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Musician are enormously limited in their freedom of movement when they play amplified guitar through a cable. They can only make movements that is allowed by the length of cable. Often this is only a few meters at most. It is therefore very ideal that it is also possible to play guitar without having to use a cable for this or, in other words, wireless or cordless. That is why many guitarists who like to play amplified are interested in wireless guitar systems.
However, if you already own a guitar and searching for a way to make it wireless you can read how to make your electric guitar wireless. Or if you are looking for all the technical aspect on how does a wireless guitar system works you can continue reading.
What is wireless guitar system?
A wireless guitar system replaces the cable between your electric or electric-acoustic guitar and your amplifier. On the guitar side you puncture a transmitter (the transmitter) and on the other side you connect a receiver (receiver) with the guitar amplifier or a PA set. This can be a very compact device that you plug directly into your instrument or – usually with the extra reliable and robust more expensive systems – a so-called belt pack or body pack with a cable attached to it. Wireless sets work on, for example, the well-known AA batteries or on an internal battery that you can easily charge.
Which wireless system (guitar) suits me?
Here are a few questions that you will need to answer for yourself with the help of this guide. You can use this to screen out the multitude of available radio systems for guitar to finally find the perfect wireless system for you .
1. Analog or digital? Differences in sound, number of channels & latency
A radio link either sends purely analogue or with digital support. Here we want to jump straight to the advantages and disadvantages of both types in practice – in terms of sound quality, channel volume and latency.
Imagine you want to listen to music on an old car radio. In the transmission area of a certain radio station, the reception is noise-free. When you move out of this area by car, reception is getting worse and worse and worse. Until at some point you can only hear noise. Radio systems for guitar work the same way.
The distance from the transmitter to a certain point does not affect digital transmission. The reception stops abruptly only when the received signal is very weak. Until then, however, everything can be heard perfectly, there is no gradual deterioration here. Completely or not at all, 1 or 0.
Amount of channels
With a digital wireless system (guitar, vocals etc.) a significantly higher number of channels can be achieved. Some modern digital systems can use channels with frequencies at a distance of 125 kHz. In analog systems, the sounds of such densely staggered channels would mix (“crosstalk”).
Latency (delayed reception)
The only potential disadvantage of a digital radio system is the higher latency. The guitar sound is basically heard a little later through the speakers / headphones than with an analog system.
Most people don’t notice delays of up to 10 milliseconds. However, many musicians are a little more sensitive.
Good news: With good digital radio links from renowned manufacturers, the latency is about 3-7 milliseconds. If there are no other significant latencies in the signal chain of your setup, you are well equipped.
2. How many signals should be transmitted?
Each wireless system has a certain number of usable channels so that the transmitter and receiver can be quickly matched to one another. For these channels, the manufacturers have defined specific frequencies on which radio can be used at the same time without interference – they are called “compatible channels” or “compatible frequencies”.
Rule of thumb I: The number of compatible channels must be at least as high as the number of signals that you want to transmit by radio. One or two more compatible channels are better in order to be able to switch to them in the event of interference.
Rule II: For interference-free operation of several radio links at the same time, it is important that the individual signals are transmitted on different compatible channels.
Usually, four to six signals can be transmitted simultaneously without any problems (including radio microphone systems and systems for wireless in-ear monitoring). If this number is exceeded, programmable transmitters / receivers and additional equipment such as splitters, antenna amplifiers etc. are required. Advice from specialist staff is required – most large radio system manufacturers can do this.
3. Do I use different radio links in parallel?
If you only use wireless systems of one type, they usually work well together, because here the compatible channels are usually organized within several groups. Or – for devices with a fixed frequency – all frequencies are compatible from the start.
A mixture of different devices (especially if they come from different manufacturers) complicates the situation. In these cases, receivers with an automatic scan function are available – it automatically detects a suitable channel for interference-free transmission. Depending on the system, you set this channel manually on the transmitter or you synchronize both components via infrared.
4. What frequency ranges are available to me as a musician?
Various wireless systems are available in several versions for different frequency ranges (frequency bands), while others are limited to a specific range. To decide for or against a device, you first have to know whether the supported frequency range (s) are suitable for you at all – here is the most important information.
Registration-free, free usable frequency ranges
The following frequency ranges are available in order to be able to broadcast legally, free of charge and register in advance: \
174 – 230 MHz (VHF-Band III)
- High susceptibility to interference with analog radio systems
- Reliable operation with digital radio systems
823 – 832 MHz (LTE center gap ML 800)
- Suitable for smaller bands
- Smartphones / tablets with LTE near the receiver can cause interference
863 – 865 MHz (ISM band / harmonized EU band)
- For bands touring Europe – the band is free of registration in all EU countries
1,785 – 1,805 MHz (LTE center gap ML 1G8)
- High frequency sometimes leads to impairments in radio transmission
2,400 – 2,483.5 MHz (WLAN band / 2G4 range)
- For bands on small stages with 3-4 radio channels, solo entertainers and DJs
- Usable worldwide without registration
- Increased sources of interference from WLAN and Bluetooth devices
Improve reception with the wireless system (guitar)
For a smooth transfer, you can consider the following things.
1. Place the receiver correctly
Numerous devices can interfere with the receiver, such as … Other devices that work with radio transmission CD-Player DAT Recorder MD-Player Computer
Tip: Place such devices at a distance of at least one meter from the receiver.
2. Place and / or angle antennas correctly
It is best to place the antennas so that there are no objects between them and the transmitter. No matter how you move on stage, there should always be a clear line of sight.
The receiver should sit at the top of a rack and, if possible, with the antennas at the front.
In the case of diversity receivers, you angle the antennas 45 ° outwards (so that they are oriented at a 90 ° angle to each other). A somewhat steeper arrangement, which is reminiscent of a “V”, has also proven to be practical.
The rule of thumb for removable antennas is that there should be a distance of 40 cm between them.
3. Use antenna splitter
If several wireless systems are used and all of them are mounted in a rack, their antennas are often close together. This can degrade reception performance.
Many systems therefore offer the option of removing the antennas. And this in turn enables the use of an antenna splitter – this can route the signal from one antenna to several receivers. With four or more receivers in a rack, you should definitely consider this solution.
In recent years, radio systems for guitar – just like radio microphones and wireless in-ear monitoring – have developed rapidly. Transmission range and stability, sound quality, latency and user-friendliness became visibly better relative to the price. In the meantime, the technology for live performances is so mature that you can take the plunge. The registration-free frequency ranges work smoothly with systems from well-known manufacturers for smaller gigs. Professional bands can fall back on the notifiable frequency ranges at reasonable cost and can set up large setups.