Go Walkabout – Wireless Microphones

Four our final article in the Harmonica Microphones series, let’s ditch that cumbersome mic cable. Many players want to go wireless – fun, because you can go out in the audience and play, dance up on the bar, or simply have more freedom to roam around on stage. Here’s how:

A wireless system always consists of two parts. The transmitter stays with you, connects to your microphone and sends the signal out into the air using radio waves. The receiver is located near and connected to your amp. There are many types of wireless systems available to us. As a rule, you usually get what you pay for. But there are some practical considerations.

Some wireless transformers are small and physically connect to your mic, making a single self-contained unit. Others need a cable that connects to a “belt pack.” The belt pack systems are often of very good quality and fairly economical, but they have a drawback in that you cannot simply put your mic down and move away. Because I double on saxophone in my band, I need to switch instruments quickly and so I have to be able to just lay the mic down. Some belt-pack users will simply shove the mic in their pocket – if this is okay with you don’t rule out belt pack systems. Of the self-contained systems, there are two flavors – the “guitar bug” is a device designed for (guess what) an electric guitar. It has a 1/4″ plug on it – and can be used with a high impedance mic with a 1/4″ jack. An example of this is the AKG WMS40 Guitar Bug system. The other flavor is designed to plug into the end of a vocal mic. It therefore has an XLR connector and expects to be plugged into a low impedance microphone. A good example of this kind of system is the Samson CR77 with AX1 transmitter. There is no tonal difference due to the impedance alone – you simply have to choose the system that works with your gear.

Just about every manufacturer in the market offers a belt pack wireless system. Shure and Sennheiser are popular, high quality brands. Self-contained systems are harder to find but are available from AKG, Samson and others.

Important to users in the United States: Under FCC rules, anyone who uses a wireless microphone that operates in the 700 MHz Band, and that means almost every wireless system sold prior to late 2009, should not be operating it. All users of 700 MHz Band wireless microphones (and similar devices)—including theaters, churches, schools, conference centers, theme parks, and musicians—will need to retune (where possible) or replace their wireless microphone equipment with other microphone devices. For further information, please visit the FCC website.

And so ends our series on harmonica microphones. Our thanks go to Murray Hunter for plugging in the original concept. To Keith Shackleton for sorting out the feedback. And, of course, Greg Heumann without whom none of the content would have been audible in the first place. Now get out there and create your own reverb.

Greg Heumann is the curator of our Harmonica Microphones section. Read his previous articles here. You can find more from him at www.blowsmeaway.com.

3 thoughts on “Go Walkabout – Wireless Microphones

  • June 27, 2015 at 8:29 pm
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    I need a microphone to play harmonica in church. Sometimes and sometimes I don’t want to hold it. Just for it to be there in font of me to play, holding the harmonica only. Could you tell me all that I would need to have this done. Tell me all the pieces I will need and cost. Thanks.

  • June 27, 2015 at 9:54 pm
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    Completing a an incomplete sentence in previous note: Sometimes I want to hold it and sometimes I don’t want to hold it.

  • November 13, 2015 at 12:24 pm
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    Hi Berris. The short answer is no, because there are so many possibilities and I haven’t seen inside your church to appreciate its acoustics and understand what sound system they already have, or not. You should visit your nearest music store, or take a local musician to your church and ask their advice.

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