Lessons in Cutting the Cord….Or How to Rent a Wireless Microphone!

ImageA dear friend of mine asked me over coffee one day about renting some wireless headsets for an outdoor Christmas event. When I asked her if she needed just the headworn element, or if she needed the entire wireless system, the color drained from her face and I was met with a blank stare. After attempting to educate her about the different components of a wireless mic system, I came to the conclusion that I needed to blog about wireless microphones! In particular, what they are, how they work, and how to go about renting if you need one, or even a dozen!

Wireless microphones convert audio signals into radio signals, which are sent by a microphone transmitter (handheld or bodypack with choice of element) through the air to a receiver. The receiver converts the radio signals back into audio signals which are then sent through the sound system. They eliminate the need for cables, so you’re no longer tethered to a sound system or tripping over mic cables.

The wireless receiver (usually a box with 1 or 2 antennas) plugs into your existing sound system just like any standard microphone via the same type of cable. This cable is either a 3-pin (also called XLR) mic cable or a ¼” plug. It can plug into your audio snake on stage, but usually it sits back by our sound board and plugs directly into the mic channel on the board – just like a regular wired microphone would.

There are basically 5 different wireless transmitter options – you can think of “transmitter” as “microphone” or whatever you’re using to pick up the signal you want to amplify through your sound system. They are:

  1. Handheld – looks like a regular microphone, can be held or clipped to a mic stand. This is the best choice for music or concert applications, so the vocalist can control the volume level by moving the mic closer to or further away from the mouth as necessary.
  2. Lavalier – also called a “clip on” or “tie tack” element – it plugs into the bodypack and then can clip anywhere, but the best location is front and center @ 6 inches below the chin. Be sure the mic element is pointing toward, and not away from the mouth. This option is fine for most speaking applications where the subject is facing in one direction most of the time. For use in theatre applications, it can be taped anywhere on the face or pinned right at the hairline to keep it a constant distance from the mouth.
  3. Headworn – plugs into the bodypack, some models are worn around the back of the head, others via a wire bent around the ear. The primary benefit of a headworn mic is that it always stays a constant distance away from the mouth, so that the vocal input level stays the same regardless of which way the head turns. Another benefit is that headworn mics can be swapped easily among users, because they are not attached to the skin or hair.
  4. Clip-On Instrument Mic – plugs into the body pack, this is an often overlooked solution for high volume wind, brass and percussion players. A gooseneck and clamp ensure a secure fit and proper positioning.
  5. Guitar/Bass Cable – ever wonder how guitarists go wireless? This is how! This cable can connect any guitar to a bodypack for wireless performance.

Now that you know how a wireless microphone works and what the options are, here is what to tell the rental house when you call them:

  1. When you will pick up and return: Rentals generally are calculated by daily and weekly rates. Typically, any rental of 3 days or more will be calculated as a weekly rate, and a weekend rental (pick up Friday, return Monday) is only charged at a day rate. This makes renting for most applications much more cost effective than purchasing.
  2. What the mics will be used for and what element you think you need – unless you are an expert, it is advisable to give all this information to the rental house, and then rely on their expertise to help you achieve the best possible performance.
  3. Will there be other wireless mics being used – each wireless microphone operates on its own frequency/channel, and only 1 microphone can operate on a particular frequency/channel at one time. A reputable rental house will help you coordinate all frequencies being used so that there is no interference.
  4. What cable you need – do you need XLR or ¼” to plug the receiver into your sound system?
  5. Do you need any mic stands? This could be important if you are renting wireless handheld systems. Mic stands are not included in wireless mic rentals, but are fairly inexpensive.

Last, but not least, here are two important, yet often overlooked questions you should ask:

  1. Are batteries included?  If not, what kind are needed? How long do they last?
  2.  Never be afraid to ask for a demonstration – but it’s a good idea to ask this when you reserve your equipment, so the rental house can be prepared to spend the extra time with you when you pick up your equipment.

We at ALSS hope this information helps to step up the quality of your next event! And as always, we wish you a great sounding, well lit day!


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Rolling out the red carpet!

Did you know you can rent red carpet? What a great way to spruce up any corporate or special event. As long as you’re getting your sound, lighting, video and podium from us – why not the carpeting, too? Call 860-643-8401 for details, or contact us here for more info!

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Holy spaghetti with wire nuts, this was a fun find! You never know what you’ll run across on a service call.

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Used Equipment Sale & Open House!

Put it on your calendar, folks! On Saturday, September 14th from 9:00am – 1:00pm, ALSS will be open and looking to move a lot of used gear! Audio, lighting, special effects – also discounts on everything in stock – gel, tape, lamps, cables, adapters, accessories. Don’t miss this event! Visit the Used Equipment page on our main company website to see a list of some of the items that will be for sale. 

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Rosco X-Effects Projector Delivers!

Available for rent here!

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LDS Church Groundbreaking Ceremony

LDS Temple groundbreaking 8-17-13Here we are right now! ALSS was asked to provide sound for a new church groundbreaking in Hartford!

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AV Techs Rule!

Treffen Saint John

After assisting a young and pretty, but very green, meeting planner through a series of logistical issues she told me it was a pleasure to find an AV technician so helpful. She went on to say that it is generally believed AV technicians are arrogant and difficult to work with.  I replied, “Most polymaths are.”

The general perception most people have of audiovisual technicians is warranted. We are haughty and, at times, condescending.  Indeed, we ought to be more careful for the Good Book says “Pride goes before destruction.” 

But what would you expect of someone who, having supported events ranging from science to politics and concerts to Super Bowls, had worked hand-in-hand with leading authorities in any given field? The AV technician’s learning spans every subject known to man. The knowledge and expertise that is gained by technicians who sit through conference after conference, listening to the greatest minds…

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You’re Invited to an Open House!

Stop by on Tuesday, April 3rd from 4:00-8:00pm, we’ll show you our brand new shop (located at 7 Sanrico Dr. in Manchester, CT) and showroom! Rental equipment will be on hand for demonstration, we’ll serve up some light refreshments, and everyone who stops by will have their name entered in a drawing for $50 off their next rental. This is really informal, we’re still getting moved in and settled, and we hope to see you!

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ALSS News & Specials is up and running again – finally!

Yes, we know, it’s been a long time since you all received our weekly newsletter. Now that Kim’s back in the shop and devoted to the marketing side of things, our weekly newsletter is once again a reality, and we sincerely appreciate your patience with the process!

If you look over to the top right corner of our page, you’ll see a nifty little “Join Email List” link that you can click on and sign yourself up. If you’re already receiving it, thanks so much for keeping in touch! Your information stays within our company only, and you can unsubscribe from our list at any time. Constant Contact is a great newsletter service that puts total control in the hands of our customers and subscribers.

Any questions? Suggestions regarding what you’d like to see included in a weekly newsletter? Suggestions regarding how often you’d like to hear from us? Feel free to contact us or comment below. We are here to serve you!

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Public Service Announcement

Hi everyone!

It’s getting to be that busy time of year again, and our phones are ringing! With that, I just wanted to implore our customers to not wait until the last minute to book your equipment or hire a technician. Many folks who have called in recently have gone away disappointed. Those conversations usually started something like this:

“Hi – we need to book a sound system for this weekend.”

Folks, sometimes you will get lucky, and a production company will be able to assist you with a last minute gear or tech request. This is not normally the case.

As the Boy Scouts of America always say – be prepared!

Be prepared. Book in advance. Thanks!

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