Wireless Systems and Microphones
A wireless microphone, sometimes known as a cordless microphone, is a microphone that does not have a physical cable connecting it to the sound recording or amplifying equipment it is used with. It features a tiny, battery-powered radio transmitter built into the microphone body that sends the audio signal from the microphone via radio waves to a nearby receiver device, which recovers the audio. The receiver device is connected to the other audio equipment through a cable. The transmitter is housed into the body of one type of portable microphone.
In another kind, the transmitter is housed in a separate unit known as a "bodypack," which is normally attached to the user's belt or hidden beneath their clothing. A "lavalier microphone" or "lav" (a tiny microphone attached to the user's lapel), a headset or earset microphone, or another wired microphone is linked to the bodypack via wire. A wired instrument connection is available in most bodypack configurations (e.g., to a guitar).
In the entertainment business, television broadcasting, and public speaking, wireless microphones are commonly used to allow public speakers, interviewers, performers, and entertainers to move around freely while using a microphone without requiring a cord tied to the microphone.
The VHF or UHF frequency bands are commonly used by wireless microphones because they allow the transmitter to employ a tiny, discreet antenna. Most units allow for the selection of multiple frequency channels in case of interference on a channel or to allow the use of multiple microphones at the same time. Cheaper units use a fixed frequency, but most units allow for the selection of several frequency channels in case of interference on a channel or to allow the use of multiple microphones at the same time.
Scanner radio receivers that operate in the 900 MHz, 2.4 GHz, or 6 GHz ISM bands normally employ FM modulation, however some types use digital modulation to prevent illegal reception. Antenna diversity (two antennas) is used in certain versions to avoid nulls from interfering with transmission when the performer moves about. Infrared light is used in a few low-cost (or specialty) devices, although this requires a straight line of sight between the microphone and the receiver.
The professional models employ a VHF or UHF radio frequency and feature 'true' diversity reception (two distinct receiver modules, each with its own antenna), which avoids dead spots (induced by phase cancellation) and the effects of radio waves bouncing off walls and other objects.
Companding is another approach for improving sound quality (or, more accurately, dynamic range).
Some microphones feature gain controls on the microphone to handle varied volume sources, such as loud instruments or quiet speech. Adjustable gain reduces clipping and improves signal-to-noise ratio.
Instead of recreating noise, some versions contain adjustable squelch, which silences the output when the receiver does not get a strong or quality signal from the microphone. The threshold of the signal quality or level is altered when squelch is adjusted.
The benefits include:
• More freedom of movement for the artist or speaker
• Avoidance of cabling problems associated with wired microphones, which are caused by constant moving and stressing the cables
• Reduction of cable "trip hazards" in the performance space
• Galvanic isolation of microphone, which prevents ground loops between microphone and other electrical instruments on stage
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