Shure SLX Wireless System

The technological floodgates have opened for wireless systems and now, just like in the computer biz, there's a new kid on the block nearly every other month. I am continually amazed at how the RF manufacturers keep bringing units with more frequency agility, better fidelity, higher power but more efficient transmitters, enhanced remote control all at a lower cost to the marketplace. Enter the newest "kid" from Shure, the SLX-- billed as "Smart, hard-working wireless".
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The technological floodgates have opened for wireless systems and now, just like in the computer biz, there's a new kid on the block nearly every other month. I am continually amazed at how the RF manufacturers keep bringing units with more frequency agility, better fidelity, higher power but more efficient transmitters, enhanced remote control all at a lower cost to the marketplace. Enter the newest "kid" from Shure, the SLX-- billed as "Smart, hard-working wireless".
Product PointsApplications: Live sound, installation

Key features: UHF system; Audio Reference Companding technology; true diversity reception; 960 frequencies; autoscan; handheld and bodypack transmitters; 300- foot range

Price: $902

Contact: Shure at 847-600-2000, www.shure.com
Features

The SLX system has a half rack space chassis that can be mounted individually or two abreast in a single rackspace. While I was shipped a handheld system featuring the newly available SM86 capsule, the SLX can also be configured with a variety of handheld capsules or a bodypack transmitter (for guitar/lavalier and headworn mic applications). The SLX systems are available in eight different frequency ranges to facilitate operation far and wide. According to Shure, up to 12 systems can be used simultaneously within any given frequency range and up to 960 frequencies are selectable within the SLX's 24 MHz bandwidth. The SLX system has a range of 300 feet and a dynamic range of >100 dB A-weighted. In addition, the SLX system uses Shure's Audio Reference Companding technology, which is claimed to yield superior sonic performance.

The SM86 equipped handheld transmitter has an RF output of up to 30mW and it uses two AA batteries that can last up to eight hours. The SLX system is equipped with an auto frequency scan/selection function and you can quickly lock the transmitter to that same frequency by use of infrared communication.

The SLX4 receiver has a simple front panel that is adorned with an LED ladder (for incoming audio), a large LCD display, soft touch buttons for menu access, the aforementioned infrared port with sync button (more on this in a moment) and a power switch. The LCD displays info on Group/Channel and antenna activity as default, but it can also bring up frequency in MHz, system lock, or warnings of low battery and group full.

The infrared port is used to sync the transmitter onto the same frequency as the receiver. Simply unscrew the transmitter's outer shell, point the end of the mic toward the port on the receiver and press the sync button. The rear panel of the receiver is home to two detatchable 1/4-wave antennas, an AC jack (it uses an in-line transformer), audio inputs (XLR balanced and 1/4-inch unbalanced) and a volume control for receiver output. The SLX receiver is fully compatible with Shure's power distribution and splitter/combiner antennas.

The transmitter has a similar feature set as the receiver except that it continually displays battery level rather than issuing a low-level warning. It also has an incompatible frequency warning that illuminates when the transmitter and receiver are set to incompatible frequency bands.

In Use

I've been using the SLX24/SM86 system ($902.32) for several weeks now and I've really grown to like it. I must say that I found it momentarily tricky to operate the transmitter without consulting the manual (the mute button doubles as the power switch) but that was insignificant. I really like the SM86 capsule. It has a very detailed sound and it is somewhat forgiving when unskilled users hold it off axis. Whether it was a singer belting out a performance on a noisy stage or a CEO speaking to hundreds of guests at a company holiday party, the SLX system responded with rock-solid reliability and superb sonics. In fact, I think Shure should add "Great-sounding" to the SLX moniker. While Shure should be applauded for adding a frequency scan function to a product of this price, I did find myself wanting to see a battery level indicator on the receiver- like I've seen on some comparable units. However, it should be noted that I am still using the same set of Duracell AA batteries that I installed upon removal from the box and I still haven't seen the "idiot light" come on.

Summary

The Shure SLX system, which borrows features and technology from its ULX sibling, is a remarkable RF system for the price. It combines excellent frequency agility with great sonics and what would appear to be classic Shure reliability to create an exceptional value.