I don’t know who came up with the term "wireless" mic, but he obviously wasn’t with me yesterday when I set up a system of a dozen lavalier microphones for a school theatre performance.
Each mic (that’s wireless mic) required a wire from the receiver to the mixer; a wire from the lavalier capsule to the transmitter, two wires from the antennae to the receiver and a power wire from the receiver to an electrical source. Multiply that by twelve microphones and our wireless mic package required no fewer 60 wires (wireless wire’s, maybe) in order to complete the set up.
Never mind the tough task of finding a dozen clear frequencies to operate on, I had my hands full just putting the whole package together.
Whether you face this task every day or just do it once, you might find these cable management tips useful when dealing with wireless mics.
- Label everything.
this includes labeling both the front and back of each receiver with specific info about how it is being used and the sound system channel it will use. Remember that trouble shooting, particularly during a show, will probably require two people working together. Make sure that the person who did not do the actual hands on set up can understand your work. Here's where to find the label tape the pros use. It has a smooth finish and will not allow print thru with a Sharpie Marker.
- Keep spares close by.
The most likely thing to fail in any sound system set up (wireless or not) is a cable. Keep appropriate length microphone cables close to your wireless receivers. Moving to and from the receiver location may be really difficult during the show, so you don’t want to have to go looking for your mic cable case in the dark.
- Keep Power Cable Runs To A Minimum.
Having a bird’s nest of power cables in the vicinity of your wireless receivers is a real invitation for trouble. Not only is it hard to trouble shoot and easy to accidentally disconnect from a power source, but a large mass of copper carrying ac current can actually create radio frequency interference. It’s not unlike putting a great big electromagnet in the middle of your wireless receivers. There are multi outlet strips designed to accommodate the outboard power supplies your mics probably use and you should try to use one of these if possible. A wireless mic receiver uses very little amperage, so a single 14 gauge cable providing power from a 15 amp circuit should be more than adequate for a large number of wireless receivers. If you need a multi outlet cable, you might want to take a look at this.
Coil and bundle the light gauge power cable that runs from the receiver to the AC power source to create a cable run that is as short as possible. Again, label everything so that you can replace a failed power supply without worrying about unplugging the wrong receiver.
- Make Temporary Cable Bundles for Repeat Applications.
If you repeat the same set up more than a couple of times (say, for a tour or other repeat performance) consider making up a temporary mic cable snake to run from your receivers to your mixer input or mic multi cable. Since you will need a standard xlr mic cable to plug into the output of your receiver, why not make up a mini-snake (some call it a loom) to run from the outputs of the receivers to the next location in your signal chain.
If you use mic cables of equal lengths and label each one on both ends you can really clean up the cable package associated with your wireless set up. Here’s a good product for creating those temporary mic cable snakes.
-Jeff Harrison is a sound person and special event producer who lives in works in Chapel Hill, NC. His most recent work includes producing professional school commencement exercises for the University of North Carolina.
He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org
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