Product Reviews

Eliminating Wireless Dropouts

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Multi-path interference is the most common cause of wireless drop-outs, and if you can get rid of multi-path, you can get rid of a good number of headaches. So what exactly is multi-path interference? 

This post explains multi-path, diversity receivers, and a new antenna for eliminating the problem.

When a microphone transmitter sends out a radio wave signal, it spreads through a room, like ripples on a pond. As the wave encounters flat surfaces, like walls and ceilings, it reflects and continues forward at different angles. Since there are multiple surfaces in every room, there are multiple reflections and hence multiple paths--some longer and some shorter--that a wave takes before reaching the wireless receiver.

Usually, the receiver is able to process two or more signals arriving at slightly different times without difficulty. But if the signals overlap in such a way that they cancel each other out (creating a “null”) you get a drop in volume or complete drop-out. Sometimes, the shape of the room can cause a multi-path null to perpetually hover over a receiver. Other times, when the speaker walks past a certain spot on the platform, a dead spot will develop and you’ll hear a quick drop-out.

Diversity receivers filter out multi-path interference by using two antennas instead of one. Most wireless receivers that have two antennas are diversity receivers. Since a multi-path null occurs only in specific and relatively small locations, it is less likely that a null will exist over both antennas. This is called “spatial diversity.”  But spatial diversity does not work 100% of the time.

Read more: Eliminating Wireless Dropouts

 

Innovation or Copycat? Voice Technologies VT901 Earset

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It's been more than five years since Countryman changed the face of audio with its E6, an ultraminiature earset microphone.  With tens of thousands sold, you could argue that the lavaliere microphone is nearly obsolete for live audio and that the E6 has been a gamechanger for speech applications.  With its success, the E6 spawned a host of copycat products; some good, some not so good and some better, but no one can argue that the E6 set the standard. 

A couple weeks ago, I called one of our suppliers to order a product for a client and a familiar voice answered the phone.  It was my friend Bryce Boynton.  For several years, Bryce worked for another microphone manufacturer, and he had just started the new job.

We talked for a few minutes about how a guy from Colorado was settling in in the northeast, and as we talked, he said, "Hey Dave, I have a microphone that I'd like you to try. It's an earset, and I think that you'll like it."  Bryce came from one of the world's premier microphone manufacturers to this position, so he's a microphone expert, and I thought to myself...

Read more: Innovation or Copycat? Voice Technologies VT901 Earset

   

Your easiest streaming solution!

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When it comes to video streaming solutions, we've learned a few things the hard way.  And sometimes, after learning the hard way, video streaming is still difficult.  The primary reason is that the public internet isn't always consistently as fast as your ISP claims. 

Many of our clients are smaller churches.  Why?  Well, because most churches are smaller churches.  So when a smaller church wants to stream video outside its walls, how much can it spend?  And how hard can it be to make it work?  The answers: not a lot, and it has to be simple. 

This isn't the solution you'd want if you have a second campus and need a life-size HD picture, but if you have various groups of people anywhere else who want to connect with you, whether they speak your language or are just staying home with a sick kid, this might be just what you need.  People can watch from any tablet, computer, smartphone, or internet-enabled television.  And yes, you could project its output onto a screen, too. 

This solution does not require a computer, it does not require encoding software and it doesn't even require any ongoing cost, if you're willing to watch an occasional advertisement.

Read more: Your easiest streaming solution!

   

Heil PR22-UT - The best value in handheld vocal microphones. Period.

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by Dave Horn

Best. Value. Period. 

That's a pretty bold statement, and might make some of our other microphone manufacturers uncomfortable, but I think that it's true.  At $117, the Heil PR22-UT is the best value in vocal microphones, but what does that mean? 

Is it the best microphone available?  No.  Is it the cheapest microphone available?  Hardly. 

Since its introduction over 40 years ago, the benchmark for vocal microphones has been the Shure SM58.  It's still standard by which microphones are measured and for good reason.  It sounds good and there are tens of thousands in use every day.  We all know what to expect when we plug one in. 

In comparison to the SM58 which costs $99.95, the Heil sounds better, but it should.

Read more: Heil PR22-UT - The best value in handheld vocal microphones. Period.

   

My favorite small speaker

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by Dave Horn

Like any gear guy, I have my favorite products.  And like any good gear guy, those favorites change from time to time. 

Last week, our church launched its community garden space, and we needed a better sound system for the event.  Since our existing small portable system wasn't quite what we needed, we had borrowed a different system for our Easter Sonrise service (outdoors), but I'm a firm believer that churches should own or rent all of the gear that they need, and that borrowing is not a good option. 

So what constitutes a "better" sound system?  Frankly, I was tired of lugging an 80 pound amp rack, with a CD player/iPod dock, small mixer, a wireless microphone, a drawer full of cables, and a power conditioner -- along with speakers, stands, and cables.  The system had served us well for 5-6 years of our outdoor basketball league, for youth events, camps, and more, but I wanted something more portable and something easy enough for anyone to set up and use.  Even as simple as it was, it could have been better. 

The requirements for the speakers:  small, lightweight, built-in amplifier, great sounding, microphone input, line input (1/4" and XLR), pole mount socket, ideally could be used as a small monitor (with the horn in its proper rotation, of course), and they had to cost less than $500 each. 

What did I choose?  The Electro-Voice ZXA1.  For $499.95, I have a speaker that fills all of my requirements. 

One of the best features of the ZXA1 (like many powered speakers) is that it has a microphone level input so you can take a dynamic mic, the ZXA1, a speaker stand and cables and have a complete small sound system.  The line input will take the output from a music source, too - a two-channel mini mixer.  The ZXA1 weighs in at just under 20 pounds, and is about 11x18" on its face, and it sounds great. 

It's just as at home as a small monitor as it is a small main speaker.  Now, we're talking small when I say small.  You're not going to play rock and roll to 500 people outdoors and you won't rattle any windows, unless you get the ZXA1-Sub - and even then rattling windows outdoors isn't terribly likely.  The ZXA1 and ZXA1-Sub combo (a pair of each) is a fantastic small system for youth rooms and choir rooms, too. 

If you're looking for a similar speaker that doesn't need a lot of equalization and that serves a variety of smaller applications well, consider the ZXA1.  I just bought two for my own church, and I could have bought anything. 

   

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What others say

The Countryman E6 mic you supplied arrived very promptly and has worked really well as a mic for preachers in our church. It sounds good and is almost invisible in use.

Rod Webster, Derbyshire, UK