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SurfAndSound 5th November 2019 05:04 PM

Entry Wireless Microphone Comparison
I would love for someone to explain some things in layman's terms. Assume I'm a good live sound engineer with everything wired. Assume I know very little about wireless.

I need to set up a rig of 4 wireless mic channels. 2 lapel, 2 handheld. Mostly for wedding ceremonies (so nerdy "high quality" not needed), and occasional use for conferences as emcee/speaker mics, sometimes vocal performance. I do not anticipate ever needing more than 8 wireless channels in my wildest dreams in the future. (I'll probably never use more than the 4.)

I'm not really brand-loyal or tied to any particular brand, so specifics are just for comparison. Here's my questions:

Why is Shure SLX 50% more than BLX? I get it should be a little more. But IR Sync is worth $200 per channel? I don't need the "more available channels" that SLX supposedly offers. But I'm reading that the "quality" of RF "compounding" is better? ...then on top of all that I keep reading that Shure's lower end mic's are ALL overpriced for what they offer-- ok, compared to what?

To some degree that question applies to other brand's mic's I've seen-- they've got two models that don't seem that different to me, and one is not only slightly more, but WAY (50% or more) more expensive. Why?

It looks like BLX is priced low enough. Why do people say they're not worth what you pay for them? What's the alternative?

Lastly-- it looks like the Sennheiser EW 100, Shure SLX, and new EV RE3 (getting excellent reviews) are priced equivalently ($599 with basic cardioid dynamic handheld mic/transmitter). SLX plastic transmitter looks like garbage compared to the other two, right? Way better to have the metal housing on the mic's that the e835 and ND76 offer?

In short. Help an RF Noob understand what's good here. Is the ROI worth it to go up from BLX? Or if I want better bang for buck than even BLX offers, tell me why and what.

Bushman 8th November 2019 03:39 PM

I think you have some good questions, and hope you get some answers (so I can learn something too).

g.vitellaro 10th November 2019 04:55 AM

The BLX is dirt cheap. I've used them at one of the smaller venues I work at and they are really quite nice. But it's not exactly a challenging space; just a little bar with a tiny performance area in the back room. The TX and RX are only about 20 feet from each other, and we're only using two channels: one with a SM58 capsule and one with a Beta 58.

The SLX is more in line with what I would its main competitor, another classic entry-level RF choice: the Sennheiser evolution wireless series. Both are really solid choices. I am not familiar with the EV wireless lineup.

I would recommend stepping up to the SLX if you think the following is important:
  • Interchangeable capsules
  • Ability to tune to specific frequencies outside of prespecified groups
  • IR sync
  • External antennas
  • Marginally better sound

I've used both the BLX and the SLX. I think the SLX is worth the money if you are working in more challenging RF environments or are doing gigs around town. It also gives you room to grow with more components (external antennas, more channels, etc.). But since you don't think you'll need much more in the future, the BLX is probably fine. I also really like the Sennheiser evolution stuff.

If you really want amazing performance, I highly recommend stepping up to the digital units, like the QLXD. But analogue RF is really good and has been for awhile.

Stay away from the 2.4 GHz stuff.

Jason Valentine 11th November 2019 12:40 AM

Conversely, I'd love to learn from the RF experts what makes units at the other end of the spectrum like Sennheiser 9000 worth such ungodly sums.

With the low-end stuff, you can hear the compander struggling with moderately high spl transients, ime.

SurfAndSound 11th November 2019 03:34 AM

Decision Made--but still glad to learn so keep chiming in!
Well, I've made my purchase and they're on their way. The sales this time of year are beautiful.

I'm getting a set of the new EV RE3's. The RE2's had great reviews, and the RE3's are looking great so far, even though they're relatively new to the market.

Main reasons: 1) Metal transmitters. They're going to look and feel more professional to my clients (even if that made no real difference, impressing clients is a must). But I think that makes them more sturdy. 2) They come with 1/2 wave antennas. This should prevent me from needing to spend $700ish on paddles and cables, as my receivers are usually very close to the transmitters (I use on-stage digital mixers, Mackie DL32R and Behringer XAir16). 3) Insurance/Plausible Deniability -- stuff happens sometimes. But having better and more precise (frequency-wise) equipment I think makes it easier to stay out of trouble, and if stuff does go awry during a gig, at least I can say that my gear is not entry-level.

Getting up to speed on wireless is still new to me so keep coming with all of the nerd-level info and thoughts on this entry/mid-level wireless mic stuff.

I'll be running these through a distributor soon (haven't found the right sale yet). If I have any reception problems I can just buy some BNC cables and remote mount the 1/2 wave antennas before jumping to a directional antenna.

g.vitellaro 13th December 2019 06:34 AM


Originally Posted by Jason Valentine (Post 14315280)
Conversely, I'd love to learn from the RF experts what makes units at the other end of the spectrum like Sennheiser 9000 worth such ungodly sums.

In my opinion, what differentiates the high-end stuff is how it performs in challenging environments. There is a difference between, say, a professor giving a speech in a lecture hall where the TX and RX are twenty feet apart with no obstacles, and a band playing a televised concert on a parade float.

Certainly, high-end equipment has better components, rugged all-metal bodies, etc. but much of the benefit is on the RF coordination side. The manufacturers offer software packages connect to the receivers over a network and offer a variety of features, like spectrum scanning, frequency coordination, inventory management, etc. Sennheiser has Wireless Systems Manager, Shure has Wireless Workbench, etc.

With their flagship line, Axient, Shure has a technology called ShowLink that controls the transmitters remotely. So when your parade float rounds the corner, the engineer can switch your TX to a clearer frequency without having to interrupt the performance.

Additionally, high-end equipment is usually (but not always) digital, which has several benefits:
  • RF hits and drop outs result in silence, not noisy crackling.
  • Less bandwidth is required. Shure's high-density mode can fit 47 channels into 6 MHz (that's an additional 30 channels).
  • Transmissions can be encrypted to prevent snooping.
  • Audio quality is improved; companders are not necessary.
Do the Sennheiser 9000/Shure Axient/Lectrosonics/Wisycom/etc. systems sound better than the lower tiers? Yeah, somewhat. But the cost also pays for those additional features that help out in challenging situations.

For what it's worth, I find that what makes the biggest difference in performance is getting your antennas in order. Proper placement and an antenna distribution system are key.