Audio-Technica 3000 Series
May 27, 2010 2:46 PM, By John McJunkin
New updates essentially make it a brand-new system.
Audio-Technica’s successful 3000 series wireless system</a> has been a staple for contractors and integrators for quite some time now, and with good reason. It’s a good-quality system that provides substantial value, and it’s reliable. When manufacturers succeed with a system like this, it makes sense to update its features from time to time in order to meet new challenges and to improve the product to keep it competitive in the market. Audio-Technica (A-T) has made some fundamental changes to the 3000 series system, while retaining the features that made it attractive from the beginning. I evaluated products from the 3000 series—namely the ATW-R3100b receiver, ATW-T341b and ATW-T310b transmitters, BP892cW-TH MicroSet headworn mic, and BP896cW lavalier mic. I’ll go out on a limb and say that the updates to the system practically make it a completely new product.
Among the new features found in the newly enhanced 3000 series is inclusion of the I band frequency range (482.000MHz-507.000MHz) in addition to the previously existing C and D bands. Frequencies are spaced at 25kHz, making 996 frequencies available in the C and D bands, and 1001 new frequencies in the I band. This is a welcome addition as the RF spectrum grows more crowded and regulated.
Another new feature is antenna power. The ATW-R3100b receiver provides power to operate powered antennas, increasing the reliability of the signal. The receivers also now feature nine coordinated scan groups to simplify the configuration of available frequencies in a multichannel application. The 3000 series transmitters now offer a backlit LCD display to more clearly present information about system operation. Another nice new feature is a dual-color LED to indicate on/mute status for each transmitter. True diversity operation in the system now selects the better signal from two independent receiver sections as well. The system also features a digital squelch circuit known as Tone Lock, which blocks stray RF and also transmits data to the displays on the receivers. The audio level from the receivers has been increased to +9dB, and both balanced and unbalanced outputs are now available. Finally, a ground-lift switch has been implemented to eliminate hum. As I said, there are so many new features, this is essentially a new system.
I’ve had plenty of exposure to A-T’s wireless systems, and of all the A-T front panels I’ve seen, I like this one best in terms of providing a clear display. The ATW-R3100b receiver’s backlight is a pleasant sea green that contrasts well with the clear black LCD segments. RF strength is indicated by the numerals 1 through 8 from bottom to top of the left edge of the display, and audio VU is similarly indicated by a scale from -20dB to +6dB on the right edge. Reception frequency is prominently displayed in large numerals in the top center of the display, and batt and mute indicators at the bottom show microphone status. On the left side of the front panel is the unit’s power switch. I sometimes find myself muttering muted curses at Audio-Technica’s recessed power buttons, until I remember that this makes an accidental power-down much less likely. To the right of the display are the system’s simple navigation controls: a mode/set button and up and down buttons. One minor complaint: In an effort to simplify operation, Audio-Technica may have over-reduced the number of buttons here. Navigation can get a little confusing. A-T had good intentions, I’m sure, but now it feels as though there are too few front-panel controls. To make it more straightforward, the unit would likely benefit from the addition of a couple of buttons. The ATW-R3100b’s rear panel is simple and uncomplicated, with the left half dominated by the unit’s two antenna connections. An AF level and ground-lift switch come next, followed by balanced (XLR) and unbalanced (1/4in.) outputs, and finally, the unit’s DC power inlet and strain-relief clip.
The ATW-T341b is A-T’s handheld transmitter/dynamic mic package (the ATW-T371b offers a condenser capsule) and is the more popular option. It’s 9 1/3in. in length and just short of 2in. in diameter at its widest point. The exterior grille on this mic is as heavy and tough as any I’ve seen, and it clearly offers serious protection to the capsule. It has a power/mute button at the bottom end of the housing, and an LCD display along its side. The mic’s LCD display is not the same high-clarity green as the receiver, but it is still clear and easily read. A battery-strength display and muting indicator are presented by the LCD, as is the transmitter frequency. The power/mute button powers up and down with an extended depression, while a quick tap of the button mutes the mic for the benefit of the performer/speaker. Unscrewing the housing from the mic reveals a battery compartment, and three buttons for navigation just like the receiver. This mic feels solid to me.
The ATW-T310b UniPak transmitter is 2.6’x0.94’x3.43’ in size, and it features a sliding door to cover its four control buttons and prevent accidental changes in parameters. As with the system’s other transmitters and receivers, three of those four buttons are for navigation, with the fourth controlling power/mute function, as does the button at the tail end of the handheld mic. The transmitter’s LCD display is the same as that in the handheld mic, and the unit’s battery compartment uses a clever pinch-slider mechanism to prevent unwanted ejection of batteries at inopportune moments. The UniPak is intended for use with Audio-Technica’s lavalier and headworn mics, and the system I evaluated had one of each, namely a BP896cW lav and BP892cW-TH headworn mic. I’ve had previous experience with both of these, and they are high-quality capsules. One exciting development was the inclusion of Audio-Technica’s AT8464-TH dual-ear microphone mount. I have complained in the past about the grasp of Audio-Technica’s headworn mics on the ear, and this new mount does wonders in terms of addressing the issue by wrapping around the back of the wearer’s head to grasp both ears. The new mount grasped effectively and enabled me to get the mic where it was supposed to be and keep it there. Nice to see A-T resolve this issue.
The audio quality of Audio-Technica’s 3000 series has always been solid to me. The noise floor is low, there is no audible distortion, and the RF is stable within the published operating range. The published frequency response is 70Hz to 15kHz, and it’s all there. The system is easier to use than ever due to the new scan groups, and the additional frequencies are welcome with our ever-shrinking available spectrum. The huge number of improvements and new features make this system very much worthy of a look.
John McJunkin is the principal of Avalon Podcasting in Chandler, Ariz. He has consulted in the development of studios and installations, and he provides high-quality podcast-production services.
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