Review: Sennheiser XSW 35 Wireless Vocal Set

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“Affordable Sennheiser quality” is available via the superb XS Wireless Series, which delivers in build quality, performance and price. 

I’ve used many different wireless microphone systems over the years, ranging from inexpensive units up to pricier lines, consistently finding that Sennheiser wireless products are among my favorites. Their latest, the XSW 35 Wireless Vocal Set, is no exception. 

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The XSW 35 is “affordable Sennheiser,” a handheld wireless kit specially designed for smaller venues, houses-of-worship, working bands, etc. At January’s NAMM Show, Sennheiser representative Jeff Touzeau described the XS Series as affordable but with the same quality and reliability one expects from their higher priced models. At $399 street, the price is certainly right, but is the quality?

Features

The XSW 35 Vocal Set with SKM35 handheld transmitter, EM10 True Diversity receiver, and e835 cardioid dynamic capsule provides up to 10 hours of operation (via 2 AA batteries); approximately 250 feet of transmission range; a convenient, illuminated mute button and excellent feedback rejection. Its metal-cased receiver offers 960 tunable frequencies with eight frequency banks containing 12 coordinated channels each. “From a distance” component synchronization is provided by Sennheiser’s new Remote Channel sync feature. The XSW scan feature is simple and powerful, identifying available channels within a bank. 

The XSW 35 features balanced (XLR) and unbalanced (quarter-inch TRS) outputs as well as two frequency ranges: A (548-572MHz) and B (614-638MHz). Frequency response is 60 Hz - 16 kHz; signal-to-noise ratio is 103 dBa. The kit ships with power supply, MZQ1 mic clip, rod antennas, 2 AA batteries, pouch, and manual. 

In Use

A crucial feature I always look for in a wireless vocal kit is the transmitter itself: its “feel,” via weight and build quality. The transmitter needs to have some heft to it and absolutely must be able to “take a licking and keep on ticking.” The XSW 35 certainly has this covered.

The sleek look and many of the features of the XSW transmitter are very similar to Sennheiser’s EW Series transmitters, and it is a pleasure to use for live shows. As a matter of fact, in years past I regularly used a Sennheiser EW 335 wireless system; the XSW 35 seems almost exactly the same in sound and quality, with a few variables. However, the EW 335 kit sells for $850, so there’s a major difference in price.

Other critical features I desire in any wireless kit include reliability of signal, signal strength, and easy set up. With the XSW 35, I simply pulled it straight from the box, plugged it in, sync’ed the transmitter with the receiver and started sound check immediately. Depending on the venue, some engineers prefer to have the receiver at FOH, which will work in small venues. For some wireless systems, staying within a 100 foot range can be critical to the sound and clarity. Using the XSW 35, which boasts a range up to 250 feet, I used a different and random frequency for each set the band played and in each set the XSW 35 produced the same clear, crisp, quality sound my old reliable EW Series did. 

Sound quality is the bread and butter of any good wireless microphone unit, followed by features and price points. Luckily, the XSW 35, with its superb e835 cardioid dynamic capsule, is a triple threat. 

I noticed only two negatives: the mute button is quite touch sensitive, enough so that an active vocalist could easily switch the mic off during performance; and there is no backlit display on the transmitter, making it hard to see frequency settings and battery levels in low light settings. 

Summary

To my ears, the Sennheiser XSW 35 kit sounds just as good as its big brother in the EW Series. With clear tones, clean and strong signals, and an affordable price, the XSW 35 is a fantastic solution for any type of small- to medium-sized venue, or savvy vocalists themselves. I would definitely recommend this unit to anyone from a first time wireless unit buyer to a seasoned pro needing a reliable wireless kit to take on the bar/small club circuit.

I have been a fan of Sennheiser wireless technology for years now and have shelled out good money for the excellent quality. It’s nice to see that XS Series delivers that same quality at a more affordable price.

Joshua Garber is a Minneapolis/St. Paul-based musician, engineer, and DJ/KJ with pro stints in the Cancun MX and Charlotte live music markets.twitter.com/JskinnyG

Price: $399

Contact: Sennheiser USA | sennheiserusa.com