Top 5 Digital Wireless Microphones: Buyers Guide For Pros

Why digital wireless microphones rather than analog? A controversial subject indeed that every sound technician or musician has a boldly different opinion.

My guess is you’ve come here to see the top digital rather than analog wireless microphones due to digitals arguably better audio clarity. Analog systems must struggle to keep the dynamic range within a legal bandwidth of 200 kilohertz by using companders and pre-emphasis that have their limits in high frequencies. These audio limits are erased with a digital wireless system, thus, much better sound quality.

Digital Wireless Mic Benefits

  • Batteries last 30-40% longer
  • Digital systems can give a flat frequency across the entire audio range so that the sound of the capsule will not be affected where analog has a higher chance that it would be.
  • Has less of a chance the radio link or Rf noise will affect the signal.
  • Depending on the manufacturer and model, digital systems can often deliver nearly twice the channels in the same slice of spectrum as their analog counterparts
  • Digital systems can produce roughly twice the channels in the same spectrum. This is not the case for all systems; it depends on the manufacturer make and model. Unfortunately, to get the clear and crisp audio of digital wireless under challenging circumstances, the wireless systems are typically on the more expensive side. If your willing to save up the money for one of the most reliable and clear wireless microphones in the market, the Shure ULXD24/B58 H50 is the option for you with its unique feature “High-Density mode.” 
  • Signal encryption for information-sensitive events

Here Are The 5 Best Digital Wireless Microphone Systems

After extensive research and personal experience with bands using some of these systems, we formulated a list of the 6 top digital wireless microphone systems for bands, artists, houses of worship, speeches, and some for broadcast.

  • Shure QLXD24/B87A
  • Sennheiser SKM 6000
  • Shure QLXD24/SM58
  • Shure GLXD24R/B87A
  • Shure ULXD24/Beta 58A

1. Shure QLXD24/B87A

The Shure QLXD 24 digital wireless mic system is an incredible choice for speakers, houses of worship, and musicians in a mid-sized venue. Using 24-bit/48KHz with a frequency range of 20Hz-20kHz, this system has incredible audio clarity and sound quality.

An easy setup, its One-touch sync function feature automatically scans for the most robust open channels. This feature is an essential factor in reducing interference and dropouts.

The B87A that comes with this system is a supercardioid condenser microphone. In general, condenser microphones are much more articulate, which picks up all the nuances of your voice with the downside of picking up sound elsewhere. Contrary to that belief, most users of this mic claim there are no issues with picking up unwanted noise with the B87A mic while maintaining the positive benefits of a condenser. The mic is either charged by 2 AA batteries or Shure’s Rechargeable Lithium-ion battery.

Although the B87A is one of the highest grade sounding mic capsules by Shure with its bright and detailed sound, you still have the option to change it with its interchangeable mic capsule. It is compatible with being switched to a Beta 58A, SM58, or SM86 capsule for true flexibility and preference depending on your application. All of these capsules are sold separately.

The Shure QLXD24 has a durable metal receiver able to withstand vigorous touring conditions for years to come making it an incredible long-term investment. The AES 256-bit encryption gives the highest level of security for essential speeches where hacks or breaches are not an option.

See the Shure QLXD24/B87A on Amazon

Features

  • Able to change the microphone capsule for incredible flexibility
  • Secure transmission with AES 256-bit encryption
  • LCD menu
  • Digital predictive switching diversity ensures strong reliability and signal strength
  • Above 120dB dynamic range
  • One-touch sync function to connect transmitter and receiver for easy setup
  • Mute feature
  • Transmitters compatible with the receiver are available in a variety of forms such as handheld, bodypack, headworn, lavalier, and instrument clip-on.
  • Durable metal receiver
  • Mac, PC, and iOS-compatible for remote operation

Tech Specs

Range: 300 Feet
System: Digital
Battery Type: 2 AA, Shure Lithium-ion
Transmitter Battery Life: 9 Hours
Sampling Rate: 48k
Latency: 2.9 ms
Dynamic Range: 120dB
Simultaneous Systems Per Band: 60
Receiver Build: Metal
Channel selection: Auto
Transmitter Type: Handheld
Receiver Type: Rackmount
Frequency Range: 470-534 MHz
Microphone Type: Condenser
Microphone Polar Pattern: Supercardioid
Mic Frequency Response: 50Hz-20kHz
System Frequency Response: 20Hz-20kHz

 

 

2. Sennheiser SKM 6000

Where anything less than stellar is not an option, the Sennheiser SKM 6000 has been used at super bowl performances to some of the biggest festivals around the world with top artists. This is the most expensive but best wireless mic on this list.

The Sennheiser SKM 6000 is designed for the top professionals in theaters, stadiums, festivals, professional live sound, convention centers, rental business, or broadcast.

The compatible receiver is the Sennheiser EM 6000

The other microphone of professionalism as this one by Sennheiser is their SKM 9000 with very minor differences.

Features

  • Able to support Digital 9000 encryption and AES 256 encryption
  • Handheld vocal mic transmitter for 6000 series wireless systems
  • Compatible with EM 9046 and EK 6042 while it’s in Long Range mode
  • 5.5 hours of playtime with a Lithium-ion battery 
  • Compatible with microphone heads from evolution wireless G3, 2000, Digital 9000, and Neumann KK 204 and KK 205 series
  • The compatible receiver is the Sennheiser EM 6000

Tech Specs

System: Digital
Battery Type: Lithium-ion battery
Transmitter Battery Life: 5.5 hours
Transmitter Type: Handheld

Frequency Range: 470-558 MHz
Mic Frequency Response: 30Hz-20kHz

3. Shure QLXD24/SM58

Just like the first QLXD 24 system on the list, this one is slightly cheaper with a different microphone. The QLXD24/SM58 with its digital predictive switching diversity, above 120dB, one-touch sync function, durable metal receiver, and AES 256-bit encryption; All QLXD 24 systems have incredible reliability, audio clarity, easy set-up, security, durability, and signal strength.

The universal standard SM58 is a dynamic microphone that is fantastic at rejecting background noise. With a frequency response of 50Hz-15kHz and over 120dB of dynamic range, the cardioid microphone has excellent sound quality.

The SM58 being heavier but smaller than the Beta 87A has an interchangeable mic capsule as well for greater versatility. In scenarios where you prefer a shorter but heavier mic like the SM58 but the sound of a different mic capsule, the Shure SM86, Beta58A, and Beta87A are other capsule options.

See the QLXD24/SM58 on Amazon.

Features

  • Able to change the microphone capsule for incredible flexibility
  • Secure transmission with AES 256-bit encryption
  • LCD menu
  • Digital predictive switching diversity ensures strong reliability and signal strength
  • Above 120dB dynamic range
  • One-touch sync function to connect transmitter and receiver for easy setup
  • Mute feature
  • Durable metal receiver
  • Mac, PC, and iOS-compatible for remote operation

Tech Specs

Range: 330 Feet
System: Digital
Battery Type: 2 AA
Transmitter Battery Life: 9 Hours
Sampling Rate: 48k
Latency: 2.9 ms
Dynamic Range: 120dB
Simultaneous Systems Per Band: 60
Receiver Build: Metal
Channel selection: Auto
Transmitter Type: Handheld
Receiver Type: Rackmount
Frequency Range: 470-534 MHz
Microphone Type:  Dynamic
Microphone Polar Pattern:  Cardioid
Mic Frequency Response: 50Hz-15kHz

 

4. Shure GLXD24R/B87A

The Shure GLXD24R with the Beta 87A is an incredible digital wireless solution for the price. This system checks 4 out of 5 boxes for what to look for in a wireless mic.

Reliability/Signal Strength

With a globally unlicensed 2.4GHz frequency band, the Shure GLXD24R has a much higher chance of a secure future from the FCC auctioning off frequencies. This system features Shure’s state-of-the-art automatic frequency management and bidirectional communication that lets your transmitter automatically link to your receiver and follow any frequency changes.

Each channel uses 6 different frequencies that continuously scan to monitor the frequency condition. After it finds the 3 clearest channels, it transmits the audio signal upon the 3 clearest audio frequencies of the 6 available. If one of the frequencies get interference or conditions deteriorate, it automatically changes to a backup frequency without interrupting the audio. This reason is why GLXD systems have been raved about for signal strength and clarity for years.

Convenient

The Shure GLXD family has the longest battery life of any wireless microphone system of 16 hours. Better yet, it uses lithium-ion rechargeable batteries that are conveniently charged by plugging the battery into the receiver’s docking port. Not needing disposable batteries ends up saving money and becomes much less of a hassle.

Hypothetically in a situation where your GLXD 16 is completely dead and you’re already at the gig, only 15 minutes of charge gives you 90 minutes of playtime. This definitely comes in handy for a bad situation.

Microphone and Sound Quality

Like mentioned earlier, the Beta 87A is an outstanding supercardioid condenser microphone with excellent sound quality. Condenser microphones are much more detailed and articulate that pick up all the nuances of your voice. The mic is either charged by 2 AA batteries or Shure’s Rechargeable Lithium-ion battery but it’s best to use the Lithium-ion battery that it comes with.

Durability

The Shure GLXD24R is a rack-mountable metal receiver able to take on extreme touring conditions for years to come.

Range

The one thing that the Shure GLXD24R lacks is its range of Indoors: Up to 100 ft. Line-of-sight (200 ft. max); Outdoors: Up to 65 ft. Line-of-sight (165 ft. ideal conditions). Most systems on this list have 300+ feet of range. For singers or speakers who don’t need above 200 feet radius of range, this system is a sound choice.

Features

  • 2.4GHz globally unlicensed frequency band
  • The transmitter automatically follows the receiver frequency changes using Bidirectional communication
  • LINKFREQ intelligent frequency management automatically identifies the best open channels
  • Completely eliminates signal interference by continuously monitoring for the clearest signal, then automatically change to the best open frequency without notice
  • Allows operation of up to 11 compatible systems
  • 16 hours of battery life with rechargeable lithium-ion batteries
  • Battery charging docking port on the receiver
  • 200 feet radius of range
  • Integrate up to 6 GLX-D Advanced systems with a single GLX-D Advanced Frequency Manager

Tech Specs

Range: Indoors: Up to 100 ft. Line-of-sight (200 ft. max); Outdoors: Up to 65 ft. Line-of-sight (165 ft. ideal conditions)
System: Digital
Battery Type: Lithium-ion rechargeable battery
Transmitter Battery Life: 16 hours
Sampling Rate: 44.1k
Latency: 4 ms minimum- 7.3 ms maximum
Dynamic Range: 120dB
Simultaneous Systems Per Band: Up to 9 compatible systems (11 in ideal conditions)
Receiver Build: Metal
Channel selection: Auto/Manual
Transmitter Type: Handheld
Receiver Type: Rackmount
Frequency Range: 2.4 GHz
Microphone Type:  Condenser
Microphone Polar Pattern:  Supercardioid
Mic Frequency Response: 50Hz-20kHz
Microphone Max SPL: 147dB SPL
System Frequency Response: 20Hz-20kHz

5. Shure ULXD24/Beta 58A

The Shure ULXD24/Beta 58A is a wireless microphone system using 24-bit/48kHz digital audio. It uses intelligent scanning and predictive switching diversity to find the cleanest frequencies to minimize dropouts and interference.

This system is basically the same as Shure’s QLXD series (1,3) with the main difference being the ULXD’s Ethernet Networking feature. This feature can be advantageous if you’re using multiple wireless devices running at the same time. Ethernet Networking allows you to streamline the setup of multiple receivers enabling the entire band to run wireless without conflict in a much easier fashion.

Microphone Beta

The Beta 58A that comes with this system is a supercardioid dynamic mic for the highest amount of isolation. This mic naturally has a mid-range boost with a dip in the bass for singers who prefer a punchier high end. With very low handling noise and an increased mic frequency response of 50Hz to 15kHz, many sound engineers and singers are moving from SM58 to Beta.

See the Shure ULXD24/Beta 58A on Amazon.

Features

  • Predictive switching diversity
  • Ethernet networking
  • Gain adjustment on the front panel
  • Secure transmission with AES 256-bit encryption when security is needed
  • Large LCD screen
  • Made of durable metal
  • 12 hours of play time with Shure Lithium-Ion Rechargeable Batteries
  • Intelligent signal scanning automatically finds and switches to the cleanest frequencies
  • Flat frequency response (actual frequency response depends on the microphone) 

Tech Specs

Range: 300
System: Digital
Battery Type: Shure’s Rechargeable lithium-ion
Transmitter Battery Life: 12 hours
Sampling Rate: 48k/24 bit
Latency: 2.9 ms
Dynamic Range: >120dB
Simultaneous Systems Per Band: >100 with High-Density Mode, RF interference will reduce the number
Receiver Build: Metal
Transmitter Type: Handheld
Receiver Type: Tabletop with rackmount kit
Frequency Range: 176-216, 470-928 MHz*
depending the frequency band you choose
Microphone Type:  Dynamic
Microphone Polar Pattern:  Supercardioid
Mic Frequency Response: 50Hz to 15kHz
System Frequency Response: 20Hz-20kHz
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What To Look For When Getting A Wireless Microphone System

1.Reliability

Reliability of a wireless microphone system is, in my opinion, the absolute most crucial factor in determining a good system. You need to know that your microphone will not randomly cut out due to signal interference while performing or speaking live. When your wireless mic is more susceptible to dropouts, even if it’s as little as once every three events, you still have the “fear of uncertainty” in the back of your mind.

This “fear of uncertainty” while singing or speaking, will negatively affect the way you perform and the overall experience of the event. I personally know about this “fear of uncertainty,” considering a few bands I used to play in used a few wireless mic systems that fell on the cheaper side. It is not only essential but vital to have a reliable wireless microphone system with excellent signal strength and frequency interference agility that will not drop out.

The best way to figure out the honest reliability and signal strength of a wireless microphone system is (1) Make sure it is a true diversity system. This means both antennas work independently each locating its own clearest available channel. (2) Get a wireless microphone system above $500 with excellent reviews. (3) Make sure the wireless microphone system uses frequency interference features.

If you just want a list of wireless microphone systems that will not fail you, check out our Top 6 Digital Wireless Microphones: Buyers Guide For Pros.

2. Durability

The durability of a wireless microphone system is far more important than we think at first. Wireless microphones cost a fair amount of money. If it’s not durable enough and it breaks, you lose money. You don’t want to spend money on a cheaper built plastic unit thinking your smart because you saved money just to have it break a year later.

If you are a touring musician, you need a wireless microphone system made with a durable microphone and a metal receiver to withstand vigorous touring conditions. A rack-mountable receiver will go a long way as well if you don’t mind a rackmount.

3. Microphone Sound Quality

Even more so important for singers rather than speakers, it is crucial that your microphone delivers excellent sound quality. Microphones were not all made equally. Some mics produce more of a warm tone, some are bright and punchy, some mics are much more articulate than others, and the list goes on.

A few other things to keep in mind for the sound quality of a wireless microphone system.

  • Dynamic range at 120dB is good
  • Digital transmission produces higher quality sound than analog
  • System frequency response at 20Hz-20kHz is good
  • Dynamic microphones are better at rejecting background noise but condenser microphones are more articulate

4. Range

The range is an important factor for more reasons than just crowd surfing through the audience while singing your song.

For bands or DJ’s who perform corporate events or weddings, the client will require you to provide sound support for any speeches or toasts. Of the 90+ events I have played with in the past four years, the client will typically walk throughout the venue during the speech or toast with your wireless mic.

A safe amount of range your wireless mic needs for corporate or wedding gigs would be 200 ft. Speakers, who are usually the client that hired you, can walk around the venue without any mic dropouts. Some of these details may sound minor, but they speak volumes to the client and 3rd parties of each event. In turn, you are creating more future gigs/weddings/events.

5. Convenience

Convenience is not a common thought when first purchasing a wireless microphone system. In terms of battery life, how to charge or change the batteries, setting up the system before gigs, etc. an inconvenient wireless microphone system gets annoying fast. Not to mention, consistent battery purchases increase the annual overhead at a much faster pace than expected. Therefore, wireless microphones that either uses rechargeable batteries or have a much longer battery life is best.

To make it simple, the most convenient wireless microphone system would be where the receiver automatically picks the clearest open channel while auto-linking the mic to the receiver. If you prefer using a rackmount, a rack-mountable receiver will definitely come in handy.

6. Frequency Band

One of the more complicated subjects in the wireless music equipment realm, which frequency band for your wireless microphone system is the best choice? 

First off, what is a frequency band?

The entire frequency range, or radio spectrum, operates between 3 kHz to 300 GHz. Frequency bands are an interval in the frequency domain, having a fixed boundary between a lower frequency and an upper frequency. For example, the wireless guitar system Shure BLX14 -H10 operates in the frequency band between 542-572 MHz. The 542 MHz is the lower frequency when the 572 MHz is the higher frequency, everything between the fixed boundary is the frequency band that the Shure BLX14 -H10 operates in.

In short, 2.4GHz Digital Wireless is the all-around best frequency band choice for your wireless microphone system. 2.4GHz is globally available, globally unlicensed, and has more chance of a sustainable future. The majority of the other frequency bands are either unavailable outside of the US or Canada, need a cos

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