The Latest Advancements in Wireless Microphone Technology

Author: Gina Cunsolo

The Latest Advancements in Wireless Microphone Technology

When using technology to capture sound, a wireless microphone system offers several advantages over one that’s hard-wired and connected to a PA system or mixing board. The main one, of course, is that a wireless mic doesn’t restrict the speaker to a podium. Instead, they’re free to move around, stroll through the audience and speak as one does naturally. There are no cords to get tangled in or trip over, as well as unlimited flexibility when it comes to microphone placement. If the system includes several microphones, they can be placed wherever the speakers desire.

With the shift to remote meetings over the past few years, the demand for conferencing microphone systems is growing, with wireless mics leading the way. A recent study conducted by Business Research Insights predicted that the conference microphone market will grow at a compound annual rate of 7.6% over the next several years, reaching a value of more than $2.9 billion by 2027.

But how exactly do wireless microphones work, and what are the latest advances in the technology? What should someone interested in purchasing a wireless mic system look for, and what should they be aware of?

Getting the Band Together

Wireless microphone systems transmit audio on a radio frequency known as the operating frequency. Frequencies are typically divided into bands.

A typical wireless microphone system consists of a small microphone unit that includes a battery-operated transmitter that sends the audio signal to a nearby receiver, which is in turn connected to a PA or other amplification systems. Entertainers typically use either headset microphones or those resembling a standard wireless mic. For educators or those delivering a remote presentation, there are units that can fit in a shirt pocket.

Old analog wireless microphone systems typically operate in the VHF band between 169 - 172 MHz. These systems tend to operate on a single frequency, meaning only one microphone can be used at a time. Many of today’s wireless microphone systems operate in the UHF television band, which in the United States extends from 470 MHz to 614 MHz.

Wireless Microphones Go Digital

More recent developments include digital wireless microphone systems, which convert the audio signal to digital before transmitting. Advantages of digital systems include superior audio quality compared with an analog system. Analog systems generally include a circuit known as a "compression expander" that reduces noise and maximizes dynamic range but can introduce sounds that make the audio on a wireless microphone sound slightly different than that of a wired microphone. Digital systems don’t require such a circuit.

In addition, digital wireless microphone systems offer a battery life 30% to 40% longer than a comparable analog system. The RM-W Wireless Microphone from Yamaha Unified Communications, for example, offers a battery life of as long as 20 hours on a single charge.

Some modern wireless microphone systems operate in the 1.9 GHz open frequency band, protected by DECT standard. Yamaha UC’s RM-W Wireless Microphones and ADECIA Wireless operate in that band, with the Wireless Access Point able to handle as many as 8 microphones. Built with the latest DECT technology, the RM-W Wireless Microphone supports multi-level-modulation and an increasing data density, leading to increased audio quality.

Many of these systems also include plug-and-play capability for use with chosen conferencing software including Zoom, Teams, WebEx, and others.

Some new wireless mic systems operate in the 2.4 GHz Band. These systems, unlike those that operate in other bands, can be used around the world with no licensing requirements, and feature very short antennas. On the downside, these systems offer fewer channels than a UHF system, and their range tends to be limited to about 100 feet. And because other wireless digital devices such as Internet routers and smart devices operate in the 2.4 GHz band as well, interference may become an issue.

Choosing a wireless microphone system can be a complicated task. For advice on the best system for your needs, reach out to one of our experts!