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Sennheiser XSW 52 Headworn Wireless Mic Review

Aug 17, 2012 11:56 AM, Reviewer: John McJunkin

A prosumer-grade mic fit for pro AV installation.

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Sennheiser SXW Series

As science marches forward, technology continuously improves and equipment manufacturers introduce better products. A result of this progress is that manufacturers’ consumer-grade offerings often reach the level formerly occupied by their professional-grade products—making them, in spite of a lack of bells and whistles, a very good value. A perfect example of this shift is Sennheiser’s new XSW series microphones, which are as good as yesterday’s great mics, but at a reasonable price in today’s market.

The XSW line of mics consists of packages that include mic, transmitter, and receiver all in one box. The XSW 12 includes an omnidirectional lavalier microphone; the XSW 35 and 65 integrate transmitters into handheld cardioid microphones, dynamic and condenser (and cardioid and super cardioid), respectively. The XSW 72, which does not include a microphone at all, broadcasts the output of your musical instrument via a bodypack transmitter. I was sent an XSW 52 for evaluation, which includes an ME 3 headset microphone. As Sennheiser implies in its documentation, the headset is intended for a more “animated” performance, and indeed, the use of a headset mic helps to ensure that the microphone capsule remains at the same distance from the performer’s mouth no matter what—something that a lavalier mic cannot accomplish.

The ME 3 is a supercardioid electret condenser mic mounted at the end of the boom that’s integrated into a wrap-around headset mic structure. The structure is plastic that wraps over the top of the ears and then around the back of the head. An adjustable cloth band is placed just above the flexible plastic material of the headset, helping to keep the mic in place, and increasing the comfort level of the user. I all but forgot that I was wearing it, though one minor issue might be that the mic can only be worn on the right side of the performer’s head.

The mic’s cable terminates in a 3.5mm TRS connector. The element’s large windscreen does not conceal the mic from the view of the audience, but this could be a positive for certain applications. For example, dancing performers often use a prerecorded lead vocal, but the performer may wish to speak to the audience between songs, so a dummy microphone won’t do. In order to contribute to the illusion, many such performers prefer to use a headset mic with a large element or windscreen, exaggerating to the audience that a mic is being employed, implying they truly are singing (as distinct from an ultra-small match-head microphone on an ultra-slender boom, which may be invisible to the audience).

The SK 20 bodypack transmitter included with the XSW 52 set is approximately the size of a deck of cards, and outputs its signal in one of four different frequency ranges detailed in the specifications section of this review. Its output is 10mW, yielding a range of about 250ft. Its audio upper frequency limit is 16kHz, and the lower limit is 50Hz for line level signals, and 80Hz for mic level signals. It operates for approximately 10 hours on two AA batteries. LEDs atop the bodypack indicate power and muting status. Along with the mic/instrument input atop the enclosure are the transmitter’s integrated antenna and mute button. On the front of the enclosure is the unit’s LCD display, and on the sides are control switches and buttons.

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