I have always had very good results using Audio Technica products, I use a number of their wireless systems. The PRO88w is a decent system although it has several potential drawbacks, it is VHF with only two channels, it has a non-diversity receiver so it will be much more susceptable to RF dropouts. Lastly, both the transmitter and receiver are powered by 9-volt batteries which are relatively expensive and don't last very long. (Although for 9-volt applications, I use the NiMh 9.6v rechargable batteries from www.mahaenergy.com. In fact, I think they manufacture the best rechargable batteries and chargers available so I use their 1000 mAh AAA and 2700 mAh AA batteries, too. A pair of their 2700 mAh batteries will power my Audio Technica transmitters for 6 hours easy.)
Since you're doing events in which you can't do a retake due to a wireless droupot, if you can afford it, I'd suggest stepping up to a unit which has a true diversity receiver.
As far as non diversity I tried the Azden and found it had more self noise than the
AT 88W. It can be filtered out somewhat but that is extra work.
Sennheiser 100 G3 series are UHF but far more $$$,
IMHO look at this system first.
I would recommend replacing the 1/8th inch mic plugs with a locking type
plug on the Azden and AT transmitters.
The one time I used the Samson UM1, I though it was pretty nice except for one annoying thing. There was a hiss that seemed to track the audio level, when a speaker was talking, you'd hear hiss but when the speaked stopped, the hiss was pretty much gone. This suggests some sort of noise gate or downward expander and it was audible. That could have been a quirk in that one unit or could be that all UM1s do it. I don't know.
The fact of the matter is that good wireless systems usually cost far more than $200.
Only very expensive kit is true diversity. I think Shure do spatial diversity on their rack mount systems. The Senny G2 and G3 ENG systems are not. A good ENG spectrum diversity setup is darn expensive, >$6K I think.
That said we've had almost zero problems with the G2 kits and we have at least six and the new G3s are very good although the setup menu seems to have too many options although well intended. One thing that catches a few out with the Senny gear is they do use companding so getting the transmitter setup correctly really helps. Never think of these things as 'wireless', nothing like an XLR lead.
Sebaz, Companding is technology used to compress more audio dynamic range onto the FM-UHF carrier. An FM carrier cannot be modulated (by the audio frequency) more than 100% without distortion and RF splattering. To overcome this limitation, Sennheiser's technology compresses the audio before modulation and expands (uncompresses) it after detection at the receiver end using special algorithms. So the result is a wider dynamic range at the slight disadvantage of compansion artifacts. The artifacts are undetectable (to my ears anyway) in the G2 and G3 series.
As far as setting the transmitters correctly, the critical factor (again) is the modulation gain ("sensitivity"), which is not to be perceived as a volume control! It is anything but that. Set the transmitter AF gain so that the loudest vocal transients just give an infrequent blink to the transmitter peak led or the receiver peak indicator. Anything more than that will cause overload and distortion. Too low OTOH, will cause some hiss in the audio output.
Some high-end systems (Shure UR-1) have a dual-stage audio gain setup. The first stage sets the input gain to the preamp (just like a normal mixer) and the second stage sets the modulation level to the carrier as described above. You pretty much need to be a pro to set these things up properly, but the results are stunning. About as close to a "wire" as one could expect, using the excellent but very fragile Countryman earset mics.
A good "beginning" rule of thumb is -10dB for normal to soft speech, -20dB for louder speech (preachers, announcers, and normal singing), and -30dB for belters of all persuasions.
Thanks for the information, musicvid. Now, for events videography, what do people normally do with the receiver? Is it safe of interference to hook it up to a camera that is moving, or is it always better to put it in a static place connected to a recorder or a static camera?
Portable receivers like the 88W and the Sennheiser ENG can mount right on the camera or extension arm. Videographers often prefer this solution. Obviously, the Sennheiser diversity receivers are going to suffer less from dropouts and should be good up to about 250 ft. line-of-sight, half that where there is background RF or obstacles. Dropouts with non-diversity receivers such as the 88W and less expensive Sonys are a bit unpredictable, and can occur at almost any range. The reason is multipath cancellation, which I won't go into here.
Stationary receivers are just that, and would connect with an xlr (or adapted) cable long enough to permit some freedom of movement.
Feeling a little goofy here - when I fist posted this I was going by memory on what type of wireless lav I have. I just pulled out the box and it is actually a Samson UHF Micro 32. This has worked perfectly for me for about seven years. I called Samson and they say the Samson UM1 is the replacement for my unit. It is nearly identical EXCEPT it only has one channel whereas the Micro 32 has 10. I have never had to change the channel on my unit so I don't know how big an issue this is for me.
Also, Samson gives a $30-45 rebate if I return my Micro 32 to them along with a copy of my purchase receipt.That would bring the cost down to about $170.
I have only been doing a few events a year, but if this picks up I may wish I had taken the advice here and purchased a higher end system. Hmm... decisions, decisions.
I borrowed a friends digital voice recorder to supplement my current wireless mic for a wedding I shot this past weekend. I'm now thinking I may go that route - probably something like the Zoom H4n. I checked on the DVI Wedding/Event Videographer forum and found others who have left wireless for this approach. Anyone here had experience with this approach?
You will find that is an excellent alternative, with some caveats.
The H4n does not accept timecode from your camera, so you will have two free-running clocks.
You will then need to sync the H4n track to the camera audio, my preferred method being with the Pluraleyes plugin (you have to pay for it).
With many cameras, the H4n drift is low (unlike the original H4), and no need to timestretch or chop the takes to match the audio at beginning, middle and end.
So some more work for you in post, but excellent results. But I still use my wireless lavs most of the time, because the subjects move around and are not always positioned in front of a fixed mic. But the Zoom is always there for backup.
>You will then need to sync the H4n track to the camera audio, my preferred method being with the Pluraleyes plugin (you have to pay for it).
Good point. In the case of a wedding I only need to mic the groom during the ceremony. Do you see any issue with attaching a lav mic to a Zoom in the groom's pocket for that scenario? Or perhaps attach the Zoom via belt clip? In other words, the Zoom would be replacing the wireless receiver the groom currently wears.
The H4n is considerably larger and much heavier than a wireless transmitter pack. While I absolutely love my H4n and it does sync up much better than the H4, there are smaller, lighter units that may be more appropriate for this application. I have had very good luck with the Yamaha Pocketrack series of recorders. They are incredibly small.
The H4n is considerably larger and much heavier than a wireless transmitter pack. While I absolutely love my H4n and it does sync up much better than the H4, there are smaller, lighter units that may be more appropriate for this application.
Yes, I don't think it would be "practical" to try to hide an H4n on the groom. You could look into it's smaller/cheaper brother the H2
Putting an H4 in the groom's pocket with an attached lav would be too bulky. I agree with John Cline's suggestion, however you don't want the Yamaha in a shirt pocket where the mic cage can rub against the fabric.
BTW, it's a good idea to put mics (omnidirectional) on both the groom and the officiant. The officiant's mic will usually pick up more of the bride's voice than will the groom's mic. We generally don't mic brides because of the gown and veil, plus they tend to sniffle a lot.
Also, the controls and displays on the Yamahas are so small as to be difficult to negotiate, at least for someone my age. I test drove them before I bought the H4, with the obvious awareness that I was not going to conceal it.
Another idea is to hang a single choir mic (A-T Pro 45) six feet over the principles. You need a little mixer with phantom to make it work with many camcorders.
At the price range, the Pro88W is stinkin' super impressive. These are regularly used in very high budget films and productions because they sound so very good. The price point prevents them from using companders in the system, so they sound great, if the input source is clean.
Can't say enough good about them for what they are. We keep 4-6 of them around most of the time. They're also super for one Xmit/many recieives when you need to ship audio to multiple locations.
I have been wanting to follow up this discussion with a picture of the wireless module I take to weddings that we provide audio for (which isn't very many). Also goes to several live performances each year. (Sorry for the bad cell phone pic).
I designed and built the rack in spare time, and it features (from the bottom up):
-- 20A power filter with plenty of outlets in back to run the power amps, accessories, etc.
-- Three G1 and one G2 Sehhneiser receivers and bodypacks.
-- A line mixer with one wired mic channel and three available stereo line-ins for music, other mixers, etc. The back side also has a full balanced audio patch bay which will access each receiver individually as well as the audio mix.
-- Notice the single antenna set. I built a dual distribution amp/splitter shelf with integrated power so all the receivers run off one diversity set at +3dB and one DC power source. Total AF noise gain on a flat carrier was ridiculous, somewhere around .001%. Total cost of the distro shelf components $100 (compare that to Sennheiser's price).
The PRO88w is a decent system although it has several potential drawbacks, it is VHF with only two channels............
As far as I know, the Pro88W has eight channels, not two. It has two switchable frequencies.
Also, it is worth noting that you have three choices in microphones with that unit so prices may vary. In order of increasing price you can get it with either the ATR35, AT829, or MT830. B&H for example is including the MT830. All three are actually good unless someone is singing, then I would choose the MT830.