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Author Topic: Wireless Mic Replacement Recommendations  (Read 2278 times)

Ben Easler

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Wireless Mic Replacement Recommendations
« on: January 30, 2018, 05:31:55 pm »

I work at a high school with a very nice theater. Currently, we house 32 Sennheiser EW300/100 wireless mics. These used to split pretty nicely into 3 bands. When the C band become unavailable, we used a combination of A and B - the Sennheisers are really only rated for 12 per channel but by carefully planning with their frequency finder software and the fact that there is not a ton of interference here, we got by with a high channel count and minimum intermodulation, but still have had some issues at times.

We have at least 3 musicals and a play each year. I also teach the string orchestra and use these mics as clip ons for a few concerts per year. I do a rock strings concert and we have guest artists come in regularly that my students get to perform with - for these, the close micing is great for competing with guitars, drums, etc.

With the new FCC ruling, I am looking to now replace our B band mics as well and possibly change the entire system. The folks at Sweetwater have suggested the way to go is with Shure's QLXD line as it can accommodate the high channel count more easily and the digital signal. While this sounds nice, it will involve replacing a lot of equipment including the five handheld mics we have as well as all of the connectors on the mic leads. The school district so far seems to be supportive of this route if it is what I recommend.

If you have thoughts on the actual system we should purchase please feel free to say, but what I am really looking for are answers to these questions:

A. Can we just rent these for when we have a show? and
B. Why don't you/I feel that it is best to mic a musical with about 12 mics for leads and supporting roles and floor/boundary mic the ensemble.

My personal thoughts on these questions are as follows but I would love some feedback from the professional community here whether in agreement or disagreement:

A. We could rent but I have not found a company locally that rents a mic system that supports this high of channel count locally and if we paid the rates I have seen, our system would be paid for in less than 5 years (probably closer to 3)

B. I feel that in a musical that in our venue you cannot compete with the pit which is an in ground true pit in a very quite room that seats over 800 without micing when dealing with elementary through high school voices. They simply cannot project over that kind of ensemble. Using floor or other chorus mic solutions is useless because placing boundary mics at the lip of the stage is right next to the pit so we are just amplifying the pit as much as the ensemble and the pit is louder already. I have found close micing as many ensemble members as possible and amplifying them just enough to be heard creates a fuller ensemble sound. Also, many junior shows that we do with our camp and junior programs have a TON of short speaking roles which are often played by less experienced actors and REALLY have a hard time being heard without being amplified.

Looking for some reaffirmation of my thoughts (or good reasons why I might be wrong!).

Thanks in advance.



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Kevin Maxwell

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Re: Wireless Mic Replacement Recommendations
« Reply #1 on: January 30, 2018, 11:53:54 pm »

I work at a high school with a very nice theater. Currently, we house 32 Sennheiser EW300/100 wireless mics. These used to split pretty nicely into 3 bands. When the C band become unavailable, we used a combination of A and B - the Sennheisers are really only rated for 12 per channel but by carefully planning with their frequency finder software and the fact that there is not a ton of interference here, we got by with a high channel count and minimum intermodulation, but still have had some issues at times.

We have at least 3 musicals and a play each year. I also teach the string orchestra and use these mics as clip ons for a few concerts per year. I do a rock strings concert and we have guest artists come in regularly that my students get to perform with - for these, the close micing is great for competing with guitars, drums, etc.

With the new FCC ruling, I am looking to now replace our B band mics as well and possibly change the entire system. The folks at Sweetwater have suggested the way to go is with Shure's QLXD line as it can accommodate the high channel count more easily and the digital signal. While this sounds nice, it will involve replacing a lot of equipment including the five handheld mics we have as well as all of the connectors on the mic leads. The school district so far seems to be supportive of this route if it is what I recommend.

If you have thoughts on the actual system we should purchase please feel free to say, but what I am really looking for are answers to these questions:

A. Can we just rent these for when we have a show? and
B. Why don't you/I feel that it is best to mic a musical with about 12 mics for leads and supporting roles and floor/boundary mic the ensemble.

My personal thoughts on these questions are as follows but I would love some feedback from the professional community here whether in agreement or disagreement:

A. We could rent but I have not found a company locally that rents a mic system that supports this high of channel count locally and if we paid the rates I have seen, our system would be paid for in less than 5 years (probably closer to 3)

B. I feel that in a musical that in our venue you cannot compete with the pit which is an in ground true pit in a very quite room that seats over 800 without micing when dealing with elementary through high school voices. They simply cannot project over that kind of ensemble. Using floor or other chorus mic solutions is useless because placing boundary mics at the lip of the stage is right next to the pit so we are just amplifying the pit as much as the ensemble and the pit is louder already. I have found close micing as many ensemble members as possible and amplifying them just enough to be heard creates a fuller ensemble sound. Also, many junior shows that we do with our camp and junior programs have a TON of short speaking roles which are often played by less experienced actors and REALLY have a hard time being heard without being amplified.

Looking for some reaffirmation of my thoughts (or good reasons why I might be wrong!).

Thanks in advance.

I do not represent any company regarding wireless mics. The following is just from me.

I understand your usage and agree with how you do wireless. Unless there is a political reason you shouldnít have to get rid of all of your wireless mics and replace all of them if they are still working. I did a show with 30 wireless mics in the fall (and still a lot of swaps) and I was curious as to with the upcoming changes could I do it again with the same mics and avoid the frequencies we are no long supposed to use. We had 22 Sure UHF-R systems and 8 Sennheiser G2 b-band. Technically as I understand it since the B-Band can tune to the prohibited frequencies they will be no longer legal to use. But the hole in the 600mhz from 657-663 I can (for my area and I assume this will be the same all over) fit 9 mics in there with Shure Wireless Workbench set to more frequencies. And if I stay in the permitted areas I assume that there isnít a reason for anyone to bother me. Now I am not sure with the repack in the 470MHz-608MHz if I can get the other channels all working down there. 
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Russell Ault

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Re: Wireless Mic Replacement Recommendations
« Reply #2 on: January 31, 2018, 02:41:35 am »

...with Shure Wireless Workbench set to more frequencies.

A word of caution about "More Frequencies" in WWB for theatrical use: one of the ways it gets more frequencies is by turning off "three transmitter, third-order" calculations. In a theatrical context where groups of people wearing microphones often get quite close to each other (to say nothing of the usual intermod hell produced by putting all your transmitters into canvas shoe hangers), 3T3O is almost certainly something you want to be looking out for.

-Russ
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Lyle Williams

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Re: Wireless Mic Replacement Recommendations
« Reply #3 on: January 31, 2018, 06:43:56 am »

Even if you don't intend to replace all your mics, you should come up with a plan for how they would all be replaced.  You are shifting from what sounds like a well planned system.  You need to envisage and design the next well planned system.

Then move toward that new plan, one step at a time, when you need to.
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Ben Easler

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Re: Wireless Mic Replacement Recommendations
« Reply #4 on: January 31, 2018, 07:17:06 am »

Even if you don't intend to replace all your mics, you should come up with a plan for how they would all be replaced.  You are shifting from what sounds like a well planned system.  You need to envisage and design the next well planned system.

Then move toward that new plan, one step at a time, when you need to.

This is very true and what I wish to do. Although the current setup isn't perfect, I know we are more well off than most high schools in this world as far as our theater. One question I have - The mics are distributed between a rack up at the control room with an RF distribution system - splitter/antennae, and a rack connected to a stagebox at the stage level. If I were to move the new system all to the rack on stage, would a distribution setup still be necessary with the mics all in such close proximity to the actors?
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Keith Broughton

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Re: Wireless Mic Replacement Recommendations
« Reply #5 on: January 31, 2018, 08:08:07 am »

If you want to stick with Sennheiser, they do have G3 systems in the A1 band (470-516) So you could have A1 and A bands.
https://en-us.sennheiser.com/news-sennheiser-launches-new-frequency-variants-for-evolution-wireless-300-and-500

As for the pit band overpowering your vocals, I solved this issue by moving the band to a separate room.
They were already behind the stage in a draped area(in a small arena) and were using video and audio monitors so the change wasn't all that dramatic for them.
The effect on house sound was VERY dramatic! Clean clear orchestra sound with total control.  :)
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Lee Buckalew

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Re: Wireless Mic Replacement Recommendations
« Reply #6 on: January 31, 2018, 08:48:48 am »

If you want to stick with Sennheiser, they do have G3 systems in the A1 band (470-516) So you could have A1 and A bands.
https://en-us.sennheiser.com/news-sennheiser-launches-new-frequency-variants-for-evolution-wireless-300-and-500

It is my understanding that in the new Evolution G4 range the A1 and A bands will still be offered in the 100 and 300 series but the 500 series will now tune across both bands giving access to an 88MHz tuning range for G4 500.

Even if you don't intend to replace all your mics, you should come up with a plan for how they would all be replaced.  You are shifting from what sounds like a well planned system.  You need to envisage and design the next well planned system.

Then move toward that new plan, one step at a time, when you need to.

Given the upcoming channel repack you will want to plan for the new TV channel layout in your area, not just what looks like it will work the best now.

I know that in my area (St. Louis) we are losing 2 currently vacant TV channels and there is also a station moving into VHF in addition to those that are already there.

Lee
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Kevin Maxwell

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Re: Wireless Mic Replacement Recommendations
« Reply #7 on: January 31, 2018, 11:28:54 am »

A word of caution about "More Frequencies" in WWB for theatrical use: one of the ways it gets more frequencies is by turning off "three transmitter, third-order" calculations. In a theatrical context where groups of people wearing microphones often get quite close to each other (to say nothing of the usual intermod hell produced by putting all your transmitters into canvas shoe hangers), 3T3O is almost certainly something you want to be looking out for.

-Russ

I understand that the More frequency setting arenít ideal but I had to switch to that to get a coordination to work with what I had and where I was.

I had to do that on the last show I was on to get everything working, actually I think I only set it to More frequency on one band of UHF-R and the Sennheiser mics. We had more mics in that band of UHF-R than usual. It all worked out fine. I had no problems, other than some mic cables going bad due to the overly energetic nature of this show and someone not paying enough attention to how they mic-ed the actors.

For my preshow testing of the Mics on the packs I had them all lined up too close to each other and with all of them on I heard only a little bit of an intermodulation issue, with a few mics. So we changed our procedure and didnít turn them all on at once. I think that the Shure UHF-R with their tracking front end helped to minimize problems. If all of these mics where the Sennheiser EW series I might not have been as lucky. Also the power output difference between the 2 brands many play into my results, since the UHF-R were set to only 10mw. The other thing that works into our favor is the mics that are waiting to be swapped onto a different actor are far enough back stage that they are out of the pickup area of the receivers so even if they were all together it doesnít reach the stage. So much so that if I have to have the backstage mic-ing crew try to fix something while I listen on headphones they have to get the actor closer to the stage before It will work. Even so I am going to get a bunch of steel pans for the next show.

Years ago I had in intermod or just a reception issue that only popped up when one mic (transmitter) was no longer on stage or close enough that they were no longer being picked up. So basically when that mic was no longer the strongest thing that the receiver saw something else overloaded the receiver. And when I say overloaded the mixer input was buried in the red. So much so that on the analog console even though the mic was always down at that time, the cross talk to the adjacent channels was killing me. That was the thing that made me take responsibility to learn how to coordinate RF frequencies. Before that I used what was handed to me and told it was all set, and this was by a guy who also dealt with radio stations. I am no expert but have had very good luck with the systems I have coordinated. Most of them were for shows I was doing and a few churches. One of them I looked at the frequencies their mics were tuned to out of curiosity without even taking any outside frequencies into consideration and there was all sorts of intermod issues. I then scanned and did a coordination and the problems went away.     

Another one of my long posts. Why canít I just write short little responses?
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Kevin Maxwell

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Re: Wireless Mic Replacement Recommendations
« Reply #8 on: January 31, 2018, 11:29:57 am »

This is very true and what I wish to do. Although the current setup isn't perfect, I know we are more well off than most high schools in this world as far as our theater. One question I have - The mics are distributed between a rack up at the control room with an RF distribution system - splitter/antennae, and a rack connected to a stagebox at the stage level. If I were to move the new system all to the rack on stage, would a distribution setup still be necessary with the mics all in such close proximity to the actors?

You would still want a properly configured ďRF distribution system - splitter/antennaeĒ. I always have the receivers close to the stage so that the antennas into the Distro/splitter are close to the stage without a lot of coax cable. You would not want to just use the antennas on the back of the receivers. With the distro system you donít need as many antennas and you can separate them enough to get better diversity behavior.
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Jason Glass

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Re: Wireless Mic Replacement Recommendations
« Reply #9 on: February 02, 2018, 01:06:04 pm »

Be aware that many of the new digital systems (such as QLXD and ULXD) are not compatible with many mics, especially inexpensive models.  Their RF modulation schemes use variants of AM transmission that "leaks" into the audio signal through their cables and mic elements and sounds awful.  Make sure to test this thoroughly with your existing mics before you buy or rent a ton of channels.
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