DIY Wireless, Part 5: How to Select and Install Your Own Wireless System in 7 Easy Steps
Wireless is one of the most mysterious and misunderstood parts of audio, but selecting and installing new wireless microphones for a school or university, church, or theater is something that you can do yourself.
In previous installments, we discussed how to choose compatible frequencies, transmitters and rechargeable batteries, receivers, and antennas. In this article we’ll go through an example of the process from start to finish.
Location and Quantity: Let’s say that I need new wireless microphone systems for the multipurpose room at a high school in Niles, Illinois. I need six wireless systems now, but I will probably want to add four more in the future for a total of 10.
Transmitters: I need four bodypack transmitters with lavalier microphones for presenters and two handheld transmitters for singers, speakers at a podium, or for audience Q&A. I intend to use rechargeable battery packs, but I’d like to be able to use alkaline AA batteries if necessary.
Receivers: I’ll be connecting the audio outputs from the wireless receivers to an audio mixing console that has analog inputs with XLR connectors. The receivers and antenna distribution unit will be mounted in an equipment rack in a closet at the back of the room.
Antennas: I plan to mount the receiving antennas on the wall at the back of the room (about 60 feet from where the transmitters will be), about 10 feet above the floor. The cable run from the equipment rack to the antennas is 20 feet.
Step 1: Choose a wireless system
I compare several Shure wireless systems and find that the SLX-D system has digital transmission and will accommodate up to 32 systems, giving me plenty of room to expand. The transmitters offer an optional rechargeable battery pack and a dual charging dock, so the batteries never have to be removed from the transmitters; my users just drop the whole transmitter into the dock when they’re finished using it.I can choose a dual-channel rack-mount receiver, and there are plenty of antenna accessories available. Best of all the price point is within my budget.
Step 2: Check available TV channels for my location
Using the Shure Frequency Finder, I determine that for my location (in Niles, Illinois) the available TV channels for wireless microphone operation and their frequency ranges are as follows:
|174 - 180 MHz
|180 - 186 MHz
|186 - 192 MHz
|192 - 198 MHz
|198 - 204 MHz
|210 - 216 MHz
|518 – 524 MHz
|536 – 542 MHz
|548 – 554 MHz
|596 – 602 MHz
Step 3: Check the available SLX-D frequency ranges
On the Shure website, I see that the SLX-D wireless system is available in 3 frequency ranges. The G58 frequency range covers 470 to 514 MHz; the H55 range covers 514 to 558 MHz; and the J52 range covers 558 to 602 MHz and 614 to 616 MHz.
- The G58 band does not contain any of my open channels, so that one won’t work for me.
- The H55 band covers three of my open channels (22, 25, and 27).
- The J52 band covers one of my open channels (35) plus an additional 2 MHz from 614-616 MHz.
So at my location, the H55 band makes the most sense because it gives me the most capacity now and in the future. The J52 band would also work, since I can fit 10 compatible channels in one 6 MHz TV channel with the SLX-D system.
Step 4: Decide what items I need to order
|I need 4 bodypack transmitters (in the H55 frequency band).
|SLXD1-H55 Bodypack Transmitter
|I need 4 lavalier microphones for presenters; I’ve chosen the WL185 cardioid lavalier to reduce the likelihood of feedback.
|WL185 Cardioid Lavalier Microphone
|I need 2 handheld transmitters (in the H55 frequency band) with SM58 microphone heads.
|SLXD2/SM58-H55 Handheld Transmitter with SM58 microphone
|I need 3 dual-channel receivers in the H55 band to go with the 6 transmitters.
|SLXD4D-H55 Dual-Channel Receiver
|I need a rechargeable battery for each transmitter.
|SB903 Lithium-Ion Rechargeable Battery
|Each charger holds 2 transmitters, so I’ll need 3 of them.
|SBC203 Dual Docking Charger
|I need one antenna distribution system; this one can feed up to 4 single-channel or dual-channel receivers.
|UA844+SWB/LC Antenna Distribution System
|Since I want to remotely mount my antennas away from the equipment rack, I’ll need optional half-wave antennas, mounting brackets, and cables.
|UA8-518-578 ½-wave Omnidirectional Antenna (518-578 MHz)
|UA505 Remote Antenna Mounting Bracket Kit
|UA825 25-foot Coaxial Cable
|I’ll also need a simple Ethernet switch and cables to connect the Ethernet ports on the 3 dual-channel receivers together; a 5-port switch will accommodate my expansion plans.
5-port Ethernet switch
|Finally, I’ll need 6 XLR microphone cables to connect the audio output from each receiver channel to the mixer.
|XLR mic cables
Step 5: Install and connect hardware
First I install the receivers and antenna distribution unit in the equipment rack. Then I connect the supplied antenna cables from the antenna distribution unit to the receivers. The 25-foot antenna cables connect to the distribution unit and run to the spot on the wall where I’ve installed the mounting brackets. The Ethernet cables connect each receiver to the switch, and the microphone cables connect the receiver audio outputs to my mixer.
Step 6: Set the frequencies on transmitters and receivers
The next step is to set the transmitters and receivers to compatible frequencies. By connecting the receivers to a simple Ethernet switch, each receiver avoids using a frequency that one of the other receivers is already using. I use the control knob on the front panel of the first receiver and navigate to Frequency Setup > Guided Frequency Setup > Initialize My System. I follow the prompts, and the receiver scans the spectrum, identifies clear frequencies, and sets itself to one of them. Then I synchronize the transmitter to this receiver by pressing the Sync button and aligning their infrared ports for a few seconds. Watch a video of the process here:
Because all of my receivers are connected together through the Ethernet switch, they have automatically been programmed with compatible frequencies from the same group as the first receiver. All I need to do synchronize each of those transmitters to their respective receivers.
Step 7: Adjust audio levels
The last step is to do a sound check on each system. I can fine-tune the audio level of each system to compensate for differences in vocal levels or microphone types. After a quick adjustment with the control knob on each receiver I’m ready to go.
Shure wireless microphone systems offer clear digital audio, reliable wireless transmission, and easier setup than ever before. By carefully assessing your organization’s needs, you can select and configure new wireless systems for a small school, church, or theater. If you need help, Shure Applications Engineering is ready to assist you with choosing components, coordinating frequencies, setting up antennas, or making audio adjustments.