DIY Wireless, Part 5: How to Select and Install Your Own Wireless System in 7 Easy Steps

Chris Lyons | 8-10-2020 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 small school, 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:

TV ChannelFrequency Range
7174 - 180 MHz
8180 - 186 MHz
9186 - 192 MHz
10192 - 198 MHz
11198 - 204 MHz
13210 - 216 MHz
22518 – 524 MHz
25536 – 542 MHz
27548 – 554 MHz
35596 – 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

NotesQuantityItem
I need 4 bodypack transmitters (in the H55 frequency band).4SLXD1-H55 Bodypack Transmitter
I need 4 lavalier microphones for presenters; I’ve chosen the WL185 cardioid lavalier to reduce the likelihood of feedback.4WL185 Cardioid Lavalier Microphone
I need 2 handheld transmitters (in the H55 frequency band) with SM58 microphone heads.2SLXD2/SM58-H55  Handheld Transmitter with SM58 microphone
I need 3 dual-channel receivers in the H55 band to go with the 6 transmitters.3SLXD4D-H55 Dual-Channel Receiver
I need a rechargeable battery for each transmitter.6SB903 Lithium-Ion Rechargeable Battery
Each charger holds 2 transmitters, so I’ll need 3 of them.3SBC203 Dual Docking Charger
I need one antenna distribution system; this one can feed up to 4 single-channel or dual-channel receivers.1UA844+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.2UA8-518-578 ½-wave Omnidirectional Antenna (518-578 MHz)
 2UA505 Remote Antenna Mounting Bracket Kit
 2UA825 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.

1

 

3

5-port Ethernet switch

 

Ethernet cables

Finally, I’ll need 6 XLR microphone cables to connect the audio output from each receiver channel to the mixer.6XLR 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.

Chris Lyons

Chris Lyons

Chris Lyons is a 30-year Shure veteran who has filled a variety of different marketing and public relations roles. His specialty is making complicated audio technology easy to understand, usually with an analogy that involves cars or food. He doesn't sing or play an instrument, but he does make Shure Associates laugh once in a while.