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Line 6 XD-V70 Digital Wireless Mic - Now with Conclusions!


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Well here's something different for a Pro Review: A digital wireless microphone. Now, this was a little risky for Line 6, because I'm not a big fan of wireless. Sure, if you spend enough you can get decent systems; but given that I'd always used analog wireless, I had too much history of interference, nasty sound quality due to compansion, and hassles with setup - not to mention the occasional battery failure at an inopportune time. So quite a while ago, I kind of lost interest in wireless, and went with good ol' physical wire.

 

But when I saw Marcus Ryle of Line 6 at AES last year, he started talking about wireless and I suspect he could see my eyes glaze over, and a mental :facepalm: forming in my brain. "Craig, it's not like analog wireless at all, really. You should check it out." Well, I'm not one to turn down a challenge - or a chance to learn about something new - so here I am, checking out the XD-V70.

 

Now normally, I don't have any experience with a unit when I start a pro review. However, Musician's Friend wanted to know what I thought of it when it showed up, and asked if I'd like to do a hands-on review for their catalog. "Sure," I said, "If you're willing to have Line 6 never talk to you again. I'm not a big fan of wireless."

 

But I gave it a try, and was very, very surprised. First of all, it worked. Second, it sounded really good. Third, there was a lot more to the system than met the eye. So when Line 6 wanted to do a Pro Review, I figure this would be an excellent opportunity to dig into some of the more "out there" features, like the fact that it does mic modeling.

 

This will probably be a fairly short review compared to something like a DAW or a workstation synthesizer; there are only so many features you can pack into a wireless microphone. Nonetheless, I'm curious to test out the range, check out some of the theory behind digital wireless, and generally, get to know what this baby can do.

 

If you want some background, Line 6 has a landing page for their digital wireless line. A lot of it's written in marketing-speak, but keep clicking to through to the FAQs and you'll find some solid information and specs.

 

Meanwhile, we'll start out with our traditional photo tour so you can get an idea of what we're dealing with...and of course, fire away with questions! The key to a cool Pro Review is interactivity. Supposedly someone from Line 6 will be monitoring this thread to answer any questions I can't handle.

 

Ready...get set...go!

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My first impression of the XD-V70 was that of a solidly-built unit. The first attached image shows the soft case for transporting the mic. The second attached image shows what you'll see when you open it up: The mic, mic clamp (included), some serious padding, and space for two extra batteries (the XD-V70 uses two standard AA batteries, nothing proprietary). While I never recommend dropping a unit, I think this case would let you get a way with it. The solid foam really protects the mic, and the soft outside absorbs impact.

 

Speaking of batteries, they're easy to change - you can do it in well under a minute, even if you're fumbling around under bad stage lighting. The third attached image shows the battery compartment, which you access by unscrewing the bottom of the mic and lifting up the plate that holds the batteries in place.

 

The fourth attached image shows the microphone itself, outside of its case. The mic has a solid, serious feel, and doesn't feel unbalanced when you hold it.

 

So far, so good; now let's dig into the mic a little deeper.

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The mic lets you unscrew the top, and replace the capsule with various models from Heil, Audix, and Shure. I didn't get a chance to try different capsules, but the first attached image shows the mic element that comes with the VX-D70. And while we're unscrewing things, the second attached image shows the windscreen, which has a thin layer of foam between the screen and the capsule.

 

The mic also has two switches for turning it on and off, as well as programming various settings. This is actually fairly deep, and of course, we'll cover what the programming is all about as we move along. The third attached image shows the buttons and the small display.

 

So far my plan for the review is to do pictures of the receiver next, which is also very sturdy. At that point you'll know what the physical package is all about, and what to expect should you open up the box.

 

Then we'll get into a little background about digital wireless. This will be the educational part of the Pro Review, because there are a lot of questions - what band does it work in? How many mics can I use at the same time? What about interference issues? What happens when you get out of range? As we all know, digital is different from analog - and digital wireless mics are no exception.

 

Next, we'll get into functionality - setting it up, how far you can reach, programming channels, and the like. Finally, we'll close out with the mic modeling option and esoteric features.

 

At least that's the plan; you never know where a Pro Review is going to go. But, we'll find out!

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Now let's take a look at the receiver. Like the mic, this is a solidly-built affair - the case is all-metal, and it has a substantial feel, like it's not going to move around if it's on a table.

 

The first attached image shows the front panel. It's not plugged in, but we'll have pictures later on showing details of the display when appropriate. As you can see the user interface is about as simple as it gets: Buttons for Setup and Exit, and a data knob with a push-to-set option. Toward the left are the meters that monitor status of the audio, RF, and battery. You can see the dual antennas sticking up in the rear.

 

The second attached image shows the back panel. The main feature here is where the antennas connector, but also note the A Out and B Out connectors. I haven't yet figured out what they're for, but I will over the course of this review :) I do know that terminators need to be attached if you're not using them.

 

Finally, the third attached image shows the output section. There's balanced XLR and unbalanced 1/4", so you should be covered. Also, note the input jack for the power adapter.

 

Overall, the receiver is pretty simple to figure out...we'll see if that holds up when it's actually being programmed and used.

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Line 6 has a downloadable white paper on digital wireless, and it's well worth checking out if you want to know more on the subject. There's a lot of useful information, and it's a truly educational technical document instead of a slick marketing piece.

 

For those who don't have the time or interest to dig too deeply, here's a summary of what digital wireless technology involves. Remember when the switchover to digital TV occurred, and how stations that used to fade or had snow were all of a sudden either crystal-clear or not there at all? That’s digital wireless. If you’re within range, it works. If you’re out of range, it doesn’t. The XD-V70 has a line-of-sight range of about 300 feet (less through walls, of course), so even the most “I’m gonna wander out in the audience” vocalist should be okay. And no, CBers will not come through the PA at inopportune times, either.

 

There are factors that can interfere with digital transmissions; the technology is not foolproof (if you find a technology that is, let me know). However, Line 6 has taken that into account and deploys two main techniques to ensure reliability.

 

    - compression at the mic, expansion at the receiver - that reduces noise, but can degrade sound quality and produce artifacts. The XD-V70 has a stated minimum 115dB dynamic range, and the mic uses 24-bit converters; the sound is clean, clear, and precise.

     

    One limitation of any digital system is latency, and the XD-V70 is not immune from the laws of physics - there's an inherent 1.2ms of latency just to go from A to D then back again, and another couple milliseconds within the system itself. Line 6 specs the total latency as under 4ms, which equals the same delay as being four feet away from a speaker. No, I don’t have a problem with that, and you won’t either.

     

    Digital technology is also what makes mic modeling possible. In addition to the sound of Line 6’s custom cardioid-response mic, you can also dial in one of six mic models. We'll talk about this in detail later on, but I wanted to introduce the concept here as it relates to Line 6's choice to go with digital technology.

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FWIW - Below is a quick Youtube I did when I got the mic last weekend. I also used it on a gig this past Saturday and was thoroughly impressed.

 

- Significant improvement over the XDR955, which I also own. Less handling noise and much better microphone element. Both microphones have a signal path that give no indication that they are not hard wired microphones.

 

- I did a battery test earlier in the week. I used run of the mill Rayovac alkalines and got 9 hours on them with the battery on "power save". It was actually recommended that this mode be used if you're going to be within 100 feet of the receiver. Besides prolonging battery life, it's less signal in the air to compete with other things. Supposedly the microphone can't pick up interference, but other things in the 2.4 Ghz space could potentially be interfered with by the microphone (phones, keyboards, etc). I did the battery test at my workplace and noticed my wireless keyboard was sluggish.

 

- Audix elements can only be used with a 3rd party adapter ring, which I believe are available only at Rat Sound ($89 or free with purchase of an Audix capsule). I own a ring and Audix OM5 capsule. I describe in the video that the ring does not work with the Line 6 microphone. Rat has acknowledged a design flaw in the threading that doesn't allow the ring to go down far enough in the body to make contact with the microphone. They have altered the design and are sending me a new ring.

 

It's also noteworthy that Audix elements (OM5 and OM7 anyway) have much lower output and may introduce some noise into the system. They did make my Shure SLX noisier. I like the element on the Line 6 microphone so well I'll likely not use the Audix. While I love the Audix OM5 element for it's feedback rejection, there is little room to work the mic (like 2" maybe). The Line 6 element is a nice balance of controlled pattern, much tighter than the XDR955, and more room to work the mic and get things like tambourine and cowbell to come through.

 

Anyway, here's the little review of "opening the box".

[YOUTUBE]bOKYsv3GFEk[/YOUTUBE]

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FWIW - Below is a quick Youtube I did when I got the mic last weekend. I also used it on a gig this past Saturday and was thoroughly impressed.

 

Welcome to the pro review, and thanks for the impressive beginning :thu: I hope you can find the time to do more posts with your opinions and reactions.

 

It's also noteworthy that Audix elements (OM5 and OM7 anyway) have much lower output and may introduce some noise into the system. They did make my Shure SLX noisier. I like the element on the Line 6 microphone so well I'll likely not use the Audix. While I love the Audix OM5 element for it's feedback rejection, there is little room to work the mic (like 2" maybe). The Line 6 element is a nice balance of controlled pattern, much tighter than the XDR955, and more room to work the mic and get things like tambourine and cowbell to come through.

 

I totally understand where you're coming from. I was really excited about the mic modeling aspects, but have found that the Line 6 element sounds best with my voice. The modeling is a cool feature, but if it went away tomorrow, it wouldn't make that much difference to me.

 

Maybe as I get further into the mic my opinion will change...but the Line 6 element by itself gets my vote so far.

 

Thanks again for your contribution!

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So let's see how easy it is to set up...

 

Obviously you're not going to have a huge display and multiple buttons on a mic, but the XD-V70 makes good use of the two buttons and small, backlit LCD. For example, the power button is indeed a power button, but if you hold it for one second after turning it on it goes into mute mode; a quick press takes it out of mute mode. Holding the button down for more than two seconds turns the mic off. If you're in setup mode, the power button steps through parameter values.

 

The other button, when held down, enters Setup mode. Quick presses select the next setup option, while holding it down for two seconds exits. This is all easy to learn, and besides, you won't be making these kind of adjustments in the heat of performance - this is about setup.

 

Wnen you first turn on the mic, it shows one of the channels (1-12). Go into setup mode, and you can choose:

 

     

    The main display also shows a few "status" parameters, including estimated remaining life in hours and minutes along with a little battery icon (flashes if there's less than an hour of battery life left), whether mute is on, whether power save is on, and the "Lock" status. You set this with a small slide switch that's hidden in the battery compartment; when locked, no editing is allowed and power can't be turned off.

     

    If you think you need lock because it's easy to turn the mic off accidentally, it isn't - you have to be precise in how you hit the switch to turn the mic off.

     

    Anyway, that's it for the mic - not difficult at all. I set it to channel 7 for luck, so let's move on to the receiver.

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As to the receiver, hookup is simple: Screw the two antennas to their connectors, plug in the AC adapter, and run a cable from the audio out of your choice (XLR or 1/4") to an appropriate input - in my case, XLR out to audio interface in. Incidentally I forgot to mention that the package includes rack mounting adapters (nice), but in this case, I just set it up as a tabletop device.

 

I'm glad I looked at the manual, because one setup aspect wasn't obvious. There are two connectors on the back for Antenna A out and Antenna B out. These let you daisy-chain multiple XD-V70 receivers (the unit even comes with appropriate cables), but you're advised that when not daisy-chained, you need to terminate the connectors with the supplied termination plugs. So I did.

 

Anyway, I'll spare you the suspense and just say that after turning on power to the receiver, I dialed in channel 7 and - done. Audio was flowing out of the receiver and into the interface.

 

However, while the mic was on, I noticed a few groovy things about the receiver (see the attached image). Meters to the left show audio (not lit, because I was busy taking the picture!), battery life, and the RF strength. If the Mute switch is on, you'll see that as well.

 

The main display shows the selected channel and mic name, remaining battery life, and the fact that signals are being received with antennas A and B.

 

Well, that certainly was painless. But, I should probably mention some of the other setup options before proceeding.

 

Setup mode requires pushing on the setup switch, rotating a data wheel, and pushing it to select what you want. Another switch lets you exit. There are only three setup options:

 

    ." So I went there, and found the same thing as the printed manuals that come with the unit. Oh well.

     

    If you want to check out the mic and receiver manuals, by all means go there and download the PDF documents.

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So far, so good...nothing weird, everything worked as it was supposed to, and operation was both plug-and-play and easy to figure out. I guess this is going to be a Pro Review without a whole lot of drama (which seems much more likely when a computer isn't involved, LOL).

 

Wait! I just figured out some drama!

 

As mentioned, there are 12 channels. Those conversant with analog wireless might think that's pretty lame compared to analog wireless devices with dozens or hundreds of channels. However, the XD-V70 offers 12 digital channels—a different animal entirely than analog systems, as these channels work any time, anywhere in the world. Given how much I travel, that kind of concept appeals to me.

 

The main limitation of 12 channels is that you’re limited to using 12 of the XD-V70 wireless mics at your gig, but that should be enough for most situations.

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...... As mentioned, there are 12 channels. Those conversant with analog wireless might think that's pretty lame compared to analog wireless devices with dozens or hundreds of channels. However, the XD-V70 offers 12
digital
channels—a different animal entirely than analog systems, as these channels work any time, anywhere in the world. Given how much I travel, that kind of concept appeals to me.


The main limitation of 12 channels is that you’re limited to using 12 of the XD-V70 wireless mics at your gig, but that should be enough for most situations.

 

I'd like to add, if you have any of the "5 channel" wireless microphones or guitar/bass systems, the new generation "12 channel" devices will not interfere with them. For instance, my band has 4 older generation guitar/bass units and an one wireless microphone so all 5 channels are being used. I can put the XD-V70 on any channel and it will not interfere with them. This was confirmed by Line 6 as well.

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I'd like to add, if you have any of the "5 channel" wireless microphones or guitar/bass systems, the new generation "12 channel" devices will not interfere with them. For instance, my band has 4 older generation guitar/bass units and an one wireless microphone so all 5 channels are being used. I can put the XD-V70 on any channel and it will not interfere with them. This was confirmed by Line 6 as well.

 

More great info...thanks! This is my first experience with Line 6 wireless, so your comments about useability with older gear is invaluable.

 

Today I'm going to set up the mic and walk away from the studio, talking into the mic about where I am. Then I'll see where it drops out, measure the distance from the studio, and see how far it goes.

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Don't get lost;)

 

Inserting walls will dramatically limit the range. It all depends on what the walls are made of. For most users, most of the time, walls keep the outside world from getting into your performance ... for example the guys with the wireless in the next ballroom in a hotel situation.

 

Please notice that when you do finally get out of range the mic simply mutes ... no big rush of noise just before it happens like other systems.

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Hi Don, welcome to the thread! I'm actually going to walk down a driveway so there will only be a window/wall between me and the receiver. I figure this tests the best-case conditions. Then I'll walk around inside my house, which has a bunch o' walls.

 

By the way - I have a question. There's something in the AC adapter between the transformer and the jack that looks like an elongated micro-football. Is it some kind of filter?

 

Well actually, I have two questions...I'm going to try rechargeable batteries with the mic, are there any cautions involved with that?

 

We'll try not to demand too much of your time with dumb questions, but appreciate your being available to keep an eye on the thread. So far it seems people are pretty happy with your baby, although I have to warn you, I consider it a challenge to try and find what "breaks" a product :) Y'know, other than dropping it...

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Time to take a walk...

 

First of all, given where I live (it's hilly and has obstructions), it was going to be too time-consuming to get a 300 foot line of sight distance - I would have had to put the transmitter on the roof, run a really long mic cable to the studio, etc. etc. However, I was able to do 200 feet line of sight with no problem by walking to a neighbor's house. In fact, I could do 200 feet with one exterior wall in between the mic and receiver, so even though I couldn't test the full 300 feet, I think that if it truly was line of sight - nothing between the transmitter and receiver - you could hit 300 feet.

 

What I can vouch for is doing 200 feet with 100% reliability.

 

Now, back to the subject of walls. For one test, I went past four walls and ended up an estimated 40 feet from the transmitter, and it still worked. However, I then walked down to an area that's almost below ground level, and in any event, below the floor level of the studio. That put an end to the signal.

 

What this indicates to me is that under normal circumstances, if you're offstage to the side with the mic in your hands, you'll have no problem with signal strength. For any normal stage you could pretty much go anywhere; hte only issue I could imagine would be is if there was an orchestra pit below the stage, and you ended up below stage level, with the stage floor between you and the mic. Even then, if you weren't too far away - I'd estimate 50 feet or less - there wouldn't be a problem. You'd have to be further away, and below the stage level; I can't recall playing any venue where that was the case.

 

Bottom line: It works over a more than reasonable distance, and doesn't get ugly when it gets out of range. :thu:

I can confirm what Don said - when you go out of range, the sound doesn't get ugly; the audio just goes silent, as if you had a noise gate threshold set too high.

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Some gear that works fine with alkaline batteries balks with rechargeables (maybe because they have a slightly lower voltage? Different internal impedance? I dunno...).

 

Anyway, I charged up a couple of 1.5V nickel-metal hydride batteries and stuck them in the mic; the readout showed 8 hours, 20 minutes of potential battery life. I'll do all my testing with these batteries and see how long they last, but assuming all works as expected, going forward I'm going to keep rechargeable batteries in the mic and two backup alkalines in the mic case.

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Some gear that works fine with alkaline batteries balks with rechargeables (maybe because they have a slightly lower voltage? Different internal impedance? I dunno...).


Anyway, I charged up a couple of 1.5V nickel-metal hydride batteries and stuck them in the mic; the readout showed 8 hours, 20 minutes of potential battery life. I'll do all my testing with these batteries and see how long they last, but assuming all works as expected, going forward I'm going to keep rechargeable batteries in the mic and two backup alkalines in the mic case.

 

You probably know this, but rechargeables have a different discharge rate than alkalines. My expectation would be that the battery life indicator will lose some accuracy at best and, at worst, be unreliable altogether. Rechargeables stay more stable during use, but will then drop off very steeply and die. Some devices, like my Zoom H2 recorder, actually have a separate setting for the battery indicator where you can choose between alkaline and NiMH.

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Well, that's why I'm going to keep the batteries in the mic and see what happens. But, as the battery indicator seems to place its main priority on the last hour of operation (e.g., it flashes), that's where the "rubber's going to hit the road." If I still get a reliable indicator of one hour left to go, then I'm not too concerned with the estimated time issue.

 

That said, Line 6 mentions that the estimated time is not necessarily accurate when you first turn on the mic (I presume because batteries always seem to have a little extra juice they build up when idle), and I believe they also mention that it updates every 20 minutes. I suppose Don should be the one to chime in on this, but there might be enough smarts built in to the mic that if it sees a radical change over that 20 minute period, it figures out some kind of compensation...or maybe not...I guess we'll find out.

 

Again, thanks for your contributions to the thread, they're both valuable and appreciated.

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Wow! I'm so proud of myself...a spambot posted in here at 12:26AM, and was deleted and banned in under 60 seconds. Not that this has anything to do with mics, but that's a personal best for spam removal :)

 

Okay, back to the thread. Sorry for the interruption.

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By the way - I have a question. There's something in the AC adapter between the transformer and the jack that looks like an elongated micro-football. Is it some kind of filter?


Well actually, I have two questions...I'm going to try rechargeable batteries with the mic, are there any cautions involved with that?


 

Sean is correct ... it is an interference filter. Now that regulations around the world call for wall warts to draw almost nothing when left plugged in but not operating about the only option is a "switch-mode" type supply. They operate at very high frequencies so the filter is necessary so that it doesn't become a radio;). The good news is that they are environmentally "green" and they work with any line voltage from 90vac to 240vac. All you need to do to tour they world is adapt it to the wall with a simple adapter.

 

Rechargeable batteries are fine for the most part. Nimh would be my choice, you just need to insure that they are true AA size (some aren't). Your run time will simply reflect the mAhr rating of the battery.

 

As you mentioned ... Alkaline batteries has a characteristic called "rebound". After they have rested they think they are stronger then they are long term. The battery meter in the V70 simply follows the battery voltage. It actually measures the voltage and then digitally transmits it to the receiver where it drives the meter. So if the battery "lies" then the meter follows it. Just one of those alkaline battery things:thu:

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  • Environment. Line 6 refers to this as a "dynamic environment filter," which doesn't tell me a lot but it sounds like either a non-obtrusive noise gate, or a filter that closes down when there's no input signal. Or something...hopefully someone from Line 6 will explain this to us.
  •  

    The Environmental filter is a combination "downward expander" combined with a "dynamic high pass filter". When in the "norm" or "talk" settings it turns down the output about 6 dB when it falls below a low threshold (as opposed to a gate which switches off). There is also a dynamic HP filter that responds to level and program content. It's what I'd call "semi-smart" in that it acts more severly to quick little bursts (that appear as mechanical taps to the mic case as opposed to more continuous tones ... even short ones) as well as to level. The user also has the option to turn it off but with a pretty low level into the mic it all just goes away by itself.

     

    At least one other popular manufacturer incorporates a noise gate to minimize handling noise but it is not switchable to off. This could be a giant problem if you set up your wedges thinking your mic were active when in fact they were switched off

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    Gentlemen,

     

    Thanks for the informative posts. I too have been terrified by faulty ancient wireless technology and have purposely avoided it thus far.

     

    Seriously considering this for my DJ service and for vocalists in our jazz group. Please keep the test results coming.

     

    Any noise, dropouts, hiss, or other nasty artifacts observed?

     

    Cheers,

     

    J

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    Gentlemen,


    .... Any noise, dropouts, hiss, or other nasty artifacts observed?

     

    Nope. 3 shows on it now and no issues whatsoever. The standard issue Line 6 element is very nice. Actually, it's the most articulate dynamic microphone I've ever used, wired or wireless. That said, I received a new adapter ring from Rat Sound so I can use the Audix OM5 capsule on it. Don warns that, due to the reduced output of Audix OM5/OM7 (and possibly others from Audix) that there may be noise introduced. We'll see Friday as I just don't feel like emptying the trailer and dragging everything out just to test it. If I don't like the results I can quickly switch back.

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    Gentlemen,


    Thanks for the informative posts. I too have been terrified by faulty ancient wireless technology and have purposely avoided it thus far.


    Seriously considering this for my DJ service and for vocalists in our jazz group. Please keep the test results coming.


    Any noise, dropouts, hiss, or other nasty artifacts observed?


    Cheers,


    J

     

    Even trying to make it screw up didn't cause problems; the audio just disappeared when I got out of range. When I came back into range, the audio came back. It was pretty much like someone flipping a mute switch, then unmuting.

     

    Without a doubt, this system gives me more confidence about using wireless than any other system I've tried. Bear in mind that in addition to doing music, I've given seminars in 37 states and 10 countries, often with a wireless mic. Using the wireless was rarely trouble-free, to the point where I ended up specifying a wired headset mic as first choice in my rider (along with only orange M&Ms, Perrier, and multiple nubiles in the dressing room). Okay, I'm kidding about the last part...but there was also one wireless system that I specifically requested not be used. I won't mention the name here, but it was an analog system that always seemed to have some kind of issue.

     

    I have to say that so far, when Marcus assured me that digital wireless was a completely different animal, he's been proven right. I'll keep trying to "break" it but so far, haven't had any luck doing so.

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