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(Much) Better Than OK: Recent Microphone & Wireless System Advances

A look at some of the latest offerings and developments in microphones and wireless systems for the live stage.

By Craig Leerman October 10, 2017

A member of the Telefunken DC6 Drum Pack at work.

Quality sound reinforcement starts by choosing microphones that work well for each particular application and then placing them optimally to catch the intended targets (sources) while rejecting other sounds.

For audio techs working with the same band/artist regularly, this is usually relatively easy to accomplish due to familiarity, but it can be a tougher task for freelancers as well as those of us (like me) working with regional companies that see a different act almost every show/event.

The rider (if we even get one) might provide some clues or ask for specific models, but for most dates we tend to go with favorite mics and placement options that have proven to work well over time.

However, we should be aware of new tools that can help deliver improved results, so with that in mind, here are some recent developments in mics and wireless systems that have caught my eye over the past year or so, including a few that I’ve had a chance to Road Test.

Audio-Technica ATM350a

The recently debuted Audio-Technica ATM350a is a compact instrument mic measuring just 1.5 inches long and .5 inch wide.

It’s designed to work with its proprietary UniMount components on just about any instrument. Mounting options include using a 5- or 9-inch gooseneck connected to a universal instrument clamp, drum clamp, woodwind strap, violin strap and a magnetic base.

Point Source Audio CO2-8WL

The cardioid design has a stated frequency response of 40 Hz – 20 kHz and an impressive SPL rating of 159 dB. And, the in-line power module includes a switchable 80 Hz high-pass filter. (See Road Test, January 2017 LSI, for more.)

New from Point Source Audio is the CO2-8WL, a dual omni lavalier that houses two separate mics in a single body, providing a built-in backup. The cable terminates into two ends supporting separate wireless transmitters.

The paired elements are factory matched in frequency and sensitivity so that when the backup is initiated, any difference in audio performance is nearly undetectable. IP57 waterproof, it has a stated SPL of 136 dB and a frequency response of 20 Hz – 20 kHz, and is available in beige, brown or black along with hardwired terminations for Shure, Sennheiser and Lectrosonics wireless transmitters.

Electro-Voice ND96

The Electro-Voice ND Series is the latest iteration from the company that was the first (almost 30 years ago) to incorporate neodymium in microphone magnet structures.

Earthworks DM20 DrumMic

The new series is comprised of four instrument and four vocal models. I covered the flagship ND96 dynamic vocal mic in a Road Test (April 2017 LSI), and it’s outfitted with a 2-position vocal presence emphasis switch that has a flat setting and a presence booster setting that reduces certain low-mid frequency areas and emphasizes key upper-midrange areas.

Stated frequency response is 140 Hz – 15 kHz, with an SPL spec of greater than 140 dB.

Just now making its debut is the new Earthworks DM20 DrumMic, a cardioid condenser for close miking toms and snare. Stated specifications include a 150 dB SPL rating and 50 Hz – 20 kHz frequency response.

A right-angle facilitates precise positioning, while the stiff yet flexible gooseneck is engineered to stay put. The included RM1 RimMount provides mounting directly on the rim.

The company has also announced revamped CloseMic Kits that package DM20 mics with RM1 RimMounts, windscreens and a carrying case, with three options offered.

Staying with drums, last year Telefunken assembled the three options of its Dynamic Series line in combination with two matched small-diaphragm FET condensers, and packaged them as the 6-microphone DC6 and the 7-microphone DC7 Drum Packs.

Each mic set consists of the M82 for kick drum duties, the M80-SHB on snare, the M81-SH for toms, and the M60 FET cardioid for cymbals or overheads. Both the DC6 and DC7 Packs ship in heavy-duty hard shell HC87 flight cases and include multiple drum mounts (M782, M784 and M785), as well as an SGMC-5R 5-meter XLR cable with right angle female connector for each mic in the set.

Changing Gears

Let’s switch over to wireless systems for a bit. Audix recently debuted the new Performance Series, which I had the opportunity to check out in a Road Test (July 2017 LSI). There are actually two different series, the R40 and the R60. Both offer single- and dual-channel receivers, one-touch auto scan searches for clear channels, as well as one-touch sync that links the transmitter to the receiver via infrared beam.

The 40 Series offers 32 MHz wide spectrum tuning, 106 pre-coordinated frequencies, a stated 300-foot operating range, and up to 16 systems can be used simultaneously. Meanwhile, the 60 Series has 64 MHz wide spectrum tuning, 207 pre-coordinated frequencies, a specified 450-foot operating range, and up to 24 systems can be used at once.

Audix Performance Series

Bodypack transmitters can be utilized with lav, headworn, or instrument mics as well with electric guitar and bass. Handheld transmitters have removable capsules, with OM2 and OM5 dynamics as well as the VX5 condenser as options.

MIPRO TA-80

Brand new from MIPRO is the TA-80, a digital plug-on wireless transmitter with a balanced XLR input for use with a wide range of conventional mics. It’s compatible with the company’s ACT-8 Series receivers.

The transmitter has eight gain levels and offers selectable 12- or 48-volt phantom power that can be switched off for use with dynamic mics. A backlit LCD displays all operation parameters and a lithium battery facilitates 5 to 8 hours of continuous use per charge.

Shure’s been exceptionally busy on the wireless side of things, most recently announcing the Axient digital wireless system with a receiver that is compatible with two transmitter offerings, the AD Series and ADX Series.

AD Series transmitters deliver digital audio and networking, while ADX Series transmitters incorporate ShowLink that provides real-time control of all parameters with interference detection and avoidance. The ADX Series also includes the micro-bodypack with an integrated self-tuning antenna.

Shure’s AD Series and ADX Series

Also this year from Shure are new GLX-D Advanced Digital Wireless products that include Frequency Manager, a rack-mount receiver system, remote antennas, and accessories. Frequency Manager is designed to allow users to operate up to nine simultaneous systems in typical conditions (11 channels in optimal conditions).

On the microphone side, many of you likely noted when Shure debuted the KSM8 DualDyne cardioid vocal mic last year. It’s equipped with dual ultra-thin diaphragms and a reverse airflow technology that’s designed to provide control of proximity effect and presence peaks while helping to tame bleed. (See Road Test, October 2016 LSI, for more.)

And, the company just released the Super 55-BLK, a limited-edition, all-black unit sporting the styling of the classic model 55. The dynamic, supercardioid mic has a stated frequency response of 60 Hz – 17 kHz.

Lectrosonics SRAES3

Lectrosonics churns along with a steady stream of developments, including the new SRAES3 bottom plate adapter for all SR Series dual-channel slot wireless receivers. It provides audio in the following formats: AES3 digital audio at 48 kHz sampling with an internal clock; AES3 digital audio with an external word clock at 44.1, 48 or 96 kHz sampling; and balanced analog audio from -50 dBu to +5 dBu in 1 dB steps.

One or two channels of digital audio are delivered from the CH1 jack, while the CH2 jack delivers analog audio at all times. The standard multi-pin interface and mounting holes are the same on all SR Series receiver output adapters.

JTS UF-20

JTS has come out with the flagship UF-20, a 2-channel wireless system operating in the UHF band (530 – 605 MHz) that’s offered in a number of component configurations. The dual-channel UF-20R receiver is housed in a 1RU package (a single-channel receiver, the UF-20S, is also available).

The handheld JSS-20 transmitter is outfitted with a dynamic, cardioid capsule that’s interchangeable with other JTS capsules, including the new TC-22 condenser cardioid as well as the standard Shure SM58 wireless capsule.

There’s also an adapter ring for Sennheiser capsules. Meanwhile, the UF-20TB bodypack offers a standard TA4F pinout for connecting lavalier or headworn condenser mics; JTS has a variety of options to choose from, ranging from omni lavs to cardioid headsets. (See Phil Garfinkel’s Road Test, May 2017 LSI, for more.)

Getting Small

Noted for miniature mics as well as DI boxes, Countryman last year unveiled the A3 Series. This line of gooseneck podium mics is available with omnidirectional, cardioid, hypercardioid or selectable patterns, and each is also available in 12-, 18- or 24-inch lengths.

Countryman A3 Series

The omni model has a stated frequency response of 60 Hz – 18 kHz, while response is 70 Hz – 16 kHz for the directional models. All offer SPL handling stated as greater than 130 dB. And, the selectable models are outfitted with a recessed switch.

DPA Microphones, celebrating 25 years in the business, recently came out with two more limited-edition commemorative kits, each containing a matched pair of mics.

One kit includes the first omnidirectional model in the company portfolio, the d:dicate 4006A, as well as the new d:vice MMA-A digital audio interface. The second kit includes DPA’s first cardioid model, the d:dicate 4011A, also accompanied by a MMA-A interface. Each kit also includes two d:screet miniature mics, and they’re supplied in a numbered aluminum suitcase with the 25-year logo engraved.

DPA’s d:screet mini 4071

In addition, DPA has launched a miniature omnidirectional line called the d:screet Series, with a notable aspect being Kevlar reinforced cables with reliefs built to withstand the constant twists, bends and pulls that are part of everyday use with small mics.

AKG D112 MkII

AKG recently announced an upgraded version of the popular D112, with the D112 MkII retaining the sonic characteristics of the original while adding an integrated, flexible mount that provides positioning versatility.

It retains a 20 Hz – 17 kHz frequency response tailored for kick drum and bass, along with SPL capability of more than 160 dB. The diaphragm has a very low resonance frequency that delivers a solid response below 100 Hz.

Mojave Audio MA-100

While Mojave Audio offers mostly large-diaphragm mics more suited for the studio, I’ve found the MA-100 small-diaphragm condenser to be a very good choice in the live realm on a variety of instruments, ranging from piano to percussion.

It offers interchangeable cardioid and omnidirectional capsules, stated SPL handling of 130 dB, and frequency response of 20 Hz – 20 kHz. Also onboard are a hand-selected, 3-micron-thick diaphragm and a Jensen transformer. (These mics are available in matched pairs as the MA-100SP.)

Neumann KM 184

Neumann produces some high-quality smaller diaphragm designs that deliver excellent results on live stages.

The modular KM A/KM D miniature mic system is a further development of the KM 100 Series, with a newly developed passive capsule available with eight different directional characteristics, including Figure-8, wide-angle cardioid, cardioid, cardioid with acoustic bass roll-off, hypercardioid and three different omnidirectional options. All have stated SPL handling of 138 – 150 dB and frequency response of 20 Hz – 20 kHz.

Finally, not all gigs feature bands or singers – corporate meetings and presentations are a big part of pro audio as well, with Sennheiser offering the SpeechLine digital wireless system that’s optimized for these type of events.

Sennheiser SpeechLine

Operating in the 1.9 GHz band, it has proprietary Automatic Frequency Management as well as 256-bit AES encryption.

Systems can be networked, and the company just announced an update to the Control Cockpit software that shows all relevant status information at a glance and allows setting adjustments for one or multiple devices at the same time.

Transmitters include table stand, handheld and beltpacks and the SL Boundary 114-S DW designed specifically for conferencing.

 


About Craig

Craig Leerman
Craig Leerman

Senior Contributing Editor, ProSoundWeb & Live Sound International
 
Craig has worked in a wide range of roles in professional audio for more than 30 years in a dynamic career that encompasses touring, theater, live televised broadcast events and even concerts at the White House. Currently he owns and operates Tech Works, a regional production company that focuses on corporate events based in Reno.
http://www.techworksvegas.com

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