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A Beginners Guide to Wireless Frequencies 

Learning about and using wireless equipment can be overwhelming – there are a lot of differences from traditional gear and rather importantly there are strict rules around using radio frequencies that vary from country to country.

How does wireless equipment work?

 

Wired microphones convert sound into an electrical signal. This is sent through the wire to the sound system. Wireless microphones, however, convert sound into radio signals. This signal is then sent from a transmitter to a receiver which sends it to the sound system. The transmitter is a device that converts the audio signal into a radio signal and broadcasts it through an antenna.

Transmitters are small clip-on packs or in the case of handheld wireless microphones, they are built into the design of the handle. All wireless transmitters generally use a 9-volt battery. The receiver is tuned to receive the radio waves from the transmitter and convert it back into an audio signal. This means that the output of the receiver is just like a traditional wired signal. The balanced audio signal from the receiver output is then connected via an XLR to a typical input in a sound system.

There are a few different kinds of antennae on receivers – single and diversity. Single antenna receivers have one receiving antenna and one tuner but these can be prone to dropping out or getting interruptions in the signal. Diversity receivers, however, perform better as they have two separate antennas and two separate tuners. This means the receiver will automatically choose the best of the two signals, sometimes using a blend of both. This reduces the chance of a drop out because the likelihood is high that one antenna will be receiving a clean signal.

What frequency should I use for my equipment?

This is one of the trickiest areas to cover with wireless equipment because it depends on a lot of factors. Some frequency bands work brilliantly for speech but not for music, and some bands are simply too small to fit in lots of audio channels for a larger group. Some are prone to interference due to being license-free, popular bands and it can be a minefield working out where to begin.

When deciding what band to use, firstly it is good to know that each performer/person that is using wireless in the same location needs to be using a different frequency. It’s good practice to set up the receiver with a blank channel in between or a spacing of 0.25Hz increments on the receiver. Secondly, it’s important to know which spectrum band is suitable and legal to use for your venue – this will depend on the number of wireless devices you’re using, where you are in the world, and if you are moving around or touring with the same equipment. Wireless devices include “low power auxiliary station” equipment such as IEMs, wireless audio instrument links, and wireless cueing equipment, which all have the same rules as wireless microphones. Though not fully extensive, a guide to the available frequency rules of most countries can be found at Frequencies for wireless microphones

There are different areas of the radio frequency spectrum that we are allowed to use for wireless equipment but some are more suitable and better than others, and these are constantly changing, which makes it a hot topic for discussion. It’s useful to remember that the frequency spectrum works in the same way as physical space, in that it has a finite amount of room to be shared. The company Shure has strong concerns, particularly about the ever-decreasing UHF band in the Netherlands and has set up a site to raise awareness at www.losingyourvoice.co.uk

 

The UHF band is the preferred spectrum for wireless equipment however this is getting smaller for wireless use all the time. Ultra-high frequency (UHF) is the ITU designation for radio frequencies in the range between 300 megahertz (MHz) and 3 gigahertz (GHz), also known as the decimetre band as the wavelengths range from one meter to one-tenth of a metre (one decimetre).

Most places including the UK and the USA have overhauled their UHF frequency ranges in recent years due to the digitisation of television, freeing up the old analogue frequencies. Originally analogue television transmitted in the 400-800MHz range had been separated into 8MHz “channels” and these refer to a particular frequency range.

Channel 38 is the spectrum of 606.5 – 613.5MHz and is a popular choice in the UK. Governing body Ofcom requires customers to purchase a yearly UHF UK Wireless Microphone Licence to use Channel 38. A flexible license means that owners are allowed to use radio microphone systems in any location. Channel 38 is a shared space and is large enough for 12 radio microphone systems, however, the downside is that if wireless equipment is tuned to the alternative Channel 70 it cannot then return to Channel 38.

Channel 70 is the band of 863 – 865MHz and this is free to use for radio microphone equipment in the UK. This spectrum is so small that it can be difficult to fit many systems into this space. Additionally, if other users nearby are also trying to use this space it can cause interference. Another issue with Channel 70 is that there is no “buffer” range at the lower end as 4G transmission lives immediately below 863MHz which can cause interference.

The band of what used to be Channel 69 (833-862MHz) is illegal to use since its’ digital auctioning in 2013 and it was replaced with Channel 38 for wireless equipment. Because of these challenges, Channel 70 may not be the best solution for larger setups requiring more space.

In the USA there are similar changes coming into place courtesy of the FCC which is the US governing body. The latest changes include the bands 617 – 652 and 663 – 698MHz which will be banned from wireless use as of July 13 2020. The move away from the 600MHz band is due to channels 38-51 in this spectrum being auctioned to television stations. This means that after July 2020 the available frequencies for wireless will include some frequencies on TV channels 2-36 below 608MHz, 614 – 616MHz, 653 – 657MHz, and 657 – 663MHz. Though this may seem like a current transition, this has been in progress for some time – the use of band 698 – 806MHz has been prohibited by the FCC since 2010 as this was repurposed for licensed commercial wireless services and public-safety networks.

What other frequency options am I allowed to use if the UHF range isn’t right for me?

Again, the list of available space is specific to each country, license and equipment tuning limitations however utilising either side of the UHF range can work, with the VHF (very high frequency) spectrum often making a good and practical backup solution.

The VHF band is classed as 30 – 300MHz, with a differentiation given between low and high VHF:

“Low-band VHF range of 49 MHz includes transmission of wireless microphones, cordless phones, radio controlled toys and more. A slightly higher VHF range of 54-72 MHz operates television channels 2-4, as well as wireless systems defined as “assistive listening.” VHF frequencies 76-88 MHz operate channels 5 and 6.

Band III is the name of the range of radio frequencies within the very high frequency (VHF) part of the electromagnetic spectrum from 174 to 240 megahertz (MHz). It is primarily used for radio and television broadcasting. It is also called high-band VHF, in contrast to Bands I and II.”

The Shure website explains the pro points of using the high-band VHF range, saying:

“The high-band VHF range is the most widely used for professional applications, and in which quality wireless microphone systems are available at a variety of prices. In the U.S., the high-band VHF range is divided into two bands available to wireless microphone users. The first band, from 169 – 172 MHz, includes eight specific frequencies designated by the FCC for wireless microphone use by the general public. These frequencies are often referred to as “traveling frequencies,” because they can theoretically be used throughout the U.S. without concern for interference from broadcast television. Legal limits of deviation (up to 12 kHz) allow high-quality audio transmission.”

Other than the UHF and VHF bands, if we look to the higher end of the spectrum the WiFi frequency range at 2.4GHz is another option, however, this also has its limitations due to it being a small shared space and the fact that a lot of WiFi networks in the area can cause interference.

So what does this mean in practical terms to get started?

If you are purchasing new wireless equipment it’s very important to understand its limitations in what frequencies you will be working with at any given venue, and this is multiplied tenfold if you intend to travel with the same equipment. Many modern receivers do not allow the tuning options to change ranges once they have been set – as previously mentioned, the UK channels 38 and 70 cannot be swapped once they have been tuned, and similarly, radio microphones that can tune to Channel 38 will not tune to the “Duplex Gap” of 823 – 832MHz or the shared space of 1785 – 1805MHz. This means that equipment needs have to be very well researched prior to purchasing and that pre-loved second-hand gear will need extra investigation for this reason.

What are the power restrictions for my wireless equipment? 

As a general rule the power must not be in excess of 50 milliwatts when operating in the television bands, and no more than 20 milliwatts when operating in the 600MHz band or the Duplex Gap.

So to recap what questions should I ask first to get setup?

To get started with wireless equipment the key starting questions are:

While it may seem like a lot of questions to ask and elements to consider, most wireless manufacturers will state the capabilities and limitations of their equipment, and keep you up to date with changes that may affect its’ use. With a bit of research and preparation, it’s possible to find wireless equipment to meet a variety of audio needs and budgets, that works within the law and sounds great wherever you may be.

 

SoundGirls Orlando Expo 2019

The  SoundGirls Orlando Expo 2019 is scheduled

We are also seeking volunteers to help run the expo if you are interested in volunteering please sign up here

SoundGirls is excited to announce the 2nd SoundGirls Orlando Expo. Hosted by Full Sail University and organized by the Orlando SoundGirls Chapter, the expo will feature a  number of panel discussions, seminars and audio manufacturer demos and training sessions.

Manufacturers, Panels, and Seminars TBA

SoundGirls Expo in Orlando, Florida

The event was hosted by the Orlando SoundGirls Chapter and Full Sail University.

A while back a few of us were talking at one of our monthly meet-ups, and I asked everyone “what would you all like to see us do and what do you want  to learn” The responses were varied, but everyone agreed they wanted a day of training and networking with other women working the industry.

From those conversations, I started dreaming about what we could do. I made a few calls and sent some emails. I asked Karrie Keyes for some advice, and she suggested I reach out to some of the local manufacturers that had shown interest in supporting SoundGirls, and I did just that. One of the emails I sent was to Full Sail University to see if we could do some training at the university. Mark Johnson head of the Show Production program at Full Sail University asked me to come in for a meeting with them, and from there, things just started coming together.

One of the teachers for the entertainment business program, Monika Mason, said she was a member of SoundGirls and wanted to help any way she could. Mark suggested having a two day Expo with manufacturers, and Monika suggested we also have panels and discussions surrounding women in audio. I’ll be honest it was a big event to try to pull off and I wasn’t even sure anyone would attend as we are still a growing chapter that hasn’t been up and running for even a year yet. We had two more monthly meet-ups where we spread the word, and we all started talking about it on social media. Mark from Full Sail connected me with Chet Neal from Mainline Marketing who has a ton of reps under their belt. He asked me a lot of information and told me he wanted to see if he could get different manufacturers to come and have female reps and promote what we do. I thought that was a nice touch.

We started planning in January and landed on a date in July. July is a slower month for us in Orlando, so that worked well for others in the industry to be able to attend. We continued planning, talking, and dreaming. Manufacturers like Shure jumped on board and said they would send Laura Davidson, Analog Way jumped on board and said they would send Chrissy Spurlock, Allen and Heath jumped on board and said they would send Willa Snow (who happens to be the Chapter Head for SoundGirls in Austin, TX), and local SoundGirls supporters Clear Tune Monitors jumped on board and said they would send Sandra Cardona and Castor Milano. This was all coming together! I started to get excited!

One of the greatest things I saw while putting this all together was how everyone was so willing to say “yes” and “what can I do to help?” My company, B4 Media Production sponsored breakfast for the vendors and volunteers. Chet’s company,  Mainline marketing sponsored lunch for the vendors and volunteers. Mark, Monika, and Full Sail got us crew, a space on Campus to have the event, and also marketed to the students.

I reached out to some other women who have been in sound for years to have a panel discussion, an audio engineer for a local theater who also teaches audio and video at Full Sail, Susan Williams, a sound engineer from NASA, Alexandria Perryman, and myself did the panel discussion and we just opened it up for any questions. That was my favorite part of the entire event. We had a real discussion about real topics for over an hour both days. Everything from “how did you get your foot in the door?” To “what is a good freelance rate to quote someone.”  All the manufacturers joined in, and attendees all asked questions. We laughed, we were encouraged, and we learned so much from one another.

In addition to informative training sessions, and interactive gear displays, the event highlighted and supported the SoundGirls organizational mission, “to create a supportive community for women in audio and music production, providing the tools, knowledge, and support to further their careers.”

One of the SoundGirls I talked to this last weekend told me “I got emotional seeing all the women in one place learning from other women on the consoles and the Shure system and the IEMs and so on. She said she had always been one of the only girls in the field and she was so encouraged to be surrounded by women running top-of-the-line gear in the real world.” It was great hearing just how energized she was.

I still can’t get over how much fun we had and how inspiring it was. As a veteran of this industry for 18 years, this is the first time I was ever a part of something that helped raise us up as women in this field without it being a requirement or a political statement to do so. Professional women just being professionals, helping and inspiring up and coming women and helping them get a leg up on a ladder that took a lot of us a long time to climb.

I spoke with two other women at the (who found us via the social media events pages) veterans of the industry while at the Expo, one who has been a broadcast engineer for 20 years and one who has been a FOH engineer for 42 years and both women encouraged us to keep going and said, “if you do another one we will come and bring our friends and contacts too.” One of those ladies said to me “you know a lot of our generation is getting ready to retire, it’s great to see the future of the industry is in such great hands and I wanna help you ladies out!” One of the women said, “I wished when I was coming up we had something like SoundGirls, this is such an encouragement to me as a veteran to see women working together not back stabbing one another for the one spot available to women. She shared how men have always helped her, and how great it is to see us come together and unite with one another and the men supporting us to help raise us up not tear us down.” I said, “I to am encouraged by that!” She said, “are you doing another one next year?” I said, “I don’t see why we wouldn’t! This just proved to me that we need these kind of events as well as the monthly meet-up to be an encouragement to one another if nothing else “ she agreed and then said, “I’m going to reach out to all my contacts and help you make this even bigger next year.”

I would encourage all the SoundGirls chapters to try to have some sort of training or expo where you can invite new people and open discussions where you can share with one another. It was one of the most amazing productive things I have ever been a part of in our industry. We will definitely do this again next year! I am looking forward to what the future holds for us women in audio now.


Beckie Campbell is the owner of B4MediaProduction, a growing production company, supplying anything from small corporate set-ups and medium to large concert system set-ups. Being versatile, Beckie also works as an independent contractor to several companies around the US. Beckie’s experience  in the audio field is comprehensive, having the ability to work as Production Management, FoH/Monitors, and as a PA/System or monitor tech. Beckie is the chapter head of the SoundGirls Orlando Chapter. Read SoundGirls Profile on Beckie Campbell

What is the Ultimate Kick Drum Mic?

By Daniella Peters

photo-21Through my work in sales at Rat Sound, one of the questions I get asked a lot is what is our favorite microphone, speaker, console, (fill in the blank). A social media post of an Audix OM7 and we get asked, which is better, an OM7 or Shure SM58? A facebook post of a show using an L-Acoustics K1 system and a photo of a show using an EAW Anya system, and suddenly the question pops up, which is the best speaker? (more…)

European SoundGirls – Shure Introduction to Wireless Workbench 6

Please join European SoundGirl.Org members as they welcome Tuomo Tolonen from Shure. Tuomo will introduce attendees to Shure’s Wireless Workbench 6.The event will take place on May 21st at Britannia Row. The event is free – please RSVP on the event page. We wish to thank Britannia Row and Shure for hosting this informative workshop, and Malle Kaas for organizing it.
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Wireless Workbench 6 Desktop Wireless Control App
From pre-show planning to live performance monitoring, Wireless Workbench® 6.10 provides comprehensive control for networked Shure wireless systems and includes several new features.
  • Networked control of QLX-D™ Digital Wireless (still offers networked control of Axient®, UHF-R®, ULX-D®, and PSM®1000)
  • An interactive view of frequency conflicts and their contributing factors, a detailed listing of conflicts found per frequency, and the ability to filter conflicts by type
  • Ability to select from a list of backup and in-use frequencies
  • Monitor Only mode that safeguards against unwanted changes

Big Tour

 

I have just begun my newest tour with Mr Big who is comprised of  Eric Martin, Billy Sheehan, Paul Gilbert, and Pat Torpey.  I have been mixing Mr Big since 2009 when they reunited and we’ve had quite the adventure in touring over the years.  If you’ve read my previous blog about India and SE Asia...that was one of them.  They are incredible musicians and a real pleasure to work with. (more…)

The Ones That Make it Have a Gift- Melissa Britton

 

Melissa Britton started in live sound 20 years ago mixing in a classic rock biker bar.   “My friend Casey knew I was interested in learning how to do sound. He was mixing at a club and told me I could come in on Sunday and mix the “Ladies Afternoon Stripper Party” Which was great! I rolled some cd cues and watched hot guys strip. I started working on the weekends mixing local bands. Eventually, Casey left to go work at the sister club, and I was hired on full time.”

While mixing five nights a week, Melissa was also going to school and working a regular job.  She moved on from the club to work for Dowlen Sound in Denver, CO, where she worked festivals, graduations, corporate gigs, plays, comedy, and a large variety of music.  “I worked really hard. I was determined to succeed. I would run circles around the guys. Bret Dowlen taught me a lot. He built his whole sound company from scratch, and even though I came into it 10 or so years after he’d started, I learned a lot from him. Watching him take apart consoles and fix them (analog consoles), watching him build crossover’s, wedges, Subs, and PA stacks and then take it all out and put it all up and analyze it, figure out how it could be better, throw farther, etc.… I learned priceless info from being around all that. “

Melissa with Bret Dowlen

Melissa mixed in every club she could get a gig in doing Monitors or FOH. “I worked every day, seven days a week. I learned by watching others and implementing their style, their technique, their flavor, into my own style, when it was my turn to mix.”  “I learned to work with older analog consoles. Gamble EX56, ATI Paragon, Soundcraft Series 4, 800B, 800, Midas H3000, XL4, Bret even had a couple of Harrison’s.”

What got Melissa into this business in the first place was a love for music. “I am in love with music. I played music growing up. My dad played music while I was growing up. Actually, he still plays, and we are getting ready to cut an album at the end of this month, his lifelong dream I’m very excited about that. “  “I wanted to be involved in music somehow. I knew I wasn’t interested in performing, but I was passionate about music. Mixing was a way to be involved without having to perform on stage. I just wanted to be a part of it. “

Melissa has been working as an independent engineer for ten years now and specializes in monitors but is starting to do more and more FoH. “Dave Koz picked me up in 2001/2002, and I’ve been touring with him ever since. “  “I’ve done several short tours. The longest being about eight weeks, mixing monitors mostly. I was flying PA and teching and mixing monitors on my first tour, which was great a good way to stay in shape.”

europe tour keb mo“I love touring. Especially the way I do it. Which normally is four days on three days off. Almost like a regular job.  Going out on a bus tour is great too! You get into a groove on the road. You connect with new people and develop great relationships. It becomes a family away from your family. I never dreamed when I started that I’d be out on the road touring. It just happened. “

Touring life and the road does come with its own inconveniences. “I started touring when my daughter was five years old. I missed so much of her life over the past 12 years. You can’t get those years back. They are gone forever. I haven’t been home for the Christmas season in 12 years.   You’ve got to make the best of the time you have. Out of all the holidays, birthdays, school events, sports events I’ve missed I make up for the time I have off. Because when I’m off I’m really off and the time is mine to manage. So that’s what I like least. I don’t like missing the things that a 9-5’ver mom gets to experience.  But, I LOVE what I do…and she sees that, and now that she’s older she can appreciate that. How many people can say that about their jobs? I love my job. I wouldn’t change anything.”

Melissa’s favorite day off activities includes DJ’ing. “I have a little turntable rig at home, and sometimes I just hang out and spin. I love house, techno, and dubstep. I’m learning how to work with Ableton and Serato and learning how to remix songs. It’s something I’ve always been interested in.  “I also like playing basketball. I keep working on my shot and being a better player. There’s incredible satisfaction in making a great shot. “ “And I like hanging out with my kids. They are the super special people in my life. I love them so much. “

Kingston Audio Jazz Fest

Kingston Audio Jazz Fest

“One of the highlights of my career was when I was teching/mixing FOH for Rave on the Rocks in 2000, at Red Rocks Amphitheatre. Best show EVER. Paul Oakenfold headlined it was so great. “

Melissa’s long-term goals are to continue learning. “I’m always learning something. If I had to set a goal, it would probably be to take more risks.” “I’d like to tour with some other music genres; pop or rock, but I’m pretty satisfied with where I’m at now…I was just asking myself hmm what’s next

Favorite Gear:

VDOSC and K1 line array systems, Telefunken M80’s, and  Shure Microphones.

“A Midas XL4 is probably still my favorite console, but I hardly see them anymore. I like the Pro9. Lexicon Reverbs, (Best thing about the Vi6). Digital is cool. There’s still something to be said for being able to see all your inputs at once. And analog feels good. For me, there are happy memories associated with it. But in the end, I‘ll take what I can get. There’s always something new to learn on whatever piece of gear you have. “

What does Melissa consider to be must-have skills for working in live sound?

“Patience and a good attitude. The days are long and sometimes roll into the next day. 4 am lobby calls for day of show fly dates requires a good attitude patience and a sense of humor.”

“I believe there’s a certain amount of talent a person has to have to make it this business. It’s not just technical. There’s a feel and an intuition. I don’t know how to describe it. It’s more than just faders and knobs. If you don’t touch the gear with respect and love, it’s not going to work for you.”

“The driver I had on the way to the airport this morning told me that it was a gift that I had. His gift was purifying water for the local water company, and mine was mixing and putting up a show. I had never thought about it like that before.  But he’s right…. the ones that make it have a gift. “

More on Melissa

Monitor Engineer Britton, Earl Klugh Band Give Thumbs Up to NEXO Wedge

The Making of an Original Streaming Concert Series

 

Find More Profiles on The Five Percent

Profiles of Women in Audio

Spring went where, exactly?

 

I blinked, apparently!

Since my last blog, two shows opened and closed, and the Bistro, following a grand send-off, was made mincemeat in the name of renovation. Now I have (largely) the first two weeks of July to loaf, bring up my “domestic goddess” average, and plan for two more summer shows. Not a bad way to kick off the summer. But before I leave May/June 2014 to the ages, allow me to indulge in some re-capping. (more…)

Drum Mic Event

By: Malle Kaas

Last week Mina Göl Berthelsen and I attend a “drum mic event” in Copenhagen, Denmark where we both live.
There were 12 sound engineers gathered together with a drummer, a drum kit and “tons” of mic’s. The idea of the event was to put two or three different mics on each drum part, and then record them on to individual tracks to compare them with each other.
We had the drummer playing different rhythm, (Rock, Latin etc.), and then played back in a loop where we were comparing the different e.g. kick mic’s up against each other by listening to one at a time. Kind of an A-B test.
We probably had five rounds with traditional and not so traditional drum mics. Some mics were used again, but on different drum parts. Totally, we were checking out approximately 30 – 35 microphones. (more…)