Top 10 Issues with using a Sound Devices 788t / CL-8 in a Reality Rig

November 9, 2009 – 3:44 pm

While waiting on my 552 to arrive, I’d been using my 788t on the reality show I’ve been working on. While it’s a incredible device, there are some issues that fellow mixers should know about.

My rig consisted of a 788t/Cl-8(firmware v1.76), 3x 411a’s, 2x UM400a’s for camera hops, 1x Comtek 216 and was NP-1 powered via a Remote Audio BDSv2.

  1. 1. No Return: The 788t has no built-in return. There are two ways around this issue. One is to reroute a return into one of the input channels on the 788t, thereby losing a channel or two of inputs. The other option is to use an external adapter that allows you to A/B the return and the output of the 788t. Trew Audio made me a custom return box for $110. That being said, I do wish that Sound Devices would have built a return into the CL-8.

  2. Delay on Faders: There is a noticeable delay on the faders, especially when quickly ramping the knobs up or down. Apparently this is due to some short of digital delay inherent in the hardware design. It takes some getting used to. Sound Devices has told me they think future Firmware releases may improve this issue and actually solve this in the future.

  3. No Definitive VU Meter: There are lots of lights and LEDs that give you visual impression of levels, but there is no markings for levels beyond that of the 0db marking on either the LED VU Meters or on the LCD VU Meters. (I am told by Sound Devices the LCD VU may change in future firmwares. Firmware v1.76 did introduce customizable VU meter ballistics so a user can program the exact level of each LED.)

  4. Power Hungry: Simply put, the 788t likes the juice. It will eat up your lithium NP-1s at a rate much quicker than a 442/552 will. It is advisable to turn off tracks you are not using to help reduced the power drain. For a comparison, a 552 draws about 200mA, while the 788t running full blast can draw up to 1000mA.

  5. Heat Buildup: There has been some reports of heat build up. I have not personally experienced these yet, but I haven’t yet operated my unit in the hottest part of the summer. According to Jon @ Sound Devices, the 788t can run very hot without any instances of lockups or problems.  The chassis itself is designed as the heatsink.

  6. Custom Cables Needed: You are going need some cables. First you’ll need at least four TA3f to XLR cables for the inputs. You’ should also have six more on hand for the outputs for certain situations. Also a 1/8” to stereo XLRs for the 7/8 unbalanced output. If you are going wireless to UM400a transmitters, I found that I needed two line level -10db padded TA3f to TA5f. I also found the I needed a non padded TA3f to 1/8” to drive a Comtek M216. I also had a custom 10pin breakaway snake made for the 788t with timecode and return built-in.

  7. IFB / Routing Issues: Currently, there is no routing option for sending a summed L/R headphone output mix to an output for an IFB. Jon tells me this will be changing soon with that and a multitude of other routing options will be available in an upcoming firmware. Instead, a workaround is to send all channels to an output and then pot down the coarse gain to remove the mic from the IFB mix. You could also set up custom headphone routing to all channel in one ear, and then route that mix to the IFB output, but I prefer to preserve my L/R mix to the headphones.

  8. No L/R Pan knob: The 788t allows you to send L, R or L/R without any pan options like the 442/552. It’s not a deal breaker, but when mixing a single channel, I normally like to split the track over two channels, with one slightly lower than the other. Jon tells me that the pan option will be available with the upcoming Panel Mixer for the 788t(!).

  9. Arming Track/s interrupts Output Program: If you are turning on/off tracks to save battery/recording space, be aware that the ALL source outputs will be interrupted for about a second while the channel powers up. This is a hardware issue that cannot be fixed. The workaround is to NOT turn off a channel, and just the coarse gain down if there is a chance a cast member might come back into scene.

  10. Occasional lockups: There have been some reports of random lockups by enabling certain functions in certain orders. Sound Devices is working on replicating the lockups and solving the issue. In my personal experience, I have seen no lockups of my 788t.

  11. Odd Shape in a bag: Okay, I know the title of the article says “10 Issues” but I had to at least mention this one. The 788t/Cl-8 takes up a weird space in a bag. I prefer to put the CL-8 on the bottom of the 788t and pack the inside of my petrol bag with a number of the long orange cushions to support the bottom open space.

The Wrap Up

While none of the above issues are deal breakers, it is good to be aware of the issues. The 788t/CL-8 is a powerful combination and knowing it’s limitations can make a strong rig even stronger.

788t rig

  1. 6 Responses to “Top 10 Issues with using a Sound Devices 788t / CL-8 in a Reality Rig”

  2. Hello Chris

    This is an excellent article – I’m so pleased you wrote it as I am considering giving up the weight of my HHB Portadrive for this light-weight unit.

    I note that you said:
    ” I also had a custom 10pin breakaway snake made for the 788t with timecode and return built-in.”

    Would you please explain exactly what connections that consists of on both ends?
    Am I to assume your recorder end has:
    – 5 pin Lemo for timecode
    – 2 TA3 for input return
    – 2x TA3 for output line levels

    and the camera end has:
    – BNC and/or Lemo? (RED camera) for timecode
    – 2x XLR for audio line level input
    – mini-jack for return

    What is the weight of that cable?!!

    Many thanks in advance, I look forward to reading more of your blog and improving my knowledge.

    Ande Schurr
    New Zealand recordist

    By Ande on Mar 31, 2010

  3. The mixer side breakaway cable actually has a headphone jack return which I plug into my Trew custom passive headphone switch along with my headphone cable which then connect to the headphone jack on the 788t. That way I can switch back and forth between return and the 788t without sacrificing any inputs.

    On the camera end, I have it hard wired for lemo and have an male lemo to BNC Y adapter that I slap on when needed.
    I have a 5 pin return cable hard wired with an accessory 5pin to mini adapter cable.

    Everything else you got spot on!


    By Chris Durfy on Apr 1, 2010

  4. Hi!This is a good article. thanks for giving some information.

    By harison tvamediagroup on Dec 6, 2011

  5. I had a problem where the 788T would simply not turn on. I tried removing battery and powering from AC input and it still wouldn’t turn on.
    About 2 hours later it did turn on. Using it again tomorrow on a job but wondering if I need to send it to a technician. Any suggestions or information please, help

    By Dave Tommo on Jan 24, 2013

  6. I have a 788t and want to sell it with the cl8 mixer. it’s overkill for my application and have decided to sell it. do you have any suggestions where i might advertise?

    By Tarek on Feb 13, 2014

  7. Tengo el mismo problema que David Tommo, lo he apagado y no se enciende, voy a esperar ese par de horas, ¿sabes por que sucede este inconveniente?



    “I have the same problem as David Tommo, I turned it off and it doesn’t turn on, I’m going to wait for that couple of hours, do you know why this inconvenience happens?”

    By Pedro Toribio on Sep 1, 2016

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