Purchasing a new radio microphone system for your church can be a bewildering process. Here we’ve tried to outline the main things to think about. If you have any questions please don’t hesitate to get in touch.
Handheld or Lapel (clip-on)
Lapel radio microphone systems have a belt (transmitter) pack with clip-on microphone. These are suitable for a single service leader.Handheld radio microphones have the transmitter built into the microphone itself and are suitable for situations where the microphone will need to be passed to various speakers.
How Many Radio Microphone Systems do You Require?
Up to four radio microphone systems can be used on channel 70 (licence free) and for most churches this is the most suitable option. If you require more than four systems then they will need to be on Channel 38 (see below)
Channel 38 and Channel 70
Radio microphones can operate on channel 38 which requires an annual licence or channel 70 which is currently licence free. Although systems on channel 70 are the most popular for churches (as they do not require a licence) it should be noted that with so many radio microphone systems in use on channel 70 throughout the UK, interference can occur if nearby properties are using their own radio microphone on channel 70. As systems on channel 38 require a licence there are less of them in operation and therefore the chances of someone in a nearby property using a radio microphone on the same frequency are considerably less.
The operating range (distance between microphone and receiver) of radio microphone systems varies considerably between different models. Having uninterrupted ‘line of sight’ between the transmitter and receiver unit will improve the operation range considerably, but this is rarely possible in churches. Extension antennas are often required, these can be installed in a central location (usually hiding) within the church and wired back to the receiver unit.
It is worth checking the accessibility of the on/off switch as on some models these have been designed to be a discreet as possible, which can be awkward in some church settings.
Single Channel, Diversity or True Diversity Receiver Units
Single channel receivers have a single antenna and receiver unit. Diversity receivers have two antenna and circuitry which selects the antenna with the strongest signal. True diversity receivers have two antenna, two independent receiver modules and circuitry to select the antenna with the strongest signal. The better your receiver unit is, the better your sound quality and reliability will be.
A squelch control is a very useful feature as it allows the sensitivity of the receiver unit to be adjusted and therefore reduce the pick-up of background noise/interference.
The battery life of radio microphones varies dramatically depending on the quality of the radio microphone system and the quality of the batteries.
Be aware that many manufacturers will claim battery life of ‘up to 10 hours’ or ‘up to 13 hours’ but these should not be seen as the standard expected battery life.
Photo by sparetomato under Creative Commons licence.