If you are looking for a budget minded wireless solution to your DSLR or camcorder audio woes, the Azden WDL-PRO wireless microphone system is worth a listen.
Have you ever thought about and longed for the versatility, mobility and convenience of having a camera mountable wireless microphone system? Have you gone so far as to search online for various systems, to drool over all their wonderful features, only to choke, when you noticed the price? Well, you're not alone. Wireless systems are wonderful, convenient and sometimes, depending on what you are shooting, downright necessary. But spending as much or more on such a system as you did for the camera you will be mounting it to can be tough to swallow—hence the choking.
Azden's WDL-PRO wireless system brings together a combination of factors designed to deliver a quality wireless solution at a price palatable to your wallet.
Azden has a number of wireless receiver/transmitter combinations with varying features and pricing. The WDL-PRO comes with the WR32-PRO 2-channel receiver, two WM-PRO belt pack transmitters and two EX-503 clip-on lavalier mics with foam windscreens. Also included is an earphone for monitoring audio input and a stereo mini-to-stereo mini cable for connecting the receiver to your camera's external microphone jack. An optional stereo mini to dual XLR cable would let you connect the system to a pro camera's XLR inputs.
Both the transmitters and the receiver are constructed of lightweight plastic material, a real plus when mounted on a handheld camera or clipped to a belt. The receiver features dual telescoping antennas to enable simultaneous recording with two microphones, which is an ideal setup for weddings for which you would typically mic both the officiate and the groom. On the front panel between the antennas are an 1/8-inch mic out port and headphone jack along with two LED indicators that light up when their corresponding frequency is switched on. The F1 and F2 on/off frequency switches are on the right side of the receiver. The shoe mount on the bottom attaches the unit to the camera but be careful when tightening as the mount is made entirely of plastic. A slide-off panel on top reveals the battery compartment, which uses two AA batteries.
The transmitters are powered by a single 9V battery accessed through a spring-loaded hinged door on the side. On top is the 1/8-inch microphone jack, power on/off and frequency selector switch and the power on indicator light. The belt clip is a thin plastic tab on the back, which slips over the belt or waistband but use care when attaching and detaching the unit as it feels as though it could break if not used carefully.
Wireless setups are great for many reasons: no cables to tangle or trip over and increased mobility to start. Lavalier mics, or simply, lavs, are commonly used for interviews and weddings because they are small, inconspicuous, can easily be hidden altogether and record good quality sound. Marry the two and your wireless lav setup can cover just about any audio capture scenario you may encounter.
Wireless mic systems come in two flavors: UHF and VHF. The answer to the question, "Which system should I buy," as with most video production related questions is, "It depends." Frustrating, isn't it? You have to first understand the features and limitations of each as well as your own particular requirements. Only then can you make the right decision.
UHF operates at higher frequency levels than VHF, has access to a wider range of available frequencies and consequently less chance of interference from other signal sources. Not surprisingly, UHF systems carry a higher price tag due to increased manufacturing costs and quality assurance measures. VHF systems are more affordable, with the tradeoff that you run the risk of increased interference from electrical devices and other radio frequency equipment. Quality results can be obtained using a VHF system in a low interference environment. Back to the question of which mic to buy, it can only be answered correctly after carefully assessing the environment you will be using the system in, and your budget.
The WDL-PRO's two channels operate at 169.445MHz and 170.245MHz, both in the VHF range. We tried it out and found that it performed quite well indoors, with clear reception, even through a couple of doors and a distance of about 40 feet. Outside, with a clear line-of-sight, we were able to move about 100-120 feet from the microphone before the signal began to break up, with complete dropout occurring at about 150 feet.
The EX-503 mics produce a small amount of hiss, which can easily be removed with audio software or masked with a music bed. We also found that if the transmitters are close to the receiver, proximity interference becomes a problem, emitting a distinct squelchy sound. Moving the transmitters about 10 feet or further from the receiver eliminated the problem altogether. Overall we were pleased with the quality and performance of this wireless system.
If you desire a quality wireless lavalier microphone system and have minimal radio interference worries, but major budget concerns, then the WDL-PRO wireless system from Azden may be the right choice for you.
Form Factor: Lavalier
Pickup Pattern: omnidirectional
Connection Type: 1/8-inch stereo
Battery Type: 9V and AA
Frequency: F1 - 169.445MHz; F2 - 170.245MHz
Impedance: 300 Ohms
Sensitivity: 2μV at S/N 40dB
Transmission Frequency: F1 - 169.445MHz; F2 - 170.245MHz
Modulation System: FM modulation
Battery: 9V x 1
Power Consumption: 30mA
Dimensions: 3.39” H x 2.36” W x 0.85” D (86mm H x 60mm W x 21.5mm D)
Weight (including battery): 0.22lb (98g)
Microphone: Electric Condenser
Reception Frequency: F1.169.445MHz; F2.170.245MHz; double superheterrodyne system
Battery: Two 1.5AA (not included)
Power Consumption: 100mA
Monitor Output: 0.7V
Microphone Output: 25mV
Impedance: 300 Ohms
Dimensions: 2.48” H x 3.86” W x 1.12” D (63mm H x 98mm W x 28.5mm D)
Weight (including battery): 0.38lb (171g)
- Costs less than UHF systems
- Clear, quality audio
- Small, lightweight form factor
- Increased interference potential due to VHF frequencies
- Only two available frequencies
- Belt clip is a possible breaking point
Contributing Editor Mark Holder is a video producer and trainer.