The Limitations of Wireless Microphones

Cable microphones

Why cable microphones are still the simplest and most effective solution

Have you ever been on a video meeting where the audio just wasn’t up to scratch? Whether there’s too much echo, interference from background noise, or insufficient audio pickup from the far end of the room, not being able to hear speakers clearly can really hinder the progress of your meetings. Many of these problems are caused by a poor microphone, or the wrong type of microphone being used for your specific set up scenario. In the following article, we’ll go through wireless, wired and ceiling microphones and their various pros, cons and applications.

Before we begin:

There is one very important thing to consider when it comes to any microphone solution you choose – connectivity! It pays to check what connections your chosen microphone solution uses, and similarly what mic output connections your system accepts. For example, many mics may utilise a XLR type of connection, where many endpoints may only accept a 3.5mm input for mics or vice versa. Some different types may not work properly with an adaptor as well. It is also important to determine whether balanced and unbalanced audio is required or used for both devices.

Wireless Mics: Why they may create more problems than they solve

In this current age, where thousands of gadgets offer the ability of communicating without cables, it is no surprise that many people are attracted to the thought of having wireless microphones when considering video or audio solutions for their workspace. While this may seem like a more hassle-free option, the truth is there are many cases where wireless hardware creates more issues than it solves. While the obvious benefits of using wireless mics include freedom of movement and absence of cables, some of the drawbacks may include the following:

  • Battery life. No wireless device is capable of running in wireless mode indefinitely. At some stage the mic will need to be re-charged, and many of these units do not work while in charging mode. In theory, this may seem like a small issue that is easily managed. However, when you’ve just entered the room for a video meeting to find your microphones are flat and not working, it will be!
  • Life Expectancy. All rechargeable cells have a finite number of times they can be used and re-charged. While these life expectancies may vary, it is inevitable that at some point your mics will need battery replacements (and in some cases, the batteries are not replaceable at all.) There is usually a substantial cost involved in battery replacement, making wireless mics a less cost-effective solution.
  • Range. Like any wireless device, the distance between the transmitter and receiver is limited and increasing this distance may also result in shorter battery life as the transmission power may need to be increased to compensate for the extra range. Meaning the wireless mics will have to be charged more frequently
  • Interference. With so many wireless and electronic devices active in our daily surroundings (particularly in an office or commercial environment) the comparatively narrow frequency band used for these has become crowded. While some devices feature automatic channel selection to use the least crowded channels, there are always going to be devices that are using similar frequencies and this may impact the quality of the signal as well as the effective range.
  • Security. As all wireless devices are forced to be using a very narrow frequency range it is not difficult for these channels to be intercepted and this interception may also be undetected. Some Wireless Mic systems do offer encryption however this feature may impact latency or real-time delivery speed and may also increase the cost of the products considerably.
  • Cost. As Wireless Mics have a requirement to have a lot more equipment on-board (such as batteries and a wireless antenna/receiver) it should also be considered that the cost of manufacturing these would be significantly greater than a comparable wired Mic. There may be an additional built-in cost to cover radio or transmission band licencing as well.

Wired Mics and Effective Cable Management

Wired Mics and Effective Cable Management

Wired Mics are very reliable and free from all of the issues mentioned above, save for the obvious limitations of cables and their length. While cable length is not usually something that can be altered, there are a number of ways cables can be managed more effectively to create a neater, safer configuration.

Many modern VC systems feature clever ways to minimise visible cables, including the use of adhesive cable guides that can be attached to the underside of a table. Many board tables feature a hole or duct where power cables or network data cables can be routed from the top of the table down to floor ports. This is a perfect way to conceal any cabling. Cables can also be pushed down into gaps between tables or tidied up with basic cable ties, adhesive mounts and a little imagination.

In instances where cables are required to cross the floor from a table to a wall (for example when connecting a camera mounted on a wall) it may be possible to run these in existing floor conduits, or even under carpet or mats. If those options are unavailable or unsuitable, many other cable management solutions can be adopted.

One of the simplest and effective solutions here is a drop over (or open-channel) cable cover. These often come as a modular unit available to be purchased in pre-cut lengths and can often be connected to each other much like jigsaw pieces.

The material used for these can also vary and can be found in rubber, PVC and even high-visibility Velcro-backed fabric designed to firmly attach to carpet. Some Velcro types can even be purchased in bulk rolls to allow the perfect length to be cut off as needed.

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