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A guide to wireless microphones

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Wireless Microphones - The Basics :. Every wireless microphone system must operate on a specific frequency. The government dictates which frequency ranges can be used by wireless. Wireless frequencies are shared with TV stations, communications equipment and a large number of wireless microphone systems. Because of frequency sharing, there is always at least a small chance that someone else in the area might be using the same frequency as your wireless system. Government regulations also set strict technical requirements for wireless, including limits on maximum transmitter power. There must be one transmitter and one receiver to make a complete wireless system, and they both must be on the same frequency. If any two transmitters are operating on the same frequency, severe interference will result and the wireless system will be unusable. Two transmitters cannot be used with one receiver at the same time. If the frequencies of any two wireless systems are too close together, interference is likely, and one or both systems will probably be unusable. The practical maximum operating range of a wireless system will vary from as little as 100 feet (30 m) in heavily crowded indoor situations to approximately 1,000 feet (300 m) under open outdoor conditions. Diversity wireless systems will almost always have better operating range than similar non-diversity systems. Wireless receivers must have either one or two external antennas, and there should be a clear open-air path between these antennas and the transmitter. Weak or worn-out transmitter batteries are a common cause of wireless problems, including complete failure, poor range, distorted audio and interference. Use only high-quality alkaline batteries. Most other types of batteries will have much shorter life, and some may cause other problems. Because it is easier to accidentally walk near speakers, feedback problems are slightly more common with wireless microphones than with wired microphones. The power output of wireless microphone transmitters is very low, and they are completely safe to use. However, any source of RF energy may interfere with the normal functioning of implanted cardiac pacemakers or AICD devices. A body-pack transmitter should not be worn where it is immediately adjacent to such a medical device. Note also that any medical-device disruption will cease when the RF transmitting source is turned off.

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Success With Wireless - Wireless microphones are not difficult to use, but they do require a slightly different approach than for other types of audio equipment. The differences can be as small as remembering to keep spare batteries on hand, to as significant as making certain that wireless frequencies don't conflict with each other. With wireless, preparation is the key to success. Following the suggestions below will go a long way towards ensuring trouble-free operation and making wireless use easy and enjoyable. Before you start, have a clear idea of what you want to do. Different applications may require different hardware - a body-pack transmitter as opposed to a handheld transmitter, for example. Decide if your equipment is appropriate. If interference problems are likely or there will be many wireless systems present, more sophisticated wireless systems might be necessary. Use diversity systems unless the range is short, the area is uncrowded and the situation is straightforward. Check to make certain that all necessary supplies and accessories are on hand, such as extra batteries, special microphones, audio cables, power strips, a spare microphone, remote antennas, RF cables, etc. If using only one wireless system, make certain that its frequency is appropriate to avoid the TV channels operating in the area. If several wireless systems will be used, special precautions and procedures might be necessary. Check Quick Tips - Using More Than One Wireless System for more information. Prevention is, by far, the best solution to interference problems. Review Quick Tips - Avoiding Interference for tips and suggestions. If there is any doubt about the condition of a battery, replace it. Use only high-quality alkaline batteries and make certain that used batteries are never mixed with new ones. Take special effort to adjust audio levels properly, otherwise there is an increased risk of audio problems. Consult the user manual included with your wireless system for details. Always thoroughly check out the wireless equipment - if possible, exactly where the system will be used - well before the actual performance or presentation. Pay particular attention to the possibility of acoustic feedback, interference, and audio level or sound quality problems. If interference problems should happen to arise, try to take an orderly and systematic approach to finding a solution. This type of problem can be very confusing and it is easy to get off track. Check Quick Tips - Avoiding Interference and Resolving Interference Problems for suggestions.

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Avoiding Interference :. Because of the nature of radio communication, there is always at least a small chance of interference when using wireless microphones. While some kinds of interference are more or less beyond the control of wireless users, many types of interference are avoidable. Taking the simple precautions listed below will greatly reduce the chances that interference will become a problem. Make certain that the wireless frequencies are not on a local TV channel. Check all wireless frequencies in use to make certain that no two systems are on the same frequency. Check to make certain that no two wireless frequencies are too close together. In general, 1 MHz is the recommended minimum spacing between systems. If a considerable number of systems will be used, operating conditions will be difficult or interference is likely, consider using more sophisticated equipment. Higher-performance systems are better able to reject interference. Before using a system in a new location or another city, double-check for new problems. Small changes in conditions can cause interference where none was present before. Check the squelch control setting on the receiver. A higher squelch setting provides better protection against interference. However, since a high setting also can cause a reduction in operating range, set the control to the lowest position that reliably mutes the interference. Make certain that all batteries are fresh and new. Weak batteries make a system more susceptible to interference. Turn off unnecessary electronic equipment, especially computers, CD players, and other digital devices. These are a relatively common cause of wireless interference, especially if they are near the receiver. If use of computers or digital devices is necessary, keep them at least 3 feet (1 meter) away from the wireless receiver and its antennas. If interference does occur, see Resolving Interference Problems for suggestions on solving the problem. Additional information about Types of Interference is also available.

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Maximizing Range :. Operating range is not a frequent problem with quality wireless microphone systems. All Audio-Technica wireless equipment has a built-in safety margin that ensures reliable operation in the great majority of situations. However, when the operating environment is particularly difficult or the application is especially challenging, the suggestions below can help you obtain the best possible range from your system. For best range, a diversity wireless system should be used. Diversity systems almost always have much better range than similar non-diversity systems. Make certain that there is an unobstructed line-of-site path between the receiver antennas and the transmitter. Metal objects between the transmitter and receiver, even screens or scaffolds, will usually greatly reduce range. Do not mount receivers behind other equipment, low to the ground, or in back rooms. When range is highly important, consider using higher-performance equipment. More expensive systems usually have more sensitive receivers, enhancing range. A high squelch setting can cause a reduction in operating range. If interference problems require a high squelch setting, eliminate the interference or change frequency to avoid the range loss. Eliminate interference. Several types of interference will reduce range even if they do not cause serious audio problems. Keep all transmitters at least 10 feet (3 m) away from the receivers and their antennas. The transmitters can overload the receiver and reduce its sensitivity, as well as possibly cause interference. Use only high-quality alkaline batteries for transmitters. Other types of batteries might have too low a voltage or inadequate capacity for the transmitter to achieve full power output. With VHF body-pack transmitters, do not wrap the microphone cable around the transmitter body or bundle it within 18 inches (45 cm) of the audio connector. For UHF body-pack transmitters, keep the microphone cable well away from the transmitter antenna. Do not allow receiver antennas to touch each other. For best results, keep antennas from different receivers as far apart as possible. Mount receiver antennas as high as feasible, if possible at least 8 to 10 feet (2.5 to 3 m) above the floor or stage. Keep antennas away from metal objects, including cables, pipes, cabinets, scaffolds and the supports for acoustic ceiling tile. Make certain that there is an unobstructed line-of-site path between the receiver antennas and the transmitter. Make certain that wireless equipment is well maintained. After a long period of use, wireless receivers can lose sensitivity and the power from transmitters can drop. If range is not what it once was and there is no other obvious cause, consider having the system serviced. Additional information is available at Maximizing Range. Certain Types of Interference can also cut range considerably. See also Quick Tips - Avoiding Interference and Resolving Interference Problems to learn more about this potential problem.

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Using More Than One Wireless System :. Because of the need to ensure that wireless frequencies are compatible with each other, operating several systems at one time is slightly more complicated than using just one or two systems. As the number of systems increases, so do the chances that there will be interference problems unless appropriate precautions are taken. The most common cause of problems when using multiple systems is interference due to frequency conflicts. Make a list of the frequencies of all wireless systems, then ensure that no two systems are on the same frequency. Check to make certain that no two wireless frequencies are so close together that they will interfere with each other. In general, 1 MHz is the recommended minimum spacing between systems./li> Make certain that the wireless frequencies are not on a local TV channel. If the operating conditions are likely to be difficult or there is a high risk of interference, consider upgrading to more sophisticated equipment. Higher-performance systems are better able to reject interference and usually provide better range. Keep all transmitters at least 10 feet (3 m) away from the receivers and their antennas to avoid receiver overload, which can reduce range and cause unnecessary interference. These problems are especially likely when several transmitters are in use. Maintain as much distance as possible between the antennas of any two receivers. See Using Multiple Systems for additional suggestions.

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Avoiding Feedback :. Acoustic feedback can be a problem in any sound system. Audio systems that include wireless microphones are somewhat more prone to feedback than those using only wired microphones, simply because the freedom of movement with wireless makes it more likely that the user will walk in front of the speakers. In addition, omnidirectional microphones are often used with wireless, and they do not provide the same protection from feedback offered by the more familiar directional vocal microphones. Take steps to make it less likely that the wireless user will walk in front of the speakers. These steps can include more rehearsal time, markings on the floor, relocation of the speakers and several other options. Lower the sound level of the speakers nearest the wireless user and increase the level of other speakers to compensate. If possible, rotate the nearest speakers to point them slightly away from the wireless user. Move the microphone closer to the user's lips and lower the transmitter audio gain. This will hold the user's voice at the same level in the sound system while reducing the gain that causes feedback. If feedback results from using a body-pack transmitter and an omnidirectional lavalier microphone, change to a directional microphone. Try changing to a different type of microphone or microphone capsule. Different microphones vary in characteristics and one particular model might be less prone to feedback in a specific situation. Make certain that the transmitter gain is set appropriately for your application. In high-SPL situations, if the transmitter gain is set too high, it may cause overloading of the wireless circuits and increase the chances of feedback. Most standard techniques for reducing feedback will also work with wireless microphones. Because of the increased chance of feedback with wireless, understanding and being able to apply these techniques will be helpful.

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Wearing Wireless :. The suggestions below will help you maximize the performance of your wireless system, extend the life of your microphones and help you avoid some common problems. Don't coil the microphone cable around the case of VHF body-pack transmitters. Don't coil or bundle the microphone cable. (Doing so could reduce operating range because the cable on some transmitters also functions as the antenna.) On UHF body-pack transmitters, keep the microphone cable away from the antenna. Don't bend the microphone cable sharply, especially at the microphone capsule or the connector. This can cause premature failure of the cable. For the same reason, try to avoid repeated flexing of the cable where it enters the connector or capsule. For high-stress applications such as aerobics instruction, fasten the microphone cable to clothing so that the repeated flexing is distributed over smooth loops near the middle of the cable. When using clip-on microphones, position them reasonably close to the mouth. This is especially important in noisy surroundings or where feedback could become a problem. In high-noise situations, consider using a headworn microphone instead of a clip-on microphone. Alternately, a handheld transmitter can be used if the hands do not need to be free. Always make certain that a new, fresh alkaline battery is installed just before every important performance or presentation. Always have additional fresh batteries available. When wearing a body-pack transmitter under clothing, make certain that it can be reached quickly to mute the microphone and replace the battery. If the wireless user is likely to perspire heavily, it is advisable to wrap body-pack transmitters in clear kitchen food wrap, with the microphone cable opening pointed downwards. This will keep the transmitter relatively dry, avoiding performance problems and possible damage. After use, always unwrap transmitters and mics to let them fully air-dry. The power output of wireless microphone transmitters is very low, and they are completely safe to use. However, any source of RF energy may interfere with the normal functioning of implanted cardiac pacemakers or AICD devices. A body-pack transmitter should not be worn where it is immediately adjacent to such a medical device. Note also that any medical-device disruption will cease when the RF transmitting source is turned off.

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When It Isn't Working :. If your wireless system does not appear to be working, the suggestions below will allow you to determine if the wireless equipment is really bad or if there is some other problem. If the system is basically working but there are other problems such as noisy audio or poor range, see the links at the bottom of this page for suggestions on solving these types of difficulties. Make certain that the transmitter battery is in good condition. Make certain that the transmitter control switch is all the way to the "on" position and not still in the "standby" position. Double-check that the wireless transmitter and receiver are on the same frequency. It is easy to accidentally mix up transmitters when more than one system of the same type are in use. Turn on the receiver and make certain that its power indicator is illuminated. Also make certain that the antennas are installed and not touching each other or another object. Turn the transmitter on and bring it to a position about 10 feet (3 m) from the receiver antennas. Observe the receiver "RF," "Tuner" or "RF Level" indicator and verify that it is illuminated. If the receiver RF indicator is not on, try replacing the transmitter battery with a brand new, fresh alkaline battery. If the receiver RF indicator still does not illuminate, the system is most likely defective and should be serviced. If you have another transmitter on the same frequency, try these tests again with the receiver. If the RF indicator is on, try speaking loudly into the microphone while observing the "AF," "AF Peak" or "AF Level" indicator on the receiver. Make certain that the receiver AF level control is set at maximum. If the AF indicator still does not illuminate, and the transmitter is a body-pack unit with a plug-in microphone, make certain that the microphone connectors are undamaged and secure. If the AF indicator still does not illuminate and the transmitter is a body-pack unit, the microphone could be defective. If a spare mic is available, substitute it for the original microphone and again speak loudly while observing the AF indicator. If the transmitter is a handheld unit or there is still no audio indication with the test microphone connected, the system is most likely defective and should be serviced. If the AF indicator does illuminate when speaking into the microphone, but there is no sound in the audio system, check the receiver audio with headphones (if the receiver has a headphone output). If the headphone audio is working, or the audio cannot be tested with a headphone, try turning up the mixer or amplifier input control. If there is still no audio in the system and your wireless is plugged into a mic-level input, try replacing the wireless with a wired microphone. If the wired microphone also does not work, the problem is not in the wireless system. If the wired microphone does work, reconnect the wireless and retest. If there is still no system audio, the wireless system is probably defective and should be serviced. Other suggestions: For body-pack systems: If the audio is intermittent or noisy when the wearer moves, the problem might be a bad microphone cable. Try a spare microphone or a working microphone from another Audio-Technica wireless system. If no spare microphone is available, try carefully and gently flexing the microphone cable where it enters the microphone capsule and at the connector. If the audio cuts in and out, or is noisy when the cable is flexed, the microphone cable probably is bad. Bad batteries are a common cause of wireless problems. Always make certain to have fresh, new alkaline batteries on hand, and always check the transmitter battery first if there are problems with a system. Ensure that the transmitter battery is secure and making good contact. If the receiver audio is noisy, the problem might be interference. See Quick Tips - Avoiding Interference and Resolving Interference Problems for additional suggestions. If the problem is poor range, it could still be an interference problem. For other suggestions on improving range, see Quick Tips - Maximizing Range and Maximizing Range.

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Wireless Microphone Systems Audio-Technica offers a versatile array of wireless microphone systems that deliver exceptional performance for every budget. Products range from sophisticated frequency-agile wireless designed for professional tours, to affordable fixed-frequency systems for use close to home.

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Wireless Microphones & Cables A selection of Wireless Essentials® and other Audio-Technica microphones wired for use with A-T and other manufacturers' body-pack transmitters

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