Sennheiser, Audio Technica, Shure?

jkluch95

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Jan 6, 2013
Location
Central NJ
Hi y'all!

Doing some work audio installs and consulting for a high school and they approached me about wireless.

Looking at the Sennheiser EW 122 G3, Audio Technica 3000 Series ATW-3110b, and Shure PGX4

They all seem to be pretty good, I have experience with all 3 systems. Thoughts from you guys?

Thanks!
 

jkowtko

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Redwood City, CA
I've used the sennheoser and a slightly older version of the at. I've had to replace an antenna on the G1 by soldering it ... If the others have screw-on antennas that might make for easier maintenance in the future. Otherwise I didn't notice a difference between the two in terms of battery, signal quality or features. The sennheoser has a metal body which might weigh a bit more ...
 

TheaterEd

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What are they using them for? Are they using them as lavs or handhelds? In an Auditorium or for their pep rallys? How many will they be using, and do they expect to expand?

I ask because I have four PGX4s with handhelds that I use in conjunction with my stage mics. I wouldn't want to build a rig used for shows out of them though, and I'm not sure on their range in a gymnasium.
 

jkluch95

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Central NJ
They would be used as wireless lavs for their theater productions. Twice a year, once in the fall once in the spring. They have Shure ULX for their HH. They would probably need around 30ish wireless
 

Jbum123

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Grove City, Ohio
I use and spec the AT's for all of my installs. For the price and features, they can't be beat.
With them, you can do 32 simultaneous systems at a time and their RF distribution systems are very low cost.
With the PGX units, they can't be used with antennae distribution systems so a big downer there.
With that many receivers, you are going to want to combine.
30 units? And I thought 16 was a lot for High Schools. What happened to teaching actors how to project?

And of course, Countryman B6 Omnis.
 

JD

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North Wales PA
Never had a bad experience with a Sennheiser. Have to agree with the above comment about High Schools teaching actors/actresses to project ;)
 

BobHealey

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They would be used as wireless lavs for their theater productions. Twice a year, once in the fall once in the spring. They have Shure ULX for their HH. They would probably need around 30ish wireless
You're not going to get 30 PGX in the available RF space. Especially if you want to keep everything below 600 MHz. Cramming 30 ULX below 600 will be a challenge. I did a check on wireless workbench, for my neck of NY, best it could come up with is 18 PGX. Good luck finding units that fit into your available RF space on your budget.
 

ssss2art

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Aug 22, 2007
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Near Chicago
Coordinating 30 wireless is going to be a challenge especially if you are using gear from 2 different manufactures.

According to shure's website:
  • PGXD Can only do 5 systems per band and a max of 12 systems across all bands.
  • ULX can do 20 systems per band and a max of 60 acoss all bands
  • ULX-D can do 60 per band and 149 across all bands.
  • UHF-R can do 40 per band and 149 across all bands.
http://cdn.shure.com/uploaded_file/upload/157/Wireless_Systems_Comparison_Chart.pdf

These specs are based on not having any confilicting tv channels or other items broacasting in your area.

I personally have used 24 Channels of AT-3000 successfully in my area.
I have used 32 chs of ULX-D on quite a few shows without issue over the last year.

Shure makes a great program called Wireless workbench that can help you coordinate frequencies. It accounts for intermodals and local TV channels, and you can exclude other freq that you find to be troublesome.
You can even import Freq scans from rf explorer and other freq scanners into it. It will also try to coordinate frequencies for other manufactures gear including the ones you were looking at. The program is free to download.
Doing a spectrum analysis of the room using a freq scanner would really help determine how many chs you can use and in what bands they would need to be in. The RF Explorer is not very expensive and works really well.

All three Brands have a decent sound.
Which ever brand you choose I would make sure you do some research before you purchase a bunch of gear that doesn't play nice together
 

FMEng

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PGXD is not comparable to the other systems. PGXD uses the unlicensed 902-928 ISM band. You'll be sharing the spectrum with everything from baby monitiors to cordless phones. The other models all use UHF TV spectrum. Shure makes other models that would be comparable.
 

techieman33

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topeka, ks
For the comments about projecting someone posted a study about how high school age kids pushing their voices that much can be hard on their voices as they are still developing. When you add in the problem of them not getting proper voice training in most schools it could make sense to use that many wireless packs.
 

themuzicman

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On Tour
They would probably need around 30ish wireless

Rent. It'll cost you roughly $3,000 a week in rental (minus the cost of physical microphone elements) -- but at the same time, you don't have to contend with the upcoming spectrum re-allocation. You're in Central NJ according to your header, a stones throw from the NYC rental shops (well, Northern NJ rental shops). Call around to Masque, PRG, Boulvard Pro, Sound Associates, etc. and see if you could get a rental. If you're looking at purchasing 30 wireless, you're not getting out of the door with decently mediocre wireless for less than $30,000 so $3k/wk is a drop in the bucket and you won't have to buy new in a year. Yea, the elements are perishable so you're looking at $200 per for something like a Countryman B3 or $430 per for a DPA 4061 and they WILL die, but at least you don't have that purchase cost on top of broken Tx/Rx units and no replacement cost when they are abused by your student actors.

Coordinating 30 wireless is going to be a challenge especially if you are using gear from 2 different manufactures.
What does gear from two different manufacturers have to do with anything? A frequency is a frequency, RF is RF. Sure, Wireless Workbench and WSM don't list other manufacturers stuff but then again, why would they? They have no incentive to do that -- which is why you have to turn to programs like RF Guru and Intermod Analysis Software (IAS) to do a coordination that breaks down manufacturer lines. For example -- the show I am working on now has right around 90 wireless on it across 2 different Sennhiser receiver generations, 4 different Sennheiser Transmitter bodypack series, Shure IEM's, Telex RF Com, and HME RF Com and they all work together quite well as long as you do the work beforehand to make everything play nice.

Doing a spectrum analysis of the room using a freq scanner would really help determine how many chs you can use and in what bands they would need to be in. The RF Explorer is not very expensive and works really well.
An RF Explorer will only verify the data that programs like WWB and WSM already are taking into account -- and for the uninitiated who don't know how to interpret the data an RF Explorer could add more confusion than it solves. It isn't helping figure out how many open channels you have, at best you will determine how bad DTV stations are really hitting you and if there is any local interference that your coordination program doesn't know about.

You're not going to get 30 PGX in the available RF space. Especially if you want to keep everything below 600 MHz. Cramming 30 ULX below 600 will be a challenge. I did a check on wireless workbench, for my neck of NY, best it could come up with is 18 PGX. Good luck finding units that fit into your available RF space on your budget.
You'll have better luck if you open up 600-699mHz -- but yes, getting 30 of any un-tunable wireless will be pretty hard anywhere.

--------
30 wireless will be a challenge unless you buy fully tunable and split frequency ranges. Find out what DTV stations are in your area and how strong their broadcast signal is (all public information). Then figure out what your budget is, what devices you can afford, and how many of those you can cram into the open blocks around the DTV stations and between 400-699mHz. Remember that in a short time, the FCC will start auctioning off spectrum, starting at Channel 51 (692-698) and work their way down until there is but a single 8mHz chunk per market plus Channel 37 in most (but not all) markets. The lower you keep your wireless the longer you can use them -- but the inevitable will happen.

Rent, and if you don't agree with renting, bring in a professional. I happen to strongly recommend the guys at Masque who are total professionals and the best RF department in New Jersey -- but then again they do it for Broadway so it may be a bit more money than you want to spend -- but then again 30 wireless isn't a cheap investment so why not get insight from the best?
 

Chris15

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Sure, Wireless Workbench and WSM don't list other manufacturers stuff but then again, why would they?
Wireless Workbench 6 includes support for AKG, Audio technica, Electrovoice, HME, Lectrosonics, Sennheiser and Telex gear in addition to Shure.
WWB5 was always capable of doing so, it just took a skilled user to get the custom equipment profiles defined...
 

AlexDonkle

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Wireless Workbench 6 includes support for AKG, Audio technica, Electrovoice, HME, Lectrosonics, Sennheiser and Telex gear in addition to Shure.
WWB5 was always capable of doing so, it just took a skilled user to get the custom equipment profiles defined...
Just to add, Shure showed new iPad and iPhone WWB6 apps for their digital mics (QLX-D, ULX-D, and Axient) at Infocomm this year which looked extremely helpful.
 

LightingGuy89

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Beverly Hills, California, United States
Have you considered the Lectrosonic Venue Receivers? (6 Rx in a 1U rack mount package). You can purchase multiple frequency blocks and then purchase LMa transmitters to match. Great quality product. Very sturdy design (especially for a highschool, I used them exclusively at my children's theatre in Florida and at UCF). I would say the biggest drawback is going to be they use 9v batteries.

http://www.lectrosonics.com/US/Receivers/product/20-venue.html
http://www.lectrosonics.com/US/Transmitters/product/10-lma.html
 

BobHealey

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Have you considered the Lectrosonic Venue Receivers? (6 Rx in a 1U rack mount package). You can purchase multiple frequency blocks and then purchase LMa transmitters to match. Great quality product. Very sturdy design (especially for a highschool, I used them exclusively at my children's theatre in Florida and at UCF). I would say the biggest drawback is going to be they use 9v batteries.

http://www.lectrosonics.com/US/Receivers/product/20-venue.html
http://www.lectrosonics.com/US/Transmitters/product/10-lma.html
The battery life on the LMa transmitters is also not the greatest. 6h if lucky on a Procell in my experience. I've had some close calls in Act 2 from time to time, especially if the performer needs to be miced early. That particular model really wants 9V Li batteries.
 

MNicolai

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First things first, the type of wireless systems you should be looking at are high-density units, where many transmitters can operate within a small slice of frequency spectrum. You also want your systems to have mile-wide frequency bands that they can operate within. When the FCC does its large auction next year, you want to know that as things transition in wireless spectrum over the next several years that your microphones can adapt by being assigned to different frequencies, of which you want as many to choose from as possible. If you buy systems that only cover a small frequency band, you'll likely end up in a position where you're replacing your systems within a few years as you're forced out of those frequency bands into other portions of the spectrum.

This brings me around to the point that wireless systems are incredibly difficult to get any amount of return-on-investment on. A rental house can rent their gear out 75% of the time and pay off a $100,000 wireless systems purchase within a year. A school will never make that money back. Not even close. Never will they get that amount of value out of their systems either.

Quick little exercise to illustrate as I happen to have Shure's price list up on my monitor.
  • MSRP on ULXDQ receivers is $6269, 4 channels ea. You'd need 7-1/2 (they don't sell half-units, but the math is easier). $47017.50
  • MSRP on ULXD1 transmitters is $556. You'd need 30. $16,680.
  • "Value" headworn mic's are in the $150 range. Quality mic's are more around $300, give or take. You'd need 30, but they break pretty often, so let's say 35 for starters. $5250 - $10500.
  • You need a rack to put those in, a snake to get them into the console, batteries, and maybe some antenna distribution. Let's say another $5000 for extraneous gak.
All in all, you're looking at $73,947.50 - $79,197.50. Granted, that's at MSRP and nobody pays MSRP, and there are volume discounts on these things usually, but you'll at least be around $60k or so.

There are value offerings out there, but most will not scale to 30 transmitters, and even if you pay only $35,000 for the package, if they're not agile enough in ability to change frequencies, you could be stuck with $35,000 of wireless that need to be replaced when the RF landscape is overturned over the next few years.

This all brings me around to my main point, which isn't really my main point but bear with me here.

Rent.

It's not cheap, but it's cheaper than 30 wireless systems, both in up-front costs, and regular upkeep. Upkeep can be everything from broken microphones to broken transmitters or antennae. Worst kind of upkeep though is changes in the frequency spectrum landscape. Mid next year, a large upheaval will occur with an FCC spectrum auction. Investing $35k in 30 lower-density wireless systems now will set you up for needing to replace them in a few years. Investing $60k in 30 high-density wireless systems will function fine and you'll be able to adapt to the changing RF landscape, but you'll never make that money back in the lifetime of the systems.

If you want to take this exercise a little further though, ask around at your local rental shops what a one or two week 30-system rental is, and you can do the math on how many rentals you need to do before you'd hit that $60k neighborhood and break even.

My real main point:

Alternatively, you could spend far less money on shotgun and hanging mic's, and get the FOH system optimized for as little feedback potential on stage as possible. Area mic the heck out of the acting areas, use only wireless mic's on lead characters when needed, and you'll be rockin'.

Requires some more engineering in that you'll need to spend $3k or so to get a pro to tune your system properly, and another few thousand in having an acoustical and sound reinforcement analysis done to minimize feedback potential, and then another few grand on microphones and cables, plus potentially several grand on acoustical treatments. All in all, nobody can tell you what this approach would cost without looking at your space and your systems, but it's probably a lot less than the $60k on wireless systems that have a finite lifespan.

Could be as little as $15k, could be as much as replacing your entire sound system if you've got significant feedback potential on stage that cannot be corrected through tuning the system and reaiming speakers.
 
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TimmyP1955

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Indianapolis
I've been very happy with the theater's 100G3 units (16). However the ULX-D has some great features, especially the auto transmitter gain function.
 

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