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Microphones - A guide to purchasing the right Microphone

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A few top tips on selecting the ideal Microphone for your requirements

1. Decide where you are going to sing or speak. Consider how many obstructions will be between you and the receiver. Including walls and columns, keeping in mind that a drum set has enough metal in it to make cheap wireless systems cut out. How far you will be in line-of-sight from the receiver? Most are pretty good these days, but in the off chance you are hoisted a few hundred feet in the air, make sure you have the range you need. Don’t count out a wireless microphone system if you only play small stages. The smaller the stage, the easier it is to trip on a cable – or multiple cables.

2. Decide if you can live with some sound drop-outs. There is a chance your signal could drop out. As much as we try and avoid it, it happens just like a bad cable happens. There are two things that determine drop-outs – antennae diversity and what band of frequency they are operating in. From worst to first in the drop out rank: Single diversity—this means there is a single antenna to get a signal. If it doesn’t get one, it drops out. Two antenna systems are called true diversity and the receiver picks between the two for the stronger signal. True diversity systems have come down in price and are nice option.
VHF systems—operate on a bandwidth competing with cabbies and a thousand radio stations. There are a few bands that don’t even work anymore. Anything currently made in this frequency is going to be the lowest-of-low quality and is probably best suited for home karaoke and such.
UHF systems—operate on higher frequencies, which are less crowded. Try to find one that has an option to switch channels. If you perform in different cities around the country, you’ll definitely want this option. Every city has different frequencies being used by TV and radio stations.
Digital systems– these operate on the 2.4GHz frequency at the top of the UHF band like WiFi, cell phones and related devices. There are no high powered signals on this band – most of these devices operate on one-watt or less – so the chance of interference is low. No system is perfect, but these are your best bet for drop-out free performance.

3. Decide how good the sound quality needs to be. All systems have come a long way in terms of sound quality. The quality of sound in wireless microphone systems could be listed exactly like the ranking in drop-outs. In the same way that interference may result in a drop-out, the receiver may not get a clean version of the signal. For true diversity systems, the second antenna helps from having drop-outs, but they don’t really make the signal sound better. Any VHF and UHF system with lots of other frequencies in use could have problems. One high powered wave could disrupt the signal, making the receiver “guess” as to what the signal is supposed to look like. They are designed this way to avoid drop-outs, but the signal really isn’t going to be what it was intended to be. Digital wireless systems have a slight advantage in this case: they only read “ones” and “zeros”, so they can’t really guess as to the waveform. Any analog versus digital argument wouldn’t apply here. The digital system would have a more accurate version of the original signal. A few digital wireless microphone systems have an additional advantage: they don’t use companders. A compander compresses a signal in one direction and expands it in the other. Systems that use them have essentially one more place to lose signal information. As a paper copy of a copy loses something each time, the signal for those may as well.