While wireless microphone systems have recently made quantum leaps in performance, only a few have demonstrated a new direction in design philosophy and function. Enter the AKG WMS40 ($526) wireless system. With its replaceable output module, this mic can go from wired to wireless in a flash (if you have a screwdriver on hand).
Product PointsApplications: Live sound, installation
Key Features: UHF system; fixed frequency; wired and wireless options
Contact: AKG Acoustics at 615-620-3800, Web Site.
The system I received for evaluation contained the TM40 transmitter module, the SR40 receiver and a D3800M handheld microphone. The D3800M is a dynamic supercardioid transducer that has a presence peak between 3 kHz and 5 kHz. It has a zinc alloy diecast chassis that features a slight triangular shape with rounded corners for ergonomic optimization. The mic has a Varimotion diaphragm that features a varying thickness across its diameter – purportedly allowing the diaphragm to be tuned to a desired resonance frequency, thus improving audio performance. The most remarkable feature of the D3800M is that it has a removable connection module. Stock, the mic comes with a traditional XLR module (with or without an on-off switch). That can also be exchanged with the aforementioned TM40 transmitter module.
The TM40 UHF transmitter operates on a single fixed frequency in the 710 MHz Ð 865 MHz range and the transmitter has a 5mW output. It uses a single AAA battery that will last up to 11 hours (six hours for a rechargeable). Speaking of rechargeables, AKG makes an optional charger cradle (CU40) that the D3800M/TM40 can rest in during downtime.
The SR40 receiver, like the TM40, is not frequency agile, operating on a fixed frequency between 710 MHz and 865 MHz. The chassis is compact measuring 8 inches wide x 5.3 inches deep x 1.7 inches high and the unit can be rackmounted alone or with a companion in a single rack space. The front panel has a power switch, RF mute and active LEDs, diversity antenna LEDs, AF active and peak LEDs and a rotary volume control. The back has outputs carried on balanced XLR and unbalanced 1/4-inch (TS). Power is received via a wallwart transformer.
The WMS40 system was very easy to operate without consulting the manual. All the controls are intuitive and the receiver has a simple display. The TM40 wireless transmitter module has a quick-release tab to jettison it from the microphone body while the wired module uses a flathead screw that holds the module firmly in place to prevent accidents during use.
I used the system at a number of events, the most notable of them being an outdoor concert at a local wine festival. The band was a 50s and 60s revival group and the singers frequently sauntered into the crowd, crooning to songs like “Unchained Melody” and “My Girl.” I found the D3800M to have a nicely aggressive character that was well suited to the noisy bandstand
In this live setting, I had a tough time hearing a distinct sonic difference between the 3800M in wired fashion and wireless Ð thus indicating a high-quality radio. Even though the transmitter is low powered, compared to what I usually use, I had no difficulty with dropouts or RF interference (even in the congested RF environment of downtown Washington, DC). Had this fixed frequency system been incompatible with local TV or other RF signals, I had my frequency-agile gear on hand, just in case. But I was fortunate and experienced no radio frequency interference problems with the system.
All the vocalists who used the mic found it very comfortable to hold and they were pleased with its sonic capability. Even with its wireless module attached, the D3800M microphone is only as thick as a standard wired microphone.
I did find myself wishing the receiver offered more information like a multitiered RF and AF indicator and a battery life indicator. But at this price point, it’s unlikely those features would appear, regardless of the manufacturer. Also, the transmitter was accidentally turned to mute or off by different users on more than one occasion — making me think a stealthier switch was needed.
At $526, the WMS40 system with the D3800M microphone is designed for musicians and institutions on a budget. Also , in rural communities it would be okay to have a non-agile system like this since RF interference is less likely therefore saving the expense of an unneeded feature. This AKG group is very capable and the capacity to switch from wired to wireless quickly should be a draw for some users.