without hesitation.

Thanx to the finest colleagues from cinelive.atbobo.at and ppe.live!

Link: Hollyland

What do you think? Do you have any experience working with an intercom system of some sorts? Share your experiences in the comments below!

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