Recommendations for mid-level wireless?

Tom White

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Jul 5, 2022
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Hi, folks!

Brand new poster here working on acquiring gear for an upcoming project.

We are looking to invest in some solid wireless. I've spent the better part of an evening comparing various Sennheser, Audio-Technica, AKG, Shure, and Samson wireless.

We want something with good range (solid 200' +) and the ability to support multiple channels. We'll be using some form of headset mic, probably a Countryman or Countryman-like knockoff (I've heard great things about the Acacia Liz Pro and someone suggested the Samson DE60x).

There are so many variables and manufacturers, it's hard to pin down what the best plan is. I don't want to spend $3K per channel, but I also want something super reliable and solid, so if that's $600-700/channel or somewhere around, that's fine.

If there's a good rackmount multichannel receiver, that would be awesome.

Any suggestions/advice welcome! Thanks in advance!
 

Brian Bolly

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Jan 11, 2011
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Hi Tom - welcome!

A couple things to think about when planning out a multi channel wireless system:
  • When you say 'multiple channels' - does that mean 2-4, or are you looking more like 8-10 channels?
  • Something you'll want to plan on if you're looking at 4+ channels of wireless, is antenna distribution and remote antennas, along with proper antenna cabling. These can be from the wireless manufacturer, or from a 3rd party like RFVenue or Professional Wireless Systems (PWS) - these items are brand agnostic.
  • Have you looked at what kind of frequency spectrum is available in your geographic area? Gone are the days of simply "buying wireless" - you have to plan ahead. Shure has a good Frequency Finder tool on their website, but nothing beats a local scan of the airwaves. https://www.shure.com/en-US/support/tools/frequency-finder
  • Stay away from 2.4 GHz or 5.8 GHz systems. The long game headache is not worth the short term savings.
Regarding your question, I would not consider $6-700 a mid-level wireless, system, unless you're talking about the receiver only. Up that to around $1000-1100/channel, or ~$1400-1500 ch if you need to have both a HH and BP Tx for each channel of Rx. Once you start getting into more than about 2 channels, having the ability to do network monitoring (i.e: Shure's (free) Wireless Workbench software), networked frequency scanning and deployment, and monitoring battery telemetry all become invaluable tools to have at your disposal. I specifically point to the Shure QLX-D as ticking all of these boxes in terms of features, performance and price.

Part 2 of this equation at the current time is stock and availability. Planning out a multi channel RF system is something that helps to work with a local vendor, especially when it comes to support and "I need an extra channel or two to rent" type situations. However, lead times on things are long, and unless they're sitting on stock, it may be weeks or months before you receive product. You may be limited to vendors with stock on hand if it's a "need it now" scenario, which may relegate you to some of the big box outfits.
 
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Tim McCulloch

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Jan 11, 2011
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What Brian said. ^^^

The biggest challenge will be buying whatever brands or models you want. Lots of stuff is still on backorder and will not be shipping for another 9 months.

Another possibility for digital wireless are units that operate in the DECT bands, IF you don't have stuff already using that spectrum. Bolero intercoms are but one.

As for your panel mics, why do they have to be wireless? If they're sitting in one place, wire will be cheaper, sound better and be far more reliable.
 

Tom White

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Jul 5, 2022
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HI, Brian and Tim.
Thanks both for your super helpful info. I've already discovered the supply chain issues with... practically *everything.*

As for channels... typically 2-4 channels, though we will have a couple of events with up to 12. (And the problem with the panel is, it's interactive and involves moving around a lot. Think group participants doing activities and talking about them.) Corded headsets *could* work but are likely to snarl things up and create complications. But then... so will that many channels of wireless if we're on a budget.)

So I'm going to focus on the 2-4 channels and leaning toward seeing if I can get lucky with the crap Chinese wireless units we already have that we've used successfully for some low-stakes gigs for the additional channels.

I like what I am seeing with the QLX-D. Before seeing your posts, I did some research last night and read a bunch about the Sennheiser EW-D SK digital wireless. It appears to be available in frequencies that appear to be open in my area, and from what I read also seems pretty solid. Any thoughts about that vs the Shure QLX-D? Any pros/cons to either?

Thanks again for your help!
 

Brian Bolly

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Jan 11, 2011
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Baltimore, MD
Hi Tom,

As the EW-D series is relatively new (about a year) I have not run into it yet. Sennheiser was rather late to the game for a digital wireless system that wasn't their flagship series — the Shure ULX-D system has been out for 10 years now, and the QLX-D is functionally identical in terms of RF performance. That said, the difference I see between the QLX-D and EW-D are:

- Tuning bandwidth - QLX-D is 64 MHz per band; EW-D is 56 MHz
- Transmit power - QLX-D is switchable 1mW/10mW; EW-D is 10 mW fixed
- Monitoring - Shure via Network/Wireless Workbench software; Sennheiser via App/BLE
- Updating - Shure via Network/Shure Update Utility; Sennheiser via App/BLE
- Battery - Shure rechargeable batteries monitor charge cycles, battery health; Sennheiser do not appear to

Ultimately, if you are comfortable with BLE as a communication protocol and the Sennheiser fits your budget, that may be your ticket. The QLX-D offers a bit more flexibility, which is on par with the price point.
 

Tom White

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Jul 5, 2022
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Hi, Brian!

Thanks, I really appreciate the comparison. The Shure seems to have some pretty compelling advantages. That may be the way to go!
 

Jeff Babcock

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Jan 11, 2011
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jeffbabcock.org
Hi Tom,
As has already been mentioned....
There is a big difference between 2-4 channels and 12 channels. My advice would be to buy 4 channels, and RENT 8 channels of a high end solution with proper antenna distribution, frequency coordination etc etc for the rare occasions when you need it.
12 channels with cheap Chinese wireless crap in the mix will be a bad experience for everyone.
 
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12 channels with cheap Chinese wireless crap in the mix will be a bad experience for everyone.
Very much so. In my experience, the Shure SLX series and Sennheiser EW series are about the starting point for usable wireless systems.

To the OP, you've already gotten some solid advice. I'll add that it's probably worthwhile to see what's available for rental in your area, and aligning what you purchase with that (at a minimum, from a frequency coordination point of view, but buying the same stuff you can rent in makes a mixed owned/rental rig that much easier to work with).
 
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Steve Hurt

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Jan 31, 2011
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I'm using the EW-D and have used EW-100, EW300, and EW500
The EW-D sounds better than all of them.
It takes about 1 second to hear the difference.
no weird Sennheiser compansion
They are easier to use to (to set channels, scan, etc)
I see no negatives with the EW-D (other than Sennheisr makes less $) and I see a lot of positives.

If they would come out with EW-D IEM's, I'd sell all 7 of my transmitters and all 10 packs tomorrow.