I can buy a wireless mic at my local music store for about $600. This should be good enough for our church shouldn't it?
Low Budget systems:
Wireless microphones priced under $600 are aimed at low budget musicians who are using the transmitter close to the receiver and are more concerned with getting a wireless microphone which they can afford, than one that works reliably.
There are many factors involved in getting reliability and good sound quality from a wireless microphone system. Of course the quality of the microphone itself is a significant factor. A good lapel microphone costs around $300, and a decent head microphone costs $400 - 600. This is just for the microphone alone, without the transmitter and receiver.
Bandwidths and Filtering:
Next we need to deal with the radio transmitter and receiver. We need to have the proper bandwidth with good filtering to produce full frequency sound with low background noise and good noise rejection. We also need high sensitivity. This does cost money beyond the $600 range, however, without this you have limited pickup range and are likely to pick up interference from electrical noise sources. You will also have a higher level of background noise.
Radio transmission is complicated. The radio waves not only travel from the transmitting antenna, directly to the receiving antenna, but they also bounce off all the walls to reach the receiver. These reflections cause signal phase shifting and cancellation. As you move around, the signal can become fuzzy and can actually drop out completely. In order to combat this, you need a good diversity system as well as narrow bandwidth and high sensitivity. The diversity system uses two antennae. It automatically switches to the one with the stronger signal when it experiences trouble. This helps maintain a good signal even with the reflections. Keep in mind that there are low and high quality diversity systems. Just because it is diversity doesn't mean it is a good one.
Tone Coded Squelch:
You will probably notice that most wireless microphone transmitters have two switches. One is a Power switch and the other a microphone mute switch. This is because you should never turn the transmitter off and leave the receiver on. Otherwise you will get a loud noise when you turn the power switch on or off and you will be likely to pick up loud electrical noise or possibly other radio interference. A few systems have a very user friendly feature called "Tone Coded Squelch". When the transmitter is turned on it sends an ultrasonic tone code to the receiver telling it that it is on. If the transmitter is turned off there is no tone code and the receiver doesn't look for any signal at all. This means that you can turn the transmitter on and off any time you want to, regardless if the receiver is on or not. There is no noise and no interference. You are also saving the battery while it is off.
The Bottom Line:
The bottom line is that if you get a good wireless microphone then you will use it all the time. If you don't get a good one, you will have a lot of trouble with it and it will be left on the shelf. We have replaced many low cost wireless systems at churches for this reason. Wireless microphone systems range from about $200 to several thousand dollars. The ones we sell to churches are around $700 - 1000. They work very well and are trouble free.
For more information see the Wireless Microphones section of our web site.