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Sony DWZ-B70HL/DWZ-M70 Digital Wireless Systems Review

Nov 25, 2013 3:12 PM, Reviewer: John McJunkin

System connects users cost-effectively, efficiently with ease


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Digital wireless is nothing new—we’ve had it for quite a while now as a matter of fact. But historically, it has tended toward being a bit complex and not necessarily friendly to the inexperienced. The benefits of digital wireless are so numerous and substantial that it’s clearly worth the effort to adapt it to a package that is more affordable and less intimidating and easier to operate for end users who aren’t seasoned 20-year professionals with a degrees in digital audio and RF engineering. I exaggerate for effect, but to a greenhorn AV technician, it doesn’t matter how far beyond his or her understanding a device’s operation lands—they simply can’t make it work the right way, particularly in advanced applications requiring numerous channels of audio.

Sony recognized that it would be a good idea to develop a simpler, rookie-friendly digital wireless system with a lower price tag and the DWZ line was born. I evaluated two such systems—the DWZ-B70HL and the DWZ-M70 (beltpack/headworn/lavalier and handheld systems, respectively). Both are based on the ZRX-HR70 receiver, and the M70 version includes a ZTX-M02RC handheld mic, while the B70HL version includes a ZTX-B02RC beltpack transmitter and ECM-HZ1UBMP headworn and ECM-LZ1UBMP lavalier microphones. Both include wall-wart power supplies for the receivers and other accessories.

The front panel of the receiver is far and away the simplest and most spartan I’ve ever seen—a scant 6⅝in. wide—it features only a power button and indicator LED, display, escape button, and navigation/data entry knob from left to right across its face. The high-resolution LCD display is bright and vivid—I could even see it clearly in sunlight. It shows the receiving channel, encryption status, remaining transmitter battery charge, audio level, feedback reduction status, EQ status, and receiving level. The easily-grasped knob to the right of the display is also a pushbutton for execution. The unit’s three main menu choices are channel setup, audio setup, and advanced settings (RF mode, encryption, and battery type, specifically). I had no trouble navigating the menus—and everything was largely self-explanatory—I didn’t have to open the manual at all. The rear panel is similarly simple—from left to right a BNC connector for antenna A, two unbalanced ¼in. output jacks, a balanced XLR output jack with a slider switch that toggles between mic and line level, and a DC power inlet with a cable clamp to provide strain relief. There’s also a micro-USB port for updating firmware. Finally, at the rightmost end of the panel is a BNC connector for antenna B.

The ZTX-M02RC handheld mic/transmitter is slender and features only a slider switch toggling power and an LED to indicate power/charging status on its exterior surface. Unscrewing the handgrip reveals a seven-segment LED display showing transmission channel and a channel selector pushbutton. There’s also a slider switch toggling encryption mode. Rotating the mic 90 degrees to the right reveals a micro-USB port used to update the mic’s firmware. Rotating 90 more degrees reveals the space for the mic’s required 2 AA cells. One minor complaint here—the batteries go in “head to head” with positive terminals facing one another. This is not a standard topology, and could be confusing.

The ZTX-B02RC beltpack transmitter is smaller than a deck of cards and features slider switches toggling encryption mode, mic and line input level, and three levels of input attenuation. Two pushbutton switches control channel selection and power/muting, respectively. A micro-USB jack is found on the side of the beltpack, again for updating the beltpack’s firmware. A single seven-segment LED display indicates transmission channel, and two single LEDs show battery status and audio level/muting status. A small, thimble-sized black plastic cap covers its antenna, and opposite of that atop the unit is a ⅛in. mic input—and I’m very pleased that it’s the type with a screw-on collar to secure the plug in place. It ships with a headworn mic and a lavalier—both are cardioid condensers. The lav is not tiny—it’s a little more than ⅜in. wide, and its foam windscreen is a little more than a half inch in diameter. Considering the pricing, it’s simply too much to expect a reed-slender broadcast-style lav. Similarly, the headworn’s element is “large-ish,” also about ⅜in. wide, with a windscreen a bit more than a half-inch wide.

Compared with products from other manufacturers, the headworn seems cheap—completely plastic, and with a thick cable. However, it does not feel flimsy—it actually seems sturdy. It just doesn’t have the look of the high-end headworns with needle-slender booms and match head elements. You simply have to pay more money to get to that level. Nevertheless, both mics sound great, with the resolution you’d expect from condensers, and broad bandwidth, as well. The handheld mic is the one that really shines, however. Three distinct capsules are available in addition to the one that ships with the system—the CU-C31, a cardioid condenser, the CU-F31, a supercardioid dynamic, and the CU-F32, a wide cardioid dynamic. I evaluated the dynamic capsule supplied with the handheld package, which includes a supplied dynamic capsule (not the CU-C31) that is part of the ZTX-M02RC handheld mic, and this supplied capsule doesn’t have a separate model name. The three capsules mentioned are optional alternative capsules. All optional capsules have a model name label on the outside of the capsule. This handheld pattern was quite narrow, and when coupled with the wireless system’s feedback reduction processing, virtually eliminates feedback—it’s very effective.

I set about to evaluate the DWZ system through the eyes of an end-user with less than copious education and/or experience. I wanted to determine whether someone at that level could successfully set up a multi-channel system and make it work. It met that requirement in spades. And not only was it simple enough that a non-pro could make it work, but even encrypt the signal for security purposes, apply equalization, and employ feedback reduction. It’s clear to me that Sony deliberately chose a simple five-band graphic equalizer because it’s most likely that even non-professionals will have had exposure to a simple equalizer such as this in their home theater systems. Menu navigation is easy and largely self-explanatory. And the inclusion of encryption really increases the value of the system and broadens the number and type of applications for which it is useful. The system also makes both wide- and narrow-band hopping available in order to avoid interference from other wireless systems in proximity. A contact-less battery recharging system is available—and even it is simple to operate—simply drop the handheld mic and/or the beltpack transmitter into the charger, and it starts charging.

The audio fidelity of the DWZ system is very good—with 24-bit resolution, it’s dead quiet, and all three of the available mics deliver great performance, particularly the handheld. The system does not have the visual appearance of high-end pro audio. With the bright yellow ring around the data entry knob on the receiver, it almost has a cartoonish, teeny-bopper home audio look. But do not be fooled by that appearance—despite dwelling toward the lower end of digital wireless in terms of price, it performs very well.

PRODUCT SUMMARY

Company: Sony

pro.sony.com/bbsc/ssr/cat-audio/

Pros: Robust, stable, secure transmission, high-quality audio, easy setup, onboard EQ

Cons: Unorthodox “head-to-head” battery orientation in the handheld mic

Applications: Encrypted digital speech/vocal uses with feedback reduction and EQ

Price: $999.99 MSRP (DWZ-B70HL) (MSRP); $899.99 MSRP (DWZ-M70)

SPECIFICATIONS

DWZ-M70 & DWZ-B70HL

Carrier frequencies: 2402.0MHz to 2478.5MHz

ZRX-HR70 half-rack receiver

Frequency response: 10Hz to 22kHz

Maximum output level

Balanced Output mic: –22dBu

Line: +24dBu

Unbalanced Output: +8dBu

Reference output level

Balanced Output Mic: –58dBu

Line: –12dBu

Unbalanced Output: –28dBu

ZTX-M02RC handheld microphone

Microphone type: Uni-directional dynamic

Frequency response

Transmission: 10Hz to 22kHz

Microphone unit: 70Hz to 16kHz

Maximum input level: 142dBSPL (when attenuator level is 12dB)

Dynamic range: 102dB(A-weighted)

ZTX-B02RC body-pack transmitter

Frequency response: 10Hz to 22kHz

Maximum input level

Mic: –22dBu

Inst/Line: +8dBu (when attenuator level is 0dB)

Reference input level

Mic: –58dBu

Inst/Line: –28dBu (when attenuator level is 0dB)

Dynamic range

Mic:102dB(A-weighted)

Inst/Line: 98dB(A-weighted)

ECM-LZ1UBMP lavalier microphone

Type: Electret condenser microphone

Frequency range: 60Hz to 18,000Hz

Directivity: Uni-directional

Sensitivity: –36.0dB ±3.0dB (1kHz/Pa)

ECM-HZ1UBMP headset microphone

Type: Electret condenser microphone

Frequency range: 60Hz to 18,000Hz

Directivity: Uni-directional

Sensitivity: –36.0dB ±3.0dB (1kHz/Pa)

John McJunkin is the principal of Avalon Podcasting in Chandler, Ariz., and produces and co-hosts a top-rated morning radio talk show in Phoenix. He has consulted in the development of studios and installations and provides high-quality podcast and voice production services.





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