Shure GLXD16 Wireless Guitar System
By Chris Marion |
Let me start this review with a disclaimer and then a qualification. I am not a guitar player. But, in the last 35 years of my professional experience I have traveled the world playing with some of the best guitar players and I’ve literally recorded 1000s of songs listening to world-class guitar tone. In my experience with these phenomenal players, there are two things that are extremely important to guitarists, especially road warriors: tone and mobility. The Shure GLXD16 Wireless Guitar System addresses both of these issues with preeminent quality. Let’s dig in!
While Ken Shaffer, an American inventor and rock publicist might have invented the first wireless guitar unit in the mid '70s, no one can argue the fact that Shure has become a heavy hitter in the wireless world of microphones and guitars. They continue a fine tradition in product quality with the GLXD16 System. My band put the unit through its paces in a variety of venues and circumstances over a two-week period from little clubs with lots of impediments to big 2000 plus seat halls. The GLXD16 System performed consistently regardless of the location. In one of the small clubs, the cross talk from other wireless units was so bad that our in ear monitor units were picking up Mexican radio mixed with the local crew radio units. The Shure unit transmitted clean signal and adapted to frequency interference issues with ease.
1-GLXD6 - Guitar Pedal Receiver with Integrated Tuner
1-GLXD1 transmitter pack
1-Premium 1/4"-to-TA4F guitar cable with locking thread
connects the bodypack transmitter to a guitar or bass
Out of the box, the GLXD16 System was a breeze to set up, plug and play through. Upon the first powering up, the receiver and transmitter link, forming an audio channel that never has to be linked again.
1. Adjustable Audio Gain - The transmitter pack has adjustable output gain that gave us plenty of headroom potential without any audible distortion even at higher settings. Transmitter gain has a range of -20 dB to +40 dB in 1 dB increments.
2. Built in Digital Tuner – A footswitch engages the tuner. You can choose between needle or strobe mode. The display features a large bright red LED that is easily seen on a dark stage. The tuner can be detuned up to 5 steps sharp or 6 steps flat from standard tuning
3. Operates in the 2.4 GHz spectrum – this ISM band is global so the unit can be used anywhere in the world license free. The GLXD1 unit transmits on the best three frequencies available across the 2.4 GHz band. It continuously scans to avoid troublesome frequencies, instantly avoiding interference and therefore an audio interruption. We witnessed this first hand when the slag in one particular club was really messing with some of our other wireless units. Kudos to Shure for this continuous scanning feature.
4. Solid Metal Construction – The frames of both units are stout and will travel well under the rigorous demands of the road.
5. Rechargeable Lithium-ion battery packs – this is a great feature that will save you a great deal of money over the life of the unit. An included micro USB charger will give you multiple options for recharging the pack including the included AC cable or even plugging the unit into any USB port. A 3 hour charging session from an AC power source will reportedly give you 16 hours of continuous run time. However, if you have to play guitar for more than 16 straight hours, you’ll have more important worries than battery failure.
6. AC Compatibility - Receiver is compatible with any standard 9 Volt DC positive or negative tip power supply as long as it meets the 250mA minimum amperage standard. The stock AC chain has the transformer in the middle of the run. On one end of the chain is a regular single phase plug with about 6 feet of wire and on the other end of the chain is the 9 volt end of the chain with another 6 feet of wire. If you are using the unit in a stand alone capacity, this will give you a bit more flexibility for powering the unit. However, if you are planning on bolting the receiver into a pedal board set up, you might be best served to purchase a second wall wart adaptor that meets specs and avoid taking up real estate on your board with the midline transformer and wiring. Speaking of pedal board insertion, Shure recommends that you place the GLXD6 receiver at the beginning of your signal chain.
Let’s evaluate the GLXD16 System using those two important variables to the guitarist: tone and mobility. I initially had planned to include audio in this review to compare the guitar tone running through the Shure unit to the guitar tone running directly to the amp. Shure will be pleased that I report there was virtually no distinguishable difference in the tones. This was confirmed by not only the guitarist using the GLX but by our front of house engineer. He’s not one to mince words and is just as invested in receiving the best audio possible to mix a show with. Not only was the tone quality almost identical, this tone quality showed no variance or deterioration within the normal range of the unit. The GLXD16 detects the most important audio in the signal and prioritizes this, filtering possible WIFI or Bluetooth bursts. It is still operating in this ISM bandwidth and could be potentially prone to interference. Shure recommends that you avoid placement of the receiver near non-Shure 2.4 GHz units as well as WIFI or Bluetooth devices. Humorously, they recommend this not because these devices will interfere with GLXD16 operation but predicts that the awesome power of the GLX System will interfere with the other products. Apparently, the GLXD16 is the Genghis Khan of 2.4 GHz and takes no prisoners. It’s good to be king.
From the mobility perspective, the GLXD16 System performed very closely to manufacturers promises. Shure recommends that you not exceed a range 200 feet (60 meters). We played The Cannery, a great casino in North Las Vegas that features an indoor/outdoor room. The stage manager indicated that the edge of the bleachers outside was just at the mark of 200 feet. Our guitarist walked all the way to the top of the bleachers, just outside of 225 feet from the receiver and the unit continued to transmit successfully. Keep in mind that it is recommended that you keep an open line of site from the transmitter to the receiver. This is fairly standard in wireless devices. The Cannery room was unique because of the fact that the last 125 feet was outside while the receiver remained on the stage inside. The only way we could get the unit to fail was to walk behind the side wall of the outside of the building and then it just stopped transmitting audio. This is still optimum rather than transmitting white noise or clipped distorted audio. If your guitarist needs to go into another building, he’s probably not worrying about finishing the lead anyway. Shure also warns that high ceilings can sometimes interfere with wireless transmission. We played a performing arts center in NJ that had very high ceilings and we sent the guitar tech up to the “nose bleeds” in the back with the guitar. Although he was winded and fatigued from the steps, the GLXD16 System chugged on without a hitch or interruption. Honestly, the typical guitarist who ventures off the stage into the crowd will not get past the hot chicks in the VIP section.
With a MSRP of $561 (typical street price of $450), you cannot go wrong with the GLXD16 Wireless Guitar System. It met or exceeded manufacturers predictions in every aspect of performance. It is very easy to use right out of the box but features some sophisticated programmable features for a user that wants to dig in. Wireless technology has come a long way from those early days of the Shaffer-Vega wireless system. That first unit also retailed for over $4000 and would transmit thin audio from a distance comparable to the average length guitar cable. But, it gave guitarists that extra little dash of freedom and mobility. The GLXD16 is light years ahead of those early days of wireless and will be a functional addition to your rig. As a matter of fact, it received the ultimate endorsement from our guitarist – he wants to buy the unit for himself!