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Cut the Cord

Cut the Cord

A good wired microphone is perfect for reliable high quality audio, but sometimes the wires get in the way.

A good wired microphone is perfect for reliable high quality audio, but sometimes the wires get in the way.

Wireless mics have been around for ages, but many video creators haven't made the leap for various reasons. The benefits are clear, but with wireless rigs running from $100 to $5,000, it's pretty difficult to decide on a price-to-performance ratio that suits your production style. In addition, there are several obscure terms and features that further confuse the issue. If wireless is in your future but you're unsure which way to go, this month's Sound Advice is the perfect place to start.

The Basics

A wireless microphone system is essentially a miniature radio station. First, a microphone is attached to a transmitter. This converts the audio signal into radio waves and is broadcast for a few hundred feet. At the other end is the receiver, which grabs the signal from the air and converts it back into audio for your camera, recording rig or sound system. If this sounds simple, it is, but there are several variables that determine the distance and quality of the transmitted signal.

Wireless mics work on specific bands of radio frequency determined by the FCC. At the bottom of the scale is VHF or Very High Frequency. Ironically, this is the lowest band of frequencies assigned to wireless mics. While there are several nice systems in this range, most modern systems have moved to the UHF or Ultra High Frequency band. This band is less crowded and offers better signal penetration through buildings. At the extreme high end, there are 2.4GHz wireless systems and even all-digital solutions. As a rule of thumb, the higher the frequency, the better the system and the more you'll pay. Fortunately, there is a great deal of competition for your wireless microphone dollars and manufacturers offer better, cheaper systems all the time.

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Tags:  April 2007
Sun, 04/01/2007 - 12:00am