(click thumbnail)Many of us in pro audio have a tendency toward grandiosity. If someone asks me about a sound system for a school or house of worship, my knee-jerk reaction is to think large console, a rack full of high-powered amps, perhaps a small line array with subs… you get the picture. Of course, we should always tailor our equipment suggestions based on the actual physical and economic needs of the venue, but the truth is, most worship houses and schools are small and their SR requirements are relatively modest. Mega-churches are the exception not the norm and most of the schools I've encountered cringe over hundreds, not thousands of dollars when looking at SR budgets.
Fast FactsApplications: Live sound, sound reinforcement
Key Features: UHF system; diversity reception; handheld, headset, lav, guitar bug packages available
Contact: AKG Acoustics US at 615-620-3800, www.akgusa.com.
So when it comes to wireless, 200-channel frequency agility, 25mW transmitters, distribution antennas and fancy readouts are great but they may not be suitable for every application. Yes, the wireless price-to-feature ratio has changed dramatically over the last decade and current systems offer far more bang for the buck than ever - but what about the small congregation that just needs a simple handheld mic or lav without major frequency compatibility issues? Enter the WMS 40 FLEXX system from AKG — an affordable upgrade to AKG's WMS40 series (PAR 8/04).
The FLEXX moniker means that this latest generation of WMS products is frequency agile. Operating in the 660 MHz – 865 MHz (751.550 MHz in the U.S.) range, each unit provides three selectable carrier frequencies. The receiver is a half rack space affair and the transmitters come in handheld (as provided for this review), headset, lavalier and instrument.
The receiver is pretty straightforward with power and volume controls, RF LEDs (no ladder, just signal or mute), a diversity antenna LED, AF LEDs (again no ladder, just signal present and clip), and a channel selection switch. The rear panel has balanced XLR and unbalanced 1/4-inch outputs along with a squelch control and a receptacle for the wallwart power supply.
The handheld transmitter comes with a cardioid dynamic microphone and features a recessed power/mute switch, a hidden frequency selection switch, a power/low battery LED, and a gain control (for which I could find no spec in the manual but I would guess that it's around 6 dB). The transmitter has a modest output of 10mW and it is quite thrifty — the single AA battery is claimed to last for more than 30 hours. The transmitter's chassis is rubberized with a contour that fits comfortably in your grip. As mentioned the WMS40 FLEXX system is somewhat frequency agile. It has three usable frequencies and up to nine can be used simultaneously. This latest generation of the WMS40 can recharge its battery when used with the AKG CU 400 dual-bay charger.
I used the WMS40 FLEXX handheld system at a number of events including a press conference and a performance by a band at a wedding reception. I also did a gig with renowned folk singer/songwriter John Mc Cutcheon, who happened to have his own personal version that he carries with him.
Overall, I found the mic to have a pleasant, articulate sound with a hint of a slight presence peak in the 6 kHz range (again, no spec - that's what my ears told me). With Mc Cutcheon's band, the AKG sounded full bodied with a detailed signature — on par with all the other wired condenser vocal mics we had on the band. We were able to get a decent stage volume but there were minor instances of feedback that may have been mitigated by a hypercardioid. While the chassis does feel very comfortable when gripped, it transmits some handling noise. As I am used to using systems that have full metering on the receiver (including battery, RF and AF level), I was a bit frustrated by the very basic displays on this model. But at a list price of only $390 you are not going to get all the bells and whistles. However, I liked the insertable color strips to ID each mic — a nice touch.
The WMS40 FLEXX system is a good wireless alternative for users on a budget. While it has scaled back metering and limited agility, it does have a good sound and a very affordable price. It would be appropriate wherever there wasn't a significant amount of RF congestion and where a small number of units would need to be used. It presents a nice middle ground between those $99 systems you see at the national chain MI stores and the $500+ systems designed for professional use.
Midas Venice 320, Mackie TT24, Spirit Live 4 consoles; QSC and Crown amps; Turbosound and JBL speakers; Klark Teknik, BSS, Rane, Sabine, Community, XTA processors.