Product Review (September 2004) - SHURE
SLX UHF Wireless System

Shure Incorporated recently introduced their new SLX UHF Wireless System that includes a variety of compatible products that support both instruments and vocals. The products are designed for ease of use while offering excellent audio performance. We reviewed the Guitar/Bass Wireless System (SLX14), which includes a WA302 Guitar/Bass cable, SLX1 Bodypack transmitter and the SLX4 Diversity receiver. The SLX14 package retails for $760. Since we already had the SLX4 diversity receiver included in the system, we decided to also cover the SLX2/SM86 Wireless Handheld microphone. Shure offers a wide variety of their industry-standard handheld vocal microphones in their SLX2 lineup. Additional models include the Beta 87A or C, Beta 58A®, SM86, and the legendary SM58. Many professional vocalists have been using Shure microphones for decades, so transitioning to the new wireless designs offer them the same sonic qualities they are familiar with.

SLX4
The Diversity receiver is a well designed and easy to use unit with automatic frequency selection and transmitter setup. Simply select the auto-scan mode from the menu and the unit initiates a scan for available frequencies and channels. Once the scan is complete and the frequency group and channel are chosen, the user can synchronize the transmitter by pointing the IR (infrared) detector at the SLX4 receiver and pressing the Sync button. It is really that simple. The frequency group and channel displayed on the transmitter will now match the receiver. This feature greatly simplifies not only the synchronization of the transmitter/receiver, but also finds the optimal frequency and channel to minimize interference. The left side of the SLX4 front panel has a 5-segment audio level meter. This is a great visual indicator that helps verify if the wireless link is working correctly.

The LCD on the SLX4 is easy to read with an evenly distributed backlight. The Ready indicator illuminates when the receiver locks to the transmitter. All system functions are constantly displayed or are accessible using the menu selections. If all available channels in the selected group are in use the LCD will display FULL. In such cases, the user must select an alternate group. The antenna status indicators let the user know what antenna is currently active. A battery level indicator illuminates on the LCD when the transmitter battery is low. The user can lock the front panel controls to prevent accidental changing of the receiver settings.

The user can also manually change the frequency group and channel if needed. The system also has a wide range of selectable frequencies that can be specified in cases where precise frequency selection is necessary. Although Shure does not recommend users change their frequencies in most cases, one may do so by holding down the Menu button while pressing the power on. Our receiver was designated with "H5", which allows frequencies between 518.1MHz to 541.9MHz in 25kHz steps. This results in a total of 953 user-selectable frequencies.

The half-rack chassis design comes with rackmount hardware for configuring side-by-side units in the rack space. The unit also includes non-slip rubber bumpers for out-of-rack configurations allowing multiple units to be stacked on one another.

The SLX4 rear panel has dual BNC jacks for the 1/4 wave detachable antennas included with the unit. These antennas are completely adjustable and can be configured with various rackmount hardware for multiple SLX4 receivers. The AC adapter output plugs into the rear panel and also connects to the adapter cord tie-off clip to prevent the plug from accidentally being pulled out of the unit. This is a simple, yet important feature for pro audio equipment that is constantly being moved. Both XLR and 1/4" connections are available. There is also a small gain adjustment for the unit that offers flexibility and is not easily knocked out of calibration.

SLX1 Bodypack
The SLX1 bodypack transmitter is a compact, yet rugged design that can be used with headworn, lavalier or instrument microphones. The lightweight design measures only 4.25" x 2.5" x 0.75" and has a hardwired 4-pin mini-DIN connector. Guitars or basses connect to the SLX1 using the 2.5-foot WA302 cable included with the system. The lower front panel flips down to expose the two "AA" batteries (included) and the IR receiver used to synchronize the SLX1 to the SLX4. A fresh set of alkaline batteries last a good eight hours or more. The backlit LCD displays the current frequency group and channel along with a 3-segment battery gauge. The Incompatible indicator will activate only if the transmitter and receiver are not compatible with each other. This should never occur unless the two devices came from separate packages and have different frequency groups. There are a total of eight groups available (H5, J3, L4, P4, R5, S6, JB and Q4) for worldwide operation. Although the LCD panel is small, it is easy to read with the backlight illuminated. The tricolor LED is green during normal operation. It turns red when synchronizing and orange when put into mute. Setup was simple and it worked perfectly every single time we synchronized to the SLX4 receiver. A three position slide switch selects the audio level of the SLX1 (-10 dB, 0 dB or mic). The low gain setting (-10 dB) is intended for high-out active pickups on guitar or basses. The 0 dB setting is optimal for passive pickups and the mic setting is for microphones that typically require a higher gain. The back of the SLX1 has a wire clip that makes it easy to attach to a belt.

SLX2 SM86 Wireless Microphone
The SLX2/86 includes the high performance SM86 Cardioid Microphone combined with the same wireless functions found in other SLX transmitters. The SM86 is a well balanced design with the similar features found in the SLX1 Bodypack. The bottom of the microphone unscrews to reveal the two "AA" batteries (included) used to power the electronics. The battery life for the SLX2 transmitter is similar to that of the SLX1 bodypack and should last a good eight hours with a new set of alkaline batteries. The bottom of the uncapped microphone body holds the IR detector used to synchronize the SLX2 to the SLX4 diversity receiver using the Sync button. The backlit LCD displays the same information as that found on the SLX1 bodypack. Also included are the 3-segment battery gauge and warning indicators. The same tricolor LED is also found on the SLX2 for indicating the mode of operation. The user can also lock out the controls from inadvertent button pushes.

The top of the microphone unscrews to reveal a small two position slide switch used to select the microphone audio level (-10 dB or 0 dB). We did all of our testing the the 0 dB setting, but we could see applications where the -10 dB setting might be needed with the microphone exposed to high volume levels. The three contact slip-ring design ensures the microphone contacts are reliably connected to the lower section of the main body electronics. The build quality of the SLX2 is very good and appears to be able to withstand fairly heavy use.

The SLX14 (Guitar/Bass System) offers musicians a complete wireless system for their guitar and amplifier combination. The system includes the SLX1 Bodypack Transmitter along with the WA302 Guitar/Bass Cable. This combination is compact and lightweight leaving the performer with absolutely no worries about a cable. The SLX4 Diversity receiver packs easy to use features with indicators for low battery levels.

We connected our Gibson SG to the SLX1 Bodypack transmitter and varied our distance from the receiver. The SLX4 diversity receiver plugged into our Marshall Valvestate combo amplifier. The audio quality of the wireless link was very similar to our direct connection with no objectionable sonic qualities. We never experienced any dropouts or loss of fidelity due to range. In fact, we were surprised at how well the system performed around other noisy electronics with EMI. Whether we used the clean setting or the distorted overdrive setting on the Marshall Valvestate amplifier, both sounded excellent on the SLX system.

The SLX2/86 used the same SLX4 diversity receiver found in the SLX14 (Guitar/Bass System) package. However, both transmitters cannot be used at the same time unless a second receiver is set up in the system. Basically each transmitter requires its own receiver and we only had one for our tests. The audio quality was excellent using the SLX2/86 condenser microphone. Vocals sounded very natural and there was no indication (sonically speaking) that the system was wireless. Noise was extremely low

Conclusion
The SLX14 (Guitar/Bass System) Wireless System performed very well with excellent sonic characteristics using our Gibson SG and Marshall amplifier setup. The audio link was flawless and we experienced no dropouts. Real-world situation may pose different challenges, but our time spent with the SLX system yielded superb performance and reliability. The automatic frequency and automatic channel features made the system a snap to configure. The simple two-step process (Auto-select and synchronize) with the receiver and transmitter is a real time saver especially with multiple systems installed. We can certainly see how on-stage performers would benefit from the Shure SLX wireless system
.

- Kevin Nakano








Review - At a Glance

SHURE SLX Wireless Microphone System

SLX Wireless Specification Sheet

SLX Wireless User Guide

 


Company Information
Shure Incorporated
222 Hartrey Avenue
Evanston, IL 60202
Phone: 847.866.2200

Model Number: SLX14-H5 (Guitar/Bass System)
Includes: SLX4 (SLX Wireless System Diversity Receiver)
MSRP: $760.00

Model Number: SLX2/86 (SM86 Cardioid Microphone)
MSRP: $384.04

Warranty: 1 year parts and labor

URL: www.shure.com

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