(click thumbnail)The folks at Shure are certainly no stranger to our industry. Anyone who has used a microphone over the last 50 years has at one time touched a Shure microphone. Known for their quality sound and reliability, Shure has achieved the respect others in the industry aspire too. However with great respect comes a greater responsibility to deliver with consistency. Enter the UHF-R wireless system - the latest offering from Shure as their premium wireless microphone solution. What makes this wireless mic system so special? Do we need another high-end system? With the resurgence in touring starting to bloom and an increase in fixed installations, I suspect Shure has their reasons, and what I discovered when auditioning the UHF-R system is that indeed this product is the go-to system if you have any doubts whatsoever about the possible problems you may encounter if incorporating multiple wireless system in your touring rig or installation.
Fast FactsApplications: Installation, live sound
Key Features: UHF system; 2,400 frequencies; true diversity reception; USB port; Ethernet; AMX/Crestron protocols; Wireless Workbench software; Frequency Selection Wizard; steel receiver enclosure; compatible with many Shure capsules
Price: As reviewed, $3,043
Contact: Shure at 847-600-2000, www.shure.com.
The UHF-R's features and specifications are impressive; 2,400 selectable frequencies across 60 MHz bandwidth, up to 40 preset compatible systems per band and up to 108 systems with multiple bands. Networked operation, automatic frequency selection, automatic transmitter sync, interface setting locking Flash memory group storage, and Crestron/AMX compatibility. The carrier frequency range is 518 MHz - 865 MHz with a typical working range of about 500 feet. The frequency response is stated as being 40 Hz -18kHz, ±3 dB with a THD of .3% and dynamic range of >105 dB. Additionally, Shure has incorporate a new companding circuit that is reported to respond to the varying audio level and dynamically reduce wireless transmission artifacts and increase dynamic range.
Just as you would suspect, the unit is ruggedly built with a logically laid out and well appointed front and rear panel. Housed in a black galvanized steel enclosure, the receiver is a weighty 10 pounds, in a 1U space. There are two receiver models available, the single receiver UR4S and the dual receiver UR4D. Front panel controls include, a push to activate parameter control wheel, enter and exit buttons, four LCD menu navigation buttons, monitor control and power. Other indicators available are; sync IR port, an LED meter RF meter for A & B antennas and audio level LED meter. The dual receiver unit has a matching pair of the LCD panel and metering of course. The units come ready to rack with front panel knockouts for front of unit antenna mounting and a pair of sturdy handles/control protection bars straddle the unit.
On the rear of the unit you have an antenna input port, a mic/line selection switch, balanced low impedance XLR output jack, another selection switch for ground lift, a TRS 1/4-inch output jack, USB port, and RJ45 Ethernet connection, and the other diversity antenna port. On the side of the units are exit ports for the internal temperature activated fans.
Transmitters available for the unit are the UR2 handheld transmitter and UR1 bodypack transmitter. Housed in a 14-ounce (with batteries) black die-cast aluminum body, the UR2 handheld transmitter is available with SM58, SM86, Beta58, Beta 87A, Beta 87C capsules. Stop the presses! And the latest, the KSM9 condenser microphone handheld transmitter (more on that later). Running on two AA batteries, it is reported to provide up to 8 hours of continuous use and offers 30 dB gain adjustment. The UR1 is a sleek designed bodypack transmitter housed in a 5-ounce (with batteries) magnesium body, with a threaded T4 mic jack. The unit offers a 55 dB gain adjustment, with a maximum input level +15 dBu.
An added bonus is Shure's Wireless Workbench software. Spend a few moments in front of the application and you'll find all sorts of useful features to help you better understand the RF environment you'll be working in. Some of the unique little software gems that accomplish this are the Frequency Compatibility Calculator Wizard which scans the RF environment and recommends frequencies. The Frequency Selection Wizard which automatically scans and selects open frequencies for networked UHF-R receivers. Comprehensive Infrared Sync which automatically syncs frequencies, custom groups, lockouts and power settings between transmitters and receivers and provides PC control over these parameters. Band Limiting feature allows you to view custom frequency band parameters so that you can align them with any country or regional RF guidelines that could conflict with the available bandwidth and a Custom Frequency Group Creation which allows the user to customize and save frequency groups for specific regions for instant recall.
It's important to note that all systems come with the receiver, two antenna cables, two 1/2 wave antennas, power cable, power extension cable, Ethernet patch cable, Wireless Workbench software, assorted rack screws and hole plugs, AA batteries, and transmitter carrying case. Everything you need to get racked, plugged, configured and tested.
Setting up the system and getting sound is pretty easy on a single system - as plug and play as you can probably get with any system. Shure recommends using the Automatic Frequency Selection feature to scan the area for best available frequencies to use. A colleague of mine told me he read an article about how these units were used for the Superbowl because of all the RF flying around, and the Stones rocked the dome without a hitch! Anyway, pretty easy, your press radio, scan, channel scan using the nav, turn the wheel to select a group, press scan, once the receiver finds a frequency, press enter and you are in.
Turning on the transmitter is somewhat similar, except you use the IR sync. Point the receiver's IR sensor towards the receiver's sync window, Select sync setup on the transmitter, wait for the sync verification on the receiver, close up the transmitter and you're ready to rock.
The LCD panels on the receiver as well as the transmitters are both backlit and easy to read. The display is segmented into four screens, radio, audio, utility and sync. Pressing the desired menu puts the pertinent parameters in front of you for easy dial access and parameter changes. Another useful feature is being able to transfer transmitter settings from receiver to receiver.
With the networking ability and Wireless Workbench software, this system becomes a veritable RF Swiss Army knife (remember the Superbowl?). Wondering what big scary RF monsters are lurking about waiting to wreak havoc on your 32-channel performance? Breathe easy, turn your rack of UHF-Rs power up the notebook, launch the Wireless Workbench application, and surf the air for those RF nasties. Not only will the unit find them, but it will label what type of registered device is in the space.
The first thing I noticed is how well balanced the handheld transmitter was. Although some may find it a bit on the heavy side, I felt comfortable with its grip and feel. I first tried out the supplied Beta58 capsule. The audio sounded clear, clean and punchy, not unlike the wired Beta58 I had plugged into the other input. Walking around the facility making weird gyrations, I tried to every possible rock-god position I know to try to get the unit to cut out. No luck.
Ahh, but remember the KSM9 condenser mic, I was dying to hear that. This is Shure's answer to requests for a wireless mic that can capture all of the nuances of the most critical vocal performances. Developed primarily for world-class touring sound use it features a dual electret biased diaphragm design that provides switchable cardioid and supercardioid polar patterns and two stage shockmount suspension system to reduce handling noise, which is very low I might add, and boasts a frequency response of 50 Hz - 20 kHz. The housing is made of die-cast aluminum and the grille is hardened low carbon steel. Although this adds some considerable weight to the mic, it will no doubt offer great protection. I accidentally dropped it on a carpeted concrete floor and after checking the floor for damage, tested the mic. No scratches, bumps or skip in the audio and the sound of the mic was just gorgeous, not what I would expect from a wireless mic at all.
What else is there to say, we have come to expect the best from Shure, and the UHF-R appears as if it won't let you down. Although a bit pricey, you get what you pay for, and what I suspect you'll get is a more restful night's sleep knowing all is well in the land of wireless mics.