Tentacle Sync E mkII Review

The Sync E mkII is the successor to the very popular Tentacle Sync E that was announced way back in 2017. The new Sync E mkII adds Bluetooth 5.0 and better battery life.

The original Tentacle Sync was launched in 2015 and it was designed to be a low-cost way of syncing timecode to cameras that don’t have the ability to jam timecode by themselves. In saying that the Tentacle Sync was also very capable of being used to sync timecode from cameras that did have timecode I/O as well.

Syncing audio and vision from cameras that didn’t have the ability to accept a timecode signal used to be a pain in the backside. In the beginning of the DSLR era, you were probably using a clapperboard or clapping your hands just to get a reference point for an editor. Later on, software like Plural Eyes appeared, and although it worked reasonably well, it relied on comparing audio waveforms which were far from ideal if you were working with multiple cameras. Nothing beats having matched timecode from all of your cameras when you are working in multicamera scenarios, or when recording separate sound.

Tentacle Sync was amongst the first companies to recognize the need for making a completely stripped-down timecode generator that was accurate, small, lightweight, easy to use, and affordable.

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The original Tentacle Sync on the left and the Tentacle Sync E on the right.

Tentacle Sync E MKII

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If it ain’t broke don’t fix it. It is hard to improve on something that is already good, to begin with. If your recipe results in a good cake then you don’t go changing it.

The company’s philosophy was that the Sync E mkII had to remain as easy to use as its predecessor. Tentacle Sync honestly couldn’t think of much they could have improved from the customer’s point of view. Their thought process when making the mkII version was to develop a product that unifies the basis (firmware) with the TRACK E, simplifies and improves production, and extends the life of the internal battery. There is also a small facelift and Tentacle Sync now has the housing parts also manufactured in Germany.

Improvements for the user were to add Bluetooth 5.0 (which they have some ideas for future features), improve the battery management for longer runtimes and battery life, and make sure that the dimensions didn’t change and that all of the same existing accessories work and fit.

The Bluetooth standard advertises that Bluetooth 5.0 has two times the speed, four times the range, and eight times the broadcasting message capacity of older versions of Bluetooth. One of the biggest benefits of Bluetooth 5.0 is that it is very energy efficient and that is why Tentacle Sync has been able to increase the battery life of the Sync E mkII.

Devices equiped with Bluetooth 5.0 can also communicate over distances of up to 800′ / 240m, which is four times the range of Bluetooth 4.2 devices.

Bluetooth 5.0 also supports data transfer speeds of up to 2 Mbps, which is double the 1Mbps that Bluetooth 4.2 supports.

It was also important for Tentacle Sync to simplify production, and in view of the tight component situation worldwide, make sure they are able to deliver in the long term.

Build quality

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The Sync E mkII is made out of a hard plastic material, and despite weighing in at just 30g / 1.1oz it feels solidly made.

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I have accidentally dropped Tentacle Sync Es before and I am yet to have one break or malfunction. There’s only one physical switch on the unit to turn the power on/off and for generating timecode.

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By not putting a screen or any other buttons on the Sync E mkII, the company has chosen to go with a solution that is minimalistic in its approach. The locking cable clamp is again a simple piece of hardened plastic but it has been really well designed and it certainly locks the 3.5mm cable firmly in place so it can’t come out. Again it’s a case of making something simple that just works.

I like the design of the locking cable clamp because it means you don’t have a cable sticking straight out of the unit. The only real caveat is that the clamps are fairly easy to lose.

Size & weight

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The Sync E mkII has physical dimensions of 38 x 50 x 15 mm (1.49″ x 1.96″ x 0.59″) and weighs in at  30g/1oz. This is exactly the same as the Sync E. With this small physical footprint and low weight, the Sync E mkII won’t get in your way or create unnecessary weight when attached to a camera or sound recorder.

Would it be nice to have an in-built screen and more buttons? Yes, and no. Having a screen would allow you to make changes without needing an app and it would also let you clearly see the timecode. On the flip side, adding a screen and controls would make it larger, and heavier, and with physical buttons, there is always the chance of them getting accidentally knocked.

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In my personal opinion, I don’t need a screen or physical buttons, because the Tentacle Sync Track E/ Track E mkII devices have worked perfectly for my requirements without them. For some users, having physical buttons and a display screen may be beneficial. It really does come down to how you want to use a product and what works best for your own individual requirements.

Mounting Options

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Like most small timecode sync devices, the Sync E mkII doesn’t have any physical mounting points on its body. Instead, it has velcro on the back of it which can easily be attached to other velcro straps that are provided by Tentacle Sync.

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Due to the low weight and small size of the Sync E, even these small velcro straps hold the device securely.

Because the cable is securely locked in with a clamp you can also just dangle it off the side of your camera if you prefer. I personally don’t do this, but I have seen quite a lot of camera operators use their Sync E devices in this way. I prefer to have them securely mounted.

If I had one small complaint it would be that I would have liked to have seen Tentacle Sync come up with some alternative mounting solutions.

Battery Life

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The Sync E mkII uses a built-in rechargeable and replaceable Lithium Polymer Battery that gives users up to 50 hours of continuous run time before it needs to be recharged. This is an increase of 15 hours over the Sync E.

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You can recharge your Sync E mkII using the built-in USB-C port. The unit comes with a USB-C to full-size USB cable. I like that Tentacle Sync also makes the battery replaceable. As we all know, batteries degrade over time and having the option to replace them means your device will last a lot longer than if the battery wasn’t replaceable.

The battery life is outstanding on the Sync E mkII. Even if you accidentally leave it on at the end of a shoot day, you can still go another whole day without needing to recharge it.

Tentacle Sync Battery Exchange Kit for Tentacle SYNC E

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You can buy a Tentacle Sync Battery Exchange Kit for Tentacle SYNC E (this works with the Sync E mkII) for $17 USD. This comes with the following items:

  • LiPo Battery
  • Hook Tape
  • Loop Tape
  • Spatula Tool to Remove Battery
  • Philips Screwdriver
  • SYNC E Accessories
  • Limited 6-Month Warranty

What you clearly need to be aware of is by opening the housing of your Tentacle unit, you will terminate the warranty of the device itself. This kit is for Tentacle units that are outside the two-year warranty period. If your device has battery problems within the warranty period, please contact [email protected] prior to your purchase.

The battery should last way longer than two years. I haven’t replaced the batteries in my Sync E devices and I have been using them for over 5 years.

It is nice that Tentacle Sync offers this battery replacement kit because it extends the life of the product.

Sync E mkII features

  • Can act as Master Clock or Jam-Sync to any External Timecode Source
  • Setup and Monitoring with Bluetooth via Smartphone (iOS & Android)
  • Lockable Connector with the included “Tentacle Clamp”
  • Built-in Rechargeable and Replaceable Lithium Polymer Battery
  • Inaccuracy less than 1 Frame within 24 Hours
  • Runtime up to 50 Hours, Fast Charging via USB-C
  • Improved High-Quality Built-in Microphone
  • Switchable Mic/Line Output
  • Uses LTC Timecode according to SMPTE-12M Standard
  • SMPTE Timecode Rates: 23.98, 24, 25, 29.97, 29.97DF and 30 FPS
  • Integrated Hook Surface for Easy Mounting
  • Super Small (38 x 50 x 15 mm) and Lightweight (30 g / 1 oz)
  • 2 Year Manufacturer’s Warranty
  • Designed and Made in Cologne, Germany

Drift

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The Sync E mkII has a claimed inaccuracy of less than 1 Frame within 24 Hours (-30°C to +85°C). This is fairly common for products such as this.

I have yet to personally encounter any noticeable drift that actually affected anything when using the Sync E or Sync E mkII and I have been using the Sync E for more than 5 years. In saying that, I am usually using them with cameras that have proper BNC timecode inputs. I also make it a habit of leaving the Sync E/Sync E mkII devices attached at all times. To me, it makes no sense to set the timecode and then remove the devices as they are so small and don’t get in the way when I am working.

With drift, the camera you are using and whether or not you are using AUX (LTC) timecode or a BNC cable going into a dedicated timecode input can all be variables. It is always wise to test the setup you intend to use before shooting.

What do you get?

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In a nice personal touch, when you open the box from Tentacle Sync you are greeted with a nice personal note. I may sound a bit old-fashioned but I really like this additional attention to detail. It makes you feel like you are buying a product from a person and not a large corporation that just wants your money.

You also get a printed-out quick start guide. Again I really like when a company gives me a physical guide for a product. Too often these days you have to download a manual or go online to find out answers. Having a simple, small quick start guide means you can keep it with your equipment and reference it quickly if you forget how to do something.

Included in a standard Tentacle Sync E mkII Timecode Generator with Bluetooth 5.0 (Dual Set) you get the following:

  • 2 x Sync E mk II Timecode Generator
  • 2 x 3.5mm Mini Jack Cable (Right-Angle)
  • 2 x USB Type-C Cable
  • 2 x Cable Clamp
  • 10 x Hook-and-Loop Pad
  • 4 x Colored Rubber Band
  • 2 x Software Activation
  • Limited 2-Year Warranty

Again I might be sounding like a broken record, but getting everything you need to get up and running straight away is a nice touch. The only thing missing from the set are Tentacle BNC adapter cables and which cost $27 USD each.

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