Wireless Small Budget Wireless Mics

CraneKid

New Member
Joined
Jan 17, 2019
Location
Wisconsin
Hi all! I'm new here, but happy to have found the place. I'm hoping you all can offer me some advice.

I run the sound and lights for a small, non-profit, children's theater. Our studio director recently approached me looking to possibly purchase some wireless mics (everything has been done with suspended mics previously).

We operate in a small auditorium (~300 seats, packed tight together) in a church basement. We do 2 shows a year, 2 performances per show. So we're looking for something inexpensive that will stand up to light use, but can be easily packed away and stored for 6 months at a time.

Small budget means the entire budget for props, theater staff, costumes for 45 kids, etc. is ~$5K. So anything we spend will require a special fundraising effort.

While I have experience working with wireless mics at previous theaters my daughter has done shows with, I've never been asked to source them before. What advice can you offer? Decent low budget brands? UHF vs higher frequencies? Pitfalls to avoid? Things to look for? Specific product recommendations? Anything you all can tell me would be appreciated.

Thanks!
 

FMEng

Well-Known Member
Fight Leukemia
Joined
Mar 31, 2008
Location
Tacoma, WA
The big question you have to answer is how many systems need to run together? Less expensive UHF and wifi band systems are more limited in how many will co-exist without interference problems.
 

CraneKid

New Member
Joined
Jan 17, 2019
Location
Wisconsin
The big question you have to answer is how many systems need to run together? Less expensive UHF and wifi band systems are more limited in how many will co-exist without interference problems.
FMEng - we are looking at an 8 channel setup. Enough so that the lead characters can be mic'd.
 

NickVon

Well-Known Member
Joined
Sep 4, 2009
Location
07003
This recommendation is not "BUDGET" in the traditional sense but Great value for dollar. I might recommend the JTS R-4 system. I recently bought a 4 channel system after using a rental system of the same type.
They run about 600$ per mic tx/rx pair (about what Sennheiser EW100's run) but you buy them groups of 4 (as there are 4 Receivers per 1u Rack height.) Some additional elements to use with the packs would be in order as I find there base lav's while sound fine, a little to large to use as hair/wig/cheek placement.
They have build in Power and antenna distribution.

I'd recommend the metal transmitters, the plastic ones are a little cheaper but also.....well plastic.

http://www.jts.com.tw/english/products/detail.php?fid=1&subid=6&pid=539
when you think about the cost of what RF combiners and such you'd need for 8 systems I think the R4 is a great value for money. (JTS is in part a OEM supply for Senneheiser, hence why there there metal handheld looks very similiar the EW100 series.)

From a Dealer in the USA you'd probably be able to get 2 (4 channel systems), with Metal transmitters and some 4000$ + 700$ (for (10) some mics from Bodymics.com)

I've only used the R4 system 3 times so far, and number 4 will be next week. But I like it so far.
If you have more to spend, and/or are able to haul around/store a larger less compact system, I'd recommend the Sennheiser EW 100 series as the high end consumer range low end pro gear.
 

Aaron Becker

Well-Known Member
Joined
Apr 27, 2016
Location
US - East Coast
I may sound a bit salty on the subject - but I would highly recommend saving money until you can afford proper wireless. That's ~ 1k / system. In the meantime, rent systems for the rest of your leads while you save up the money for the purchases. You'll be happier with systems that are solid and last 10 years instead of buying plastic crap that lasts 2 years and breaks.

For an 8 system rental 2x a year, I'd seriously consider renting, ESPECIALLY with the continuous threat of your "airspace" being cropped and reduced by the FCC auctions.

I'll second Nick's above suggestion of EW100 systems, I wouldn't be looking at anything LESS than this. Up until a few years ago I was very partial to Shure's ULX systems (now discontinued). I believe the ULX-D is the replacement, but the QLX systems would fit well too. Digital ensures it'll last more than 3-5 years before you lose those UHF frequencies. It allows room for expansion too.

The problem with the cheap systems is they work until they don't. They're spotty, range can be iffy, audio quality is medicore at best. It'll give you more headaches chasing problems than it's worth, and it doesn't impress those who vowed the money to you, and you're stuck with them and no chance of getting replacements. Wireless is truly the place even in lower-budget systems where you must spent the appropriate money for it to be worthwhile.
 

TimMc

Well-Known Member
Premium Member
Joined
Feb 15, 2017
Hi Crane-

The advice you're getting is spot on. Don't buy cheap crap with purpose-donated money because you'll be stuck with the crap far longer than it will work. Donors don't like seeing their contributions frittered away.

Gear like the JTS systems mentioned by @NickVon represent value by virtue of the accessories you don't have to buy in order to have a fully functioning system.

The comments about renting because of the FCC spectrum auction is kind of moot - the auctions were completed a year ago and all the frequencies that will be occupied by relocated TV stations are now known and in many markets the TV repack is in process or completed already. Your dealer or the manufacturers should be willing to help you purchase the right "band" for your locale.

And please, please, please avoid 2.4GHz products (Line 6, Senny and Shure and any lesser brands) because they'll work fine until 300 more 2.4GHz transmitters come into your venue (smart phones). Then you may or may not have a system where all your mics work....
 

Aaron Becker

Well-Known Member
Joined
Apr 27, 2016
Location
US - East Coast
The comments about renting because of the FCC spectrum auction is kind of moot - the auctions were completed a year ago and all the frequencies that will be occupied by relocated TV stations are now known and in many markets the TV repack is in process or completed already. Your dealer or the manufacturers should be willing to help you purchase the right "band" for your locale.
I respectfully disagree. For a system purchase that is being used 2x a year, that's maybe 8-10 uses before rumblings of ANOTHER FCC auction could take place. I'm aware of the current auction endings, but do you know how long it'll be until another one rolls around? I don't. Companies that are paying big money for that space are always going to be chomping at the bit to get more and more airspace, and buying something for that little use is not worth it and not well spent money in terms of protecting an investment.
 
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TimMc

Well-Known Member
Premium Member
Joined
Feb 15, 2017
I respectfully disagree. For a system purchase that is being used 2x a year, that's maybe 8-10 uses before rumblings of ANOTHER FCC auction could take place. I'm aware of the current auction endings, but do you know how long it'll be until another one rolls around? I don't. Companies that are paying big money for that space are always going to be chomping at the bit to get more and more airspace, and buying something for that little use is not worth it and not well spent money in terms of protecting an investment.
I agree that purchasing a competent system for only 2 uses a year is likely a bad investment, but not because of the FCC auctions to realign spectrum use and raise Congressionally mandated money for the US Treasury. Why? Because there is still spectrum that did not sell this time around in markets that aren't in the most populated areas, and G5 mobile wireless will not be in the 500 MHz band (the target for THAT use is currently undergoing reverse auction to vacate the spectrum).

Safe forever? Nope, not gonna claim that. Safe for the next 5-8 years? More likely.

And as a guy who supplies wireless microphone systems, well, my commercial interest says "sure, RENT!" :cool:
 

FMEng

Well-Known Member
Fight Leukemia
Joined
Mar 31, 2008
Location
Tacoma, WA
Anything is possible, but auctioning more UHF spectrum would be the end of broadcast television. I doubt the FCC or Congress would dare to go there because the backlash would be severe.

Right now they are looking in the other direction, which is the 4 GHz C band. It seems they think using communications satellites is obsolete. When the FCC set about finding how many receive-only earth stations are in use, they found many weren't registered. They opened a filing window and got thousands of new registrations. Hopefully that ends the nonsense, but the lawyers that run the FCC think the laws of physics are amendable.
 

TimMc

Well-Known Member
Premium Member
Joined
Feb 15, 2017
Anything is possible, but auctioning more UHF spectrum would be the end of broadcast television. I doubt the FCC or Congress would dare to go there because the backlash would be severe.

Right now they are looking in the other direction, which is the 4 GHz C band. It seems they think using communications satellites is obsolete. When the FCC set about finding how many receive-only earth stations are in use, they found many weren't registered. They opened a filing window and got thousands of new registrations. Hopefully that ends the nonsense, but the lawyers that run the FCC think the laws of physics are amendable.
About 30 years ago I was involved in a business that did ad hoc downlinks and turn-arounds. Lots of encrypted stuff (Oak ORION, mostly) for closed circuit prize fights, concerts, etc. All C-band back then, and ATT's Long Lines division was not our friend in several markets, especially downtown Kansas City, MO. For one event the primary transponder was chosen because it was the best signal at our location. Back up was so iffy we told the network it wasn't usable - it was interesting to watch unless you really want to see the show...

Another batch of work for the US Army's General Staff College had a downlink location a little further south and east of ATT and we had 3 transponders across 2 birds with sufficient signal integrity to decrypt. The irony was that after 6 weeks of this a corporal came out to the van and said "the Colonel needs to speak with you. Now." Rut Row, Scooby! "Boys, what did you hear and see?" (we were required to monitor the post decrypt video integrity before the signal went into their building). "A bunch of guys in Army uniforms talking and pointing at charts and stuff. We mostly had the volume turned down." "That's good enough. Carry on." Turns out almost everything required some level of sercurity clearance and Radar O'Reilly noticed on the last week of the gig. To this day I'm not really sure what any of it was about.

The gooder news: K-band and Ka-band birds have gotten better since those days. C-band requires bigger antennae that aren't popular with consumers and I think it's been at least 10 years since an all C-band bird was orbited.
 

FMEng

Well-Known Member
Fight Leukemia
Joined
Mar 31, 2008
Location
Tacoma, WA
True, most satellites are both C and Ku these days, but Ku is used for things where the occasional outage isn't painful. Ku is prone to signal fading due to heavy clouds layers and hard rain. C-band is still the primary distribution method for broadcast networks, both TV and radio. To this day, there are still plenty of stations located in places where fiber optic cable and high speed internet is unavailable. That leaves C-band. The nice thing is that digital coding has reduced the bandwidth needed for every feed. One satellite carries a whole bunch more traffic now than it did 25 years ago.
 

mbenonis

Wireless Guy
Administrator
Premium Member
Joined
Sep 1, 2003
Location
Chicago, IL
You might take a look at the Shure BLX line of mics. With the BLX4R receivers and some antenna distribution, you can remotely mount antennas and achieve pretty rock solid performance.
 
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CraneKid

New Member
Joined
Jan 17, 2019
Location
Wisconsin
Thanks everyone. I appreciate the advice. I'd never considered rental. The next question is, how do I find a place that rents systems near me (North East WI)? Or is this the sort of thing you rent online and it gets shipped to you?
 

Fountain Of Euph

Active Member
Joined
Dec 16, 2013
Location
Illinois
Clearwing in Milwaukee is a huge name. I would call up some theaters in Wausau, Appleton, Oshkosh, Stevens Point and Green Bay and see who they rent from. Also see if anyone from Local 470 can point you in the right direction.
 

Rod Reilly

Active Member
Joined
Apr 21, 2017
Location
New Jersey
Hi all! I'm new here, but happy to have found the place. I'm hoping you all can offer me some advice.

I run the sound and lights for a small, non-profit, children's theater. Our studio director recently approached me looking to possibly purchase some wireless mics (everything has been done with suspended mics previously).

We operate in a small auditorium (~300 seats, packed tight together) in a church basement. We do 2 shows a year, 2 performances per show. So we're looking for something inexpensive that will stand up to light use, but can be easily packed away and stored for 6 months at a time.

Small budget means the entire budget for props, theater staff, costumes for 45 kids, etc. is ~$5K. So anything we spend will require a special fundraising effort.

While I have experience working with wireless mics at previous theaters my daughter has done shows with, I've never been asked to source them before. What advice can you offer? Decent low budget brands? UHF vs higher frequencies? Pitfalls to avoid? Things to look for? Specific product recommendations? Anything you all can tell me would be appreciated.

Thanks!
Since my mics were mentioned, thought I wold reply. We specialize in situations like yours. We manufacture microphone elements (lavs, earsets, headsets) and rent wireless systems

While in theory I agree with most of the replies - I love my QLXD and ULXD systems, there is a polace for alternatives that don't break the bank and don't fail readily. To that end we have just released our own Wireless Systems - CA.81 - 1u box with 8 receivers, true diversity, balance XR outs, two available bands covering 480-580MHz, and we have had upto 4 systems wrking in non major metro areas with 26 channels playing nice at all times. We have had this unit in rental (both our own and some dealers around the US and Canaada for almost 2 years to test the durability of our design and as of Jan 1 we have made then available for sale - $2000 list for 8 channels - SLX audio and RF performance.

We also have some of the lowest rental prices available and we rent nationally - free shipping too.