Wireless audio is both a boon and a bane to many sound recordists. A boon, because it allows for the capture of high-quality dialogue and sound without the need for intrusive boom microphones, but a bane because systems can be hard to set up and manage. Issues such as selecting an appropriate operating frequency and ensuring audio levels are set correctly are not always easy to manage. Sennheiser has addressed many if not all of these perennial problems with its new . It is the first such system designed from the ground up specifically for audio-for-video applications and it significantly reduces the need for fiddly setup, whilst still delivering trademark Sennheiser audio quality.
At the heart of the system is the new wireless receiver. This ultra-compact unit plugs directly into the XLR input of the camcorder or field recorder with no fiddly leads or adapters (a minijack cable for connection to DSLRs and consumer-grade equipment is also included in the box). It then detects the phantom power status of the recorder or camera, and switches on and off automatically when the camera is turned on and off – saving batteries. Because the receiver maintains a back-channel communication link with the transmitter, it also powers down the transmitter too – meaning the sound recordist does not need to fiddle around switching transmitters on and off between takes or during breaks.
The system is also fully configuring with respect to operating frequency. Utilising the licence-exempt 1.9GHz band, the Sennheiser AVX system can be used anywhere in Australia (and most countries overseas). The system automatically finds a suitable clear frequency, and auto-configures itself. If interference is detected, the system seamlessly switches to a clean channel before any audio degradation becomes noticeable. Several AVX sets can also be used at the same time, with the system automatically taking care of frequency allocations across multiple units.
Ensuring that sound is captured at the right audio level is critical. AVX dynamically optimises the audio level to suit the source, ensuring recordings are neither too low level nor distorted. It does this seamlessly and without the use of companders that create an unpleasant ‘pumping’ effect; rather it is executed in digital processing meaning the sound always remains natural and balanced.
The Sennheiser AVX system is well thought through, and certainly makes the job of capturing great audio much easier and faster; once you have used it you will not want to go back to fiddly alternatives. It is available with both beltpack and handheld transmitters, with a wide choice of lapel mics and capsules. Prices in Australia are around $1499 for a single-channel kit.