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Using Musical Instruments with Wireless

The advantages of wireless operation extend to musical instruments. Lead singers and featured performers who also play guitar find it natural to use wireless for their instruments. The extra freedom of movement is very appealing, as are the opportunities for enhancing the visual impact and excitement of the performance. Other performers have followed this lead, expanding wireless operation to many kinds of instruments - electric, electronic and acoustic. The increasing use of amplification for acoustic instruments such as saxophones also encourages their use with wireless.

Electric guitars and other instruments which were designed to be amplified connect easily to wireless systems. These instruments have pickups that work well with wireless transmitters. However, it is no longer unusual for small keyboards, electronic violins, synthesizers and many other types of electronic instruments to use wireless also. Acoustic instruments, including saxophones, trumpets and other brass instruments are often equipped with special microphones that adapt them for use with wireless transmitters. Almost any instrument small enough to carry can potentially benefit from wireless operation.

Instruments with magnetic pickups adapt well to use with wireless systems. The output of the pickup is connected to the transmitter audio input, and the wireless receiver output is connected to the guitar amp or signal processor. However, instrument pickups usually have a fairly high output level and are almost always intended to work with guitar amplifiers with a high-impedance ("Hi-Z") input. If the pickup output were connected to the transmitter's normal low-impedance microphone input, overload and poor frequency response is highly likely. For this reason, Audio-Technica body-pack transmitters include a separate high impedance input connection.

The high-impedance input is very important. The high output of the instrument pickup is likely to seriously overdrive the wireless transmitter if applied to its microphone input, resulting in high distortion and other problems. Even worse, the excessive load on the pickup will ruin the instrument's frequency response, resulting in very poor sound quality. Using the separate high-impedance input prevents these problems.

Guitars and basses are far from the only electric instruments that can easily be used with wireless. The adapter cable included with Audio-Technica wireless instrument systems also works well with most other types of electronic instruments. Most instruments of this type have a 1/4" phone jack and a line-level output that allow the adapter cable to plug right in. Together with the special input on the body-pack transmitter, the cable provides the proper load impedance for the instruments and helps prevent them from overdriving the transmitter.

The use of wireless with acoustic instruments such as woodwinds, brass and strings is becoming more common. Because the instruments are acoustic, a microphone or special type of pickup is needed. Microphones used with musical instruments, particularly with brass, must be specially designed to accommodate the very high levels that are present. Audio-Technica offers clip-on musical instrument microphones for this purpose. Generally speaking, the standard miniature microphones ordinarily used with wireless transmitters will seriously overload if used for high-SPL instruments.

Several companies offer specialized pickups for various kinds of acoustic instruments. Many different kinds of transducers are used in these devices, each with different output levels and load requirements. For the most part, however, they either have an output roughly similar to that of a microphone or to that of a guitar pickup. Pickups that require external power will not work directly with Audio-Technica transmitters unless they have their own battery supply. Pickup manufacturers should be able to advise regarding their output level and load impedance requirements.

Performers sometimes use a headworn microphone for vocals, leaving their hands free to play an instrument. When two wireless transmitters are used, they should not be placed side-by-side or stacked on top of each other. When transmitters are too close together, the radio frequency (RF) output from one can affect the other, causing unexpected interference. The transmitters should be separated by at least 10 inches (25 cm) and the cables should not be bundled together.

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