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Old February 23rd, 2009, 09:17 PM   #1
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wireless systems

Hi everybody, first post. I produce an outdoors tv series. Fishing and hunting with indoor and outdoor interviews. Currently I have three sets of Samson UM series mic systems. They have been adequate, but that's not good enough for me. The voices often sound to far back and I get a steady roar of static when I turn the audio up in post.(not extremely loud static, but static nonetheless) Would simply upgrading to higher quality lav mics help or should I look into a new system such as the Sennhieser G2?

I Generally run my Lavs on one channel while the shotgun is on the other channel. The main purpose of the lav is to transmit voice while the shotgun picks up my background sounds. However I need them to be omnidirectional as we have our heads turned away from the mics at times. Concealment is not that big of an issue, however I dont want them to stick out too bad when we do our cutaway interviews.

Finally, price is a concern but not overly. I dont want to spend thousands, but dont mind spending a fair price. Also, durability would be a BIG plus.

Thanks and looking forward to everyone's responses!
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Old February 23rd, 2009, 09:32 PM   #2
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Sounds to me like you haven't set up your wireless system properly. You should probably look into that before going out and spending money. You may be able to solve the problem without throwing down some $$$.
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Old February 23rd, 2009, 11:43 PM   #3
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Hi Brandon,

As an owner of almost 20 channels of Senn G2 now, I can't say enough good things about this system. They hold up to some pretty rough handling and have what I feel are the necessary items to make them work properly and of course the sound quality is pretty darn good.

That being said, I agree with Jeffery that on the surface it sounds like a bit of tweaking may do you some good. This process holds true for any wireless system I have ever used. BTW I use this process EVERY time I use a wireless...

Item one, always turn on the receiver first, leaving the transmitter off. What do you hear? If the receiver is producing audio with the TX turned off, or showing some sign of reception, there is something on that frequency. Trying to use your TX on an occupied channel like this will almost always result in interference and objectionable audio. Assuming your gear has selectable frequencies, find another channel that is silent and inactive. Tune the TX to match the open channel on the RX.

Next assure that the level between transmitter and receiver is optimized. Not being familiar with the UMs, I can only say that there should be some way of looking at the receiver level while your subject is speaking into the mic/transmitter. Don't forget high/mid chest level is where lavs should be. While they speak, your audio level should be somewhere midway between no indication and peaking/clipping. I usually get them to laugh loudly, set the transmitter gain so that the receiver indicator is just below peaking/clipping. You will find this places normal speaking high enough to get you over the background hiss, but leaves enough headroom to not distort when things get louder. It's a fine line sometimes, but it all starts here.

Now that signal is optimized to the receiver, you need to find a good match from receiver to recorder. Most receivers can adjust their output level to some degree. If your recorder has a line input the RX will be set higher, or set lower to feed a mic input. I usually set the recorder mic/line switch to line, set the recorder gain to about 50%, then adjust the receiver output to make the recorder happy. YMMV, not all RX units have a range that works for every scenario, but this level is important as well.

So four settings have been adjusted, the wireless channel, TX input gain, RX output gain, and recorder input level. Now that each link of the audio chain is optimized, record away-but *always* listen with headphones to make sure things sound right. If they don't, stop and fix it or you just end up recording trash you can't really use. You wouldn't shoot video without looking at the viewfinder... The biggest trick to audio is grabbing it right, there is not really a good way to fix it later.

If these steps don't produce acceptable audio for you, you may want to consider stepping up to better gear. The Sennys can be had for about $500/set for the 100 series and can be had with either omni or directional lavs. There are other units in the price range, but having tried them all (Sony, AT, Shure) my pref was Sennheiser. In any event I think they are all a step up from the Samson. If you do get new gear, most mics can be made to work with most wireless units. I have sony, Sennheiser, and countryman mics for my various G2 systems, each with a specialized purpose. When you weed out all the weak links, wireless can be made to sound as good as a wired mic.
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Old February 24th, 2009, 08:48 AM   #4
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thanks

I'm pretty sure that I have everything set up properly. I have spent a lot of time testing the mics and adjusting levels for optimum sound. I really believe that I have advnaced beyound the capabilities of these mics. My biggest problem is simply that to my ear, the audio sounds kinda "amateurish" . I would like to get better or more accurate sound reproduction with less background hiss and voices that seem to be up front in the video and not in the background. Also, I am recording to the camera, not a recorder. This is a necessity as I already have enough gear to drag 20 feet up in a tree! haha

Thanks for the input and I look forward to more!
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Old February 24th, 2009, 09:06 AM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Brandon Carter View Post
I'm pretty sure that I have everything set up properly. I have spent a lot of time testing the mics and adjusting levels for optimum sound. I really believe that I have advnaced beyound the capabilities of these mics. My biggest problem is simply that to my ear, the audio sounds kinda "amateurish" . I would like to get better or more accurate sound reproduction with less background hiss and voices that seem to be up front in the video and not in the background. Also, I am recording to the camera, not a recorder. This is a necessity as I already have enough gear to drag 20 feet up in a tree! haha

Thanks for the input and I look forward to more!
The two things that tip us off about this being a 'setup' issue, is that you keep saying the voices are getting lost in the background. I'm not sure how it can be getting lost in the background if you have the mic positioned correctly, and the transmitter settings are set high enough. If you're working in an extremely loud environment, then perhaps you may have that issue. Secondly, you said you have to turn the audio up in post. How high do you have to turn it up?
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Old February 24th, 2009, 09:20 AM   #6
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I have the mics turned up to the point that if I go any more distortion and clipping will occur. Its not that my audio is terrible, its acceptable. I just think better quality is possible.
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Old February 24th, 2009, 09:34 AM   #7
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Then you can go with the Sen G2s I suppose. ;)
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Old February 24th, 2009, 09:58 AM   #8
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Would upgrading to better mics be a first step before jumping into an entire new system? I would really love to find someone who has used the Samson System and the SENN G2 to compare. I've done quite a bit of research and cant find many people with the Samsons. Maybe there lies my answer! HAHA

Thanks for the assistance and opinions.
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Old February 24th, 2009, 01:32 PM   #9
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Yes a better mic may help. I have two G2s and two Lectros, and have gotten better mics for them. Countyman, Trams, Sankens. The factory supplied mics are not that great. Even the Lectro mics do not have the sound of the aforementioned .
The AT899 and Voice Technologies mics are affordable and sound pretty nice. In addition you can get a Tram for about $175.USD with an unterminated cable. (no connector)
I would try a new mic and if that doesn't give that desired results, you can always change the connector use it new unit. However static type sounds would indicate an RF issue.
The G2 systems work very well, not as good as the Lectros but they cost 3-4x as much.

Addendum: I used a client' s UHF Sampson once and don't recall it sounding that bad. I don't recall what model except it had the two rabbit ears antennas.
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Old February 24th, 2009, 01:43 PM   #10
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Originally Posted by Brandon Carter View Post
cant find many people with the Samsons. Maybe there lies my answer!.
There ya go. I haven't used the samsons, but have tried Aztec, Radio Shack and consumer Sony units. They all are very poor in my opinion, and not worth wasting money on. The midgrade Senn G2, Sony UWP, and Shure systems are all pretty good-just depends on which brand you trust and how much you want to spend. Most of the included mics are so-so at the $500-600 price point, but all have excellent mic upgrades for another $200 or so.

Moving up you can look into Lectrosonics, Senn 5000, Sony pro and Zaxcom-but then you are talking upwards of $2,000 per mic system. woo hoo!!

My opinion is that your problem is more in the RF portion, than in the mics themselves. Hearing in person is the only way for sure to know. You might consider renting a G2 system to see if you like them, and that they produce the sound you are looking for and go from there.
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Old February 24th, 2009, 03:49 PM   #11
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Hi Brandon,

I think you'll find a reason why everyone is recommending the Sennheiser, it's just a quality piece of gear at the right price. Yup, the Lectrosonics stuff does indeed sound great, but you get to that point of paying 2-3 the cost for 10-20% better sound. There is a point of diminishing returns when it comes to audio. Well, unless you get addicted and just keep lookin' for your next fix with the ultimate mic, preamp/mixer, cables....happens to the best of us :)

I'm mostly using the Sennheiser G2 system with a Countryman E6i headworn mic. I'm not sure if it'll work for your outdoor show, but the system does come with a foam windscreen. Pretty spendy though. We can also bundle the B6 or the EMW lav and give a $100 credit for ME2 lav if you want to "ditch it."
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Old February 24th, 2009, 05:57 PM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Brandon Carter View Post
I have the mics turned up to the point that if I go any more distortion and clipping will occur. Its not that my audio is terrible, its acceptable. I just think better quality is possible.
If you're referring to the lav wireless mics, then you might have the mic gain turned up too high. To reduce background noise, you want to place the mic element close to the mouth (about 8" below the chin) and turn down the gain as much as possible. This reduces sensitivity so you only hear the closest sound sources (the mouth near the mic).

Getting a better mic system might help, too.

I'm using a couple of ATW-1800 diversity systems and have great results. They're set up with AT-899CW mics. Audio quality is very good and reliability is high. No dropouts at normal working distances (for me that's up to 50 feet but usually 15 or less). The price might seem high but it is actually for two independent mics with a dual-channel, diversity receiver.
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Old February 24th, 2009, 10:35 PM   #13
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G2 is nice, but you should get more distance with the AT1800 if that is important. Being able to mix the two channels together (with the AT) may be helpful as well.
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Old February 24th, 2009, 11:16 PM   #14
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Originally Posted by Guy Cochran View Post
Hi Brandon,

I think you'll find a reason why everyone is recommending the Sennheiser, it's just a quality piece of gear at the right price. Yup, the Lectrosonics stuff does indeed sound great, but you get to that point of paying 2-3 the cost for 10-20% better sound. There is a point of diminishing returns when it comes to audio. Well, unless you get addicted and just keep lookin' for your next fix with the ultimate mic, preamp/mixer, cables....happens to the best of us :)

I'm mostly using the Sennheiser G2 system with a Countryman E6i headworn mic. I'm not sure if it'll work for your outdoor show, but the system does come with a foam windscreen. Pretty spendy though. We can also bundle the B6 or the EMW lav and give a $100 credit for ME2 lav if you want to "ditch it."
I'd certainly pay 3x the amount to avoid any high frequency splatter, but then again, I'm a sound guy. ;)
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Old February 25th, 2009, 01:47 AM   #15
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There are many reasons why one would be willing to invest in a system from Lectrosonics (or other professional systems). Because one can shoot a movie in VHS doesn't mean one actually 'should' ;-)
The Sennheiser evolution series is a nice cheap system, fine. Lectros sound a) way better in all situations and way way way better in certain situations. But you'll only find that out by actually using these systems during actual shoots and not 'testing' them for 5 minutes in the office or by doing one of those dubious 'walking tests'.
If you are a professional you can not afford to use those Sennheiser G2 systems. For non critical use though it will do a good job.

Back to the original question: it's obvious that either the system is used in a somewhat unorthodox way......really sounds like it, or its malfunctioning. One would need much more detailed and exact information in how it is used, gain stages, how the lav is mounted and on and on...

Last edited by Karl Lohninger; February 25th, 2009 at 12:23 PM.
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