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How far will this antenna reach?

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Since before 2010 and the first round of major changes to the radio spectrum landscape, we've shared lots of words about radio frequency issues.  And with continued proliferation of wireless devices, increased use of LED lamps, LED production lighting fixtures, and LED video displays, along with connected-ness of your refrigerator to grocer's ordering systems, and Microsoft's rural broadband initiatives, these are among the most important issues facing users of audio and video equipment today and into the future. And we think that understanding what lies ahead is fun, in a geeky sort of way. 

Our guest columnist Don Boomer is an Applications Engineer at RF Venue. He has worked in Research & Development for Peavey, Sabine and Line 6 over the past 30+ years, and his rock band from his high school days has a song in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. 


by Don Boomer, RF Venue

Don3 1 copyIt’s baseball season again and boy does that make me happy.  What does that have to do with antennas?  Well...

I am often asked, “How far will this or that antenna reach”?  An important question for sure, but that’s the wrong way to think about it.  Generally speaking, antennas don’t “reach” out but rather they “catch” what you throw at them (sorry, still thinking about baseball).

Yes, there are directional antennas such as our Diversity Fin and CP Beam that have gain in one direction and rejection in another, which is usually a good thing, but that’s a different topic. Directional antennas will “listen” better for your transmitters than those with little or no gain.  But they are still just catching what you throw at them.  So an antenna’s range is a combination of how strong your transmitter’s signal is and how you are being affected by multipath reflections and the strength of your noise floor.  The primary deciding factor is your CNR (carrier to noise ratio).

If we were to go stand in a cornfield in Iowa (if you build it, they will come) you would very likely find that the range of your wireless mic, that has a manufacturer’s rating of 300 feet, might well do a 1/4 mile.  That would be because there would be little interference (until Microsoft turns on its new Rural Broadband Plan in the 500 MHz range) and almost zero multipath.  There’s just no GMO corn that reflects RF (yet).  It probably also goes without saying that higher quality systems (with tighter front ends) especially digital ones, will perform better than those sub $300 systems I still see clinging for dear life.

So how about active antennas with built-in amplifiers?  Won’t that stronger signal result in more “reach”?  Crank it up to 11?  Sorry to disappoint but in fact it may perform worse.  The boosters on those amplifiers were only intended to make up for  losses in long coax runs and should only be used IF other factors can’t supply enough signal to keep you on the air.

What’s wrong with active antennas you ask?  Well number one, they are active and no amplifier is perfect.

Read more: How far will this antenna reach?


Next-generation Wireless Microphone Systems

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By now, most of you have heard the news that the FCC is phasing out most of the 614-698 MHz portion of the radio frequency (RF) spectrum for use by wireless microphones and television broadcasters.  Something similar happened in 2010 with the 700 MHz spectrum, so by July 2020, 614-698 MHz will no longer be a legal operating range for most wireless microphones.  And in some areas, those changes are occurring right now, and will continue to occur on a known schedule between now and July 2020.

The change to the "700 MHz" band in 2010 was disruptive, but the next round will be even more so.  When these auctions take place, wireless companies like T-Mobile, AT&T, Verizon, etc. buy large swaths of RF bandwidth in order to deliver their services.  Those services include wireless data and voice traffic, Internet of Things (interconnection of business and household devices to the Internet) and may include 5G wireless services that will attempt to give us driver-less cars and more. 

What makes the current repacking even more difficult is that once again, television broadcasters are being moved from yet another portion of the RF spectrum and wireless microphone users are being asked to share even less space since there is no new RF spectrum being opened up in the previous 470-804 MHz range.  So instead of sharing 470-804 MHz with broadcasters like we did until 2010, the RF spectrum for broadcasters and casual users like UHF wireless microphones will become limited to 470-608 MHz, a loss of over half since 2010. 

In response, some companies have opened up the previously popular VHF ranges (169-216 MHz), 900 MHz and 2.4 GHz, but in order to address the reduction of available wireless spectrum, manufacturers like Shure and Audio Technica have also created new systems that allow more simultaneous wireless microphone systems to operate in less of the RF spectrum.  These new radios are more selective and less sensitive to outside sources than ever before.

We believe that these and similar systems will provide the best foundation going forward for reliable wireless microphone use, especially in deployments for multi-venue environments and for medium to large users in house of worship, corporate, event and educational environments. 

The Shure QLXD (from $973) and ULXD (from $1320) systems offer operating densities of up to 60 simultaneous systems, depending on your location, and the 4th Generation Audio Technica 3000 Series (from $549) up to 20 systems per 6 MHz TV channel (up to 40 total).  At the time of writing, we have been told that the new Sennheiser Evolution Series G4 300 and 500 series systems will be generally similar to the Shure and A-T systems just mentioned, but we are yet unaware of those exact specifications. 

As tough as it is to look at another round of replacements for all of you with existing "600 MHz" systems, many wireless microphone manufacturers are offering rebates to help limit your pain and ease you into their systems.  For more information on rebates (generally $50-$500 per channel, depending on the new wireless you select), click here for Shure, here for Audio-Technica and here for Sennheiser.

Or call us with questions.  We have helped our clients replace anywhere from a few to 30, 40, and 70+ wireless microphone systems with new frequency sets compatible for both today and beyond July 2020.  The new RF landscape is tough for users of multiple systems, so please let us know how we can assist you in this transition. 

Shure QLXD, ULXD, and Audio-Technica 4th Generation 3000 Series will serve you well for the foreseeable future, and are as good a decision as you can make at their respective price points.  We expect to be able to say the same about the Sennheiser Evolution G4 300 and 500 series.  


Bose S1 Pro - the do-everything portable powered speaker

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You need one of these…not kidding!

Every few years, something special crosses our path and I get excited. Since we started into business, we’ve been a part of changing the technology game for you with the very first affordable audio mixers from Mackie Designs, video projectors, early adoption earset microphones from Countryman, digital audio mixers from Behringer, and laser projectors from Panasonic, Eiki and others. Everyone needs all of those things, right?! Well, maybe not everyone.

I’d like to propose that everyone (truly) needs another portable personal powered loudspeaker.

Stop it! I can hear you snickering. And I get it. I chuckled, too, when I heard about the 2018 NAMM announcement for this product.

Does the world really need another smallish powered speaker? Well, this one has Bluetooth. OK, big deal, they all do. It features a 3-channel mixer. It has reverb. Sure there's just one setting, but it’s pretty darned good. It has an accelerometer that makes subtle changes to tone when used in its tilt-back position as a monitor instead of upright or on a speaker stand. Oh wait, that’s cool. Its included battery lasts 6-10 hours, if you don’t have access to an electrical outlet. Not even The Boss plays shows that long! It sounds great and weighs in at just 15 pounds.

You can use this powered speaker as a small sound system for house concerts, worship services, meetings, as a monitor speaker, a practice amp for rehearsal, outdoor special events, coffeehouse shows, easy rehearsal/playback in your choir or band room, setting up for any unexpected event in less than 5 minutes, or on your patio at home when your MP3 player doesn’t quite rock it enough. It has two microphone/line inputs for vocals and/or instruments and an auxiliary audio input for wired or Bluetooth connections.

I don’t know how Bose cooks up this magic, but the S1 Pro has a deep (yet tight) bass response and beautifully articulate vocal quality in a package that defies logic. And the S1 Pro has a perfect feature set with something for everyone to like – music pro, audio technician, educator, public speaker, backyard party-thrower, and pastor.

The Bose S1 Pro is $599. Get one online or by calling 800-747-7301, call to get in line for our demo unit, and if you don’t agree that you’ll find a way to use it, I’ll be very surprised. Everybody needs one.


4th Gen Audio-Technica 3000 Series and new 5000 series - what happens with my existing microphones?

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With the recent announcement of the 4th Generation Audio-Technica 3000 Series wireless system and the new 5000 series, we've been fielding lots of questions about whether you'll be able to re-use existing earset and lapel microphones.  Today, we have some answers for you. 

The new 4th Generation Audio-Technica 3000 and new 5000 series wireless systems will be shipping in May with a new Hirose screw-down bodypack connector, so if you have existing lavalier, earset or clip-on microphones, your current microphones will not work with the new 3000 and 5000 series.  That said, we've been told by Audio-Technica today that the AT-CWCH adapter cable ($39) will allow you to use current accessory microphones with the new 3000 and new 5000 series in most cases.

IMG 1241

Read more: 4th Gen Audio-Technica 3000 Series and new 5000 series - what happens with my existing microphones?


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