Here it is, the million-dollar question………..more like $500 or so. What makes a wireless guitar system good?
When you google this question, what typically pops up are a bunch of paid ads of wireless guitar systems. Yet, they never give you the rundown of all the factors that determine what makes a good wireless system in the first place, why, and what’s truly the best bang for your buck.
I have been a Touring Wireless Musician for a little over six years now. Having been through 5 wireless guitar systems and even extra transmitters for each system, I learned the hard way of what to look for in a wireless system. In the past six years, I have been through multiple embarrassments on stage from my (older) wireless systems either cutting out, breaking on stage, battery dying far sooner than expected, to my wireless falling off my strap during a behind-the-back solo or spin move.
I learned the hard and far more expensive way of what factors to determine in what makes a good wireless system, and which system I recommend so you don’t have too (;
The 5 Things That Make A Good Wireless Guitar System.
- Reliability -Signal strength, little to no dropouts
- Durability- Able to last long/withstand touring conditions
- Tone- Does it negatively affect guitar or bass tone compared to a quality cable
- Convenience- Battery life, setup simplicity, easier instrument change, pedalboard attachable
- Range- Able to have a strong signal to cover a big stage, or perform in the crowd
Yes we know, every single wireless guitar system manufacturers website says their wireless system is perfect in every way shape and form. This article will give you a baseline understanding of how to bypass the B.S. to help assist you on the right wireless choice the 1st time around. Nobody needs to waste money as I did, and please before buying anything, check the reviews.
Reliability of a wireless guitar system is, in my opinion, the absolute most crucial factor in determining a good system. You need to know that your instrument will not randomly cut out due to signal interference while performing live. When your wireless system is more susceptible to dropouts, even if it’s as little as once every three shows, you still have the “fear of uncertainty” in the back of your mind.
This “fear of uncertainty” while performing will negatively affect the way you perform and the overall experience of the show. I personally know about this “fear of uncertainty,” considering some of my older wireless units were on the cheaper side. It is not only essential but vital to have a reliable wireless guitar system with an excellent signal strength that will not drop out.
For a list of the most reliable wireless guitar systems that either will not or very rarely will ever cut out, check out our Top 6 Wireless Guitar Systems For Pros.
The best recipe to finding a wireless guitar system with the absolute highest reliability is to find a wireless guitar system over $300 with flawless reviews on signal strength.
The durability for a wireless, specifically the transmitter, is far more critical than we think at first. Wireless guitar systems cost a fair amount of money. If it’s not durable enough and it breaks, you lose money. You don’t want a wireless transmitter with flimsy battery cases, or if it falls off your strap will break the system.
Typically the transmitter (the part attached to guitar) is more susceptible to breaking. Transmitters are usually made of ABS plastic or metal. If you are a touring musician, you need a wireless system built with a metal transmitter to withstand the vigorous conditions of traveling. I learned the hard way while touring with a plastic casing transmitter (lasted two weeks on the road).
Although a metal transmitter is far more durable than plastic casings, metal does not give full protection to moisture, sweat damage, or keeping it from falling off of your strap. Luckily it is very cheap to protect your wireless transmitter from these factors, including a more substantial impact. A $15 investment in the Neotech Wireless Pouch fixes all of these issues as it certainly worked for me.
Wireless guitar systems in the past got a horrible rep mainly due to the high coloration of tone. Thankfully with the rise of technology, wireless guitar systems have gotten significantly better with tonality. However, not all current systems are equal. It is imperative to use a wireless guitar system that is equal to, or close to the same tone as a high-quality cable without distortion or buzz. It is also essential to have a wireless system with a wide Db range, especially for bass to get the entire frequency range.
Unfortunately and again, the best recipe to find out which wireless guitar systems keep the same tone as a quality cable is by checking customer reviews. An easy way to check reviews for sound or anything is to go to the review section on amazon for the wireless, then to type in a keyword where it says “search customer reviews.”
Although the wireless “technically” covers 100 ft hypothetically, it may not have the strongest signal or increased latency at 80 ft. If your the musician that dances across the entire big stage or takes the solo into the crowd, the range becomes an essential factor.
Convenience is not a common thought when first purchasing a wireless guitar system. In terms of battery life, how to charge or change the batteries, setting up the system before gigs, etc. an inconvenient wireless guitar system gets annoying fast. Not to mention, consistent battery purchases increase the annual overhead at a much faster pace than expected.
To make it simple, the most convenient wireless guitar system would be where the receiver attaches to your pedalboard with a long rechargeable battery life transmitter. In that scenario, you will not need to make an extra step to setting up your wireless system on top of your amp or rackmount before every show or consistently change the batteries. That is unless you already have a rackmount and already use it for gigs. In that scenario, a rack-mountable receiver will be an excellent fit for you.
Factors That Make A Wireless Instrument System More Convenient
- Ability to attach to a pedalboard
- Rechargeable batteries rather than disposable batteries
- Ability to charge transmitter in receiver port
- Transmitters with longer battery life (Shure GLXD16, 14R, 14 with 16 hours)
- Receiver able to charge on the pedalboard power supply (no need to consistently plug it in before every show)
Why I Use And Strongly Recommend The Shure GLXD-16
The Shure GLXD series is, in my opinion, the best wireless choice to go for all mid/high-level musicians. The List below is about my personal experience with the Shure GLXD-16.
- The Tone Is Flawless- I tested it between my Mogami cable and the wireless, no difference.
- Durability– Most units I personally owned either broke from sweat damage or impact from touring conditions. The transmitter and receiver come in a metal casing. If you add the Neotech wireless pouch to protect it from moisture, dust, or more impact, you will be in good shape.
- Signal Strength/Reliability- ZERO DROPOUTS. For the year I have had it, big stage, small stage, tall stage, bar, brick, etc ZERO DROPOUTS.
(If that changes on any of my upcoming shows I will come back to correct this) It has continuous interference monitoring and automatic frequency switching that eliminates signal interruption.
- Convenience- Attaches perfectly to the pedalboard the GLXD 16 is a tuner as well. When I bought this system, I ended up returning my $97 Poly Tune tuner. Works just as good as it, a 2 in one deal.
- Battery life– Tied in the top 3 wireless guitar systems for longest battery life. 16 hours of battery life per full charge, and 1.5 hours of continuous playing after 15 minutes of charge.
- Range– The range is 200 feet radius which is great for a digital wireless unit. Me and the guitarist have a part in our show where we do a solo battle in the crowd. There have been many times with the other units I had would cut out when I reach a certain point. This has not happened with the GLXD 16 yet.
- Rare Combination/Competitive Price – Usually mid-high level grade wireless units lack 1 or 2 of the following. Especially for the price.
- Please don’t believe every article you read online, Check the reviews yourself for the Shure GLXD 16 here
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