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Best from Sennheiser: Sennheiser EW 100 G-4 at Amazon
"Perfect for vocals, presentations, choirs or really anything."
Best from Shure: Shure SLX2 SM58 at Guitar Center
"A vocal dynamic mic that captures frequencies between 50 and 15,000 Hz."
Best Budget: Nady DKW Duo at Amazon
"Microphones operate a directional cardioid pattern, which will reject noise and feedback."
Best Range: Gemini UHF-620 at Guitar Center
"Wide range also facilitates a really long distance of operation."
Best for Sound Control: AKG Perception at Amazon
"Someone with the mic in their hand can quickly lower the volume."
Best for DJs or Karaoke: VocoPro UHF-5800 at Guitar Center
"Has a pretty crisp and bright LCD and four distinct volume controls."
Best Headset System: Shure BLX14 at Guitar Center
"You won’t need to sacrifice sound quality for ... ease and convenience."
Best Lavalier: Sennheiser EW 122-p G3 at Amazon
"Scan feature that will sweep all the available bands to find you the best...option."
The Sennheiser EW 100 G4 setup comes with cutting-edge tech, most notably the physical construction of the 135 receiver (it has a solid metal housing with a really bright LCD screen). It’s meant to sit well (and safe) in a rackmount system, so it’ll integrate with a larger sound setup quite nicely. The 845 dynamic mic employs a super-cardioid polar pattern, which means it’s pretty directional, avoiding spill and feedback. That makes the mic perfect for vocals, presentations, choirs or really anything you want to focus amplification on while keeping ambient noise to a minimum. The capsule in the mic is shock-mounted, so it won’t pick up any jolting or jostling from being held, and there’s even a hum-canceling coil that helps to reduce any interference.
And speaking of interference, let’s talk about the connection protocol, which is another pretty innovative feature about the product. The handheld unit and the receiver connect pretty seamlessly with a new infrared technology that ensures the units stay paired and recognized. Sennheiser even lets you link this system to others with frequency allocation, so you can operate a more complicated setup.
Our top pick for Shure is kind of a no-brainer: The SLX2 system employs the SM58 – a vocal dynamic mic that captures frequencies between 50 and 15,000 Hz. This means it'll cover the most important peaks in the standard voice and is the ideal application for this mic. The automatic transmitter setup is pretty seamless, too, and operates within a range of 518 to 782 MHz. The mic also has a bright LCD screen that shows you the transmission frequency and battery life, which is displayed in a three-bar system. (In that regard, more precision would be appreciated.) But it can run for eight hours on two AA batteries and has an auto shut-off sleep function to save energy.
The Nady DKW Duo comes with, as the name suggests, two microphones, and the VHF broadcast protocol spans from 170 to 216 MHz, which might not actually be as stable as some of the higher options on this list. The microphones operate a directional cardioid pattern, which Nady claims will reject noise and feedback (though it’s important to consider here that the quality of construction on the microphones seems to be one of the places Nady has found some savings). Another interesting feature here is that they run on 9V batteries, which won’t be as cheap as the AAs of other models, but will squeeze out about 15 hours of operation (almost double that of the AA-battery microphones).
Gemini is a brand that has carved itself a nice niche in the wireless space, so you’ll see them in a lot of corporate presentation settings. This affordable little set comes with two handheld mics and a receiver, so you really are getting some nice versatility for your money. It’s important to note that the mics aren’t quite as well-researched as the larger brands (some users have complained about poor battery life) because Gemini has aimed to really dump a lot of its time and money into the wireless functionality.
The UHF-6200 system offers wireless connectivity from 682 MHz all the way to 694.75 MHz, which is a pretty serviceable range for presentations. That wide range also facilitates a really long distance of operation, giving you a radius of 240 feet, making it ideal for large-format commercial settings like auditoriums and weddings. They’ve sunk a lot of research into the internal CPU of the receiver as well, touting it as containing “PLL oscillation,” which is basically just a fancy way of saying that it’ll continuously adjust its frequency to maintain the connection with your microphone. That’s all great because, at the end of the day, even the fanciest wireless microphone won’t do you any good if it doesn’t maintain a solid connection.
AKG has really earned its stripes in the large diaphragm condenser microphones of the studio world. But the HT 45 system is actually a pretty great option for those looking for real, reliable meat-and-potatoes operation. The handheld dynamic mic gives you 70 to 20,000 Hz of frequency response, which covers quite a bit more ground on the higher end than a lot of the microphones up against it.
What’s also cool about the mic is that there’s an on-board gain control, which will be ideal for presentations in spaces prone to feedback. It’ll mean that if the squeal gets out of hand, someone with the mic in their hand can quickly lower the volume and cut out the noise. The microphone also operates for up to eight hours using only one AA battery — giving it an edge over most of the others here. The wireless connectivity gives you stable sync from 500MHz to 560MHz, and it transmits that signal via FM.
In the DJ and karaoke space, VocoPro offers a really great value for your dollar, especially with this four-mic system. The microphones’ frequency response range is pretty narrow, spanning only from 40 Hz to 16 kHz, which isn’t going to give you as rich of a spectral recreation as the bigger name models, but it’ll probably do the trick for most applications. The system operates within the UHF transmission range, which means it’ll pick up less interference in general. The receiver has a pretty crisp and bright LCD and four distinct volume controls — one for each mic — that’ll let you dial in the ideal mix. They’ve optimized each mic for about 12 hours of talk time, which beats out some of the smaller systems here. And finally, the construction on these seems to be really high quality. In addition to all of the mics porting into an intuitive rackmount receiver unit, they also come with a carrying case that's ideal for DJs and musicians.
What’s most unique about this Shure system is that, while many manufacturers who make headset microphones tend to toss in cheap, tiny dynamic mics, Shure has opted for a super-high-quality condenser mic. What this means is that you won’t need to sacrifice sound quality for the ease and convenience of an ear-mounted headset mic. This pack comes with the BLX4 main receiver and the BLX1 bodypack transmitter, both of which are kind of the gold standard for wireless mic recreation.
The receiver has a two-color audio level indicator LCD and offers you XLR and quarter-inch outputs. The body pack is a slick, slim-looking little device that holds 14 hours of battery life and won’t draw too much attention when clipped to your belt. The condenser mic will give you full, true-to-performance sound from 50 to 15,000 Hz. And this is in part because they’ve pulled the wireless connectivity into the bodypack, rather than forcing it into the mic system itself, leaving more room for quality, traditional microphone components. What’s great about the system is that the transmitter and bodypack will also work with anything that connects via the TA4F protocol (like Shure’s lavalier mics), meaning the value here goes beyond the pack.
First, a word about the cardioid pattern: it’s important to note that this mic is very directional, and that’s going to be what you look for 99 percent of the time in a lavalier system (because your main goal is to only mic the voice of the person you’re listening to). The Sennheiser EW 122-p G3 has a sound frequency between 80 and 18,000 Hz, so it's a real workhorse.The construction of both the pack transmitter and the receiver is a very sturdy metal, which means it’ll most likely last you a long time. Also included is what Sennheiser calls an “enhanced frequency bank system” that gives you a ton of programmable transmission options, allowing for a stable connection between 516 and 558 MHz. There’s even an automatic frequency scan feature that will sweep all the available bands to find you the best, most stable option. The batteries give you upwards of eight hours of operation, and the displays are crisp and highly graphical. They even give you four bars of battery indicator precision, which is great for a wireless system (no more surprise dead batteries!).
Style - When it comes to wireless microphones, you have a few options: handheld, lavalier, and headset. Handheld mics are ideal for singers, presenters, or anyone who needs to move about a room or stage. Lavaliers clip to your lapel and are especially good for teachers or lecturers who want the freedom to use their hands. Headset mics, which clip behind your ear, are best for actors or performers who want total unrestricted motion.
UHF vs. VHF - Most wireless systems operate on either VHF (very high frequency) or UHF (ultra-high frequency) bands. VHF systems operate in the 174 to 216MHz range, while UHF systems use the 470 to 805MHz range. In general, UHF is used in more higher-end systems and has less interference, although this is changing as both bands are becoming increasingly crowded.
Price - As with any piece of technology, quality and price are always in opposition. If you want the absolute best system out there, you should be prepared to pay top dollar. On our list, that’s about $750. Although if you’re willing to make some compromises on features like stability and construction quality, you can find options as low as $50.