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Real World Gear: The Latest Wireless Microphone Systems

Chances are that you might just be hanging on for a while to see how it all pans out, but if you need to purchase now, our tour offers the "where and what do you look fo

As most of us should know by now, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has made its initial recommendations of the use of wireless microphone and communications systems alongside that of TV Band Devices and other spectrum users.

The original proposed date of February 18, 2009, still has some implications, albeit put back to June 12, 2009, if and when that decision makes its way from the Senate through the House of Representatives.

In the meantime, parts of the U.S. have already “switched off” as it were, and more are planned in a rolling scale.

Of course, this leaves the whole subject somewhat in a modicum of limbo. And should you be considering purchasing new wireless product, the chances are that you might just be hanging on for a while to see how it all pans out. There again, you might be forced to purchase now, and if so, where and what do you look for?

Certainly the areas around TV Channels 63 (764 – 770 MHz) and 64 (771 to 776 MHz) plus Channels 68 and 69 (794 – 806 MHz) are now out of bounds and are to be used for Public Safety.

As for the rest of the so-called “700 MHz” band (698 – 806 MHz), the situation is somewhat easier from a new purchase point of view, in that the majority of manufacturers do not now support that band.

Of course, second-hand equipment operating in that band is available, and as the FCC has not made a final decision as yet, and indeed has so far failed in it’s effort to sell the “Block D” 700 MHz band for a cool $1.3 billion reserve, the jury is still out.

To sweeten the pill, many manufacturers are offering attractive deals, trade-ins or retunes for existing product. It’s worth contacting your manufacturer to find out what’s available.

In the meantime, this month’s Real World Gear takes a look at what’s available out there at the moment, and to play the legal game, none of the product listed here operates in the 700 MHz band, or the Public Safety channels.

There are also a couple of digital options listed alongside existing analog equipment.

This is an interesting area in that these systems incorporate digital audio transmission and thus claim to remove the effects normally associated with analog compander circuitry. Intermodulation issues are also said to be greatly reduced, allowing more users within the same band.

As always, the our tour of wireless products does not intend to include all makes and models of wireless systems available. Instead, the goal is to represent the most likely (generally top-shelf) systems that are currently used for live sound reinforcement and touring by professionals working today.

The choice, as always, is up to you. Take our Photo Gallery tour of the latest wireless microphone systems.

Andy Wood is European Editor for Live Sound International magazine.

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