Friday, January 20, 2012
Shure Unveils ULX-D Digital Wireless System
Shure Incorporated is introducing the ULX-DTM Digital Wireless system, offering unmatched sound quality, improved spectral efficiency, robust encryption, and intelligent rechargeable batteries for professional sound reinforcement applications. The system is designed for use in corporate, education, worship, and live performance facilities.
“Until today, digital wireless microphone users have had to accept trade-offs,” said Erik Vaveris, Category Director for Wireless products at Shure. “No digital wireless system has come close to meeting the performance standard set by Shure’s industry leading analog wireless product line - until now.”
The ULX-D system’s unprecedented combination of audio quality, signal stability, and spectral efficiency is driven by a unique digital wireless audio technology developed by Shure. “The result is a tremendous breakthrough in wireless audio quality,” said Vaveris. “This is the purest reproduction of source material ever available in a wireless system.”
The ULX-D system also raises the bar for spectral efficiency and RF signal stability. “The intermodulation performance of ULX-D enables a dramatic increase in the number of simultaneous active systems in one TV channel, making the most of the available spectrum,” said Vaveris. Up to 14 ULX-D systems can operate in one six MHz TV channel, making it easy to use, even in highly congested urban areas where open TV channels can be scarce. For applications where secure transmission is required during confidential meetings, the ULX-D system includes Advanced Encryption Standard (AES) 256-bit encryption for privacy.
While audio and RF quality are always paramount, wireless users are often frustrated by something more mundane: battery management. Based on the technology used in Shure’s Axient wireless system, the SB900 Lithium-Ion rechargeable battery pack provides ULX-D transmitters with up to 12 hours of performance time. Transmitters and receivers display remaining battery life in hours and minutes, accurate to within 15 minutes. The battery can be recharged at any time with no memory effect, and a complete discharge is never necessary. The SBC200 Dual Docking Charger recharges batteries while in the transmitter or out, and up to four chargers can be linked together and powered by one power supply. An SBC800 Eight-Bay Battery Charger is also available, and both chargers fit in a standard-size rack drawer for easy storage and transport. ULX-D transmitters can also run on standard AA batteries for up to 11 hours.
The Shure ULX-D Digital Wireless system is now shipping and available through authorized Shure resellers in numerous configurations with a wide range of Shure microphone options.
From its early beginnings as a manufacturer of phonograph cartridges, Audio-Technica has expanded over the years to become a leading innovator in the design of microphones, wireless microphone systems, headphones, turntables, phono cartridges and more.
A-T continues to advance the art and technology of electro-acoustic design with the manufacture of products for the professional recording, M.I., live sound, broadcast, fixed installation and consumer audio markets.
On this historic occasion, Audio-Technica is taking the opportunity to look back, with a view toward the future.
Audio-Technica was founded in 1962 by Hideo Matsushita, who introduced the company’s first phono cartridge that year. A-T soon gained a reputation for producing a range of high-quality, award-winning phono cartridges for some of Japan’s leading electronics companies, and expanded its facilities in 1963 and again in 1965 to its current address in Naruse, Machida, Tokyo.
In 1969, Audio-Technica began distributing an expanded range of products internationally, and in 1972, Audio-Technica U.S., Inc. was established in Akron, Ohio, moving to its current location in Stow, Ohio, in 1980.
In the 1970s and 1980s, Audio-Technica broadened its lineup to include products such as its groundbreaking VM Series dual-magnet phono cartridges; its ATH Series high-fidelity headphones; its first professional microphones, the 800 Series; and other innovations.
Of particular note was the launch of A-T’s compact UniPoint microphones, which changed the landscape of business presentations and other installed communications with their sleek profiles and high-fidelity audio. Audio-Technica also established divisions in Europe and Asia during this period.
In the 1990s, Audio-Technica continued to refine and diversify its product range, and its wireless microphone systems, microphones and consumer and professional headphones became industry standards for their exceptional performance, reliability and value.
A-T introduced the 40 Series microphones, making the pristine sound of studio microphones affordable for the first time ever. Today, the 40 Series represents a benchmark in studio microphones for leading producers and engineers, as well as high-profile artists in all genres of music, both in the studio and onstage.
Additionally, in 1993, Hideo Matsushita took the position of chairman, and Kazuo Matsushita became president of Audio-Technica Corporation, a position he still holds today.
Since the dawn of the new millennium, Audio-Technica has continued to introduce breakthrough products and systems.
In 2008, the company’s noise-canceling in-ear and over-ear headphones set new standards in environmental noise reduction and sound quality.
In addition, the company developed the digital SpectraPulse ultra wideband wireless microphone system, part of A-T’s Engineered Sound line of contractor-exclusive offerings, another successful area of focus for the company.
Other popular A-T products include the Artist Elite series of performance microphones, its 2000 and 3000 Series Wireless Systems, and its Artist Elite Wireless Systems, the 4000 and 5000 Series.
Today, Audio-Technica is the first choice for a variety of major artists including Kenny Chesney, Gwen Stefani, Jason Aldean, Justin Timberlake, Metallica, Linkin Park, Evanescence, Newsboys, Selena Gomez and many more. Audio-Technica products are used worldwide in numerous consumer and professional applications including live concert tours, broadcast and recording studios, corporate, government and house-of-worship venues, and in high-profile events such as the presidential debates, the GRAMMY Awards, CMA Awards and the Summer and Winter Games, and many others.
“We are extremely proud to mark Audio-Technica’s 50th anniversary,” states Phil Cajka, Audio-Technica U.S. [resident and CEO. “Throughout our history, A-T’s growth has been fueled by our customer-focused philosophy. The bottom line is, we are committed to being in tune with our customers and providing them with innovative, compelling products and outstanding customer service. At Audio-Technica, ‘always listening’ is much more than just a slogan. It’s how we do business.”
Go here for the chance to win an Audio-Technica 50th Anniversary Limited Edition product.
Revolabs Announces Online Training Courses For Wireless Systems
The new Revolabs Academy is a series of online training seminars designed to provide in-depth knowledge of the company’s family of wireless audio systems for unified communications.
“Over the past 18 months, we have conducted more than 25 day-long, on-site training seminars and the demand has far exceeded our expectations. Therefore, we’re moving the seminars online to extend this knowledge to an even wider audience and to offer more flexibility to our busy customers and partners,” says Eric Spata, director of global technical services for Revolabs. “Now, students can fit training into their schedules at their convenience, and we will be able to offer many more training sessions on a range of topics tailored to specific groups of users.”
Revolabs Academy training courses are open to all current Revolabs customers and end users as well as resellers, distributors, integrators, and consultants.
Courses will cover product-focused topics ranging from how to position and sell Revolabs systems, to how to troubleshoot and manage the installations.
Each course will be geared toward preparing students with the information they need to specify, install, and troubleshoot specific products in the Revolabs line, and gives them access to resources of which they might be unaware.
Most online courses may be started and finished at the student’s discretion, but some will be delivered in the form of scheduled webinars.
Upon completion of a certification, students will receive InfoComm International CTS Program Renewal Units (RUs) for industry certification renewal.
Go here for more information about Revolabs Academy, including upcoming courses and enrollment.
Reamping For Live? A Method Of Improving Electric Guitar Performance
Focusing on making the guitar wireless system sound smoother and more natural
The majority of electric guitar players will tell you that they much prefer the sound of “hard-wired” guitars versus going wireless.
When you “radio” a signal, there is not only a sense of disconnect, but the tone never seems quite right.
I noticed this years ago when testing a guitar splitter. One of our engineers sent me a prototype, and after a few minutes of testing, I called him up and said that it worked well but was not quite right.
He said, “what do you mean? It is class-A, 100 percent discrete, and has Jensen transformers. It’s perfect!” I replied that while it might be technically perfect, there was still something wrong.
Eventually, we figured out that it had to do with how the pickup was loaded, as well as how tube amps differ from solid state inputs. (This problem is not only common with wireless systems but all types of guitar signal buffers.)
Applying The Load
To solve the problem, we added a control that would enable the guitar tech to adjust the load so that the guitar would sound right. For this to work, the load needs to be applied directly onto the pickup.
In other words, if you connect the guitar to a buffer and then try to adjust the load, it will not work. This also means that it has no effect on active pickups.
When using a wireless system, the guitar is connected directly to the wireless transmitter, which then buffers the signal and sends it to the receiver.
Then, that output is either routed to the guitar amp, or a fridge full of pedals, or to the front of the stage so that it can go to the pedalboard and then back to the amp (Figure 1).
Figure 1 – A simple and then more elaborate approach to wireless guitar.(click to enlarge)
Because the wireless system is a buffer, the load must be placed in between the guitar output and the transmitter.
My company makes a device to do this called the Dragster. It’s designed to be attached to the guitar strap and then simply wired in series.
Even though this approach works very well, the last thing a guitarist wants is another widget on his strap.
A number of artists have also been implementing an old recording trick known as Reamping on the live stage.
Taking the output from the wireless receiver output and sending it through a Reamper. (click to enlarge)
When doing this in the studio, you basically take a dry track from the recording system, send it out line level to a Reamp device (“Reamper”), which then convert the balanced signal to an unbalanced one that is better suited for a guitar amp.
This enables the studio engineer to capture the performance and worry about getting the “ultimate” guitar tone later.
It works much the same for live. You take the output from the wireless receiver and send it through the Reamper to get the same effect (Figure 2).
By converting the signal, the wireless system sounds smoother and more natural. And when artists are happy, they perform better.
In The Field
Mix engineer Brad Baisley recently talked to me about his work with Reamping and related facets for noted country artist Clint Black, and he provided me with this overview:
“I started formulating my approach after a show where Clint expressed concern that his guitar tone was dull.
“The guitar tech, Kenny Barnwell, and I were also tired of battling noise emanating from the wiring to and from the pedal board. I knew that the 100 feet (each way) run of 1/4-inch cable was primarily to blame for both problems - not the modern RF equipment he was using.
“We added a Radial Headbone amplifier switching device that allows two different guitar amp heads to be used with a single speaker cabinet, and then also decided to try a Radial ProRMP Reamp box as well as an SGI interface to boost the signal.
“We were immediately happy with the result, both in terms of sonic quality and noise level. Clint noted that his guitar sounds much more natural, with smoother, more extended highs and fuller low end.
“Another bonus is these devices have XLR interconnects. If the 100-foot cable loom we built is ever too short, I can dig into our audio spares and help the techs extend the wiring with no loss. And, locking XLR connectors add a considerable amount of security.
Mix engineer Brad Baisley. (click to enlarge)
“The output on the Shure UR4D wireless receiver we use is 200 ohms, while pedals and amps are designed to see much higher impedance. The level of the output is also far higher than that of a guitar. This leaves you having to turn down the output on the receiver compromising on gain structure and signal-to-noise ratio. The Reamp solves this elegantly.
“We also often find that some local PA providers run cross-stage feeder on the downstage lip of the stage, so running long lengths of 1/4-inch cable parallel to it is just asking for noise issues. But with an all-balanced signal flow, that is now barely a concern.
“When setting up Reamping, first we make sure the levels on the wireless receiver are correct. The UR4D has a digitally controlled level trim (we have it set it at unity), and a Mic or Line level switch on the back for the XLR output (we set it to Line to send as hot of a a signal possible to the Reamp box). The companion UR1 beltpack transmitter has coarse and fine gain controls, and we also set these both at unity.
“With the pedalboard connected to the amp through the SGI, we then plug directly into the pedalboard input using a short 1/4-inch cable. We do a sound check of the guitar, using our ears (and maybe an SPL meter or VU meter on the console), evaluating the loudness of the guitar.
“After that, we plug the guitar into the wireless beltpack, and connect the pedalboard to the wireless receiver through the Reamp. The level on the Reamp is turned way down, and we slowly bring it up until it matches the level noted earlier.
“It’s a good idea to A-B back and forth several times to further dial in the level on the Reamp box. It puts us into a unity gain situation where the wireless (and cabling from it) will have the least effect on the guitar tone. We also have a Radial BigShot ABY bypass switcher on the pedalboard with a 1/4-inch plugged in and hidden under the pedalboard for a backup in case there are any issues with the wireless. It’s easily accessible and can instantly be activated using the switch.
“I’ve recently transitioned to a position doing monitors for Blake Shelton. We’re embarking on an eight-truck, full-production tour in 2012. During a recent production rehearsal, Blake’s tech and I revamped the instrument wireless setup, moving all of the Sennheiser inbound RF into racks and networking it for easy coordination.
“In order to move the amplifiers off the deck for a clean look, we implemented four sets of Radial SGI and ProRMP (as described above) for acoustic guitar, electric guitars, and bass. So far, so good!”
Peter Janis is president of Radial Engineering, which last year purchased the Reamp brand and patents from inventor John Cuniberti.
Lectrosonics Announces “Silent Booth” For Upcoming NAMM 2012 Show
In conducting demonstrations of the Quadra IEM (in-ear monitoring) system at the upcoming NAMM 2012 show in Anaheim, Lectrosonics notes that its booth - 6329 - will be an oasis of quiet amidst the usual show floor noise.
The use of the Quadra IEM will highlight the effectiveness of the product while simultaneously enabling the company to be a “good neighbor” to others in attendance.
Consisting of the M4R belt-pack diversity receiver and the M4T half-rack transmitter, the Lectrosonics Quadra IEM system features digital RF modulation, two or four channels of 24-bit/48 kHz digital audio, analog or digital inputs, and a unique mixing interface for users.
The Quadra system operates in the license-free ISM (industrial, scientific, and medical) band between 902-928 MHz and has a throughput latency of
<1 ms for the analog inputs.
Artists scheduled to appear at the Lectrosonics booth include Nashville guitarist Johnny Hiland, and late-night television's the James Douglas Show, among others. Visitors to the demonstrations can bring their own earbuds, or, earbuds will be provided by Lectrosonics.
“Noise has been an ongoing challenge for everyone at tradeshows, and this condition is only exacerbated during Winter NAMM,” notes Karl Winkler, director of business development at Lectrosonics. “With our Quadra, Lectrosonics is not only well positioned to demonstrate the capabilities of the system, doing so effectively enables us to avert being a contributor to the noise problem. We view this as a win-win situation for everyone. We encourage all music and audio professionals to stop by and see this equipment in action during the show.”
Shure Axient Wireless Delivers Success For Referees At Sun Life Stadium
Sun Life Stadium, home of the NFL Miami Dolphins and NCAA University of Miami Hurricanes, is located just a half-mile from the main “antenna farm” of transmitters for the city’s TV stations, creating potential for dropouts and interference that can plague wireless microphone systems serving referees.
“The referee solution we had in place, although operational, lacked resiliency,” notes Bryan Lykins, the team’s newly hired director of broadcast operations. “This is why we engaged Shure Axient. Their technology is impressive and offers what we need: a scalable, innovative and state of the art technology.”
At the time of our installation at Sun Life Stadium, Axient was in beta test. Working with Miami-based systems company Pro Sound and Shure market development manager Luis Guerra, Sun Life Stadium was able to use the technology throughout the season.
“The stadium was experiencing a lot of interference,” Guerra says. “With that much RF, even clean frequencies become noisy and non-linear, making conventional wireless unreliable. When the Axient team saw what a challenge it was, they set up Sun Life Stadium as an official beta test site.”
After extensive testing and installation of a passive antenna system to minimize outside interference, the Axient system was put to the test during a preseason Dolphins game against Dallas. The referee was outfitted with two Axient bodypacks connected to a WL184 unidirectional lavalier microphone via a custom toggle switch built by Pro Sound.
Axient handheld systems are also used for the national anthem and halftime entertainment.
“The first game was a total success,” says Lykins. “The sound quality was excellent and there were no dropouts on the referee’s mic. The system has been in use throughout the 2011 football season, including University of Miami home games, and the results have been impressive.”
Axient is designed to deliver clean, uninterrupted audio for mission-critical microphones, even in the presence of direct interference. The system constantly scans for problems and keeps a second, clean channel available. Using a data backchannel, Axient uses its unique frequency diversity feature to switch channels before interference becomes audible, either automatically or via manual alert. The system also precisely tracks battery life and can change output power remotely.
Doused with beverage during post game interview, system never hiccups
As any field production professional knows, electronics and liquids simply don’t get along very well. And yet, there are those occasions when the gear simply can’t avoid taking a hit.
Such was the case during a post game interview in August when the Houston Astros stunned the Chicago Cubs by coming behind with a major play in the bottom of the 9th inning.
As the team celebrated, a large beverage cooler had its contents emptied on the player who made the game winning hit—covering all who happened to be in the immediate vicinity, including the sports announcer and his Lectrosonics handheld microphone.
Houston, TX-based Jason Martin Audio provides a variety of services to the professional audio community, including equipment rentals and consulting.
Owner Jason Martin—an A1 with an extensive list of credits—regularly supplies Fox Sports Net, operator of regional sports networks for cable TV, with equipment for their televised sports events.
Over the years, he’s become a big fan of Lectrosonics’ Digital Hybrid Wireless technology and has acquired a large inventory of product for his rental business, including Venue receiver systems and SMQV Super Miniature transmitters. As part of this inventory, he routinely provides systems based upon Lectrosonics UCR411a receivers and UT400 transmitters.
For what was, unquestionably, the Astros’ most memorable win of an otherwise disappointing season, Martin placed two Lectrosonics UCR411a receivers, twoUT400 handheld transmitters, two T4 IFB transmitters, four R1a IFB receivers, and some ALP650 LPDA (Log Periodic Dipole Array) shark fin antennas with his client. It all worked beautifully, but there was some brief trepidation during the post game interview, as Martin described.
“In the bottom of the 9th inning with the team behind, outfielder Brian Bogusevic stepped up to the plate and hit a home run,” Martin explains. “The place went wild. Suddenly, the Astros came from behind and won the game 6-5. Then the real fun began.”
“During the post game interview with sports announcer Greg Lucas,” he continues, “Bogusevic’s teammates doused him—and the interviewer—with a huge cooler of Gatorade sports drink. The moment I saw this, I thought, ‘There goes that transmitter.’ Much to my surprise, after wiping himself off, Lucas held the UT400 back up and continued the interview. That mic never so much as hiccupped. The wireless gear kept right on working and the interview continued. We were all floored. This is a perfect example of why I specify Lectrosonics wireless equipment to my clients.”
There are, of course, times when the equipment does require service and, on that note, Martin is equally enamored with Lectrosonics’ customer and technical support services. “Lectrosonics is the best,” Martin reports. “When the FCC required the 700 MHz band to be vacated for HDTV, a lot of wireless equipment had to be re-banded. Lectrosonics was very helpful. The company performed the required servicing quickly and at a discounted price because they recognized there were a lot of people with this very same predicament. They’ve been just great to deal with.”
New Clair Wireless Antenna Deployed For 86 RF Channels At Rockefeller Tree Lighting Cerermony
“The trick was to zone out the receive antennas so that we had consistent coverage around the plaza without allowing the antennas to interfere with each other." - Josh Flower, Wireless First
The annual ceremony for lighting the Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree in late November had Wireless First, a Clair Global company, wrangling 86 channels of wireless that spanned a full city block.
The successful Wireless First package included the new CF 1090 Fractal Antenna, designed and manufactured by Wireless First/Clair Global and employing a self-similar antenna topology to deliver high gain across a wide, uniform coverage pattern using a small, camera-friendly housing.
“We had multiple stages all over the plaza, and we had to deliver 100 percent coverage with zero dropouts,” says Wireless First chief engineer Josh Flower. “The hosts were free to travel anywhere within that block, and an RF hit on such a high-profile show would be simply unacceptable.”
The 86 channels were divided among intercom, microphones (for performers and hosts), IFBs, and personal monitors. Live performers played on two stages, one on either side of the ice rink in front of the tree.
“The trick was to zone out the receive antennas so that we had consistent coverage around the plaza without allowing the antennas to interfere with each other,” explains Flower. “We set up three zones – one on 49th Street, one on 50th Street, and one in the Channel Gardens directly across from the tree – also using the same receive antenna system to feed both the intercom and the host microphones. That way, we knew anyone who had to transmit would do so to the same antenna system, ensuring the same range no matter what the device.”
Flower used Shure UA870 UHF active directional antennas for the receive side, taking advantage of its inline booster to compensate for line loss or even use line loss as an advantage to ensure that the antennas didn’t interfere with each other. On the transmit side, Flower flooded the area using the Clair Global CF 1090 Fractal Antennas.
“The CF 1090 is very consistent throughout its coverage pattern,” he says. “I was able to place them in more TV camera transparent locations and still guarantee perfect coverage. Even though we were in the heart of New York City, every aspect of the system ended up being tremendously robust.”
In total, three CF 1090s transmitted to 32 drops of wireless intercom, six IFBs, and sixteen channels of wireless personal monitors.
The show’s receiver and transmitter hardware was a mix of top-of-the-line Sennheiser and Shure products. The show hosts used Sennheiser SKM 5200 handheld wireless microphones.
Flower gave them Sennheiser SK 5212 lavaliers for backup and added a redundant receiver rack across from the tree (incidentally, the CF 1090s acted as the receive antenna for these 12 channels). Neither safeguard proved to be necessary.
The musicians switched between the two stages as needed to facilitate the show’s complicated logistics, and a collection of Shure UHF-R wireless microphones delivered the critical vocal inputs. On stage, Sennheiser 2000 and G2 Series wireless personal monitors were utilized.
Church Sound: Interfacing Microphones With Sound Systems
A look at phantom power and other output and impedance issues with microphones, in addition to a discussion of best mic cabling, connector and accessory practices
A key area of microphone use is the interface of the microphone with the sound system.
This primarily involves electrical considerations, so here are a few simple rules for proper interface based on the electrical characteristics of the microphone output and the sound system input, and on the requirements for cables and connectors to achieve maximum reliability.
All condenser type microphones require power for their operation. This is provided by an internal battery in some models, or by phantom power in others.
If a condenser is selected, care must be taken to assure that the appropriate power source (battery or phantom) is available. A battery-powered condenser is fine for applications such as portable recording, but phantom power should be used for any permanent micro phone installation.
Phantom power, sometimes called “simplex”, is provided through the microphone cable itself. It is a DC (direct current) voltage that may range from 9 to 48 volts, depending on the microphone requirement and the phantom power source rating.
This voltage is applied equally to the two conductors of a balanced microphone cable, that is pin 2 and pin 3 of an XLR-type connector. The voltage source may be either in the mixer itself or in a separate phantom power supply connected in line with the microphone cable.
Most recent mixers have phantom power built in, and the actual voltage will be stated on the mixer or in the operating manual.
The voltage requirement for a phantom-powered condenser microphone will also generally be stated on the microphone or in the manufacturer’s literature.
Some types, particularly those that are externally charged, may require a full 48-volt supply. Electret types, which have a permanent charge, will typically operate over the entire range from 12 to 48 volts.
Unless specifically stated otherwise by the manufacturer, these microphones will deliver their full performance at any voltage in this range, and further, they will not be damaged by a full 48-volt supply. Supplying less than the recommended voltage to either type may result in lower dynamic range, higher distortion, or increased noise, but this also will not damage the microphone.
Phantom power schematic. (click to enlarge)
Dynamic microphones, of course, do not require phantom power. However, many mixers have only a single switch that supplies phantom power to all microphone inputs, which may include some used by dynamic microphones.
The presence of phantom power has no effect on a balanced, low-impedance dynamic microphone. It is not possible to damage or impair the performance of a balanced microphone correctly hooked up to any standard phantom supply.
If a balanced microphone is incorrectly wired or if an unbalanced, high-impedance microphone is used, there may be a loud “pop” or other noise produced when the microphone is plugged in or switched on. In addition, the sound of the microphone may be distorted or reduced in level.
Even in these cases, the microphone will still not be damaged and will work normally when the wiring is corrected or the phantom power is turned off. If an unbalanced microphone must be used with a phantom-powered input, an isolating transformer should be inserted.
By the same token, it is also not possible to damage any standard phantom power source by improper microphone connection.
Good phantom power practices:
• Check that phantom voltage is sufficient for the selected condenser microphone(s);
• Turn system levels down when connecting or disconnecting phantom-powered microphones, when turning phantom power on or off, or when turning certain phantom-powered microphones on or off;
• Check that microphones and cables are properly wired.
Following these practices will make condenser microphone use almost as simple as that of dynamics.
Not Necessary Or Even Desirable
For the expected sound level, microphone sensitivity should be high enough to give a sufficient signal to the mixer input. In practice, most mixers are capable of handling a very wide range of microphone signal levels.
Occasionally, for extremely high sound levels, an “attenuator” may be necessary to lower the output of the microphone. These are built into some microphones and mixers. Otherwise, accessory attenuators are available that may be inserted in line with the microphone cable.
It has already been mentioned that balanced, low-impedance microphones are recommended for the majority of worship facility sound applications. This will allow the use of long microphone cables, and result in the least pickup of electrical noise.
In any case, the microphone impedance should be similar to the rated impedance of the microphone input of the mixer or other equipment. It is not necessary or even desirable to match impedances precisely. It is only necessary that the actual input impedance be greater than the microphone output impedance.
In fact, the actual impedance of a typical microphone input is normally five to ten times higher than the actual output impedance of the microphone.
The microphone input impedance of most mixers ranges from 1000 ohms to 3000 ohms, which is suitable for microphones of 150 ohms to 600 ohms.
When it is necessary to match a balanced, low-impedance microphone to an unbalanced, high-impedance input, or vice versa, transformers with the appropriate input and output connectors are readily available.
Transformers provide an impedance matching function and can also change the configuration from balanced to unbalanced as needed.
Ideally, transformers should be connected so that the bulk of the cable run is balanced, low-impedance, for maximum allowable length and minimum noise pickup. This would normally place the transformer at the connector of the unbalanced, high-impedance device.
Professional (and most semi-professional) equipment has balanced, low-impedance microphone inputs using 3-pin XLR-type connectors.
Less sophisticated musical instruments, consumer electronic products, computers and many portable recording devices typically have unbalanced, high-impedance microphone inputs using 1/4-inch phone jacks or 1/8-inch mini-phone jacks.
A few mixers offer both types of connectors for each input channel. Simple adapters may be used to mate different types of connectors if no configuration change (high/low impedance or balanced/unbalanced signal) is necessary. Use only high-quality connectors and adapters.
Phantom Power & Bias Voltage
In a condenser microphone, one function of the circuitry is to convert the very high impedance of the condenser element to a lower impedance.
For an electret condenser (the most common type), this is done by a single transistor. Some condenser designs, such as lavalier types or miniature hanging types, have their electronics separate from the microphone element.
In these models, the impedance converting transistor is built in to the microphone element itself. The main part of the circuitry is contained in a separate module or pack usually connected to the element by a thin shielded cable.
The main electronics of such designs operate on phantom power supplied through the microphone cable or by means of a battery in the pack itself.
However, the impedance-converting transistor in the microphone element also requires power in a form known as “bias” voltage. This is a DC voltage, typically between 1.5 and 5 volts. It is carried on a single conductor in the miniature connecting cable, unlike phantom power, which is carried on two conductors in the main microphone cable.
In addition, the audio signal in the miniature cable is unbalanced while the signal in the main cable is balanced.
This distinction between phantom power and bias voltage is important for two reasons. The first concerns the use of wireless transmitters. Body-pack transmitters which operate on 9 volt (or smaller) batteries cannot provide phantom power (12-48 volts DC). This prevents their use with phantom-powered condenser microphones.
However, the body-pack transmitter can provide bias voltage (1.5-5 volts DC). This allows a condenser microphone element with an integrated impedance-converting transistor to be used directly with a body-pack transmitter.
Miniature condenser lavalier types as well as other designs which have separate electronics can be operated with wireless systems in this way.
Picking Up Noise
The second reason concerns the wired installation of condenser microphones with separate electronic assemblies such as miniature hanging microphones for choir, congregation, or other “area” applications.
Since the audio signal in the cable between the microphone element and the electronics is unbalanced, it is more susceptible to pickup of electronic noise. This is particularly true for radio frequency noise because the cable itself can act as an antenna, especially for a nearby AM radio station.
For this reason it is strongly recommended to keep the length of this part of the cable as short as possible, preferably less than 35 feet. It is a much better practice to extend the length of the balanced cable between the electronics assembly and the mixer input.
Optimum microphone performance depends on the associated connectors and cables. In addition to quality connectors of the types described above, it is equally important to use high-quality cables.
Beyond the basic specification of balanced (two conductors plus shield) or unbalanced (one conductor plus shield), there are several other factors that go into the construction of good cables.
The conductors: carry the actual audio signal (and phantom voltage for condensers), usually stranded wire. They should be of sufficient size (gauge) to carry the signal and provide adequate strength and flexibility; use stranded conductors for most applications, solid conductors only for stationary connections.
The shield: protects the conductors from electrical noise, may be braided or spiral wrapped wire, or metal foil. It should provide good electrical coverage and be flexible enough for the intended use: braid or spiral for movable use, foil only for fixed use such as in conduit.
The outer jacket: protects the shield and conductors from physical damage, may be rubber or plastic. It should be flexible, durable, and abrasion resistant. Depending on the location it may need to be chemical or fire resistant.
Different color jackets are available and can be used to identify certain microphone channels or cables.
A large percentage of microphone problems are actually due to defective or improper microphone cables.
Microphone cables should be handled and maintained carefully for long life:
• Position them away from AC (electricity) lines and other sources of electrical interference to prevent hum;
• Allow them to lie flat when in use to avoid snagging;
• Use additional cable(s) if necessary to avoid stretching;
• Do not tie knots in cables;
• Coil loosely and store them when not in use;
• Periodically check cables visually and with a cable tester.
Individual, pre-assembled microphone cables are readily found in a wide variety of styles and quality. In addition, multiple cable assemblies, called “snakes”, are available for carrying many microphone signals from one location to another, such as from the sanctuary to the sound booth.
The use of only high-quality cables and their proper maintenance are absolute necessities in any successful worship facility sound application.
Range Of Accessory Options
Finally, the use of microphones for particular applications may be facilitated by microphone accessories. These are mechanical and electrical hardware items that are often used in mounting and connecting microphones.
Mechanical accessories include various kinds of acoustic devices such as windscreens and directionality modifiers. Windscreens, usually made of special foam or cloth, should be used whenever microphones are used outdoors or subjected to any air currents or rapid motion.
“Pop” filters are employed when the microphone is used close to the mouth, such as on lecterns or for handheld vocals.
These minimize noise caused by explosive consonants such as “p”, “b”, “t”, or “d”.
Although such filters are usually supplied with microphones designed for these applications, additional protection may be needed in some cases. Use only high-quality screens and filters to avoid degrading the sound of the microphone.
There are also directional or “polar” modifiers available for certain microphones that can change the pickup pattern form cardioid to supercardioid, for example, or from omnidirectional to semi-directional in the case of some boundary microphones.
Consult the manufacturer for proper use of these accessories.
A wide range of microphone accessories. (click to enlarge)
Mounting accessories are of great importance in many worship facility sound applications. Stands, booms, and goosenecks should be sturdy enough to support the microphone in the intended location and to accommodate the desired range of motion.
Overhead hardware, to allow microphones to be suspended above a choir, for example, must often include a provision for preventing motion of the microphone due to air currents or temperature effects.
Stand adapters or “clips” may be designed for either permanent attachment or quick-release. “Shock mounts” are used to isolate the microphone from vibrations transmitted through the stand or the mounting surface, such as a lectern.
In addition, there are a variety of signal processors which may be used directly in line with a microphone. These can range from simple low- or high-frequency filters to complete preamp/equalizer/limiter units, though most of these functions are normally provided by the mixer and subsequent elements of the audio chain.
Creative use of these accessories can allow microphones to be placed almost anywhere, with good acoustic results and with acceptable aesthetic appearance.
Band optimized for communications, wireless microphones, and wireless monitoring systems
Clair Global has introducied the CF 1090 Fractal Antenna for live entertainment applications worldwide.
The creation of the CF 1090 is a study in guided serendipity. In the summer of 2010, Clair Global acquired Wireless First. Both the company’s founder, Kevin Sanford and his chief engineer Josh Flower had been working on a new wireless antenna in their shop for several years.
Now, as part of the Clair team, they moved quickly to take advantage of Clair’s resources. The final element was the inclusion of Dr. Nathan Cohen, whose decades of experience as founder of Fractal Antenna Systems Inc. make him one of the world’s foremost experts on the technology at the CF 1090’s heart.
Using fractal technologies, whereby self-similar scaling of antenna elements both reduces housing size and increases frequency range, the CF 1090 is circular polarized and orientation insensitive and delivers superior performance despite a uniquely unobtrusive, camera-friendly design.
The CF 1090 delivers higher gain across a significantly wider and more uniform coverage pattern when compared to existing technologies. It is band optimized for communications, wireless microphones, and wireless monitoring systems.
At 15- by 15- by 2.7-inches and just four pounds, the CF 1090 is easy to mount in a multitude of ways. Bandwidth spans 470 to 928 MHz and half-power beam width measures 90-degrees.
Sanford notes, “The professionals of Clair Global face some of the most daunting and complex live sound RF system configurations in the industry. I’m pleased that the CF 1090 delivers the performance and flexibility required to confidently complete them.
“Moreover, its size makes it easier to place the CF 1090 in ideal locations without compromising sight lines or cluttering the stage.”
Sanford employed the new CF 1090 Fractal Antenna at the Christmas in Rockefeller Center Tree Lighting ceremony for NBC on November 30, where it was the main transmit antenna for 32 drops of wireless intercom, six IFBs, and sixteen channels of IEMs, as well as acting as receive antennas for twelve channels of redundant microphone receivers on 5th Avenue.
The same gear was featured at the CMT Artist of the Year Award television show in early December.
Hosa Technology Introduces Mogan Standard Omni Earset Microphone
Interchangeable cable system enables connection to most popular wireless transmitters
Hosa Technology has announced the introduction of Mogan Microphones, a new brand of subminiature mics, with the first offering under the new brand being the Mogan Standard omni earset microphone.
The new Mogan Standard omni earset mic is designed to deliver high-quality audio at a price that will appeal to budget-conscious presenters.
The new mic offers a 3.0 mm omni-directional capsule, with -45 dB nominal sensitivity, that is designed to be positioned near the corner of one’s mouth. It offers quality audio levels and delivers a natural, resonant sound.
The microphone is designed to be worn comfortably for hours, with a soft ear cushion concealing its fully-adjustable, sprung-steel (stainless) mechanism. It can be positioned on the left or right ear with solid stability and comfort.
An interchangeable cable system enables connection to most popular wireless transmitters, including models from Shure, AKG, Sennheiser, and Audio Technica. Each microphone ships with a detachable, Kevlar-reinforced cable with a hardwired connector.
The mic is available in either beige or black to blend with a variety of skin tones. Additionally, each unit includes a foam windscreen and a single mic clip. The entire package ships in a fabric-backed polyvinyl chloride (PVC) zippered case for heat resistance, durability, and ease of cleaning.
Jonathan Pusey, Hosa Technology director of sales and marketing, states, “The Mogan Microphones brand of subminiature microphones represents a significant step forward for Hosa Technology. “This is a new brand solely owned by Hosa and I’m encouraged by both the performance and value these new microphones deliver and the possibilities this new product line represents for us.
“As our first offering, the Mogan Standard earset model delivers impressive performance and comfort for an amazingly low price. I believe educators, business presenters, and others will find this earset microphone a compelling value.”
The Mogan Standard omni earset microphone is available now. MSRP is $200.
Lectrosonics Digital Wireless Facilitates Wireless Delay For Large Outdoor Sound System
Simplifies process of getting audio 400 feet to the delays...
For this year’s annual 4th of July celebration, the Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst facility - an amalgamation of the former United States Air Force McGuire Air Force Base, the United States Army Fort Dix, and the United States Navy Naval Air Engineering Station Lakehurst - celebrated in grand style with music, fireworks, and all the trimmings.
The task of delivering clear, intelligible audio across a massive field in the center of this sprawling base proved to be quite a challenge in past years, a challenge taken on this year by New Britain, CT-based independent audio engineer Bennett Prescott, working in conjunction with Farmingdale, NJ-based Asbury Audio.
Using a Lectrosonics TM400 Wireless Test and Measurement System utilizing the company’s proprietary Digital Hybrid Wireless technology to help calibrate the sound system and a D4 Digital Wireless System to eliminate cable runs between the mains and the delay system, the sound team achieved the clear, consistent sound coverage that had eluded other sound companies.
“We were tasked with providing sound across an enormous field,” explains Prescott. “The area measured roughly 500 feet wide by 1,500 feet in length. Up front, there was a mobile stage set up for live bands during the day and canned music that played during the fireworks show in the evening. The main loudspeakers consisted of ADRaudio L2821 line array systems—flown 12 elements per side and hung at approximately 40 feet with twelve ADRaudio JD21 subwoofers.
“The delay tower, which was positioned just over 400 feet out from the stage area, consisted of 10 EAW KF760 line array enclosures coupled with four KF730 compact line array modules suspended underneath and four ADRaudio ATA618C cardioid subwoofers for low frequency support. This single cluster was flown roughly 45 feet in the air.”
“I had no idea in advance where I would be able to place my delay hang or what my cable path would look like,” Prescott continues. “Because of these unknown variables, I wanted to simplify matters by using the Lectrosonics D4. This way, I could just drop a generator, place some amp racks, position my delay tower, and receive the PA signal wirelessly. With just under 400 feet from the mains to the delay hang, the D4 system performed flawlessly, and this distance speaks volumes about the D4’s range capability. I think it’s also important to note that the system accomplished this with the stock antenna.”
In addition to the D4’s range, Prescott was equally impressed with the system’s sound quality and its easy operation. “The D4 was incredibly easy to set up and operate and the sound quality was indistinguishable from wire,” he said. “I had to pad down the inputs on the transmitter a bit so as not to create any clipping with maximum signal from the mixing console and, after that, I was pretty much set up and ready to go. I did a frequency scan ahead of time to check for any conflicts in the 900 MHz range, but there were none, so this was effectively a set it up and plug it in affair. I had almost full signal strength right from the start—even with an obstructed line of sight to the transmitter.”
“A big part of our success on this project was being able to position the delay hang where it needed to be and not have to worry about the cable / transmission path,” Prescott concludes. “The D4’s ability to handle four channels of audio wirelessly with no loss over that great a distance made my life much easier. My array and subwoofer processing and delays were handled at the transmitter location and then fed wirelessly to the receiver and the loudspeakers so I didn’t have to worry about networking the remote location. With the TM400’s ability to wirelessly take the measurements I needed and the D4’s ability to feed the delay hang without a single wire, the setup was clean, much easier to get operational, and the sound quality was terrific. The Lectrosonics equipment really came through for us.”
Austin City Limits Keeps Rolling Along With Shure Microphones
Wide variety of mics deployed to capture eclectic performances
Now in its 37th season, the PBS concert series Austin City Limits has captured an incredible variety of artists from every corner of the musical spectrum.
Long-time audio director David Hough of originating station KLRU-TV, Austin PBS, notes that one constant across those decades of television’s longest-running music series has been the use of Shure microphones.
“For all 37 years I’ve been with Austin City Limits, we’ve always had Shure vocal mics downstage, and they’ve always worked great,” Hough notes. “I remember when we shot the pilot; the fellow we rented the PA system from brought a bunch of scratched-up Shure mics he had been using.
“We wanted a good look for television, so he hand-painted them with white epoxy paint. It was a different look, but of course they sounded fabulous. The SM58 is still one of our go-to vocal mics today. When you think about it, that’s pretty amazing.”
While the SM58 remains a constant, virtually everything else in the production of today’s Austin City Limits is thoroughly up to date. Taping has moved from Studio 6A at KLRU to a new venue, ACL Live at The Moody Theater, a state-of-the-art facility with great sightlines and more seating capacity for what has always been one of the hottest tickets in Austin.
Typically, the station does between 18 and 20 tapings to create the 13 one-hour shows that comprise a season.
“We’ve moved with the times, of course, and that includes our choice of microphones,” Hough explains. “With the new venue four miles from our studios, we knew we needed new mic stock to go with it. Shure has a wide selection of products that really help us capture the sound and flavor of the concerts we’re taping.”
Among the new models that have found a home on the new stage is the Beta 181, a compact side-address condenser microphone that Hough tried on drum overheads. “I used it on Flogging Molly, one of the first tapings in the new venue,” he notes. “I’ve been using it ever since. The sound is clear, and they just disappear on camera because they’re so small.”
Shure mics are found all over the drum kit. The SM57 is a given on snare. Typically, the kick drum gets a Beta 91A boundary mic and a Beta 52®A dynamic, creating a rich, full bottom with plenty of attack. “We love the new Beta 98A on toms,” Hough continues. “They sound really punchy, and the new mounting kit is solid. And, of course, they are very low profile, which is very important for TV.”
The focus of nearly all bands rests squarely on the vocals, and Hough leans toward the dynamics that have been a mainstay throughout his career. “Of course, we try to let the bands sing on what they’re most comfortable with,” he shares, “but our go-to mics are the Beta 58A and SM58, hardwired, especially with loud monitors and PA. The new KSM9 is a sweet-sounding vocal mic, too.”
Austin City Limits prefers to keep wireless use to a minimum. The production keeps a couple channels each of Shure UHF-R Series handhelds and PSM 900 personal monitors on hand, but generally allows the artist to use the RF systems they are carrying.
“The whole point of Austin City Limits is to capture a live performance without distraction,” explains Hough. “We encourage the artists to play to the audience, not the camera. In fact, we tape over the camera tally lights so the artist won’t know which one is on. Obviously, an audible dropout would be a problem, so even though wireless systems sound great and are pretty bulletproof, our philosophy is that you just can’t beat the reliability of a cable.”
To avoid the use of lavalier mics for backstage interviews, the SM89 shotgun mic or VP88 stereo mic might be used on or behind the camera. Pre-show audio glitches are typically identified and addressed with the phase reversers, transformers, attenuators, and other problem-solvers in the Shure A15 Series.
For example, the show owns 16 Shure MX202 hanging microphones, originally intended to capture audience reaction. But when an orchestra came in, Hough deployed the mics to provide exceptional pickup of the string section without visual distraction.
“I dropped four MX202s over the violins and cellos, and I had a great mix without even trying. Even the vibraphone jumped right out,” he reports. “The sound was very pleasing, with plenty of clarity and treble. I love that mic; it’s terrific.”
While the show’s musical agenda has never been easy to pin down, Austin City Limits viewers can be assured that they will be treated to great musicianship and songwriting in a natural concert atmosphere, faithfully captured by a wide range of Shure microphones. Producer Terry Lickona has again booked an impressive mix of artist appearances, including Coldplay, Miranda Lambert, Jeff Bridges, Widespread Panic, Gillian Welch, and Preservation Hall Jazz Band, to name a few.
“This is shaping up to be a great season for Austin City Limits,” concludes Hough. “The new venue and our Shure mics have really upgraded our production, and the musical performances we’ve captured have been fantastic.” The current season of Austin City Limits began its run in early October, and continues weekly on PBS through January.
Higher voltage? Longer life? Bringing some facts to the process
For the 9V transmitter I used the Shure SC1-TA. It has a relatively low current drain (50mA) that remains relatively constant with increasing time until the battery voltage is insufficient (6.5V) to keep the unit on. This is a VHF system.
For the AA testing I used the Lectrosonics SM. It is an ultra-miniature digital hybrid UHF transmitter than runs from a single AA cell. The current draw is voltage-dependent. The transmitter turns off when the battery voltage drops to 0.9VDC.
The Test Setup
To test the batteries I drove the wireless transmitters with a balanced aux level signal from an iPod interfaced to each belt pack via a passive summing/balancing interface (Figure 1). Each was driven with program to produce a full-scale receive signal level on its receiver for the duration of the test.
The turn-off voltage and current draw for each transmitter was determined with a variable DC supply (with on-board ammeter) and an oscilloscope. The battery voltage was monitored with a programmable USB data logger, chosen for its very high impedance and minimal loading of the battery.
Figure 1: The test rig. (click to enlarge)
Voltage samples were gathered at 1-minute intervals and the test duration extended well beyond the transmitter turn-off time. The results were plotted using a graphing program.
Figure 2 shows the results of the tests. I included a plot of cost vs. time, as well as an estimate of how many charges would be required for the rechargeable batteries to become cheaper than the disposables (not counting the cost of the charger).
The 500mA Lithium Polymer 9V battery (www.ipower.com) is a relatively new development and was suggested by Gordon Moore of Lectrosonics (the 400mAh unit from the same vendor should be avoided for high current drain applications).
Figure 2: Test results.
The two major specifications given for batteries are the voltage (in volts DC) and the available current (in ampere hours).
If a battery can provide one ampere (1 A) of current (flow) for one hour, it has a capacity of 1 A·h. If it can provide 1 A for 100 hours, its capacity is 100 A·h. Most small batteries are rated in mAh.
As with audio gear, “one number” specs can be deceiving.
For example, the NiMH 9V had the highest voltage when fully charged (about 9.5VDC). Yet, it had the shortest life. The Li-Polymer 9V had the lowest full-charge voltage (about 8.2VDC) but lasted the longest.
So, higher voltage is not necessarily better.
The mAh rating of a battery should only be used as a rough estimate of its suitability for an application. For example, the Li-Polymer 9V has a mAh rating that is about three times the NiMH 9V, yet it lasted about six times longer in the endurance test.
Also the disposable AA batteries have higher mAh ratings than the rechargeables, but did not last nearly as long.
So what can you do with a box of exhausted batteries?
You can test the battery tester! In the run down tests I often let the test rig run overnight to exhaust the battery-under-test. The data downloaded from the data logger showed what the voltage did as a function of time. Most batteries returned to near their full charge voltage once the transmitter shut off. Figure 3 shows the time record for one of the batteries.
Figure 3: The time record for one of the batteries.
If the exhausted battery were tested with a simple DC voltmeter, one could conclude that it was fresh. This is because a voltmeter has an extremely high input impedance to minimize loading on the circuit being tested. A good battery tester will load the battery prior to reading the voltage.
Larry Pajakowski turned the SynAudCon listserv on to an excellent battery tester, the ZTS Pulse Load battery tester (www.ztsinc.com, shown in Figure 4).
Figure 4: The ZTS Pulse Load battery tester. (click to enlarge)
After a fully automatic test cycle, percentage of remaining battery capacity is indicated on the LED bar display.
There are several models available and all are relatively low cost (less than $50 USD). Unlike my DC voltmeter, the ZTS correctly indicated the depleted state of each battery after the run down test.
Pat and Brenda Brown own and operate SynAudCon, conducting training seminars around the world in addition to providing in-depth web-based training.
Audio-Technica Provides Microphone Solutions For 2011 CMA Awards
More than 200 A-T mics deployed, including an array of hard-wired models as well as Artist Elite 5000 Series UHF wireless systems
Audio-Technica celebrated its 18th year of supporting the Country Music Association (CMA) Awards by providing an extensive selection of vocal and instrument microphones for its annual awards show.
The 45th Annual CMA Awards aired live in 5.1-channel surround sound on November 9 on the ABC Television Network from the Bridgestone Arena in Nashville, and featured over 200 Audio-Technica microphones, including an array of hard-wired mics and Artist Elite 5000 Series UHF wireless systems.
Audio-Technica microphones were chosen for their ability to provide clear and consistent audio quality for performers ranging from some of country music’s biggest stars to pop and rock acts on collaborations.
The audio was supervised by award-winning audio producers Michael Abbott and Tom Davis; ATK/Audiotek provided the sound system with front-of-house mixers Patrick Baltzell and Rick Shimer; the broadcast music mix was handled by New Jersey/California-based M3’s (Music Mix Mobile) John Harris and Jay Vicari. Stage monitoring was handled by Michael Parker and Jason Spence.
Several performers used Artist Elite 5000 Series UHF wireless systems during the course of the show. Audio-Technica endorser and winner of Album of the Year Jason Aldean paired the 5000 Series system with the AEW-T6100 hypercardioid dynamic handheld transmitter for his lead vocals. Aldean also won musical event of the year for his duet “Don’t You Wanna Stay” with Kelly Clarkson.
In a medley with Lionel Richie, the members of Little Big Town and Darius Rucker all used the 5000 Series system with AEW-T5400 cardioid condenser handheld transmitter for their vocals. Additionally, in a duet, Grace Potter and long-time Audio-Technica endorser Kenny Chesney, who shared the Video of the Year Award, both used hard-wired AE5400 cardioid condenser microphones.
The backline mic complement of A-T wired microphones included the AT4080 phantom-powered bidirectional ribbon microphone on guitars; AT4050 multi-pattern condenser Microphone on guitars and bass; AT4040 condenser microphone on overheads; AE2500 dual-element instrument microphone on kick drum; AE5100 condenser instrument microphone on hi-hat and ride cymbals; AE5400 condenser microphone on rotary speaker top and AT4050 on rotary speaker bottom (used by Gregg Allman with the Zac Brown Band); ATM650 dynamic instrument microphone on snare; and ATM350 condenser clip-on microphone on toms and fiddle/violin.
Monitor engineer Parker states, “I have used Audio-Technica microphones for years on prominent broadcast award shows, based on their ability to deliver clear, consistent sound. I particularly am fond of their instrument mics, as they are able to reproduce the true timbre and character of the instrument. Their reliability gives me an additional comfort level, which I never take for granted at such high-profile events.”
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