Several microphone makers offer substantial and reliable entry level microphones. Once you advance beyond the ultra low-cost wireless units, the list narrows to the most respected, and most competitive, brands. In order to meet the designated price points, compromises must be made in terms range, features and the overall user experience. The lower the cost, the more give and take you can expect.
This challenges the engineers and designer to create products that will perform as well as some that cost more, without appearing to be cheap or “toy-like.” Such is the case with Shure BLX wireless system. It’s apparent the very moment you open the box that entry level is a synonym for plastic. The receiver is so lightweight that it almost feels as if they forgot to include the electronics. And there are no visible antennas—they hid them inside, where they are protected against loss or damage. The handheld mic is also plastic, but it’s not cheap or fragile feeling. And when you think about it, (aside from being something to grasp) the cylindrical case is just there to hold the 2 AA batteries and to provide a sturdy mount for the capsule, so what it’s made of is really secondary—as long as it’s roadworthy. MAP pricing for the Shure BLX Wireless runs from $300 and up. How far up? That’s your call.
How can that be? Well, this is the first wireless system I’ve evaluated that can be configured more ways than a bun at one of those “gourmet” burger joints. For example, if you are a singer or DJ who needs just a single channel handheld, you’ll get the BLX4 receiver with a handheld transmitter and your microphone capsule of choice. If your pastor’s lav mic is in need of a renewing, there’s a bundle that comes with the BLX4 receiver, BLX1 Bodypack transmitter, and one of three Lavalier condenser microphones—your pick. This same level of personalization is offered for instrument and headword mics as well.
You also have the choice of a single or dual channel receiver, so you can mix and match the type of microphones you wish to use.
The system I requested for this evaluation is the BLX1288/P31 and it’s the one that I thought performers, as well as DJs, would find the coolest. The receiver is the BLX88 Dual Channel. For the mics, I selected a Shure BLX2/SM 58 handheld, and a PGA31 headworn with a BLX1A body pack. If you are a guitar player, you may want to check out a similar system that comes with an instrument mic and either a handheld or head worn.
In making my selection, there were two applications I had in mind. The first is the performing duo in which the guitar or keyboard player wants to have a hands-free mic while the solo vocalist prefers a handheld. Second, for DJs, who prefer a hands-free head-worn for themselves but need a “guest mic” for various toasts, speeches, and for when a juiced up groom decides to get his buddies gathered on the dance floor for an inglorious butchering of “Paradise By The Dashboard Lights. “
Throughout this past summer, my loaner BLX1288/P31 was subjected to what could be classified as normal wear and tear, and then some. While I never got the chance to validate my “performing duo” theory, as a DJ wireless system, it could not have performed better. Set-up is simple. Just connect the power and two XLR receiver-to-mixer cables, select the channels, and you should be good to go. Shure’s BLX series offers a 24 MHz tuning bandwidth with up to 12 compatible systems per frequency band (region dependent).
Running dual microphones obviously requires two different channels. Shure’s one-touch QuickScan frequency selection finds the best open frequency for each mic. Once you have that, simply match the transmitter to the channel displayed on the receiver.
The system is lightweight, durable, and it sounds great. The headset mic did take a little getting used to, it seems heavier than my Audio-Technica and finding the optimal fit required frequent adjustments. Once I found the sweet spot, it was a joy to use. Also, as the antennas are inside the BLX88 receiver and out of sight, I noticed that the possibility of a drop-out increased if either transmitter moved to far off to the sides. If you do hear a momentary drop, simply reposition the receiver so the long side faces the user.
Aside from those two minor mentions, there were no issues with system. While I didn’t try running a truck over it, it did take its fair share of hard knocks during its two month tour of duty coming through without a single crack, scratch or dent. Conclusion: If you need a quality, excellent sounding wireless system for a small to medium size venue, Shure’s BLX is an excellent balance between performance and price, regardless of how you configure it.