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When we think about the easiest microphone to use, wireless mics are the first to come to mind. And why not? When you’re on the performing end, all you’ve got to do is pick up your fully charged handheld microphone and get to work. You don’t have to think about wires or clip-ons. Any technical mishaps are no longer yours to worry about, and that’s the beauty of wireless microphones.
But setting up a wireless mic and getting it to behave can be a different story altogether. Knowing and understanding the basics of how the wireless systems of mics work can save a ton of trouble down the line. Keep reading to find out how you can set up a wireless mic system, tweak your wireless mic, and ultimately maximize its functionality.
Before getting into detail on how to set up wireless mic systems, you first need to know how a wireless mic works. To briefly explain, wireless mics reproduce sound by having their transmitters send a radio frequency to their receiver and once the signal is received, the audio is sent to the audio interface or mixer. The key thing to remember here is that wireless mics make use of transmitters in replacement of a microphone cable or an instrument cable. With that said, the sound quality of one’s wireless microphone performance typically depends on good and compatible frequencies.
To avoid any interference from other frequencies in the area, like radio frequencies, TV frequencies, or frequencies from a nearby device, users should be able to know the optimal frequency band in their location and systems. Although there are mics that are able to optimize this for you, it’s still good to know how you can do this yourself.
First, you must look at the receiver’s screen, which should show you two bars representing signal strength and volume. The receivers should have a dial that will allow you to adjust the bar levels of these two signals until you reach the channel with the lowest amount of interference. Channels differ depending on the location, so it’s best practice to place transmitters in the same location as the receivers.
In the United States, most wireless systems operate within the Ultra High Frequency (UHF) spectrum, which is around 470 to 608 MHz. By optimizing a wireless mic or other transmitter devices with the same frequency channels, users are able to produce clear audio thanks to an uninterrupted signal and minimal signal interferences.
Should you need to make the signal strength stronger, you can opt to connect receivers to an antenna provided it is compatible with coaxial cables. When these coaxial cables are connected to an antenna, signal strength is amplified significantly. It’s almost important to take note that to achieve high signal strength, there must be no physical obstruction between the transmitter and receiver antennas.
Since wireless mics transmit their audio signal to the receivers, an antenna acts as its distributor or transducer. While there are multiple antennas available in the market, the two most commonly used for wireless mics are unidirectional and omnidirectional antennas.
A unidirectional antenna is exclusively used in UHF systems. This antenna is often chosen for long-distance use as it must be at least 50 feet away from the transmitter. On the other end of things, an omnidirectional antenna is highly flexible for remote mounting making it a preferred choice by many.
Regardless of which of the two antennas you will be choosing, there are two things you must always keep in mind: antennas must be separated at least one-quarter wavelength for a good recording and quality performance of a mic that’s wireless; antenna placement greatly affects the distance of reception and channel signal.
Size also matters when choosing antennas for your wireless microphone. Keep in mind that the length of your antennas must be inversely proportional to the frequency range of the transmitted signal. Higher calls for shorter antennas while lower calls for longer antennas. Typically, the UHF band is known to transmit the best performance.
As Shure said, setting the proper input gain of your wireless microphone system is important to avoid any distortion or interferences. Most wireless systems include a gain control feature on the transmitter itself, making it easier to adjust gain accordingly. Additionally, one can look at the receivers for any overload or peak indications.
A rule of thumb when adjusting gains for your wireless microphone is to not set it too high to avoid distortion nor too low to refrain from any signal-to-noise happening. The purpose of adjusting gain control is to set the input sensitivity at the right level to prevent any overload, but balance it enough with the signal level so its transmitters will be “above” the receivers on the system noise floor.
When adjusting the gain of wireless transmitters, see to it that the loudest input signal barely lights the peak bar in the screen of the receiver. If it continues to flash, reduce the gain. Many wireless microphone systems also have an output level control on the screen of the receiver, which will only affect their output and have no effect on the end of the transmitter. Should a distortion occur from the transmitter, changing the receiver output level will not be able to “fix” this. Instead, level the control at maximum if the mixer input can accommodate it. This will help in giving the best possible dynamic range.
There are a lot of pros when it comes to using a wireless system, may it be for a performance or a recording setup in the studio or home.
Without any cables or wires getting tangled up as a concern, a performer on stage can definitely connect with an audience more freely and move around as they wish. While a studio or setup making use of a wireless system also allows for more flexibility in movement, space, and placement as the device need not be wired up while the receiver can be strategically designed with aesthetics in mind.
With the ease, reliable performance, and flexibility a wireless mic can give, it’s no wonder why the wireless microphone market is expected to grow in billions by 2028! If you’re ready to have a wireless mic of your own, you can check out this guide we’ve created for you on the best wireless mics.
Wireless microphone systems operate on broadcast TV bands that allow them to receive and transmit audio. To avoid interference from other wireless devices in the same area, there’s an allotted frequency range for wireless mics to operate on.
Learning how to find the right range is only one part of the equation though. Maintaining a clear line of sight between the receiving antennas and transmitter (aka your microphone) is key. The fewer people, metallic objects, or walls are in the way, the better your signal output will be because there are fewer obstacles between the two antennas.
Ideally, your antennas and mic should be in the same location, if not in the same room, and also placed in such a way that they are above people’s heads. Whether you will be using two transmitters or just one, make sure that it should be able to ‘see’ the receive antenna with little to no obstructions in sight.
If you’re working at a small venue with multiple performers, speakers, or lecturers, proper coordination of frequencies is going to save you a lot of headaches down the line. According to RF Venue, a minimum of 1 MHz distance should be maintained between two wireless microphones in order to get optimal sound performance.
A wireless system also needs to have a proper length in distance between the transmitter, receiver, and antenna depending on its respective specifications.