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Author Topic: Best Bang for the Wireless Buck  (Read 4960 times)

Russell Ault

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Best Bang for the Wireless Buck
« on: November 23, 2015, 10:38:39 pm »

I work for a vocal a capella ensemble. Currently they're using all wireless microphones and IEMs which, while making mixing a lot easier (no stage noise and GBF for days), the equipment they own is...not what I would have recommended (decent-sounding capsules on a pretty mediocre RF platform). We're hoping to start replacing them soon (and assuming Industry Canada follows the FCC's lead on 600MHz, which seems almost a given, we may be forced to).

So the question is, what would be the best bang for our wireless buck? We use the gear often enough (and live in a small enough rental market) that purchasing almost certainly makes sense (even though that's not necessarily my preference).

We'd be looking for 7 hand-held mics, 5 condensors and 2 dynamics. The group has already auditioned wired versions of the KSM9/Beta58 and the e965/e945, and would be happy with either, although they'd probably be open to other brands if there was a compelling case and they sound comparable.

Currently, I'm leaning toward the new Shure QLX-D systems as being cost-effective and (at the right frequency bands) relatively future-proof. The other option I've been considering is the Sennheiser ew500 systems (which, because of the weak Canada/US exchange rate, is actually cheaper here than comparable QLX-D equipment).

I've also looked at some more expensive gear (ULX-D, Sennheiser 2000) but on paper they don't look like enough of an improvement to justify the added cost. I haven't really considered other brands (which is a large part of the reason I'm asking the question here; I'm sure I'm ignoring a possibility I shouldn't be).

So, what would people with much more RF experience than I have recommend (which, if I haven't made it clear before, is basically everyone reading this)?

Thanks!

-Russ
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Keith Broughton

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Re: Best Bang for the Wireless Buck
« Reply #1 on: November 24, 2015, 07:03:29 am »

I work for a vocal a capella ensemble. Currently they're using all wireless microphones and IEMs which, while making mixing a lot easier (no stage noise and GBF for days), the equipment they own is...not what I would have recommended (decent-sounding capsules on a pretty mediocre RF platform). We're hoping to start replacing them soon (and assuming Industry Canada follows the FCC's lead on 600MHz, which seems almost a given, we may be forced to).

So the question is, what would be the best bang for our wireless buck? We use the gear often enough (and live in a small enough rental market) that purchasing almost certainly makes sense (even though that's not necessarily my preference).

We'd be looking for 7 hand-held mics, 5 condensors and 2 dynamics. The group has already auditioned wired versions of the KSM9/Beta58 and the e965/e945, and would be happy with either, although they'd probably be open to other brands if there was a compelling case and they sound comparable.

Currently, I'm leaning toward the new Shure QLX-D systems as being cost-effective and (at the right frequency bands) relatively future-proof. The other option I've been considering is the Sennheiser ew500 systems (which, because of the weak Canada/US exchange rate, is actually cheaper here than comparable QLX-D equipment).

I've also looked at some more expensive gear (ULX-D, Sennheiser 2000) but on paper they don't look like enough of an improvement to justify the added cost. I haven't really considered other brands (which is a large part of the reason I'm asking the question here; I'm sure I'm ignoring a possibility I shouldn't be).

So, what would people with much more RF experience than I have recommend (which, if I haven't made it clear before, is basically everyone reading this)?

Thanks!

-Russ
I suggest going with the EW500 system.
Usually Seennheiser will have a "kit" price available that is quite good.
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Milt Hathaway

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Re: Best Bang for the Wireless Buck
« Reply #2 on: November 24, 2015, 07:07:27 am »

Keep in mind that when comparing costs between the QLX-D and ULX-D systems is the fact that for the price of only two ULX-DQ receivers you cover the cost of all the receivers you need (plus a spare) plus the cost of antenna combiners and associated antenna cable, plus all of that fits in 2 rack spaces.
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Keith Broughton

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Re: Best Bang for the Wireless Buck
« Reply #3 on: November 24, 2015, 09:11:35 am »

Keep in mind that when comparing costs between the QLX-D and ULX-D systems is the fact that for the price of only two ULX-DQ receivers you cover the cost of all the receivers you need (plus a spare) plus the cost of antenna combiners and associated antenna cable, plus all of that fits in 2 rack spaces.
That's a good point!
I have been using the ULXD systems and they are quite nice. When kept close to the stage, you don't need extra antennas either.
Having 2x4 ch receivers does save quite a bit of extra hardware and space. (As a note, you can only cascade from one receiver to another once, no matter what the reciver config)
If you are flying this stuff, it would be worth the $$ to go with the ULXD or similar.
Still, when we purchased a bunch of RF a few years back, Sennheiser was better priced with their package deals.
Worth looking into both options.
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Russell Ault

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Re: Best Bang for the Wireless Buck
« Reply #4 on: November 24, 2015, 12:57:22 pm »

Keep in mind that when comparing costs between the QLX-D and ULX-D systems is the fact that for the price of only two ULX-DQ receivers you cover the cost of all the receivers you need (plus a spare) plus the cost of antenna combiners and associated antenna cable, plus all of that fits in 2 rack spaces.

I know, and there are a lot of reasons why I'd prefer the ULX-D. However, right now, Canadian pricing on a ULX4Q is over $6k, whereas I can buy four QLX-D receivers for roughly half that (and, without the spare, the $7000 difference in receiver price for the whole system will buy a lot of distro). Factor in that the transmitters are each also nearly $200 cheaper, and the nice form-factor and lack of distro doesn't really seem to be worth the extra $8k for our system (heck, not even the Dante output is worth $8k).

I suggest going with the EW500 system.
Usually Seennheiser will have a "kit" price available that is quite good.

Sennheiser would definitely be the cheaper option (and, unlike the Shure digital equipment, I've spent some time with the Sennheiser gear on other gigs and I'm definitely a fan). My concern is that, with the impending reduction in available spectrum, we'd be better off buying a digital system for the greater operational flexibility and channel density. Am I over-blowing this concern?

Thanks!

-Russ
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Rob Spence

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Re: Best Bang for the Wireless Buck
« Reply #5 on: November 24, 2015, 01:32:09 pm »

I know, and there are a lot of reasons why I'd prefer the ULX-D. However, right now, Canadian pricing on a ULX4Q is over $6k, whereas I can buy four QLX-D receivers for roughly half that (and, without the spare, the $7000 difference in receiver price for the whole system will buy a lot of distro). Factor in that the transmitters are each also nearly $200 cheaper, and the nice form-factor and lack of distro doesn't really seem to be worth the extra $8k for our system (heck, not even the Dante output is worth $8k).

Sennheiser would definitely be the cheaper option (and, unlike the Shure digital equipment, I've spent some time with the Sennheiser gear on other gigs and I'm definitely a fan). My concern is that, with the impending reduction in available spectrum, we'd be better off buying a digital system for the greater operational flexibility and channel density. Am I over-blowing this concern?

Thanks!

-Russ

From what I gather, the spectrum reshuffle will cause angst for both analog a digital if they are in a frequency band that is affected.

My take is we all get screwed because all they need do is move something critical into the tuning range of our gear and the FCC can revoke the type acceptance for the gear.

I heard some talk that the manufacturers are talking about possibly updating units with new firmware to exclude newly prohibited frequencies and getting new approvals.

Perhaps Henry has better information ?


So, pick stuff in the low 500mHz range I guess?



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Mac Kerr

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Re: Best Bang for the Wireless Buck
« Reply #6 on: November 24, 2015, 02:17:25 pm »

So, pick stuff in the low 500mHz range I guess?

There is no way to make an informed decision about band choice till the auction happens and we find out what is happening. Yes, some of the 600MHz band will go away, but some of what goes away will be relocated into the 500MHz band and below, so choosing that band does not guarantee any better success. There will most likely be space in all current bands that will be available to wireless mics and IEMs and comm, but it will be less than currently available. There will also likely be space available that has not previously be generally available.

Assuming manufacturers will be able to update firmware to prevent use of unavailable spectrum (not a sure thing) the best bet is to look for systems that will allow greater channel density in whatever the allowed (more limited) spectrum is. Using Shure ULX-D in high density mode is one approach, there may be others introduced as we start to find out what is really going to happen.

Mac
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Russell Ault

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Re: Best Bang for the Wireless Buck
« Reply #7 on: November 30, 2015, 05:01:20 pm »

Assuming manufacturers will be able to update firmware to prevent use of unavailable spectrum (not a sure thing) the best bet is to look for systems that will allow greater channel density in whatever the allowed (more limited) spectrum is. Using Shure ULX-D in high density mode is one approach, there may be others introduced as we start to find out what is really going to happen.

Mac

Okay, so it sounds like digital is the way to go, then. From what I've been reading, it seems like, despite the lack of the ULX-D's "high density" mode, the QLX-D systems still run circles, density-wise, around analogue systems. (If I'm reading the Shure FAQs correctly, it sounds like a WWB user can, with clear RF space, get 100 or more compatible QLX-D channels per tuning band.) So, at the EW500/QLX-D price-point, it sounds like the QLX-D system is the way to go from the standpoint of "is most likely to still be getting the job done a decade from now", right?

Thanks!

-Russ
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Mac Kerr

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Re: Best Bang for the Wireless Buck
« Reply #8 on: November 30, 2015, 05:37:53 pm »

Okay, so it sounds like digital is the way to go, then. From what I've been reading, it seems like, despite the lack of the ULX-D's "high density" mode, the QLX-D systems still run circles, density-wise, around analogue systems. (If I'm reading the Shure FAQs correctly, it sounds like a WWB user can, with clear RF space, get 100 or more compatible QLX-D channels per tuning band.) So, at the EW500/QLX-D price-point, it sounds like the QLX-D system is the way to go from the standpoint of "is most likely to still be getting the job done a decade from now", right?

How many mics you can get working in the tuning band is irrelevant. A more useful spec might be how many you get working in a single 6MHz TV channel. You are never going to have the entire tuning band available, you will have at least one 6MHz TV channel. Without the high density mode I'm not sure the QLX will allow a lot more channels than UHF-R. IAS does not have the QLX in the database, but with ULX-D IAS can get you 10-12 mics in a single 6MHz band, with UHF-R you can get 8. With ULX-D in high density mode Shure claims 47, but that is probably a little optimistic.

Mac
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Russell Ault

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Re: Best Bang for the Wireless Buck
« Reply #9 on: November 30, 2015, 07:34:34 pm »

How many mics you can get working in the tuning band is irrelevant. A more useful spec might be how many you get working in a single 6MHz TV channel. You are never going to have the entire tuning band available, you will have at least one 6MHz TV channel. Without the high density mode I'm not sure the QLX will allow a lot more channels than UHF-R. IAS does not have the QLX in the database, but with ULX-D IAS can get you 10-12 mics in a single 6MHz band, with UHF-R you can get 8. With ULX-D in high density mode Shure claims 47, but that is probably a little optimistic.

Mac

That makes tonnes of sense; systems per TV channel is a much better metric. Shure claims "up to" 17 systems per 6MHz for QLX-D (and for non-high-density ULX-D), although according to their published compatible frequency charts 13 or 14 seem much more common. The density I'm seeing for EW500 wireless (again, according to the published charts) is about the same as UHF-R at 8 per 6MHz, which is a little better than half that of the QLX-D. Sounds like, of the two, QLX-D is probably the better way to go, although the value of the ULX-D's high-density mode really becomes obvious from this perspective.

I suppose the question now is whether or not the high-density mode is worth the added expense; given that we currently run 7 wireless mics and aren't likely to ever go much beyond that, I'm somewhat dubious; is there a particular advantage to having the extra density despite it going well above and beyond our actual needs?

Thanks!

-Russ
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Re: Best Bang for the Wireless Buck
« Reply #9 on: November 30, 2015, 07:34:34 pm »


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