Archive for Equipment

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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Shedding Light on Lighting Terminology

What is a PAR64 LED Can with Barndoors?
As we were getting together the equipment for an event last week, someone looked at the kit list and asked “what does PAR64 LED Can with Barndoors mean?”. Although my initial reaction was to point quizzically at the pile of lighting units sitting on the trolley, after a moments thought, I realized that we use such terms every day without really knowing what they mean.

Parabolic Aluminized Reflector
The first part is simple: PAR means Parabolic Aluminized Reflector, which refers to the type of bulb used in the lighting unit, or luminare, as they often referred to in theaters and film making. A parabolic aluminized reflector lamp (also known as PAR light, PAR can, Parcan or simply PAR) is the type of light which has a reflector behind the filament, with the reflector shaped in a parabola. This is so that a substantial portion of the available light is projected forward in a parallel beam, similar to the headlights used in cars. In the lighting world PAR normally refers to a one piece light like a car’s sealed beam headlight. The number indicates the diameter of the housing in eighths of an inch, so a PAR64 is eight inches in diameter.

High Power Light Emitting Diodes
Just to make things interesting, as we are now using more Light Emitting Diode (LED) based lighting rigs, it is sometimes possible to see descriptions like “Par64 Can with LEDs”, PAR64 LED Can or LED PAR64. This refers to an eight inch diameter can fitted with LED based light source. LEDs have the advantage of consuming much less electrical power than a filament based equivalent, but the down size is that on average you need twice as many to provide the same light. Another advantage of LED Lighting is that you can control the colour of the light dynamically. This is achieved by having either lots of Red, Blue and Green high power LEDs in a close matrix, or the more expensive alternative of fewer high power three colour LEDs.

Colour Wash The Stage
Traditionally the effect of colours was achieved using coloured gels or filters which slot into a holder in front of the lighting can. No band gig would be complete without some red lighting, and moody Jazz gigs or huge boy-band spectaculars love the effect of a blue stage wash. These effects can be reproduced in more intimate surroundings using LED lighting, sometimes writen as RGB LED Stage Lights, which can switch colour according to the desired mood. As LED technology becomes cheap, using LED stage lights is a hot topic in the world of stage lighting.

Finally, Barndoors (or flags) are the wings (or doors!) often added to the front of lighting units where there is a need to control the area of the stage which is illuminated. We us them when setting up a stage with a display screen on each side and lighting on the presenter. This prevents light from spilling off the stage on to the projector screen and detracting from the impact of the movie, image or presentation slide being shown. Barndoors are frequently identified in terms of the cans they will fit, so a Barndoor for PAR64 Cans (or PAR64 Barndoors) means an attachment for an 8 inch lighting can. Simple really!

Common Reflector Sizes

Inches Approx mm Where Used
PAR64 8 inches 203mm Commonly used in large venues such as large churches, schools, theaters and large clubs with 500 to 1000Watt lamps. Most common as the Par64 1000W.
PAR56 7 inches 177mm Used for for touring or permanent installs in smaller venues. Maybe found in clubs, theaters, schools, fashion shows and exhibits, with 300 to 500watt lamps.
PAR46 5.75 inches 145mm Often used for shops and display stands or for small clubs, small theaters and tent lighting.
PAR36 4.5 inches 115mm Used for pin spots, with a beam angle around 5°
PAR16 2 inches 50mm Ideal for hiding in small parts of a set or along the downstage edge of the stage. Also known as a Birdie because it is smaller than a Parcan, or “One under Par”

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Numark NUVJ Video Effects Controller

Our featured system this month is the Numark NUVJ Video Effects Controller, which is a nifty little USB interface which will plug into your Mac and Windows PC, to incorporate images and video clips in much the same way as you can mix music. With the NuVJ, the Audio/Video Technician can trigger images and video clips, add effects to them, mix them through an on-board DJ style crossfader and tweak them in order to create unique and spectacular shows.

Using the system is a breeze with a window on the left containing the File Browser, along with tabs for Effects, Sources, and Visuals, and a graphical representation of the interface, called mixing zone, on the right. Use the file browser window and menu on the left side to identify your movie clips, images or flash files, and simply drag and drop any image or video from the file browser to one of the eighteen cells on the the mixing zone.

There are so many great built-in features on this plug-and-play device, that it is hard to know where to start. In addition to containing movie clips, a cell can also be assigned an effect, which will then be automatically applied to the clip loaded in that particular cell. To assign an effect to a cell, simply drag and drop the effect from the Effects browser list on the left, onto the desired cell. You can even drag and drop folders on a cell, which allows all movies, images and flash files located in that folder to be played one after another in a slide show fashion.

You can identify a background clip that will be displayed if no clip is played on either of the two decks, although this option must be switched on, as is not activated by default to avoid any confusion. You can also have fun playing about with Copy modes as Deck A is considered to be on top of the background color or visual selected, and Deck B is considered to be on top of Deck A. You can use copy and masking options to have the background visual be shown through deck A, or change the way the A interacts with B. As if this is not enough, the Numark NUVJ Video Effects Controller also allows you to mix live inputs, generators, and texts, listed under the Sources tab.

We heartily recommend Numark NUVJ Video Effects Controller for mixing multiple input sources, and this useful little interface can be obtained for under £300. Considering the hardware you might replace using it, that represents a great saving! Go and check one out for yourself.

Key Features of the Numark NUVJ Video Effects Controller are:

  • Video sample playback, looping, and effects from multiple sources
  • Automated play for stand-alone operation
  • Internal generation of artificial patterns and backgrounds (Visualizer)
  • Synchronization to audio in or internal BPM generator
  • Processing of external camera or other video input
  • Real time effects generation
  • Various cross-over patterns and functions between at least two Visual/EFX combinations
  • Library of small movies, pictures, graphic sets supplied
  • 2 banks of 9 sets of trigger pads for video
  • Big wheels for scratch, effect, and speed control
  • Automated one touch fade speeds
  • MIDI compliant – can be used as controller for various devices
  • Mac and Windows compatible

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How to Keep Your Event Leaflets Tidy

Everyone knows how important it is to provide information for your customers when they need it, and at your event the enrollments desk and products store are the place they will look for satisfaction. If you want to know how to keep your event leaflets tidy when on display, and still maximize the impact of your marketing material, follow these useful tips

  • Display your marketing upright and facing the customers to attract their attention
  • Provide symmetry, by having a display at each end of your table or counter
  • Keep your leaflet holders well filled at all times

To hold your marketing material and keep your sales and customer services desks in pristine condition, check out these useful three and four tier leaflet dispensers

  • Can be used on a counter or attached to a wall
  • Clear plastic for high leaflet visibility
  • Holds up to 32mm thickness of leaflets per tier
  • Displays a selection of leaflets in a compact space

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Philips Conference Recording System Review

The product review this week is the Philips Conference Kit 955 (LFH0955) which is a lightweight recording system designed to record meetings for later review or transcription.

Having used the Philips Conference Recording System we can confirm that it is unobtrusive for users who may otherwise find a microphone intimidating. It is simple to set up, and comes in an elegant metal case for highest mobility. The easy-to-use technology requires no technical expertise and provides excellent sound quality.

The two path-breaking conference microphones permits 360 degree pickup for comprehensive recording with maximum comfort, while the extendibility of components lets the system grow with the needs of your business. Get your meeting going with the professional Philips Conference Recording System 955.

  • Digital Pocket Memo 955
  • Two conference microphones
  • Click-on interview microphone
  • Remote control
  • USB Docking Station 9120
  • SpeechExec Pro Dictate Software
  • USB Smart Key
  • Power supply 9146
  • Philips Secure Digital (SD) memory card
  • Philips rechargeable AAA Batteries 9154
  • Interchangeable primary power adapters
  • Mini USB cable, Y adapter cable
  • Metal carry case

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Ultra-Compact Live Sound Powerhouse

This month’s featured PA System is the SRM-350 V2, the Ultra-Compact Live Sound Powerhouse from the Mackie stable. The Mackie SRM-350 V2 is the smaller lighter sibling of the SRM-450V2, which we reviewed and featured back in August

Sharing the same new technology that makes the SRM450v2 the breakthrough live performance powerhouse that it is, the ultra-compact SRM350v2 is perfect for when space is at a premium. With a front view that measures 13.1″x20.7″ at a depth (front to rear) of 12.25″, the SRM-350 is noticably smaller than it’s bigger brother, the SRM-450 V2, and weighing 26lb (11.8kg) is just over half the weight.

Mackie SRM-350 V2 (Single)

  • 2-way bi-amplified, optimized Active loudspeaker system
  • High-output, titanium dome compression driver
  • 10″ Neodymium long-throw low frequency transducer
  • 165W class-D, Fast Recovery LF amp / 30W HF amp
  • Ultra-wide, smooth dispersion via HF waveguide
  • Built-in phase-accurate 24dB Linkwitz-Riley electronic crossover
  • Electronic time correction, phase alignment and EQ for studio quality sound
  • Mic/line input and pass-thru connector
  • Lightweight for ultimate portability (26 lbs)
  • Flyable, Pole Mountable, Floor Wedge-able

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Wharfedale Pro Titan 12A 300W 12 inch active PA speaker

Featured PA System: Wharfedale Pro Titan 12A 300W 12-inch active PA speaker

Wharfedale Pro Titan 12A 300W 12-inch active PA speaker
The Titan 12 Active features a state-of-the-art Class D low-frequency amplifier design. Class D amplifiers are known for their extended efficiency, low-heat dissipation and lightweight compared to other amplifier classifications. Class D technology allows for unparalleled audio quality in a lightweight, powered speaker system. High-frequency power is provided by a high-quality, low-distortion and highly efficient Class A/B amplifier.

The bottom of the Titan 12A provides a convenient, built-in polemount socket for easy mounting on a standard 35mm diameter speaker stand pole. An optional wall-mount bracket for installation is available.

The Titan 12A provides basic mixing functions with a variety of input options. Two inputs with separate level controls and a common equalisation section allow for overall balance and tonal characteristic control. Easy interfacing to external mixers and processors provide for easy expansion to larger, more sophisticated systems.

Wharfedale Pro Titan 12A 300W 12 inch active PA speaker (Black)

  • 2-way, active bi-amplified speaker system.
  • Custom 12-inch low-frequency driver and titanium high-frequency compression driver.
  • State-of-the-art, high-efficiency switch mode power supply with a Class D low-frequency power amplifier and a Class A/B high-frequency amplifier.
  • Low-frequency power (Class D) 250W RMS, 500W Peak.
  • High-frequency power (Class A/B) 50W RMS, 100W Peak.
  • Active signal limiting system with LED indicator on rear panel.
  • Built-in 2-channel mixer

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Mackie SRM450V2 active PA speaker

Featured PA System: Mackie SRM450V2 SRM Version 2

If you want to know our favourite Sound Reinforcement Monitor, that would be the Mackie SRM 450 V2. The SRM450v2 continues the SRM450’s tradition of studio monitor sound quality, and trumps it to deliver sound that makes any venue seem like a well-tuned studio.

The Mackie SRM450V2 SRM Version 2 is a 2-way bi-amplified portable active loudspeaker pa system, which surpasses the performance of the original SRM450 to deliver pure studio monitor sound at more powerful, full-on loudspeaker levels. The Mackie SRM450V2 delivers live sound that sounds like it should.

The best measure of the SRM 450v2 is the exceptional sound quality; You might match it, but you wont do better.
Linkwitz Riley crossovers divide driver and tweeter punching out accurate detail up to 127dB. The sound is crisp and bright without losing the roundess of the bass. Noise is low to the extent of being negligible, with an EQ option built in, but only the mildly insane would use it and trade the accuracy. Although usually found on a PA stand at the events we crew, the Mackie SRM450v2 also doubles up as a floor monitor.

Mackie SRM 450 V2 Including FREE Stand, Mackie Bag and Lead!!

  • 2-way bi-amplified, optimized Active loudspeaker system
  • High-output precision titanium compression driver
  • Neodymium long-throw low frequency transducer with 3-inch voice coil
  • Servo Feedback controlled woofer for tight low-end punch
  • 300W class-D, Fast Recovery LF amp / 100W HF amp
  • Ultra-wide, smooth dispersion via multi-cell horn aperture and HF waveguide
  • Built-in phase-accurate 24dB Linkwitz-Riley electronic crossover
  • Mackie Active Electronic time alignment, phase correction and EQ for studio quality sound
  • Mic/line input and pass-thru connector
  • Lightweight for ultimate portability (40lbs)
  • Flyable, Pole Mountable, Floor Wedge-able
  • Built-in 2-channel mixer

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