I would like to preface this review of Lectrosonics’ L-Series wireless lav microphone bundle by first saying that I am not a professional sound recordist and therefore not versed in the various aspects of RF transmission. However, as a doc shooter I very often find myself micing up and monitoring lav mics from my subjects. I’ve used my trusty Sennheiser wireless lavs for about 10 years, so my experience with them is my basis of comparison for review of the new Lectrosonics L-Series wireless lavs.
The first thing you will notice when handling the Lectrosonics L-Series transmitter (LT) and receiver (LR) is that they are built for a war zone. There are no flimsy plastic doors on these units. It looks like they are solid aluminium and built for heavy field use.
The front panel of each unit has five clearly labeled push buttons that let you adjust every control in the menu. The plugs for the microphone and the XLR or 1/8” output cords are multi-pin clip-in style.
The menus in both transmitter and receiver units are very intuitive and easy to figure out without reading the manual. The most notable feature of the L-Series receiver is “SmartTune.” It can scan the whole frequency range and automatically select the ideal frequency to use. Not only will this save time, it is also fun to watch. When the scan is complete and a frequency automatically selected, you can then simply point the receiver at the transmitter and automatically sync the two units to each other via infared (IR) transmission. I loved how simple this was. I can imagine this feature alone would save loads of time in the field when you have multiple wireless units using various frequencies.
To assess the sound quality of the included lav mic and range of the transmitter I enlisted some friends to assist. I connected the Lectrosonics LT to one of them and my Sennheiser to the other and then sent them down the street while they had a conversation. I had always thought my Sennheiser had great sound but it sounded compressed and low quality when compared to the Lectrosonics L-Series’ clarity and complete lack of RF noise. The Lectrosonics LT also has the advantage of a switchable transmission power output. I had it set on 100mW, which is the highest setting. They got about a half kilometre (1/3 mile) away from the receiver before I heard the first hint of signal break-up from the Lectrosonics transmitter. The Sennheiser’s range was only about 1/4 of that.
The other feature worth mentioning is the switch on the top of the transmitter. It can be assigned in the menu to be a mute switch, power switch, talkback switch, or disabled completely. I set it to mute so the wearer can simply flip the switch when they need some privacy.
The L-Series is a “digital hybrid” system, which means it is backwards compatible older analog receivers. Lectrosonics explains it as “a patented design that combines 24-bit digital audio with an analog FM radio link to provide outstanding audio quality and the extended operating range of the finest analog wireless systems. The design overcomes channel noise in a dramatically different way, digitally encoding the audio in the transmitter and decoding it in the receiver, yet still sending the encoded information via an analog FM wireless link. This proprietary algorithm is not a digital implementation of an analog compandor. Instead, it is a technique which can be accomplished only in the digital domain, even though the audio inputs and outputs are analog signals.”
The LT transmitter can also accept line level inputs or an instrument cable (sold separately) with a 1/4″ plug for use with an electric guitar. Lectrosonics sells a companion app for iOS that allows the user to easily configure the transmitter.
A complete kit with LR receiver, LT transmitter, hotshoe mount, 1/8” patch cord, XLR patch cord, lav mic and zippered carrying case can be ordered for under $2500 USD.