Spring is just around the corner. Time to check your wireless systems to make sure that they are running at optimal levels. Below are some questions from church technicians around the country. Wireless technology is never 100% guaranteed; everyone is subject to the instability of the airwaves. But by learning from each other, you’ll have the confidence of knowing that you’ve done everything humanly possible to reduce the chances of something going wrong. Have a glorious spring season!
Q. What should the battery life be on our microphones? We usually use them throughout the entire church service, which lasts approx 3-4 hours. Are we safe?
– Syracuse, NY
A. Most manufacturers present the best case scenario, claiming that their microphones will run up to 6 hours in some cases. My overall view is: why trust your entire show on the life of a $2.00 battery. Batteries should be changed every three hours. This ensures that your microphones are transmitting properly with the maximum strength of the battery itself. This, in turn, means that your receiver will always be receiving the best possible signal. If your church service runs longer than 3 hours, you should cycle through the batteries intermittently. In my experience, batteries like Duracell Pro Cell or Energizer Professional Alkaline are reliably consistent, whereas some of the cheaper consumer brands have a tendency to burn out quickly.
Q. We need to place our wireless system by our sound engineer, however, his position is at the back of our hall, which is at least 75-100 feet away. Lately, we’ve been having problems with our mics dropping out. We think that this is due to the distance. Will an antenna system help with our dilemma?
– Boulder, CO
A. Antenna systems increase range and allow you to tie all the units together in one “distribution amplifier”. They enable you to combine up to 16 units on just two remote antennas. This is especially helpful if you cannot place your units in an optimal setting. An antenna system will allow you to keep your wireless rack near the sound booth while placing the remote antennas almost anywhere in the church. It can also diminish most interference-related problems that occur in a large or set-obstructed venue where wireless units are being run off their own individual antennas. Antenna systems increase your receive gain by up to 15Db in most cases therefore giving you much more flexibility and reliability.
Q. For a standard UHF/VHF wireless microphone system, how far out should we be checking for other wireless devices? I was planning on focusing on the 3-4 block radius surrounding our church. Should I also be checking further away? Also, I’ve been told that we need a frequency scanner as well. Is this true?
– Ft. Worth, TX
A. Checking three to four blocks away is a good general rule when comparing your frequencies with others in the area. However, you do need to be aware of the TV channels that exist as well because their frequency bands will affect an area covering miles, not just blocks. Search engines like www.cityfreq.com and www.100000watts.com list tv and radio stations by city. If you can afford to rent a frequency scanner, or “spectrum analyzer” as they are called, I highly recommend it. This is a great tool to ensure that your frequencies are clear of interference. The analyzer will allow you to scan for open channels. They can be expensive to rent, but if you’re going to spend the money on a good wireless system, why not make sure that it works! When scanning, always test the frequencies during the times that you’d actually be using your microphones. Scanning on two different days is best.
Wireless problems? Write to Kevin. For a published reply, send your questions to Technologies for Worship Magazine, c/o Wireless Help File; PO Box 140, Queensville ON Canada, LOG 1RO.