Event Tech

The Technology Behind the Event – from Great Events Arizona

Wireless Microphone Primer

At many events it would be inconvient to have a cord streatching from the microphone back to the PA System. This is especially true at weddings where the best man and maid of honor toast the bride and groom.  If the head table is at one end of the room and the DJ table (with the PA system) is at the other end of the room you would have a long wire streatching across the dance floor!

Wireless microphones are a great technology for events, they allow the person with the microphone to roam free while still being heard.  There are a couple of types of microphones that are commonly used as wireless microphones and there are a couple of different ways that technology makes the microphone wireless.  So, let begin…

The two most common descriptions of microphones are “handheld” and “lapel”.  There are many different types of microphones but most fall into one of these two catagories. 

A “handheld” microphone is just that, it is normally about the size of a flashlight and is held in the hand.  Most handheld microphones fall into two additonal catagories: dynamic and condenser.  The thing to note is that “dynamic” microphones sound much louder and better the closer they are to the person’s mouth.  This is not as true with “condensor” microphones, but a good rule of thumb is that when you are speaking into a handheld microphone keep it close to your mouth.  Resting the end of the microphone on your chin, with the microphone pointed up is a good way to do this. But be careful, in some wireless handheld microphones the antenna is at the bottom.  With these microphones if you have your hand at the bottom you will block some of the radio signal.

The other main type of wireless microphone is “lapel” these are little microphones that usually have clips and the clip to the lapel of a man’s jacket.  This style of microphones can be seen on news programs where people are being intereviewed. A lapel mic is usually very small, about the size of a pencil eraser, with a cord that lead to the battery pack.  The battery pack is normally about the size of a deck of cards.  Most battery packs have a clip so it can be worn on a belt.

A few things to keep in mind…

Switches – most wireless microphones have at least one switch.  This switch can turn the microphone on or off and sometimes “mute”. When the microphone is “muted” it is still on but it is not transmitting the sound.  When you are asked to use a wireless microphone ask the person if you need to touch any switches before you start talking.  It is best to have the microphone on and not muted so that you don’t have to remember what switch does what.

Power – wireless microphones are powered by AA batteries or 9 volt batteries.  A fresh set of batteries should last for a few hours.  Always insist that new batteries are used to start your event.

Frequencies – a wireless microphone transmits to a receiver over a particular radio frequency.  Because there are a lot of things that use radio frequencies (security radios, computers, radio stations, TV stations, etc.) sometimes there is interference between something else and the wireless microphone.

This brings us to the other two types of wireless microphones, ones that have a “fixed” frequency and ones that are “frequency agile”.  If the microphone has a single fixed frequency and there is something else that is interfering, that wireless microphone may not be able to be used.  More expensive (professional) wireless microphones let you adjust the frequency that they use, they are “agile” in the their frequency can be changed.  Both handheld and lapel microphone can be “frequency agile”.

So, if you are planning an event with wireless microphones decide which is best between a handhel (easy to pass between people or have on a mic stand) or a lapel (great for a single person), or both.  Remember that frequency agile wireless microphones are more flexible and can in most cases work around any problems with other radio sources at your location.

If you have any wireless microphone questions, please let me know and I’ll feature it in a future blog.

One Response to “Wireless Microphone Primer”

  1. awesome blog great work

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