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Old September 2nd, 2006, 10:35 AM   #1
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Opinions on Azden (or any other) wireless lavs?

I'm slowly very slowly building my arsenal. I'm looking at adding wireless audio and have found this Azden lav/handheld set at B&H, which I am considering. I'm a musician as well, so I'm not too dumb when it comes to things audio... however have zero, absolutely no experience with anything by Azden.

Is this a good package that I will be happy with for a long time, or am I going to be looking to upgrade as soon as I possibly can? With some Audio-Technica sets (mind you, with only the lav) being only slightly more expensive, should I go for those instead? I figure, if B&H is carrying them, they can't be worthless pieces of s***, right?

I've never used wireless before, so this is new territory for me. Any tips of what to look for and what to avoid would be greatly appreciated.
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Old September 2nd, 2006, 10:52 AM   #2
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Mike Barber
I'm slowly very slowly building my arsenal. I'm looking at adding wireless audio and have found this Azden lav/handheld set at B&H, which I am considering. I'm a musician as well, so I'm not too dumb when it comes to things audio... however have zero, absolutely no experience with anything by Azden.

Is this a good package that I will be happy with for a long time, or am I going to be looking to upgrade as soon as I possibly can? With some Audio-Technica sets (mind you, with only the lav) being only slightly more expensive, should I go for those instead? I figure, if B&H is carrying them, they can't be worthless pieces of s***, right?

I've never used wireless before, so this is new territory for me. Any tips of what to look for and what to avoid would be greatly appreciated.

While I don't have any direct experience with Azden, I have to say they don't have the best of reputations, especially in their budget lines (which this definitely is!) Consider, entry level pro-grade systems from Sennheiser, Sony, AKG, Audio Technica start at about $500 for a single transmitter/receiver pair. Systems from folks like Lectro can start at upwards of $1500 and go up from there. Yet here we see a mic with transmitter, a bodypack transmitter, and a receiver all for only $150. Remember TANSTAAFL - There Ain't No Such Thing As A Free Lunch.
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Old September 2nd, 2006, 11:01 AM   #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Steve House
While I don't have any direct experience with Azden, I have to say they don't have the best of reputations, especially in their budget lines (which this definitely is!)
What is their reputation?

As an aside, I used to live in Hamilton before moving to the US (will be moving back within a year, likely to Toronto). Nice to see someone from home on here.
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Old September 2nd, 2006, 11:35 AM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Mike Barber
What is their reputation?

As an aside, I used to live in Hamilton before moving to the US (will be moving back within a year, likely to Toronto). Nice to see someone from home on here.
As I said, don't have any direct experience with them but the comments I've read from folks who have rate Azden's top of the line gear as okay, not outstanding but usable, but the rest is only so-so.

One thing that can be an important factor with any brand of wireless is whether the frequency band is VHF or UHF. UHF is a bit more expensive but is definitely preferrable as it is superior in range, freedom from interference (always a problem with wireless), and in general delivers better audio. But the system in the link you posted is VHF.

The lowest price is not always the most economical choice and for serious work I think you'll be looking to upgrade pretty quickly, ending up spending more money than if you'd gone with a higher quality system from the start.
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Old September 2nd, 2006, 01:03 PM   #5
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Mike Barber
What is their reputation?
.
Azden doesn't have a great reputation among serious audio geeks, or even among video professionals. They make products for a specific niche, but overall, their electronic products are pretty noisy, and their mics as a general comment, aren't terribly good sounding.
Beware any company that puts a "zoom" switch on a shotgun mic. :-)
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Old September 2nd, 2006, 02:17 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Douglas Spotted Eagle
Beware any company that puts a "zoom" switch on a shotgun mic. :-)
You mean like AT with their "tele" switch on the ATR55? :D

Just kidding Spot, that's obviously not a professional-grade mic by anyone's definition, and no real reflection on AT's higher-end stuff.

Speaking of AT though... Mike, you might want to have a look at the AT pro 88w. It is still a VHF system, but it's better than most due to the fact that the signal isn't compressed in transmission. It can be had for anywhere between $115-$180 or so, and gets relatively high marks from most people, for what it is. At the extreme low end of the price spectrum, I think most here and elsewhere would agree that this system is the best bet. You don't get a handheld like you would with the Azden system, but like Steve and Spot have been saying, it's best to stay as far away from Azden as you can get.
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Old September 2nd, 2006, 03:07 PM   #7
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jarrod Whaley
You mean like AT with their "tele" switch on the ATR55? :D

Just kidding Spot, that's obviously not a professional-grade mic by anyone's definition, and no real reflection on AT's higher-end stuff.
.
LOL, I forgot that was still in the product. Yeah, that worries me. Consumers, I guess, assume that since they have a 'zoom' lens, they need a 'zoom' microphone too. Yikes.

Mike, look to Rode, AT, and Sennheiser for good, low cost shotguns if that's what you're after. I like the smoothness of the AT 897, the sensitivity of the Senn 66, and the mix of the two in the Rode NGT2. Overall, the 897 has the best sound, IMO, but is the least sensitive of the three options.
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Old September 2nd, 2006, 03:09 PM   #8
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A good lavaliere microphone costs $250 (Tram). How can an entire system for $150 be a good bet? It's best to save your money until you can buy good components. Rent in the meanwhile, and package the cost into your jobs.
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Old September 2nd, 2006, 03:16 PM   #9
 
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Originally Posted by Eric Darling
A good lavaliere microphone costs $250 (Tram). How can an entire system for $150 be a good bet? It's best to save your money until you can buy good components. Rent in the meanwhile, and package the cost into your jobs.

Actually, you'll be hard-pressed to find a system that *sounds* as good as the AT Pro88, simply because it's so cheap, there is no compander. Throw a decent mic on the transmitter, it's scary good. Just don't plan on going farther than 20 feet or so. It's VHF, non-diversity, and only offers 2 channels, but dang, it sounds AWESOME.

Outside of that, moving to a UHF, true diversity system is the only way to fly, IMO. Just don't get caught up in the BS of "We offer all these channels/frequencies" by some of the manufacturers. There are the same channels/frequencies for EVERYONE, it's like a freeway of fixed width. Dividing up channels only means that the lanes in the freeway get narrower, but the bandwidth stays the same. In other words, it doesn't work quite as easily as just adding channels.
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Old September 2nd, 2006, 03:31 PM   #10
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Well, if you're limited to 20 feet, you're probably not in need of wireless - beside the range issues, VHF is probably more succeptible to interference vs. UHF, too. Why not spend your money on a very good Sony ECM-44 or some other quality wired lavaliere? I can see an argument in very specific cases, but those cases would have to be pretty specific.
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Old September 2nd, 2006, 03:31 PM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Eric Darling
A good lavaliere microphone costs $250 (Tram).
Giant Squid's mono omnis are $30, and sound pretty freakin' good.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Eric Darling
Well, if you're limited to 20 feet, you're probably not in need of wireless - beside the range issues, VHF is probably more succeptible to interference vs. UHF, too. Why not spend your money on a very good Sony ECM-44 or some other quality wired lavaliere? I can see an argument in very specific cases, but those cases would have to be pretty specific.
I don't think the cases need to be all that specific. Say you don't have a boom operator and your talent is moving around a little. Or say you're shooting in a tiny space (like a car) where it's hard to hide a shotgun or hyper. There are all kinds of reasons to go with wireless beyond distance; I can think of tons of scenarios where you need mobility, or very close mic placement, or where placing a mic on a boom or stand just isn't practical. For use in narrative filmmaking, shooting at a large distance seems like the special circumstance to me. For events, it's a different story. Like everything else, it all depends on your situation and what kind of shoot you're doing.

I also just want to add that the pro88w isn't necessarily limited to 20 ft... A lot of times, you can, in fact, get a little more range than that. The transmitter can handle the distance, it's just that you're more likely to run into interference at longer distances.

If you're like me and live in a town where rental of higher-end stuff isn't an option, and would like to have at least some kind of wireless lav until you can afford a more expensive system (yeah, you'll pay more in the end, but the flipside is that you can work NOW and make the money to PAY for the more expensive stuff later), the the 88w is a pretty good setup. And like Spot said, it sounds really good.
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Old September 2nd, 2006, 04:07 PM   #12
 
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A lot of action films use the ATPro88, that's where I came across them. They are disposable, allow the actor to be free of cabling, and work very, very well for short distances.
10 feet or 100 feet from a camera, you could *never* put a wired cable on me when I'm presenting, for example. I walk all over the floor and would have a cable mess inside of 2 minutes. I'd have no problem with someone using the best wireless they can afford on me for a presentation; they just need to know the risks of using a low-cost, FM system. VHF over distances is a serious risk, but frankly the industry got along just fine for many years using VHF systems. UHF, diversity systems are best of course, but if you're on a limited budget and your *talent* requires wireless, then get what you can. Ebay and other used sources are also great places to turn.

Remember that any wireless system is there for your TALENT'S convenience, not yours. Wireless should always be a last resort, not a first go-to.
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Old September 2nd, 2006, 04:10 PM   #13
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Originally Posted by Jarrod Whaley
...
If you're like me and live in a town where rental of higher-end stuff isn't an option, and would like to have at least some kind of wireless lav until you can afford a more expensive system (yeah, you'll pay more in the end, but the flipside is that you can work NOW and make the money to PAY for the more expensive stuff later), the the 88w is a pretty good setup. And like Spot said, it sounds really good.
Have you checked out Trew Audio in Nashville? One of the film industry's primo supply and rental houses and only 2 hours away from you. And I'm sure with all the film and broadcast production activity in the Atlanta area there must be several other sources there only 2 hours away in the other direction.
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Old September 2nd, 2006, 04:19 PM   #14
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Originally Posted by Jarrod Whaley
I don't think the cases need to be all that specific. Say you don't have a boom operator and your talent is moving around a little. Or say you're shooting in a tiny space (like a car) where it's hard to hide a shotgun or hyper. There are all kinds of reasons to go with wireless beyond distance; I can think of tons of scenarios where you need mobility, or very close mic placement, or where placing a mic on a boom or stand just isn't practical. For use in narrative filmmaking, shooting at a large distance seems like the special circumstance to me. For events, it's a different story. Like everything else, it all depends on your situation and what kind of shoot you're doing.

I also just want to add that the pro88w isn't necessarily limited to 20 ft... A lot of times, you can, in fact, get a little more range than that. The transmitter can handle the distance, it's just that you're more likely to run into interference at longer distances.

If you're like me and live in a town where rental of higher-end stuff isn't an option, and would like to have at least some kind of wireless lav until you can afford a more expensive system (yeah, you'll pay more in the end, but the flipside is that you can work NOW and make the money to PAY for the more expensive stuff later), the the 88w is a pretty good setup. And like Spot said, it sounds really good.
Fair enough. But in a car, a quality wired mic would probably be a better bet than a wireless anyway. Now, if you're outside the car with the camera/receiver, and the talent is inside the car, you're going to want something with more range, I'm sure.

If you often find yourself in a situation where you're shooting talent less than 20 ft. away, and they need to move, well, then, there you have your specific scenario that a mic system like this would make sense. It's not a versatile investment, though, and if money's tight, this will be your only microphone. You need it to be a versatile solution, I would think.

So, why not befriend another production company (certainly there is one in your hometown that owns a decent wireless system for EFP?), ask them for a deal, convince them you're not an animal and will carefully treat their gear well, and you never know... Like I said, package the rental price into the job. After a few good jobs, buy a good system, and don't waste your money on what sounds like a one-trick pony wireless setup. That is, unless you're in that niche where something like this makes sense. Worse comes to worst, you can rent from TAI or Trew or Location Sound.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Douglas Spotted Eagle
A lot of action films use the ATPro88, that's where I came across them. They are disposable, allow the actor to be free of cabling, and work very, very well for short distances.
I don't think this will be a "disposable" system for this person. We're talking barely affording something here, so I don't think they plan on risking their gear like this all that often. Although, your point is well taken: there are probably more ways than I'm imagining where this system makes sense to have on-hand. Still, I'm thinking versatility on a budget, and this mic just wouldn't do it for me.
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Old September 2nd, 2006, 04:22 PM   #15
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Steve--

Looking to Nashville or Atlanta are options to consider. Thanks. I tend to forget that I could rent from a house in another city. I'll definitely have to keep Trew in mind for shoots where the budget allows for equipment rental.

I do still think, though, that it's good to have some kind of wireless in your kit for the low-budget, spur-of-the-moment, general kinds of shooting situations, though. Until I can move up the ladder a bit, I'm happy with the 88w, with the knowledge that I could rent something better if I need to.

Thanks again.
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