[Icecast] Wireless Mic System

xiphmont at xiph.org xiphmont at xiph.org
Wed Mar 4 15:12:09 PST 2009

I have used several Shure systems, a few Sennheisers and a few
AudioTechnica systems.

Do not expect any of these systems, even the highest end, to be
anywhere as reliable as a wired mic.  As the years went on, I
generally moved higher and higher end to try to weed out problems I
had with units that were due to design or unit flaws.  I've been out
of the biz for a few years now (since my kids arrived), but I nearly
always tried to use the best I/we could afford.  At that time, the
Shure UCs were my most common choice.  When I couldn't afford to roll
out UCs, ULX systems were a solid, cheaper alternative.  I don't
remember much about the Sennheisers beyond them performing as expected
and (as usual) not having compatible connectors ;-)

I owned several high end Audio Technica models and found every unit
unreliable.  They were digitally controlled transmitters and all had
an odd tendency to lose their settings in the middle of performances.
Dropouts are one thing-- having a microphone suddenly decide to boost
its output 60dB in the middle of a quiet choral number for no reason
is absolutely unacceptable.  They all went in for service, all came
back with clean bills of health, all repeated the problems and I
dumped the whole lot.

If at all possible, buy units that run on AAs, not 9v.  Rechargables,
in general, work *very* poorly in wireless mics.  Batteries will cost
you a surprising amount of money, and 9v make that 4x worse.

If at possible buy units that you make the settings using physical
switches, preferrably requiring a screwdriver.  All-analog packs
survive alot longer than digital packs. All the fancy digital
pushbutton systems are begging to fail, and actors/performers can't
resist playing with them.  Covers that snap shut over the pushbuttons;
the overs are flimsy and the puttins get mashed right through the
flimy shield.  If sweat gets in, the microprocessor is done.

Prefer units that have cheply replacable connectors, and hoard spares.
 We had one actor who constantly broke connectors because they'd pop
apart before he'd run on stage and he couldn't get them back together
correctly in haste and on three consecutive nights, he destroyed three
$1000 sender units.  After that show, I ripped all the
'high-durability unscoopable' connectors out of the packs and
hand-soldered in 1/8" stereo connectors.  They popped apart somewhat
more easily, but they never broke.  I think Sennheiser might have the
advantage on this front.

Whatever mic you get, dropouts will be a problem.  The best units are
better in this regard, but unless you plan to have an antenna array
front of house less than 15' away, expect them to just randomly lose
occasionally.   The stated ranges are fantasy.

Sweat kills microphones.  A drop of sweat in the capsule itself, and
you're out a $300 Countryman.  But most people think sweat doesn't get
inside the packs.  One show of having a 'beltpack' stuffed into a bra
because 'it's the only place it will fit in the costume' means you
will have a dead transmitter by the end of the run.  Putting the
sender in a condom will help, but sweat still tends to get in
eventually.  Yeah, the packs look ugly outside, but they're called
beltpacks for a reason.  That said--- our Shure UCs and ULX packs went
through multiple successful soakings in rubbing alchohol after
sweat-induced failures, dried out fine, and kept performing.

That's my 0.02.


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