How to Choose the Right Wireless Microphone System
Wireless microphones give you unparalleled onstage freedom to connect better with your audience. No matter if you’re addressing an important shareholder meeting, spreading the gospel at church, or rocking a local club, this guide can help you find the right Shure wireless microphone system.
Wireless microphone systems play a critical role in modern productions, from energetic rock concerts to passionate house of worship services and big business presentations. Musicians, pastors, CEOs, journalists, vloggers, and fitness instructors all depend on wireless microphones to get their message across loud and clear.
A wireless microphone system offers undeniable advantages over traditional cable-bound options. A wireless system lets you take advantage of an easy setup process and eliminates unnecessary onstage clutter. And most importantly, it allows performers or speakers to move throughout the sanctuary while performing or speaking freely. With a wireless microphone system, you no longer have to make holes in the walls and floors to accommodate wired microphones. Not only does it save labor and costs, but it also protects you from unnecessary drilling!
There are many options for wireless microphones, from simple analog microphone systems to complex, multi-channel digital microphone systems. Choosing the best wireless microphone system based on your unique needs is critical in creating an optimal sound environment for your production.
This guide will teach you several critical factors to consider when selecting a wireless microphone system and will provide you with wireless best practices. And we will introduce the latest Shure wireless systems:
- The BLX Wireless Microphone System
- The GLX-D+ Dual Band Wireless Microphone System
- The SLX-D Wireless Microphone System
- The QLX-D Wireless Microphone System
- The ULX-D Wireless Microphone System
- The Axient® Digital Wireless Microphone System
Sound Quality – Analog vs. Digital Wireless Microphones
When choosing a wireless system, sound quality is typically the chief concern. Analog wireless microphone systems use a compander – the word is a contraction of the words compressor and expander – to squeeze the entire dynamic range of a voice or instrument into the narrow frequency allocation provided for wireless mic use.
On the other hand, a digital microphone system can transmit a consistent digital sound that provides a full dynamic range without companding and gives a more natural sound to your audience.
For further learning, take our Getting to Know Wireless course to learn more about Analog vs. Digital Wireless Microphones.
VHF vs. UHF Bands vs. 2.4GHz
Most wireless microphone systems operate in the UHF (Ultra High Frequency) band of 470 - 952 MHZ. Some work in the VHF (Very High Frequency) band of 49 – 216 MHZ. While VHF systems are typically more affordable, they will have fewer available channels. And VHF requires extremely long antennas.
However, the UHF band contains several bands that are readily available for wireless microphone systems. You can achieve high-quality audio in the UHF band and accommodate many concurrent systems.
The UHF band has been the standard for many years and typically gives the strongest and best performance due to its extensive frequency range and smaller antennas.
The US Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has limited the number of operating frequencies for wireless microphones. These limitations have caused UHF wireless microphone systems to become considerably more efficient in bandwidth use to accommodate multiple wireless microphones in a frequency band.
In addition, you can find several wireless microphone systems that operate in the 2.4 GHz band. Keep in mind that the 2.4 GHz frequency band is the same as your Wi-Fi network, making its operating range much shorter. It is best practice with 2.4 GHz wireless systems to make sure that you have a controlled environment.
Pro tip: To provide optimal communication between the transmitter and receiver, you must maintain a clear line of sight between the transmitter and the receiver.
The Basics – Transmitters and Receivers
Every wireless mic system has two major components. One is a transmitter – typically worn or held by the performer. The other component is a receiver – which collects radio signal from the transmitter, converts it to audio, and sends the audio through a cable to your mixer or power amp.
Wireless handheld microphones usually have a microphone capsule integrated directly into the transmitter body. This integration allows wireless handheld microphones to be quick and easy to set up. Lavalier and headset mics connect to a transmitter pack, usually worn on someone’s belt.
Frequency Agility & Automatic Frequency Selection
If you plan to use several wireless microphones simultaneously, each microphone must operate on a different open radio frequency so that the signals do not interfere.
Wireless microphone systems that are “frequency agile” offer users various frequency paths to work with during production. Being frequency-agile is essential if your venue requires multiple wireless microphones to operate simultaneously, or if stationed at a location with many competing signals from wireless devices.
Today, some wireless microphone systems have automatic frequency selection, readily scanning the environment for open channels and automatically picking the best one. This functionality is handy for novice users or volunteers with little experience coordinating or deploying available frequencies.
The three things you must know if you want to go wireless are:
- What am I planning to do?
- Where am I going to set up the mics?
- How many microphones do I need in the same room at once?
Below are some of the most popular Shure wireless microphone systems. All systems mentioned below come with a variety of best-in-class Shure handheld, headset, lavalier, and instrument microphones.
Recommended Shure Wireless Microphone Systems
The ideal entry-level wireless microphone system for small venues, BLX offers professional-quality sound in a variety of convenient configurations with a simple setup and an intuitive interface for performance you can trust right out of the box.
GLX-D+ Dual Band
The perfect solution for musicians and presenters who want to go wireless without complexity, GLX-D+ Dual Band operates in 2.4 GHz and 5.8 GHz ranges and offers automatic frequency management with backup frequencies. The included lithium-ion rechargeable battery delivers up to 12 hours of use, and there are multiple microphone options. The rack-mount version allows up to 16 channels on air simultaneously.
SLX-D provides crystal-clear digital audio quality with >120 dB dynamic range so that you can handle a whisper-quiet pastor and loud worship bands alike. SLX-D maintains stable signals with high efficiency for rock-solid, reliable performance with up to 8 hours of use from either 2 AA batteries (included) or optional Shure lithium-ion rechargeable batteries.
Ideal for mid-sized presentation spaces, music venues, and houses of worship, QLX-D wireless microphone system supports up to 17 simultaneous systems per 6MHz or up to 22 systems per 8MHz. Featuring pristine 24-bit digital audio and remarkably efficient RF spectrum usage, the QLX-D will give you clear, uninterrupted, worry-free performance. Confidentiality is ensured via AES-256 advanced encryption that generates a randomized key for each use.
Ideal for large conferences, convention installations, and rental companies, ULX-D wireless microphone system supports up to 47 simultaneous systems per 6MHz. Dual and quad receivers include Dante digital audio networking. ULX-D brings you crystal clear 24-bit digital audio. This wireless microphone system is loaded with the latest cutting-edge wireless technology - including predictive switching diversity, sophisticated interference detection, and AES 256-bit encryption.
Axient Digital wireless microphone system delivers world-class sound quality for the most critical broadcasts and live events with high channel counts. With impressively low latency, flat frequency response, and multiple digital audio output options, the sound will fill every corner of your space—clean and clear. Axient's ability to detect and avoid interference is second to none. Axient's Spectrum manager provides advanced frequency scanning. When using the Axient Spectrum Manager, backup frequencies are constantly monitored, ranked, and automatically deployed in the event of signal interference.
Shure: The Perfect Choice to Help You Go Wireless
When you're ready to take your facility wireless, Shure has the best wireless microphone systems to fit your unique needs and budget. Contact us today to get started!
Here are a few other resources you might find helpful:
How to Choose the Best Microphone for Vocals
How to Choose the Best Microphones for Home Recording
How to Choose the Best Mics for the Guitar
How to Choose the Best Mics for Brass, Wind, and String Instruments
How to Choose the Best Mic for the Pianist
How to Choose the Best Mic for the Pastor
How to Choose the Best Mics for the Choir at Worship
How to Choose the Best Handheld Mics for Worship