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Buyer's Guide to Wireless Microphones

The FCC's re-allocation of the 700 MHz band has been 10 years in the making, and now that the day of reckoning is upon us, wireless microphone manufacturers are moving forward with products and features they've had in the works to ease the transition.

The FCC's re-allocation of the 700 MHz band has been 10 years in the making, and now that the day of reckoning is upon us, wireless microphone manufacturers are moving forward with products and features they've had in the works to ease the transition. "[The FCC] created a safer zone further down the spectrum where no portable devices will operate, and that's where we believe most of the wireless microphone use will concentrate," says Mark Brunner, senior director of public and industry relations at Shure.
Audio-Technica began moving out of the FM band entirely about 10 years ago with its SpectraPulse Ultra Wideband technology. Sennheiser started moving its products into the 600 MHz band. According to Joe Ciaudelli, Sennheiser's consultant for professional products, we may ultimately see more mics operating per channel and the reintroduction of VHF equipment. "Even with all the congestion that might happen over the next few years, 18,000 frequencies is a lot to choose from," he says. "You're going to find a clear frequency."


AKG Acoustics
www.akg.com

Model: WMS 4500
List price: $1,798-$2,347 (depending on configuration)
Frequency ranges: 500-530 MHz; 570-600 MHz; 650-680 MHz
Number of switchable frequencies: 1,200 per band
Transmitter type: Modular handheld and bodypack
Signal-to-noise ratio: 120 dB
RF output: 50 mW
The AKG WMS 4500 features full-band 35 Hz to 20,000 Hz audio response with 120 dB dynamic range for uncompressed, hard-wired sound quality. The transmitter delivers 15 hours operating time on two AA batteries and has built-in charging contacts for use with an optional charging station. End-users can choose among dynamic, condenser, lavalier, and head-worn microphones. The SR 4500 true-diversity receiver is housed in an all-metal case, comes complete with rack hardware, and has a large, easy-to-read display with full status monitoring. Paired with the optional AKG HUB 4000Q, it provides a data interface for PC control and monitoring via Harman Pro's HiQnet protocol.



Model: WMS 450
List price: $849-$1,399 (depending on configuration)
Frequency ranges: 500-530 MHz; 570-600 MHz; 650-680 MHz
Number of switchable frequencies: 1,200
Transmitter type: Handheld and bodypack
Signal-to-noise ratio: 120 dB
RF output: 50 mW
The AKG WMS 450 features 35 Hz to 20,000 Hz audio response with 120 dB dynamic range, transmitters with up to eight hours of operation from one AA battery, and built-in charging contacts for use with the optional CU 400 charging station. Because they only require one battery, WMS 450 transmitters are small, slim, and ergonomic. The SR 450 receiver has an all-metal chassis, comes with rack hardware, and has a backlit two-color display. The receiver automatically selects frequency and uploads the setup data to the transmitter via infrared. A variety of expansion components is available to create multi-user systems.



Audio-Technica
www.audio-technica.com

Model: SpectraPulse Ultra Wideband (UWB)
List price: Solution-dependent
Frequency range: Center frequency 6.350 GHz (500 MHz bandwidth)
Number of switchable frequencies: Not applicable
Transmitter type: Boundary, XLR gooseneck desk stand
Signal-to-noise ratio: Not applicable
RF output: Not applicable
Unlike traditional FM carrier based systems, Audio-Technica's SpectraPulse Ultra Wideband (UWB) wireless microphone system operates in the 6 GHz band using a series of small, wide, time-based digital pulses to carry digital audio information. Because SpectraPulse is not carrier-frequency-based, the white space issue does not affect the system, says the company. Intended for conferences, courtrooms, and corporate events, SpectraPulse offers 14 simultaneous channels. The system is available with two microphone transmitter options: the mtu101 boundary microphone and the mtu201 XLR desk stand transmitter, which functions with Audio-Technica's Engineered Sound gooseneck microphones. Additionally, Audio-Technica's optional encryption package meets the AES encryption standard.


 

Avlex Corp.
www.avlex.com

Model: MIPRO ACT707 Series
List price: Starting at $635 per channel
Frequency range: 620-692 MHz
Number of switchable frequencies: 100 via front panel, (24,000 with PC Control)
Transmitter type: Handheld and bodypack versions
Signal-to-noise ratio: > 105 dB (A)
RF output: 30 mW
According to Avlex, MIPRO's Automatic Scanning and Automatic Channel Targeting (ACT) facilitate easy, interference-free system setup. These systems can also be controlled via a PC, allowing the end-user to view the receivers' RF spectrum in the venue and choose any frequency in that band to optimize a custom frequency plot for the location. Full-color, highly visible LED displays make for easy readability in low light conditions, and the ACT-707F mainframe system accepts upwards of four receiver modules/channels in 1RU rack space. 



Electro-Voice
www.electrovoice.com

Model: RE-2
List price: $620-$720
Frequency range: 28 MHz operating range
Number of switchable frequencies: 1,112
Transmitter type: Handheld and beltpack available
Signal-to-noise ratio: > 100 dB A-weighted
RF output: 30 mW typical
The RE-2's 28 MHz operating range is spread into six different TV channels, so, according to the company, using One-Touch ClearScan, the user can find a group of compatible, clear channels in almost any environment. Combination adjustable squelch, patented Posi-Phase diversity, and other RF features make RE-2 a professional wireless tool. Featuring the industry standard NDYM 767a and RE410 microphone elements, the unit provides concert level audio for the big stage or small. Affordable MiniMic headworns (RE97 and RE97-2), along with unique offerings like the PolarChoice Satellite, make it ideal for corporate AV as well.


Model: REV
List price: $2,600-$2,900 per channel
Frequency range: 248 MHz operating range
Number of switchable frequencies: 950
Transmitter type: Handheld and beltpack available
Signal-to-noise ratio: > 110 dB A-weighted
RF output: 5 mW or 50 mW selectable
Even in situations with little bandwidth, the REV's Advanced ClearScan finds the clearest channel in just seconds, says the company. Computer monitoring and control through Electo-Voice's IRIS-Net software provides supervision of networked microphones from one or several PCs. A built-in antenna splitter allows six channels on two antennas with no additional hardware, keeping rack space and cost to a minimum.


 

Lectrosonics
www.lectrosonics.com

Model: SM (Super Miniature) Transmitters
List price: $1,525-$1,795
Frequency range: 35 Hz-20 kHz
Number of switchable frequencies: 256 per frequency block
Transmitter type: Beltpack
Signal-to-noise ratio: 112 dB
RF output: 100-250 mW
The SM Series of transmitters provides state-of-the-art audio and RF performance in a small package, according to the company. Patented Digital Hybrid Wireless technology provides compandor-free audio when used with 400-Series receivers, such as the Venue, R400A, and UCR411A. With a high-power RF output of 100 mW (SMa and SMDa) or 250 mW (SMQa), the transmitters can provide greater range and resistance to dropouts, even when RF background noise is high. The RM remote unit allows changing the settings on the transmitters without line of sight or retrieving them from the wearer.


Model: Venue Wideband Receiver
List price: $2,335-$6,240
Frequency range: 35-20 kHz
Number of switchable frequencies: 1,536
Transmitter type: Beltpack, handheld, plug-on
Signal-to-noise ratio: 112 dB
RF output: Not applicable
This receiver, compatible with all current and some previous Lectrosonics transmitters, is a modular, user-configurable system allowing for up to six receiver channels in one rack space and offering a 230 MHz tuning range to cover the entire available UHF band. Bundled GUI software provides graphic scanning that can pinpoint open frequencies and tune receiver modules. Tracking filter modules provide rejection of out-of-band RF noise. Three different diversity modes give user options depending on the intended application.


 

Revolabs
www.revolabs.com

Model: Solo Executive 4- and 8-Channel System
List price: $4,995 (4 mics); $6,995 (8 mics)
Frequency range: 1.92-1.93 GHz
Number of switchable frequencies: 4-8 channels per system
Transmitter type: Wearable shirt lapel or table top and ear piece.
Signal-to-noise ratio: Not applicable
RF output: Not applicable
The Solo Executive four- and eight-channel wireless microphone system is impervious to radio frequency interference. According to Revolabs, the RF-Armor version's robust shielding enables the microphone to operate cleanly and evenly–even when in direct contact with wireless electronic devices known to cause unwanted audio interference.

Model:
The Revolabs Fusion
List price: $4,995-$6,000
Frequency range: 1.92-1.93 GHz (UPCS North America)
Number of switchable frequencies: 4-8 channel frequencies
Transmitter type: In-ear
Signal-to-noise ratio: Not applicable
RF output: Not applicable
The Revolabs Fusion is simple to install–simply plug the cable into the AV system or phone system and it works. No software configuration is necessary, the company says. The Fusion box is designed to be used vertically or horizontally, and no equipment rack is needed. The digital Revolabs wireless microphones automatically look for and change frequency to find a clearer transmission path within the 1.92-1.93 GHz range.


 

Sabine
www.sabine.com

Model: SWM-7000 Smart Spectrum
List price: $1,369.99
Frequency range: 2,500-2,483.5 MHz
Number of switchable frequencies: 70
Transmitter type: Beltpack, handheld
Signal-to-noise ratio: > 100 dB
RF output: < 25 mW
The DTV-free Smart Spectrum Wireless systems operate above the TV bands, and thus, according to the company, are immune to the interference that plagues conventional UHF wireless microphones. Using digital signal processing in the RF circuit that combined Sabine's Smart Spectrum filtering technology, the system can accommodate up to 70 simultaneous users and effectively resist interference, giving corporate, educational, house of worship, and live performance users who need a high channel count and a practical, reliable solution that works all over the world.


Sennheiser Electronic Corp.
www.sennheiserusa.com

Models: 3000 and 5000 Series
List price: Contact vendor
Frequency range: 470-960 Hz
Number of switchable frequencies: Between 7,200 and 18,000 (depending on product)
Transmitter type: Hand-held, body pack, IEM
Signal-to-noise ratio: Varies by product
RF output: 10-250 mW, varies by product
These RF transmitters and receivers can be tuned and retuned outside their given macro-range and within their micro-range (from 36 MHz to 90 MHz) in 5 kHz steps. The series cover the entire RF spectrum, are compatible with all current or older products, and will work with future products in the series, the company says. The transmitters offer a variety of RF output power choices, from 10 to 250 mW, that operate on rechargeable or single-use batteries. The newest member of the 3000 series family, the EM3732 receiver, offers a 90 MHz switching bandwidth in 5 kHz steps, and has an internal RF search function that checks for local, active analog, and DTV stations.

Model: EM 3732 Receiver
List price: $6,219
Frequency range: 90 MHz switching bandwidth, 470-560 MHz, 518-608 MHz, 548-638 MHz, 614-704 MHz, 678-768 MHz, 708-798 MHz, 776-866 MHz, 814-904 MHz, 870-960 MHz
Number of switchable frequencies: 18,000 tunable frequencies, 6 preset banks plus 1 user bank with 60 channels per bank
Transmitter type: Handheld or bodypack
Signal-to-noise ratio: > 115 dB (A) (AF OUT)
RF output: 50 mW, 10 mW/50 mW
Sennheiser's flagship wireless combo system matches the EM3700 Series True-Diversity Receiver with an SK5212 miniature body-pack transmitter and an SKM5200 transmitter. The 3700 Series receivers are retunable across the UHF spectrum and boast a 90 MHz tuning bandwidth; tunable to 18,000 selectable frequencies. According to the company, a tight filtering system allows for the use of larger numbers of wireless channels, even in demanding RF environments. The EM3700 receivers also feature AES-EBU digital outputs, built-in networkability for control and monitoring, on-board active antenna distribution for up to 16 channels with one pair of antennas, and a menu-based front-panel control set with an organic LED display.


Shure
www.shure.com

Models: SLX4L and MX690
List price: $1,516
Frequency range: G4: 24 MHz (470-494);
G5: 24 MHz (494-518)
Number of switchable frequencies: 960
Transmitter type: Boundary
Signal-to-noise ratio: > 100 dB A-weighted
RF output: 30 mW
With included rack hardware and detachable antennas, the SLX4 Receiver is ready for installation right out of the box, Shure says. Model SLX4L is available with logic output for use with software echo cancellation and remote battery life monitoring. The logic-enabled transmitter MX690 Microflex Wireless Boundary Microphone is a solution for conference and meeting spaces where users demand flexibility and high performance, and is compatible with Shure SLX wireless systems.

Model:ULXP14/83
List price: $1,398
Frequency range: G3: 36 MHz (470-506)
Number of switchable frequencies: G3: 1,400
Transmitter type: Lavalier
Signal-to-noise ratio: > 100 dB A-weighted
RF output: 30 mW
ULX Wireless Professional Lavalier System with ULXP4 Diversity Receiver, ULX1 Body-Pack Transmitter, and WL183 Lavalier Mic offers a professional UHF system for professional sound installers and working musicians. The systems offer advanced features and controls, including lockable settings and group scan function. More than 1,400 selectable, pre-programmed frequencies are available, and Automatic Frequency Selection provides a straight shot
 to a clear channel.


 

TOA Electronics
www.toaelectronics.com

Model:WM-5220E01/F01
List price: $298
Frequency range: F01 Band 636-666 MHz or E01 Band 668-698 MHz
Number of switchable frequencies: 16
Transmitter type: Handheld
Signal-to-noise ratio: > 110 dB (A-weight, unbalanced output) using the WT-5800E01/F01 or WT-5805E01/F01 Receiver
RF output: < 50 mW
The WM-5220E01/F01 speech microphone's electret condenser element minimizes handling-related noise, making it particularly suited for speech applications. It features a more streamlined, less bulky profile compared to conventional models, thanks to a new built-in antenna–overall weight has also been reduced. According to TOA, its wide-area receptivity enables operation as far as 390 feet away from the tuner unit (when used with the YW-4500 remote antennas). An at-a-glance indicator warns of low battery status, while the microphone uses a single new AA alkaline battery with an average operating time of 10 hours.



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