How to Choose Between a Wired and Wireless Microphone: Musician's Edition
Portability requirements, technology comfort level, and likelihood of tripping over cables are some of the contributing factors that should influence whether or not you go wireless as a musician running your own sound.
One of the most common decisions facing musicians is the choice between a wired and wireless microphone. Owning a mic at all is a big step for a musician, and having to choose between a wired and wireless solution can be daunting.
While the simplicity of wired can be an advantage, a wireless microphone can benefit active performers. At the end of the day, though, personal preference should determine your choice.
Here are some factors to consider if you're on the fence and not sure what you might prefer.
Context Is Key, Always
Do you like to move around a lot onstage?
Do you play an instrument that keeps you stationary, like drums or keys?
Are you comfortable with having multiple technology components to your microphone?
Are you lacking in grace, like me, and worried about tripping over mic cables?
These performance contexts are as important to consider as polar pattern, cost, dynamic vs. condenser, and other factors. The more you think about the physical part of stage performance, the closer you will get to choosing the solution that suits you.
The Microphone Cable: A Possible Burden
Do you just want eliminate the microphone cable? I ask because for some people, a Yes! response is reason enough to go wireless.
A wireless mic provides more freedom onstage as well as the ability to interact uniquely with the performance environment. If you're an energetic performer who likes to move around the stage, the feeling of being unbound from a microphone cable can be freeing and exhilarating. On top of that, going wireless eliminates the fear of damaging or disconnecting a cable during a performance. (As someone who has been to his fair share of punk shows, I've seen many XLR cables bite the dust.)
If you're worried about wireless systems being too complex, it's important to note that Shure systems are proven to have exceptional audio quality, ease of use, and reliability. There is no need to be concerned about losing the legendary sound that people are used to hearing with wired mics. Also, many of our systems are designed for musicians who run their own sound, so you don't have to be a sound engineer to use them with confidence. For more information about choosing a specific wireless system, check out this helpful Shure webinar on the subject.
The Microphone Cable: A Possible Lifesaver
Many performers and sound engineers prefer wired microphones because of the ease of use and simplicity a wired connection provides. Wired mic users never have to deal with frequency selection or battery life. If there's a mic problem during a performance, troubleshooting is straightforward because there are fewer things that can go wrong. It can be addressed immediately with a new XLR cable or a review of the signal path.
For anyone who doesn't want to carry around or worry about troubleshooting multiple pieces of microphone technology, regardless of how user-friendly they are, a wired mic can be the way to go. In most cases, all you need is the microphone because the venue will have an XLR cable ready for you. This simplicity is a big upside to going with a wired solution. Plus, if you're stationary when you perform, then the freedom of movement that wireless provides isn't a factor for you.
Personal Preference Shouldn't Be Overlooked
Personal preference can be the deciding factor in choosing a solution. When it comes to investing into your craft, there are always going to be frustrating moments of indecision. If you have performed in front of audiences already, you'll have a better sense of what you prefer and why. Sometimes that's all you need to know in order to make the right mic choice for yourself.
Despite the fact that I occasionally stumble over cables, I chose a wired BETA 58A® because I like the way my voice sounds through it, and it fits my needs as a commuting musician with limited backpack space. Also, since I play an instrument while singing, I like having the microphone stationary on a stand all the time. I don't need to move around the stage. My wired mic works for me both practically and aesthetically, which is what I hope for you whichever way you go.