Wireless Microphone Systems: Optical vs. Analog

Wireless Microphone Systems: Optical vs. Analog

What’s been keeping you from switching to a wireless system? Are you concerned about bad audio quality, signal dropouts, or unreliability? What if we told you those concerns are no longer valid? Today, wireless systems sound as good as wired systems, if not even better, and are more reliable than ever. 

Wireless systems have many advantages, including mobility, reduced cable congestion, and a low profile. With so many options available selecting the right system—and getting it to work—can be difficult which is why we are going to breakdown wireless systems for you below. 

The Basis 

Wired microphones transform sound waves into an electrical signal that is then transmitted over a cable to a sound device. From there, wireless systems convert sound waves into radio signals, which are then transmitted to a receiver, which converts the signal and transmits it back to the sound system.

There are three components to any wireless system:

  1. The microphone: Portable, headset, and lavalier microphones, clip-on instrument mics, and guitar and bass input systems are a few options.
  2. The transmitter: Converts the audio signal to radio frequency (RF) and sends it over the airwaves to a receiver. 
  3. The receiver: RF signal is transformed back to an electrical audio signal, where it reaches the sound system. Receivers, which can be rack-mounted or stand-alone boxes, attach to your sound system.

Now let's look at some important factors to consider before choosing a system that best fits your needs. 

Digital vs Analog

Wireless devices use analog or digital processes to transform analog audio into a radio signal and then back again. It’s hard to make a direct comparison between digital and analog systems because you’ll need to consider component quality, functionality, budget, and intended use.

Sound 

When choosing a microphone, you need to ensure it can accommodate high SPLs, and is durable enough to withstand stage use.

Since audio is converted to a high-resolution digital signal, which is free of analog errors and interference, digital systems typically provide better audio quality than analog systems. On the other hand, in terms of dynamic range and interference tolerance, the best analog systems will compete with digital.

Latency

Analog systems have virtually no latency. The process of transforming analog to digital and back again initially introduced unacceptable latency into early digital technologies but most current digital systems today have overcome this issue.

Access

Whether you are using a digital or analog system, you must use the same frequency for your transmitter and receiver and you can never have the same frequency for two wireless systems at the same event. Thankfully, this process is not something you have to worry about and can be controlled by your system. Channel pairing is now a second thought, simply set your receiver to seeking mode and you're ready to go. You'll also have more peace of mind with a longer battery life since automated systems use lower-power transmitters.

FCC 

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) permits wireless networks to operate in dedicated radio frequency bands on both a licenced and unlicenced basis. These dedicated frequency band bandwidth is limited due to the fact that is shared among television, radio broadcasting, analog systems and other technologies but luckily that does not affect wireless systems which are a global, license-free standard. Yet again, another win for wireless!

Security 

If you're concerned about protecting sensitive data then digital systems are the way to go. Digital signals, unlike analog signals, can be encrypted providing you peace of mind and a guarantee that only your audience can hear you clearly.

Bottom Line:

It’s a no brainer - wireless systems are for anyone who doesn't want to be limited by cables and cords.

Interested in learning how OnSite Media can help you with your technology rollouts and national/global expansion plans? Contact us today at 435-214-0801, ext. 1 or via email at sales@onsitemedia.com.