Manufacturers of wireless audio systems and products have been forced to adapt to a moving target for more than a decade now as the available spectrum allocated to professional audio keep shrinking and shrinking amid an increasingly crowded consumer wireless market. These discussions take place in Washington, D.C. and around the world. The discussions among manufacturers tend to focus on where to direct the product line.
New, complete wireless mic systems don’t come out every year, so when Sennheiser develops the 6000 Series or Shure introduces Axient Digital, there will certainly be continual updates in firmware and software—but users can’t expect a groundbreaking new line every year. To fill the gaps, these companies might add accessories, related products or partnerships, a downmarket, lower-cost line, or maybe a Dante partnership.
In the following post, Mix focuses on the major professional audio wireless system manufacturers and their recent introductions, whether in systems or new products. It is by no means a comprehensive list of wireless offerings. We encourage all those looking to update or change their touring, installed or portable rigs do their own research. There are a lot of options out there!
AKG DMS800 Reference Digital Wireless
The DMS800 reference digital wireless microphone system is designed to provide accurate signal transmission and reliability in theaters, conferences, live productions and tour sound applications. It is the direct successor of DMS700 V2 and offers everything that made its predecessor an outstanding performer. The DMS800 provides two digital audio outputs—for Dante and AES/EBU. The design and mechanics of the DHT800 handheld transmitter have been improved and microphone heads are now exchangeable between the AKG D5 WL1, D7 WL1 and C5 WL1. Additionally, the mute switch of the transmitters can be set to work as power switch.
The system touts a 150 MHz ultrawide frequency range to handle crowded environments; 512-bit encryption for ensured security; two balanced XLR, two unbalanced 1/4-inch jack connectors, and AESEBU output and DANTE outputs. An optional network remote control allows frequency coordination and monitoring of multichannel systems by PC software Audio Architect, Apple iPhone/iPad/iPod or Soundcraft Vi consoles.
Audio Limited A10 Digital Wireless Microphone System
The A10 Digital Wireless System is designed for the technical demands and requirements of today’s RF-hostile, multichannel productions. The A10-TX portable transmitter and A10-RX receiver provide users with broadcast-quality audio using proprietary digital RF topology and Advanced Digital Diversity The result is a wireless link with full 20 kHz audio bandwidth, high dynamic range, ultra-low distortion and an extremely low 2 millisecond end-to-end delay. The A10 Digital Wireless System operates in the 470 MHz to 694 MHz UHF band and up to 20 A10 Digital Wireless Systems can operate simultaneously in a single 8 MHz TV channel.
The A10-TX transmitter includes a built-in digital recorder and high-precision timecode generator, recording timecode-stamped files to removable microSD cards It includes low-noise, studio-grade balanced input for microphones and line level inputs with analog limiter and 48 V phantom power. The A10 RX True Diversity Receiver includes four complete digital receiver circuits (two per channel), with the Advanced Digital Diversity System selecting the receiver with the best RF signal and combining weak signals. The A10- Rack 4-slot wireless receiver rack system includes 8-channel Dante capability, AES and analog outs, built-in power and antenna distribution, antenna loop-thru for 16-channel setups, 4-pin DC XLR input, and a USB serial port for firmware updates.
Audio-Technica 3000 Series, 4th Generation
The Audio-Technica fourth-generation 3000 Series wireless systems have an operating range of 300 feet and are available in two frequency band—DE2 (470–530 MHz) and EE1 (530–590 MHz)—that provide a class-leading 60 MHz tuning range, which is more than twice that offered by the previous 3000 Series models. Available system configurations feature an ATW-R3210 receiver or an ATW-R3210N network-enabled receiver, along with an ATW-T3201 bodypack or ATW-T3202 handheld transmitter. The ATW-T3201 is equipped with Audio-Technica’s new rugged cH-style screw-down 4-pin connector for secure connection to A-T’s cH-style lavalier and headworn microphones, or cables. The ATW-T3202 comes with either an ATW-C510 dynamic or ATW-C710 condenser interchangeable cardioid capsule, and its industry-standard thread allows for the use of four additional A-T capsules, plus other compatible capsules. 3000 Series network-enabled systems offer the same features and configurations as the standard systems along with network monitoring and control via Audio-Technica’s Wireless Manager software. Each network-enabled receiver also comes with an AT8631 joining plate.
Clear-Com FreeSpeak Edge Digital Wireless Intercom
At AES 2019, Clear-Com announced FreeSpeak Edge, the latest addition to its industry-leading FreeSpeak family of digital wireless intercom systems. FreeSpeak Edge incorporates recent technology advances that led the company to develop an all-new 5 GHz chipset that features an exclusive radio stack development that has been optimized for intercom. FreeSpeak Edge also leverages state of the art audio-over-IP developments in its architecture, utilizing AES67 connections between the transceivers and the host intercom frame for increased flexibility.
The 5 GHz band is ideal for large-scale communications, as it can be managed with frequency coordination for reduced interference and offers the widest range of RF channels available. FreeSpeak Edge delivers clear 12 kHz audio with ultra-low latency and is highly scalable with the technology and bandwidth to support over 100 beltpacks and 64 transceivers. It can be combined seamlessly with FreeSpeak II 1.9 GHz and 2.4 GHz systems, providing three bandwidths across a single unified communications system.
Lectrosonics D Squared Digital Wireless Microphone System
The D Squared digital wireless microphone platform, introduced in June 2019, utilizes the Lectrosonics fourth-generation digital architecture for excellent flexibility, ultra-fast setup, studio quality audio and ultra-low latency. The system includes the DSQD 4-channel digital receiver, DBu digital belt pack transmitter and DHu digital handheld transmitter. System features include 24-bit, 48 kHz digital audio, 2-way IR sync, three different encryption key policies, and a tuning range from 470–608 MHz (470–614 MHz for export versions). The DSQD digital receiver is a 4-channel, half-rack design with high-resolution color display, analog or Dante digital outputs, and rear BNC antenna ports with “loop-thru” buffered BNC outputs to another receiver. The DSQD is compatible with the latest Lectrosonics all-digital transmitters, including the DB Series and DHu, the stereo DCHT, and the half-rack M2T. The DSQD is also backward-compatible with any Digital Hybrid Wireless transmitters. Three different receiver diversity schemes can be employed depending on the needs of the application, including switched (during packet headers for seamless audio), Digital Ratio Diversity, or Digital Frequency Diversity. Continuously tunable tracking filters ensure excellent RF performance even in difficult environments.
The DBu belt pack and DHu handheld transmitters include specially developed, high-efficiency digital circuitry for extended operating time on two AA batteries and offer RF power selections at 25 and 50 mW. The pure digital architecture enables AES 256-CTR encryption for high-level security applications. The DBu beltpack unit features a removable antenna with SMA connector, and incorporates the standard Lectrosonics TA5 connector with servo-bias input for compatibility with a wide range of lavaliere mics, dynamic mics, and line level sources. The DHu handheld transmitter is compatible with the Lectrosonics HHC cardioid condenser capsule and can also be used with a wide range of microphone capsule heads incorporating the standard 1.25-inch opening and 28-thread pitch. System performance: audio frequency response is 20–20 kHz, ±1 dB, with dynamic range of 108 dB and THD+N of 0.05% at 1 kHz, –10 dBFS. Latency is 1.4 ms, transmitter input to analog output, using a digital transmitter, and <2.9 ms with any Digital Hybrid Wireless transmitter.
Pliant Technologies MicroCom Digital Wireless Intercom
Earlier this year, Pliant Technologies debuted its latest digital wireless intercom systems, MicroCom M and MicroCom XR, emphasizing the systems’ simplicity, solid performance and low cost, with operation available in the 2.4 GHz and 900 MHz (where legal) bands. MicroCom M is a single-channel system that features 10-hour lithium ion battery operation and can handle up to five full-duplex users. MicroCom XR is a robust 2-channel intercom system that provides extended range and a 15-hour (field-replaceable) battery, as well as the ability to have up to 10 full-duplex users. MicroCom XR features an easy-to-read OLED display, and an optional I/O feature for connection to existing intercom systems, drop-in charger and is IP67-rated.
Sennheiser EM 6000 Dante Dual-Channel Digital Receiver
For decades now, Sennheiser has been at the forefront of development in wireless technologies, with a lineage that includes the 2000, 6000 and 9000 Series, to go with its acclaimed Evolution Series. The 6000 Series has been on the market for a few years now, but the company recently introduced Dante capability with the EM 6000 Dante 2-channel wireless receiver. With a super-wide switching bandwidth (244 MHz), engineers will be able to find a reliable transmission path in any environment, with a boost in audio quality from the 6000 Dante’s Long Range mode. High intermodulation resistance allows users to scale up to eight receivers cascaded from one antenna pair. The built-in Audinate Brooklyn II Dante card allows for integration with any Dante digital audio network. It is compatible with standard Sennheiser UHF antennas and with Digital 9000 transmitters in Long Range mode. I/O includes balanced XLR and 1/4-inch analog outputs, AES digital output, and word clock in and out, and it works with Sennheiser’s Wireless Systems Manager software.
Shure Axient Digital Wireless System
Shure was rumored to be getting ready to make a big announcement at this month’s canceled NAB Show, and we will cover that in the months ahead. In the meantime, the introduction of Shure Axient Digital a couple years ago was huge, and its rapid acceptance in high-end touring, broadcast and installations has proven its quality. The ADX series offers the ADX1 and ADX2 bodypack and handheld transmitters, ADX2FD frequency diversity handheld and ADX1M, the first micro bodypack with an internal self-tuning antenna. ShowLink-enabled transmitters offer real-time remote control plus automatic interference detection and avoidance. ADX series transmitters are compatible with the Axient Digital receiver platform, allowing for hardware scalability. All units feature pristine digital audio via Dante/AES67 and AES3, with a 20 Hz to 20 kHz range and a flat frequency response and accurate transient response. Axient Digital also boasts wide dynamic range, AES-256 encryption and an impressive 2ms latency from the mic transducer to the analog output.
Zaxcom MRX414 4-Channel Module Receiver
Zaxcom, led by founder Glenn Sanders, has proven quite innovative over the years, developing a solid reputation at the high end of film and television production sound. Zaxcom was also at the forefront of the introduction to digital wireless systems, and at AES in October 2019, the company announced the launch of the MRX414 4-channel module receiver to its Digital Recording Wireless line. A fourth-generation receiver (follow-up to the QRX212), the new MRX414 is a module style receiver compatible with the Nova mixer/recorder, RX-12 and RX-12R. The UHF diversity receiver utilizes the High Q tunable tracking front end filter within its host device to combat interference and extend range. The module is compatible with any Zaxcom digital recording wireless transmitter and, with all current Zaxcom modulations (Mono, Stereo, XR and ZHD96), sets a new standard for RF performance. When paired with the Zaxcom Nova recorder/mixer, two of these modules will allow the Nova to receive audio from eight separate transmitters in a single unit that weighs just 3.7 pounds.
The ultra-low noise floor (–135 dB) RF design will provide ultra-long range. The MRX is almost impossible to overload, as close-distance transmitters have virtually no effect on the reception of distant transmitters. The RF performance exceeds the previous generation of Zaxcom receivers by 5 dB while enhancing the rejection of interfering signals from things like walkie-talkies, cell phones and HD Television transmission by 10 dB.
The MRX414 can be ordered in one of three configurations: MRX414-L covers blocks 20–23 (512–614 MHz); MRX414-M covers blocks 21ish–25ish (550–660 MHz); and MRX414-H covers blocks 23–26 (596–698 MHz).