Friday, April 4, 2014

The joys of 2.4ghz and wireless microphones

Last year we purchased several Line 6 wireless microphone systems to use in our Fellowship Hall at Wayside Chapel. They worked great until we installed our campus wide Ruckus wifi system.
A couple weeks ago I relocated the wireless microphone antennas to provide more direct "line of sight" between the transmitters and the antennas but it only improved things a little. Today I replaced the omni antennas for directional ones.
To complicate matters even more I reconfigured the Ruckus APs in the area of Fellowship Hall to only use one or two of the 2.4ghz channels to give the Line 6 wireless mics a little more bandwidth to work in. I also set the power of the APs on the B band at the lowest power settings possible.
Line 6 says that their products work fine along side wifi systems with a lot of disclaimers in the fine print as you try to troubleshoot connection issues. The mics work great when they don't experience signal dropouts; however, keeping them from dropping out is difficult. The Line 6 units are reasonably priced at a 1/3 the cost of Shure's ULX-D series that we use in our Worship Center.
To add to my misery, I learned a couple weeks ago that our FCC is going to be auctioning off the 600mhz where several of our wireless systems currently operate. This is in addition to the 700 mhz they prohibited wireless microphones to use back in 2010 which required replacing a lot of systems on campus.
For now, I'm finding myself sitting on the fence when considering wireless purchases for AV equipment in the future. I'm seriously hoping Shure, Sennheiser and other manufacturers of wireless AV products can come up with a long-term solution to this issue. Replacing mics every 4-5 years would get very expensive.
It would be great to use more wired microphones; however, once people get used to those wireless microphones they don't want to give them up. Wired mics don't require batteries; they cost less; they sound better, and they tend to hold up better to abuse than wireless units.
Integrating technology to work in harmony is the challenge and opportunity of today and the future.