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Wireless Audio 2019: New Systems, New Products

No market segment has to stay on its toes and continually innovate like the manufacturers of wireless audio systems and products.

No market segment has to stay on its toes and continually innovate like the manufacturers of wireless audio systems and products. Under a nearly decade-long frequency/bandwidth siege and seizure from the FCC, these companies have had to adapt their technologies continually, while all the while lobbying legislators for protection from consumer devices.

Just two weeks ago, as we were going to press, Joe Ciaudelli of Sennheiser—who, along with Mark Brunner from Shure and Karl Winkler from Lectrosonics, among others, has been tireless in his efforts to explain to Congress the importance of maintaining reserved spectrum for audio—sent out an urgent plea to submit comments regarding a proposal he and others sent to the FCC to “work toward regional or global harmonization of ‘PMSE’ spectrum at the 2023 World Radiocommunication Conference (WRC-23).” The public call for comments finally came from Congress, with a one-week deadline. That is the life they live in.

Still, the following companies have been busy with technology introductions over the past 18 months. All will be exhibiting at NAB from April 8-11.

AKG DMS100, DMS300 Wireless Systems

24-bit/48 kHz Operation, 256-Bit Encryption in 2.4 GHz Band

At CES in early January, Harman Professional Solutions announced new AKG DMS100 and DMS300 professional digital wireless systems operating in the 2.4 GHz range with advanced security features and extended battery life. The 8-channel DMS300 and 4-channel DMS100 are available in two configurations: a high-quality, AKG handheld microphone; or an instrument- or headset-ready bodypack. Offering 24-bit/48 kHz uncompressed audio coding, ultra-low latency and signal security provided by AES 256-bit encryption, DMS systems were designed for intuitive operation, with pushbutton channel pairing and color-coding for easy identification. DMS handheld transmitters feature an authentic AKG microphone capsule; the bodypack is instrument ready or can be used with optional AKG headsets or clip-on mics. The systems are expected to be available in Q2, 2019.

Audio Limited A10-RACK

Partnership with Sound Devices Includes Dante Integration

Good things typically emerge when two leading and complementary manufacturers get together. Sound Devices has jointly worked with DPA and Lectrosonics recently and now has teamed with Audio Limited on the latter’s advanced A10-RACK with Dante. The 1RU enclosure accepts four slot-in wireless receivers and features built-in power and antenna distribution, plus Dante for up to four 2-channel slot-in receivers, plus AES digital outputs, or analog outputs. It accommodates single-channel Unislot receivers and most 2-channel Superslot-compatible receivers, using the D-sub 25 pin interface. All eight channels of high-quality audio from the wireless receivers can be transported over a single CAT5 network cable to multiple destinations without any degradation or extra hardware. The A10-RACK also sports RF inputs with 12V powering of active antennas, plus loop-thru connections for adding another A10-RACK.

Audio-Technica M50xBT Wireless Headphones

Closed-Back Studio Quality for Casual, Bluetooth Listening

In early 2018, Audio-Technica released significant updates to its top-of-the-line 5000 Series wireless system for large-scale touring and installation. Among other updates, users could add a Dante output. But A-T straddles the pro and consumer worlds, and at NAMM this year the company showed a wireless version of its acclaimed MTH-50 studio headphone, this one more aimed at casual, but quality, listening. The closed-back ATH-M50xBT incorporates a 45mm large-aperture driver, with stated frequency range of 15 Hz–28 kHz, designed to deliver studio-quality sound. Rare-earth magnets and the company’s copper-clad aluminum wire voice coils are the same as those used in the original ATH-M50x, as are the fold-flat design with 90-degree swiveling earcups, and professional-grade earpads and headband. Controls mounted on the left earcup allow for easy handling of phone calls, music playback and volume adjustment. The ATH-M50xBT utilizes Bluetooth 5.0 and is compatible with aptX and AAC codecs. An internal battery provides up to 40 hours on a full charge (a USB charging cable is supplied).

Lectrosonics DCHT Portable Digital Stereo Transmitter

Third-Generation Design Adds Efficiency, Extends Operation

Lectrosonics makes quality products. They might cost more than some and be right in line with others, but you can count on the quality. When the company introduced the M2 Duet wireless digital in-ear monitoring system nearly two years ago, it was the culmination of nearly a decade of R&D. It was meant as an ecosystem, and the products would continually be refined. In late February, Lectrosonics introduced the DCHT portable digital stereo transmitter, which can go to camera and act as IFB transmitter when paired with the Duet M2R. The DCHT can tune across the available UHF TV band from 470.100 to 607.950 MHz, offering more than 6000 frequencies. The RF output can be set to 10, 25 or 50 mW, providing flexibility in terms of operating range for the intended application. The digital architecture allows for AES256-CTR encryption for applications where content security is a concern. The DCHT can be powered either with two AA batteries or with external DC using the optional LTBATELIM accessory.

Sennheiser XSW-D Wireless Digital System

2.4 GHz Operation with Multiple Options, Press-and-Play Operation

Sennheiser, like Lectrosonics and Shure, occupies the high-end of wireless audio systems for film, television, touring and event production, and has so for decades. So it’s always a benefit when such a company brings their technology developments down to the entry level. Users benefit. At NAMM 2019, Sennheiser introduced XS Wireless Digital (XSW-D), a flexible, easy-setup, in-and-out 2.4 GHz system that comes in four different packages: Portable, Lavalier, Interview and ENG. Each in the series new series consists of lightweight bodypack transmitters and receivers, lavaliers, plug-ons, handheld mics, and the option of either XLR, 1/4-inch jack, 1/8-inch mini jack, or a pedalboard receiver. The new XSW-D series also introduces one-touch operation. Pressing the button on both the transmitter and the receiver will power up and link both devices. One short click on any of the devices will mute the audio. Pressing and holding both buttons will power them down. The transmitter and receiver work for up to five hours on a single battery charge and can be recharged via USB.

Shure Axient Digital Wireless System

ADX Series Transmitters Now Available Globally

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. Still, it’s a system that must be continually refined; as an example, in late February the company announced that its new flagship ADX Series would be available worldwide. That’s a big deal in wireless. 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.

Wisycom MRK980 Ultra-Wideband Receiver

Switching Bandwidth Across VHF, UHF and 900 MHz Bands

Wisycom has been very active in the film, broadcast, event and theater markets lately, and at NAB this month will introduce its new MRK980 Ultra-Wideband True Diversity Receiver to the broadcast market. The 2-channel receiver features a remarkable 1090 MHz of switching bandwidth, covering VHF, UHF and 900 MHz bands in a single rackmount receiver. Working in conjunction with Wisycom LINEAR transmit technology, the system provides as many as 30 channels in one 6 MHz TV channel, with no intermodulation distortion from external signal processing equipment. The receiver’s DSP-FM technology also provides very narrow-band channel filters that yield 50 percent more band efficiency and 200- to 250-kHz channel spacing. The MRK980 also includes Dante compatibility, analog and digital outputs and Wisycom’s optional push-to-talk (PTT) function for offline communication to monitor engineers, performers, presenters and others on the network. The MRK980 includes a high-contrast OLED display and can be remotely controlled through an IP Network using Wisycom Manager 2.0.

Zaxcom ZMT3-Flex Wireless Transmitter

Designed for On-Field, On-Player Sports Production

Since 1986, Glenn Sanders has been innovating within the film and sound production communities, and his introduction of DEVA in the 1990s was groundbreaking. At the end of 2018 he introduced the ZMT3-Flex wireless transmitter, which was created to capture the on-the-field experience of professional sports. ZMT3-Flex is part of Zaxcom’s patented Digital Recording Wireless line that can transmit a fully encrypted digital audio signal while simultaneously recording the audio internally.

The ZMT3-Flex is constructed from a soft-yet-durable silicon rubber that allows the transmitter to bend and flex, providing an elevated level of safety for the professional sports player. The design also features rounded corners and is extremely thin at only 0.4 inches, and light at only 3 ounces. The unit is versatile, capable of transmitting audio from a single mono microphone or dual microphones in stereo through two microdot inputs. ZaxNet functionally allows control of the ZMT3-Flex remotely without removing the bodypack from the talent.