By Tony Hossri
Here it is, the million dollar question………..more like $500 or so. What makes a good wireless guitar system? When you google this question, what typically pops up are a bunch of payed ads of wireless guitar systems. Yet, never give you the run down of all the factors that determine what makes a good wireless system in the first place, why, and whats truly best bang for your buck.
I have been a Touring Wireless Musician for a little over 6 years now. I have been through 5 wireless guitar systems and even extra transmitters for each system. I have been through multiple embarrassments on stage from my (older) wireless cutting out, to breaking on stage, battery dying far sooner than expected, to my wireless falling off my strap during a behind the back solo, etc.
I learned the hard and far More expensive way of what factors to determine in what makes a good wireless system, and which system I recommend so you don’t have too
The 5 Things That Make A Good Wireless Guitar System.
- Reliability -Signal strength, little to no dropouts
- Durability- Able to last long/withstand touring conditions
- Tone- Does it negatively affect guitar or bass tone compared to a quality cable
- Convenience- Battery life, setup simplicity, easier instrument change, pedal board attachable
- Range- Able to have a strong signal to cover a big stage, or perform in the crowd
Yes we know, every single wireless guitar system manufacturers website says there wireless system is perfect in every way shape and form. This article will give you baseline understanding of how to bypass the B.S. to help assist you on the right wireless choice the 1st time. Nobody needs to waste money like I did, and please before buying anything check the reviews.
Reliability of a wireless guitar system is in my opinion, the absolute most important factor in determining a good system. You need to know that your instrument will not randomly cut out due to signal interference while performing live. When your wireless system is more susceptible to dropouts, even if its as little as once every 3 shows, you still have the “fear of uncertainty” in the back of your mind. This “fear of uncertainty” while performing, will affect the way you perform and the overall experience of the show. I know about this “fear of uncertainty” personally. It is not only important but vital to have a reliable wireless guitar system with great signal strength and will not drop out.
How to figure out the honest reliability and signal strength of a wireless guitar system is sadly, by customer reviews, All of them!! From my honest experience, any wireless system under $200 has a much bigger chance of experiencing signal dropouts.
The best recipe to finding a wireless guitar system with the absolute highest reliability is to find a wireless guitar system over $300 with flawless reviews on signal.
The durability for a wireless, specifically the transmitter, is far more important than we think at first. Wireless guitar systems cost money, if its not durable enough and it breaks, you lose money. You don’t want a wireless transmitter with flimsy battery cases, or if it falls off your strap will break the system. Typically the transmitter (part attached to guitar) is more susceptible to breaking. Transmitters are usually made of ABS plastic or metal. If you are a touring musician, you need a wireless system made with a metal transmitter to withstand the vigorous conditions of traveling. I learned the hard way while touring with a plastic casing transmitter (lasted 2 weeks on the road).
Although a metal transmitter is far more durable than plastic casings, metal does not give full protection to moisture, sweat damage, falling off your strap. Luckily it is very cheap to protect your wireless transmitter from these factors including heavier impact, a $15 investment in the Neotech Wireless Pouch will fix these issues. it certainly worked for me.
Wireless guitar systems in the past got a horrible rep mainly due to the high coloration of tone. Thankfully with the rise of technology, wireless guitar systems have gotten significantly better with tonality. Yet, not all current systems are equal. It is very important to use a wireless guitar system that is equal to or close to the same tone as a high quality cable without distortion or buzz. It is also important to have a wireless system with a wide Db range, especially for bass to get the entire frequency range.
Unfortunately and again, the best recipe to find out which wireless guitar systems keep the same tone as a quality cable is by checking customer reviews. An easy way to check reviews for tone or anything, is to go to the review section on amazon for the wireless, than to type in a keyword where it says “search customer reviews”
In my experience as a bass player, The only wireless guitar system that colored my tone was the line 6 G10. I was unable to here a difference of bass tone with the line 6 G30 and G50.
Although the wireless “technically” covers 100 ft hypothetically, it may not have the strongest signal/more latency at 80 ft. If your the type that dances across the entire big stage or takes the solo into the crowd, range becomes an important factor.
This is not a common thought when first purchasing a wireless guitar system. In terms of battery life, how to charge/change batteries, setting up system before gigs, etc an inconvenient wireless guitar system gets annoying fast. Not to mention increase the monthly overhead with consistent battery purchases. To make it simple, the most convenient wireless guitar system would be a where there receiver attaches to your pedal board with a transmitter with very long rechargeable battery life. In that scenario, you will not need to make an extra step to setting up your wireless system on top of your amp or rackmount before every show, or consistently change the batteries. That is unless, you already have a rackmount and already use it for gigs, in that scenario, a rackmountable receiver will be a great fit for you. In my experience, the absolute most convenient wireless guitar system all around was the Line 6 G10.
Factors to make a wireless more convenient include
- Ability to attach to a pedal board
- Rechargeable batteries rather than disposable batteries
- Ability to charge transmitter in receiver port
- Transmitters with longer battery life (Shure GLXD16, 14R, 14 with 16 hours)
- Receiver able to charge on pedal board power supply (no need to consistently plug it in before every show)
Why I Use and Strongly Recommend the Shure GLXD-16
The Shure GLXD series is, in my opinion, the best wireless choice to go for all mid/high level musicians. The List below is about my personal experience with the Shure GLXD-16.
- The Tone Is Flawless- I tested it between my mogami cable and the wireless, no difference.
- Durability– Most units i personally owned died by sweat damage or parts of the transmitter will break from either impact or touring conditions. The Transmitter comes in Metal casing, add the neotech wireless pouch to protect it from moisture/more impact.
- Signal Strength/Reliability- ZERO DROPOUTS. For the year i have had it, big stage, small stage, tall stage, bar, brick, etc ZERO DROPOUTS.
(If that changes on any of my upcoming shows I will come back to correct this) It has continuous interference monitoring and automatic frequency switching that eliminates signal interruption.
- Convenience- Attaches perfectly to the pedal board the GLXD 16 is a tuner as well, when i bought this i returned my $97 Poly Tune tuner. Works just as good as it, a 2 in one deal.
- Battery life- Tied in the top 3 wireless guitar systems for longest battery life. 16 hours of battery life per full charge, and 1.5 hours of continuous playing after 15 minutes of charge.
- Range- The range is 200 feet radius which is great for a digital wireless unit. Me and the guitarist have a part in our show where we do a solo battle in the crowd. There has been many times with the other units I had would cut out when I reach a certain point, it has not happened yet with the GLXD 16.
- Rare Combination/Competitive Price – Usually mid-high level grade wireless units lacks 1 or 2 of the following. Especially for the price.
- Please don’t believe every article you read online, Check the reviews yourself for the Shure Glxd 16here