In reviewing any piece of equipment, it’s always good to have a lot of input. Before I begin, I have to thank Justin Whitaker, John Brandau, and Darby Beltran of Access Healdsburg Television in Healdsburg, California for their help putting this system though the paces. They made it possible to work with the unit, not only in a live performance situation, but in a very controlled studio environment. Thanks Guys!
Now, before I dive into the review, I have to pose a question. Can you say “WOW!”? This is a valid and important question as you’ll need to be familiar with that word if you’re seriously considering adding the Lectrosonics Digital Hybrid Wireless System to your existing setup. OK… Here we go!
There are a number of things that are over the top on this unit. To begin with, its six-channel modular design puts a lot of versatility in a single space rack mount unit. The first thing that we noticed was that the system seemed a little intimidating if you’re used to plug-n-play single frequency systems. However, after spending a little time in the interface, we found that it was surprisingly simple to set up and get around the menus, very straightforward and easy to understand. Nice.
All of the modules have variable frequency settings, so the concern about conflicting signals is no longer a factor. Making adjustments is as easy as changing channels on your television set. You can set the unit by the actual frequency or use different channel numbers. In each case, it’s pretty easy to get around. Along with adjustable frequencies, compatibility modes allow use with other transmitters. As long as they’re on the right frequency band, you can use analog transmitters from Lectrosonics and a couple of others with this unit. This is something that’s both handy and can save you a few bucks if you need to replace your receiver and have the old transmitters hanging around.
The test system came with two antennas on quite a long leash. If you have a reception issue, which we never encountered with this unit, all you have to do is relocate the antennas which is super cool in a large venue. Let’s go back to frequencies for a moment. We tried the system with a remote control unit that allows frequency changes on the fly. Find a clean channel on the receiver, dial that frequency into the remote control unit and press the button that plays a tone into the microphone. Voila! (That’s “Wah-Lah” in English!)! The transmitter is automatically set. This is a great feature when you have a multitude of wireless signals to manage.
OK, here’s another nice touch. Have you ever been irritated at looking at a very small little green lit up screen with black letters on it to program your wireless? Well, this receiver can be programmed and monitored via a USM connection to your PC. The unit arrives complete with all the cables and software necessary to make the connection. Quite handy if you’re installed in a venue, heck… you can even run it on your laptop in a remote setting. Again, very versatile.
SETUP AND GETTING STARTED
Initial setup was fairly simple. We powered up the unit, matched frequencies and were operational in pretty short order. The “snap-to” frequency feature (my words) works really sweet too. You can see the signal on the interface and when it’s strong enough, it locks in and from then on you’re good-to-go. The handheld microphone is really nice. It feels great in the palm of your hand and has a locking battery feature that makes a solid connection and eliminates any power connections issues. From then on we had many new discoveries as we setup each individual transmitter on the system.
Whenever it comes to learning the features of a new tool (my wife would call it a toy, but we all know better than that), I am a manual reader. You’ve probably noticed that most manuals are written by technicians who already understand the product and make a lot of assumptions as to what you, the end user, actually understand. Although I ran into a little of this, overall I was very impressed with the way the literature was written. If a system of this quality and depth scares you, don’t be afraid of this one. The manuals are pretty straight forward and easy to understand, as far as users manuals go.
Range was another impressive feature. As with any wireless system, my first test is to power it up and go for a walk, which is just what my friends at Access Healdsburg Television did. I can give you an exact range, but Darby had vanished far beyond everyone’s eyesight capability before even the smallest crackle was heard.
For regular use, the first thing that really matters to all of us is the quality of the sound. Here comes another WOW! I mean, all the bells and whistles in the world are useless if the unit sounds like….. well..… “bad”. Again, we were really impressed with the vocal quality that came from the handheld. Very nice. Although we only used the instrument transmitter in the studio and not in a live worship setting, it worked just as you would expect, with no signal fade and a pretty accurate rendering of my guitar.
In a large venue, with proper antenna placement, I cannot see the Digital Hybrid Wireless operating at any level less than stellar. One of our test runs was at a small café where there was no room for the Television Remote Unit indoors, so the team setup outside with the antennas right on top of the unit. Again, we found it to have great reception and great sound quality.
After playing with the features and using it a couple of times, we began playing with the remote control unit and digging a little deeper into what the unit can do. You have to believe me when I say it can do a lot, way too much to cover in the pages of this product review. The one thing that you’ll have to do with this unit is to give yourself some time for both reading the manual and walking through the features. Those of you who are deeply familiar in working with various frequencies will catch on a little quicker than those who haven’t; however, I found that I learned a ton by reading the manual.
Ok, I think it’s fair to say that we were really impressed with this system and that, after having several weeks to dig into it, I feel like we’ve just scratched the surface as to what you can do with it. However, now we boil it down to the moment of truth. Anyone can be impressed with a ten-thousand dollar piece of equipment, but now my question was; “How much does this thing cost?” I intentionally wanted to use the unit for a while before I asked this question.
I have to tell you I was very pleasantly surprised when I finally got the numbers. Let me shoot you some quotes and then we’ll evaluate the numbers. By the way, the prices here may vary, but do reflect what the standard “street price” would be. Since it’s a modular system, you buy everything separately. The receiver itself runs around $1055.00 with each module costing $277.00 each. There are a couple of different types of belt-pack transmitters that you can get, which range from around $580.00 up to $1450.00. The handheld runs about $1580.00 and the Remote Control Unit comes in at about $700.00. Now, for some of you, especially for those in smaller churches, that price tag may seem like a pretty big chunk of change. Truth be told, that for one wireless unit, it certainly is in the upper price range. But you have to consider the fact that this is a modular system and it can handle up to six frequencies. The more you add, the more cost effective it is. As a matter of fact, I did a little shopping and this unit is extremely competitive with three or more modules installed.
In closing I, have one more word about quality. We used this system live, both indoors and outdoors, as well as, in a television studio. No one who had their hands on this unit ever had any issues with it. It’s solid, looks great in a rack and can do a lot for you. If you are serious about having great audio and want the freedom of wireless you need to take a good look at this system.
Actually, that’s not totally true. All of us have a pretty serious issue with it right now. It’s the fact that our review period is over and now we have to box it back up to send back to Lectrosonics. So, with a tear in our eye, we bid farewell to our new friend. However, I don’t think it will be very long until I have one residing in my own rack.