Wireless Microphones vs. Wired Microphones

wireless vs. wired microphones

The other day I came across a picture of a church vocal team on their stage. Many things struck me about this picture, like seeing 7 vocals crammed in maybe a 12' wide by 5' deep space (on a large stage) and seeing each singer with their own music stand, mic stand and personal monitor mixer. The thing that stood out most was the fact that each singer, surrounded by all of this stuff, was using a wireless microphone system instead of a wired microphone.

We all know wireless microphones provide a high level of convenience and flexibility, and they certainly can keep a stage looking clean. If your setup features the vocalists out towards the front of the stage and you want to keep wires at bay, a wireless mic system is a great option. If your guitarists do not need access to any pedals and instead need to be able to move around the stage, wireless connections make sense. Too often people think wireless mics and guitar systems will clean up the look of the stage. That's true if you don't have a bunch of other wired gear in the same space. As most touring guys will tell you, if you don't have to use wireless you shouldn't. Let’s explore some of the advantages that come with using wired microphones over a wireless system.

Wired Microphones Might Sound Better

With a wired microphone, what you put into it is what you get out of it. A high-quality mic capsule well matched to voice or instrument is the best possible way to get quality sound. With wireless equipment, you are often limited in the selection of mic capsules, limiting your ability to try different mics to find the best match. Many wireless mics use companding to compress dynamic range into a small frequency allocation. While this processing is less noticeable on higher priced wireless systems, there can be a noticeable difference between vocals and instruments on a wireless setup versus a wired one. Newer professional digital wireless microphones can handle a full dynamic range just like wired microphones.

 Wireless vs. Wired Mics

Increased Reliability

One well-known microphone manufacturer (of both wired and wireless microphones) had an engineer that used to start off his classes by holding up a microphone cable and saying something along the lines of, "The most expensive wireless mic in the world is ALMOST as good as using this." Wireless technology is not perfect, and even a really great wireless mic system has a higher rate of failure than its wired mic counterpart. In the world of production, where so much can go wrong, wireless technology introduces one more finicky area of possible failure. Wireless interference, intermodulation distortion and drop-outs happen for a variety of reasons and can kill a moment when you least expect it. As long as your microphone cable is of decent quality, a wired microphone won't have these issues. If you want to go wireless, invest in a well-designed antenna and RF distribution system to give your wireless mics the most reliable signal possible.

Wireless vs. Wired Mic Systems

Wired Systems Don't Require Batteries

If you mix audio with wireless equipment for any length of time, you'll run into the dreaded situation of someone's batteries dying while on stage. Even for those particularly diligent about replacing batteries, it will happen at some point. Whether it simply has run its course or maybe it came with bad cells, batteries can and will die without notice where a good microphone cable typically won't. In addition, there is a significant ongoing cost to the batteries you use for wireless technology and equipment. At the first church where I was on staff, we ran approximately 10-12 wireless microphones for 3 services per week and had a battery budget in the neighborhood of $1,500 per year! Add a few more wireless microphones and some wireless in-ear monitors and the cost of your batteries per year can double. Do you know how much ongoing expense your wired microphone incurs? Maybe $25 if you need to get a new cable? The comparison is not even close. For those situations where you are using a wireless system, get a professional rechargeable battery and charging system designed for professional wireless microphones like those available from Ansmann.

More Economical

Last but not least, wired microphone systems simply cost less. Average wired microphones often amount to 1/3 the cost of their wireless counterparts if you compare apples to apples. I don't know about you, but if I don't need the mobility, I'd much rather buy two good microphones than one average wireless mic.

Wrap Up

Make no mistake, I like high quality wireless microphones and love them for many applications. That being said, too many churches go to wireless technology first when a wired microphone would actually fill the need better. Wired microphones generally sound better, are more reliable, don't require batteries (saving money and increasing reliability) and are significantly more cost-effective up front. Before buying anything, really weigh out what features you need in order to be successful, then buy the equipment that will meet those needs. Don't buy wireless mics where wired systems will do just fine. Take those funds and add versatility and diversity to your wired mic selection. We havea wide selection of the best wired mics designed to bring out the best in female vocals, male vocals and a wide variety of instruments.

Vice President of Sales & Marketing
CCI Solutions
Duke has over 20 years of experience as a technical artist, trainer and collaborator for ministries. Duke travels around the country for CCI Solutions and is available to help your ministry. Join Duke on Facebook at www.facebook.com/ccisolutions.