Cheap Wireless Mics?
March 27, 2010 3:36 PM   Subscribe

Are cheap wireless microphones (less than $100) reasonably good?

I'm in the worship band for a college Christian organization; we have 2 guitarists (electric and acoustic) and two singers, and we usually play in a room that holds about 50 people--so a small place in live music terms.

Recently our singers have expressed interest in wireless mics, so I'm doing some research on our options. Budget is a major consideration, but in any case I'm looking for some information on pricing and brands. I talked to a guy at Guitar Center and he was immediately trying to sell me a $400 mic and said that anything cheaper was a waste of money. I don't trust his opinion because of his stake in my decision.

I saw this on Amazon; if something like that was of acceptably good quality, it looks like it'd be perfect. We need 2 mics.

As I said, we keep the volume pretty low, and while I'd like to buy something that can be used as we grow and play in larger places for bigger crowds, I don't think we have a need for a top-of-the-line mic. As long as it's not going to cut out or sound staticy, it'll probably be fine. Range shouldn't be a big issue, the mic should never be more than 30-40 feet from the receiver.

Are these mics sufficient, or will I be dissatisfied? What specific models would you guys recommend?
posted by DMan to Technology (8 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
 
With a wireless mic you're paying for two things: a microphone and a tranmitter/reciever. At the price point of the mic you linked to, the sound quality of the mic and its response characteristics are likely to be very basic and quite crude. In practical terms this means vocals that are harder to understand, harder to EQ to sound better. The off-axis rejection (how the mic behaves when you don't speak directly into it) may make it more prone to feedback or it may sound worse when used by someone with poor mic technique. As for the transmitter portion, this price point almost certainly means a non-diversity VHF design. That translates to shorter operating ranges and a better chance it will pick up radio interference from other local sources. Also, you probably wont get many, if any, channels to select from in order to avoid said interference. Finally, I'm guessing that it doesn't provide balanced output, which is a more professional and robust I/O conncetion with your mixer or amp.

All that being said, $60 is pretty cheap, and if you have someone doing your sound who is knowledgeable, you could probably make it work. Just be aware that there really is a reason why even a basic professional wired mic costs about $100.
posted by werkzeuger at 4:02 PM on March 27, 2010


Short answer: No.

Longer answer NOOOOoooooo!

Honestly, in a room of $50 people, you really don't need wireless for your singers. If they want to roam a little more, use a longer mic cable. Wired is always more reliable than wireless.

But since you asked:

$100 will buy you a basic WIRED mic like an SM58

For decent wireless, you are going to have to spend more money. Think more $500+ per channel for basic gear. Shure, Sennheiser and Audio-Technica all have options in that price range. Avoid Nady, Azden, Samson, and basically anything that has the word "PRO"written anywhere on the equipment (A-T has a line of gear called 'PRO' and it tends to be garbage). UHF is almost always better than VHF.

I've rented some of the Shure PG wireless stuff a few times in a pinch and it's not bad. It's too user friendly for regular professional use, might be perfect for what you're looking to do.

Good wireless is a whole level beyond this, with Zaxcom and Lectrosonics gear setting you back several thousand dollars per channel.

If you look at used gear, be aware that anything in the 700MHz spectrum is now illegal in the US.
posted by jjb at 4:04 PM on March 27, 2010


Also, don't forget to budget for batteries! It's basically mandatory to start with a fresh battery, at least for formal performances in front of an audience.
posted by werkzeuger at 4:06 PM on March 27, 2010


jjb raises a good point: why do they want to go wireless? In some peoples' minds wireless=professional! and deep down inside it's more about looking cool. jjb is right that $100 will get you a 58 which is a known, respectable mic that everybody knows how to work with.

Also, in my market I can rent Shure and Sony UHF wireless for about $60/channel/day, so maybe you could look into that for special performances?
posted by werkzeuger at 4:10 PM on March 27, 2010


Wireless mics introduce so much extra headache and cost that the reasons for using them have to be bona fide. If the singers just want to look cool, tell them they'll need to pony up $500 each for the privilege.

Otherwise, drop $100 each on some tried & true (switchable!) SM58s and use some of the extra cash you save to buy a real distribution box and a few high-quality mic cables. (Maybe the singers would relent if you got a couple of those high-quality, pattern-wound cables that look all spiffy?)
posted by Aquaman at 4:20 PM on March 27, 2010


Cheap, wireless, good.

Pick two.

I'm assuming they want wireless to have more freedom to move on stage? Find some videos of performers moving with wired mics - I know this is the case in many, many church performances. Give them ideas of how to handle the mic and the cord.

If they want wireless mics because they look better, feel free to tell them the sound will suffer dramatically as a result (at $100).

I just shot a performance at a 1200 seat venue today, and guess what? Five wired mics.
posted by shinynewnick at 4:45 PM on March 27, 2010


Okay, thanks all. We'll stick with the wired stuff. I kind of figured that was going to be the answer, but it never hurts to ask.
posted by DMan at 6:19 AM on March 28, 2010


Not to reiterate too much, but *good* wireless gear rarely comes close to sounding as good as what you'd get from a Shure SM-58. I'm no audiophile, and I can easily tell when a band is using a crummy mic.

Spend the money elsewhere. (For instance, buy some SM-58s if you don't have them already -- they're cheap and nigh indestructible.)
posted by schmod at 8:01 AM on March 29, 2010


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