Archive for September, 2011

Low Cost Wireless Microphone Systems

These days, every event uses wireless microphones both for the presenters to look cool and relaxed, and for the announcer so they can be part of the audience, or interact on the stage as required. Also known as Radio Microphones or Cordless Microphones, they are also invaluable for roving through the audience at an event to take questions from the participants. The term Mic Runner would have little meaning if they were trailing a hundred feet of cable behind them, to say nothing about health and safety and the trip hazard!

There are a number of Low Cost Wireless Microphone Systems which can help to make your presentation stand out as something special, so we are reviewing a few of them here. They are divided into two categories, the first one for the presenter, and the second for the Mic Runners, as their needs are quite different.

Radio microphone systems consist of two main components, a transmitter that takes the signal from the headset, lapel or hand microphone and transmits it to the second component, the receiver. The receiver connects to your amplifier or mixer and then into your PA system. Wireless microphones (also known as radio mics or even radio mikes) are simple to set up, as all you have to do is connect the receiver output into your mixer, put a new battery in the transmitter and switch on. In some cases you can be up and running in five minutes from first opening the box.

The systems we work with are reliable to use, as they avoid intermittent transmission from wired microphones due to damaged cabling, or crosstalk from poorly shielded equipment, or sudden interruptions as the animated presenter tries to extend the microphone cable past its limit! Provided that the batteries are changed regularly, and recharged where appropriate, wireless microphones are reliable to use and simple to set up.

Speeches and Presentations
For a presenter to be natural and relaxed, it is essential that they are given the freedom to move around the stage, and in some cases interact directly with the audience. There are two types of presenter microphones which we will consider here; Lavaliere and Headset

What Is a Lavaliere? According to Wikipedia, a lavaliere microphone (also known as Lavalier, lav or lapel mike) is a small electret or dynamic microphone used for television, theater, and public speaking applications, in order to allow hands-free operation. These are the discrete microphones you often see warn by newscasters and broadcasters. They are reliable and unobtrusive, but may suffer from variable volume if the presenter often turns their head to the side and away from the microphone. For this reason some presenters wear two mikes, one on each lapel, so that the pickup pattern is more uniform. If they are available, omnidirectional Lavaliere microphones are more consistent than those with a cardioid pattern.

Headset microphones by contrast are worn by the presenter or performer as a head band or over ear attachment with the microphone adjacent to the mouth. As the mic moves with the head, they tend not to suffer from from the variable volume associated with lavs. Due to the more frequent changes of direction a cardioid or hyper-cardioid pickup pattern is preferable. Headset microphones are popular for dynamic presenters who use a lot of arm movements, and for aerobic instructors and singers. Due to the popularity among female vocalists these quickly became known as Madonna Mics, not least because it gave the performer the ability to strut the stage like Madonna!

Here are a few Low Cost Wireless Microphone Systems for speeches and presentations from which you should find something which meet your needs at most events:

  • Sennheiser FP 12-E-UK Presenter Set This low cost presentation set ensures maximum speech comprehensibility during lectures, presentations and theater performances. The system includes a body-pack transmitter, a diversity receiver and an inconspicuous clip-on microphone with an omnidirectional pick-up pattern. It features, 4 switchable UHF frequencies for interference-free reception, absolutely safe transmission, Diversity Technology for highest reception quality, adjustable squelch for undisturbed operation, receivers built in robust metal housing, and a dynamic processor for crystal-clear sound. For UK use, make sure that the set has the UK tag in the product description to avoid using a dodgy import meant for the US market.
  • Shure Performance Gear PG188/PG185 The PG188/PG185 Dual Lavalier Wireless System includes PG88 Dual Diversity Receiver, 2 PG1 Body-pack Transmitters and 2 PG185 Condenser Lavalier Microphones for discreet spoken word presentations. The 9V battery (included) provides 8 hours of battery life and the operating range is 75m (250 ft).

    This set features two PG185 Condenser Lavalier cardioid Microphones with clothing clip for secure placement and an acoustic windscreen to minimize wind noise outdoors. The PG1 Bodypack Transmitter has power, mute and battery status LED, and separate power and mute switches, and an operating range of 75m (250 ft.). The 9V battery (included) provides 8 hours of battery life. The PG88 Dual Receiver has Internal Antenna Diversity, and dual receivers with up to 10 selectable channels per side. This system operates in the 2012 digital switchover compatible Channel 38 606-614MHz range. The receiver has 1/4″ and XLR output.

  • Sennheiser EW 152 G3-E-X Vocal / Speech Presentation System with Body-pack Transmitter
    The included cardioid condenser headset microphone is easy to wear, has great pop protection and produces powerful sound. Also included in this system is a stage-tested true diversity receiver and a body-pack transmitter with charging contacts for the optional BA2015 rechargeable battery. The package consists of an EM 100 G3 rack-mount receiver, the SK 100 G3 body-pack transmitter, the ME 3-ew cardioid headset, NT 2 power supply unit, 2 antennas.

    This system has 1680 tunable UHF frequencies for interference-free reception, and should meet the needs of even the most demanding presenter or event.

Wireless Hand Microphone Systems
A wireless microphone for use by an announcer or for polling audience questions and opinions should be robust and reliable, as it may get a fair number of knocks. The pickup for a microphone used for interviews should be cardioid pattern, which is generally the mic pattern for capturing vocalist. Cardioid microphones are so named because the sensitivity pattern is heart-shaped, and are the most common unidirectional microphone

So called omnidirectional microphones are used to record background or ambient sounds because their pick up pattern is less directional than cardioid and should not be used for interviews unless the room is unusually quiet, and you have no alternative. If you have Omni mics in your microphone collection the should be clearly labeled, to make sure that someone does not grab one by accident and use it for an emergency replacement for the presenter’s mic!

Alternatively, if interviews are likely to be in noisy environments, a unidirectional microphone such as a shotgun microphone, which are the most highly directional, may be better as it picks up sound from only one direction. They are good for recording single voices, which makes them the best choice for interviews in places that have a high background noise. We use shotgun mics for video recording and with boom interview mikes, but will also use them as crew controlled mics for polling the audience.

Here are a few Low Cost hand held Wireless Microphone Systems from which to chose:

  • Sennheiser FP 35-E-UK Vocal Set The Freeport Vocal Set from Sennheiser is an affordable wireless microphone system that brings all the quality associated with the Sennheiser professional brand. The Vocal Set includes a hand-held transmitter with a dynamic capsule, cardioid pattern and a diversity receiver. The transmitter is exceptionally comfortable to hold and provides a lively and assertive sound.
  • Shure PG288UK/PG58 Wireless Dual System This set comprises two PG2 handheld transmitters with PG58 microphone heads and a PG88 diversity receiver. Shure PG2 Handheld Transmitters offer up to (250 ft) operating range and optimal signal strength.
    PG58 Microphone Head features a cardioid pattern microphone cartridge, tuned to accentuate the clarity of lead and backup vocals. The 9V alkaline or rechargeable battery gives a Battery Life of up to 8 hours (alkaline). The receiver has both XLR and 1/4 inch output connectors and internal antennas positioned to offer ideal signal strength an protection during setup, use or transport. If you are considering this set ensure you request Band K6E (606 – 618 MHz) UK Channel 38.
  • Sennheiser EW 335 G3 Handheld Cardioid Radio System At the top end of the range is the Sennheiser EW 335 G3 Handheld Cardioid Radio System, which is a professional wireless microphone system with true diversity reception. This system includes a a backlit graphic display, intuitive menu navigation, a programmable mute button on the microphone, and includes useful contacts for recharging the Sennheiser BA 2015 accupack directly in the transmitter. The package is available in UK license exempt frequencies Range E (Channel 70) and Range GB (Channel 38), among others. The Sennheiser EW335 G3 also features a rack-mountable diversity receiver for incorporating into gig ready racks. The Ethernet jack on the receiver allows for remote PC monitoring and control using Sennheiser’s “Wireless Systems Manager” software.

If you are considering providing wireless mics for presenters, announcer and mic runners, and intend to buy your own, make sure that your supplier explains the UK licensing requirements for wireless microphones. You should also ensure that they supply you with equipment that will work in the license exempt Channel 70 frequencies (863-865 MHz), or on Channel 38 (606 – 618 MHz) following UK digital switchover at the end of 2012.

Other useful resources
JFMG Licensing information for the Programme Making and Special Events (PMSE) sector

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Friends Of Trevor Carter

Many of you will know about the sad death of our friend and colleague Trevor Carter who passed away unexpectedly at home on the 30th January 2011. As one half of the songwriting partnership of Carter and Thompson, his artistic input, wonderful sense of humor and challenging chord combinations will be sadly missed.

In his memory we are hosting a website called the Friends Of Trevor Carter at as a celebration of his life and music. The site is funded by the generosity of the many friends of Trevor Carter who have contributed either financially, with material or with the gift of time.

If you have any photos of Trevor you would like to donate, or would like to contribute in any other way, please use the contact form at Contact Friends Of Trevor Carter

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