Cables are the bane of our existence as sound technicians. Can’t live with ‘em, and can’t live without ‘em.
On many gigs I can have upwards of 100 XLR cables, which get used for everything from stage microphones and DI boxes, to sending audio to active loudspeakers for monitors, FOH, and delays.
But while running XLR cables to the loudspeakers is certainly the least expensive and possibly most robust solution, many times it’s too cumbersome and creates logistical nightmares. For instance, running XLR cables across a busy street is prone to all kinds of failure mechanisms and may require special permits in some locals.
On the other hand, RF-based loudspeaker distribution is a cruel master. If you think a street is a busy place, the RF spectrum is assaulted with all kinds of traffic. Every kid with a cell phone, remote printers, Wi-Fi networks, and even Bluetooth ear pieces all fight for the same piece of RF turf, the 2.4 GHz spectrum. And the UHF bands aren’t much better, where a visiting guitar player with a rough wireless system can step on your carefully laid-out RF mic setup.
So if you’re going to use RF instead of cable to run concert sound hundreds of feet to a remote loudspeaker location, it had better be rock solid. Hey, if one mic has an RF dropout you might get away with it, but if an entire loudspeaker stack goes down because of an RF hit, it’s a real show-stopper.
With that in mind, I recently asked Neutrik to send me its new XIRIUM PRO wireless distribution system for review, with Mark Boyadjian of Neutrik also showing up for a real gig to show me how it works. Here are the system components utilized in this evaluation:
(1) NXP2TX transmitter base station
(4) NXP2RX receiver base stations
(1) NXP-TM-ANA analog TX module
(3) NXP-RM-ANA analog RX modules
(1) NXP-RM-RP repeater module
It all arrived in a pair of road cases all ready to pack on the truck. But first I was instructed to charge the modules up overnight. According to Neutrik, battery life should be about 10 hours on a full charge, but I like to use AC whenever possible. Note: These units use Neutrik’s new powerCON TRUE1 AC connectors, which we’ll cover in a future article.
Capabilities & Options
Basically, each XIRIUM PRO unit includes either a 5 GHz transmitter or receiver for the audio path, as well as a 2.4 GHz transceiver for system communication and control. This allows setting up and monitoring audio communications using a free tablet app (iOS or Android).
The tablet screen provides a view of important things such as signal strength and dropped audio packets, plus insert delays needed for remote loudspeakers located downstream from the mains.