Audio-Technica Gets Unwired

Wireless microphones now seem to be the norm rather than the exception.
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Audio-Technica BP896cW Micro Point subminiature lavaliere
Wireless microphones now seem to be the norm rather than the exception. Now Audio-Technica upped convenience with the 1800 series UHF wireless system to send your audio signal to its destination, and shrunk the size with the BP896cW Micro Point subminiature lavaliere, one of the smallest microphones around. I used this combination on several shoots in the studio and on location and was impressed on how far technology has advanced.

by Chuck Gloman

Beginning with the components of the ATW- 1823D Series (MSRP $1,795), I received the ATWR1820 dual-channel receiver; the ATW-T1801 UniPak body-pack UHF transmitter; an ATW-T1802 XLR plug-on transmitter, and a lavaliere microphone. With 996 channels available, I went looking for sources of interference.

The dual-channel receiver looks like most other units I've seen with the exception that this takes six AA batteries, making it heavier than the 9 V models I've used in the past but less expensive to re-power. The top side features two BNC mounted flexible antennae; miniscule red LED lights to monitor the channels; and an LCD screen displaying your frequencies. The bottom hosts the outputs, receiver and monitor level, eighth-inch headphone jack, and 12V DC input.

The body pack transmitter's top side has a screw-on flexible antenna and four-pin microphone input; a power/mute button and set buttons hidden beneath a sliding cover; and a side compartment holding two AA batteries. I appreciate a transmitter with as few buttons as possible because too many buttons always confuse people and a green LED reminds the talent that the transmitter is powered on.

Lastly, the plug-on transmitter mounts to a handheld or shotgun microphone with a female XLR on the top, two AA batteries in the bottom compartment, and a sliding door that allows the LCD screen to be visible but covers the power/mute and set buttons.

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Audio-Technica Series 1800 The BP896cW subminiature lavaliere (MSRP $339), housed in a lightweight plastic case, comes with five unique mounting clips, two AT8157 windscreens and six element covers (two each black, beige and white). I could quote the frequency response from the specs, but I believe real-world sound quality is a better unit of measurement. I could notice no audible differences between the lavaliere microphone that came with the ATW-1823 package or the ultra small BP896cW. I ended up using the BP896cW more frequently because it was more easily hidden; that novelty was the only reason.

For interviews, the sound quality was unmatched. The tiny BP896c was the favorite because it blended in more easily and there seemed to be less chance of "rustling" as it disappeared in the clothing. The sound quality of the larger lavaliere was just as good, but I prefer a hidden microphone and the BP896 was just more stealth-like.

The ATW-T1802 attached to a boom-mounted Sennheiser 416 produced stellar sound without the confusion of wires attached and making noise. Our boom operator wore headphones attached to the receiver, which in turn was connected to our camera via an XLR cable. With the receiver in his pocket, there was less wire confusion. I believe this will be our new way of using boom microphones.

Using the R1820 Receiver indoors connected to the T1801 UniPak transmitter, we recorded several auditions of actors in our Advanced Acting for the Screen class. The students wore the microphone in the TV Studio and the transmitter was mated to our Mackie board in the control room behind a cinderblock wall. With all of the movement that the actors did, at no time did we have any perceivable breakup.

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Having both channels on, the manual says that six hours is typical. After four hours of operation, the battery meter was still four bars on the receiver's LCD display, but after seven-and-a-half the batteries were dead. We would normally use rechargeable batteries, but in this case the alkaline cells lasted for our session.

The sound quality was dazzling with and without the windscreen. Trying out the range of the lavaliere indoors, our talent was able to walk 315 feet from the receiver, and the signal traveled through cinderblock walls. Outdoors with the same microphone, useable audio was recorded in clear line-of-sight at 630 feet. Switching to the T1802, outdoors we got exactly 1,002 feet away from the receiver and still had clear audio. Maybe the three inches of snow or 33 degree ambient temperature helped, but I believe Audio-Technica makes a good wireless system.

Chuck Gloman is program director of the TV/Film Department as well as a member of the faculty at DeSales University. He may be reached