Sennheiser’s EW 500 G4 offers a professional-quality microphone and receiver at an obtainable price point. From the start, the sleek black housing and capsule command the user to respect its quality based on looks alone. In keeping with the evolution wireless family’s aesthetics, the EW500 G4 Series holds the same quality and quick control access we have become familiar with in Sennheiser products. The 500 series can handle up to 32 channels; in comparison, the 100 manages up to 20 channels. This is a feature that becomes increasingly critical as frequencies become less available in the radio spectrum.
The EW 500 G4 receiver can be paired with the SK500 G4 body pack or the SKM500 G4 handheld; the handheld allows the option of three capsule configurations: e 935, e 945 and e 965. Setup is fast with these units—scan for available frequencies, sync your mic and you’re ready to go. The 500 Series also offers an Ethernet connection for Wireless Systems Manager if you are coordinating multiple channels in one setup. The handheld has a nice, balanced feel to it, and I have found that the shape of the grille encourages the talent speak directly into the front of the microphone rather than into the side of it.
There are some improvements on the 500 series that I was pleased to see—for instance, as someone who works with many different users, I despise the EW 100 Series’ added assignable “mic” button; in my experience, when someone sees a button that’s that accessible, they insist on pushing it to make it do something. I disabled the ones on our handhelds—so someone thought they should push on it even harder, which ultimately froze the button. It is my understanding that the 100’s prominent button was added for the consumer-user who likes to have an easily accessible on/off or mute button. I use ours in an auto-lock configuration that immediately locks the controls from someone once it is turned on. Thankfully there’s no prominent button on the 500 Series.
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For this review, I used the Aw+ frequency range of 470–558 MHz, putting the receiver in my to-go carry case so I could use it for a variety of events. The first application was an outdoor block party, for which I was providing sound reinforcement for a couple of bands. We used the handheld microphone for the announcements to provide wireless flexibility for the speaker. I used the quarter-wave antennas that shipped with the mic, since I was not shooting a long distance. The microphone was at the front-of-house position; many times, the announcer began speaking into the microphone as he was walking up to the stage, putting himself in a potentially dangerous feedback situation. However, the microphone’s capacity for feedback rejection was impressive. I was using the 935 capsule (cardioid dynamic), which worked well, but there is an option to swap them out and have the flexibility to upgrade and configure components of the system without having to buy into a whole next-level professional system.
The next few uses were for a variety of events at my venue, Winston-Salem’s RJ Reynolds Auditorium (a 1,900 seat, 1920s theater). We cater to rental clients (touring and local), as well as school productions for the high school. We have a competitive a cappella group at the school and are always looking for new technology to generate the best sound on stage. The Sennheiser G4 935 blended in beautifully with our G3s and Shure ULX handhelds. We have 24 wireless receivers, all pulling frequencies in the upper 400s to upper 500s range. I was able to tie in the receiver to our existing RF distribution cascade for stable antenna connection; however, the antennas off the back of the receiver do pretty well in a short- to medium-throw scenario. The 935 was used throughout their dance routines and was able to isolate audio as one would expect from a cardioid dynamic.
Related: Sennheiser evolution G3 Wireless Microphone Series, April 6, 2010
The last use was for the Winston-Salem Symphony, for its Christmas Spectacular Cirque de la Symphonie performance. I had the conductor use the handheld and put a Sennheiser Digital 6000 lav on the emcee. They had to stand just in front of the P.A. system, which was no problem for the handheld. I was able to really push the gain to get the conductor’s volume up to fill the acoustically challenging large room, finding that the natural EQ curve on it is desirable in a low-mid sounding room such as ours. Sometimes other dynamic mics in the same price range carry an unpleasant muddy sound in our space, but the Sennheiser mics in general have a pleasant frequency response that cuts well for vocals.
As with all members of the Sennheiser evolution series, it can be a bit challenging to remove the batteries from the battery compartment if you don’t have nails and are working quickly. This has made me become more of a fan of 9V or rechargeable packs.
With the added channel count, and the updated housing and interchangeable capsule option, the 500 series is a solid investment for a venue like mine. I was not given a wireless body pack to try out, but the body packs have a similar housing to the G3s. The G4 offers flexibility at an affordable price and is a great option for venues such as mine, where we need a couple of dozen microphones that will sound clean and accurate, but that won’t cost us our entire annual budget. The EW 500 system gets two thumbs up from me.