Road Test: Audix Performance Series Wireless In Review
The new Performance Series of UHF wireless microphone systems from Audix includes two series, the R40 as well as the R60 that’s utilized in this evaluation. The receivers in both series are available in single-channel/half-rack and dual-channel/full-rack versions, accompanied by a choice of handheld and/or bodypack transmitters. All models operate in the 522 MHz – 586 MHz frequency band.
Both series offer one-touch auto scan searches for clear channels as well as one-touch sync that links the transmitter to receiver via infrared beam. Receivers also include RF and AF indicators, high-contrast LCD channel displays, intuitive menus, and balanced XLR and 1⁄4-inch outputs.
Dual-channel models also carry an internal antenna combiner that allows for dual-antenna operation as well as the ability to front-mount antennas. Both transmitters and receivers are housed in durable metal chassis.
The 40 series offers 32 MHz wide spectrum tuning, 106 pre-coordinated frequencies, a stated 300-foot operating range, and up to 16 systems can be used simultaneously. Meanwhile, the 60 series has 64 MHz wide spectrum tuning, 207 pre-coordinated frequencies, a specified 450-foot operating range, and up to 24 systems can be used at once.
Both handheld and bodypack transmitters provide user-selectable transmit power settings of either 10 or 40 mW, a choice of three output gain settings (0, -6 and -12 dB), and a soft mute switch. Stated run time is 14 hours on a pair of AA batteries.
Handheld transmitters have removable capsules, with OM2 and OM5 dynamics as well as the VX5 condenser as options. Bodypacks can be utilized with lavalier, headworn, and instrument mics as well with electric guitar and bass.
Upon opening the box I was pleasantly surprised to see that the single receiver system ships with a padded carry case, handy for working musicians and sound companies that aren’t going to rack-mount the receiver. Opening the case I found a H60 handheld transmitter with an OM5 capsule and a R61 single-channel receiver.
The handheld feels quite comfortable in hand and includes a power/mute button and an easy-to-read screen that displays assigned frequency, channel and group number, battery life, and the word “MUTE” when the unit is muted.
A quick press of the button powers up the transmitter in addition to providing mute/unmute. To power down, push and hold the button for a few seconds.
The battery compartment is accessed by unscrewing the lower portion of the transmitter handle. And this is cool: there are two plastic clips that hold the lower portion cover, keeping it from falling when it’s unscrewed. The cover can also be removed easily if the user prefers. Overall I really like the transmitter, and the OM5 capsule is also a personal favorite for vocalists.
The easy-to-read LCD screen on the front of the R61 receiver is flanked by power and sync buttons on the left and menu select and set buttons on the right. The rear of the unit offers both XLR and 1/4-inch outputs with a ground lift switch, DC power in (provided by a wall wart cable), and the connectors for attaching two antennas.
A rack-mount kit is also provided, and optional accessories include a kit to rack-mount two single-channel receivers side by side, an antenna distribution system, and wide-band active directional antennas.
Firing It Up
On my test bench, I found setting up the system to be a simple matter. After plugging in the receiver, I didn’t even have to scroll through the menu to find the auto scan feature because the “up” and “down” button can act as “hot keys” for this feature when I pressed and held them. Pressing the “down” button, the unit entered the “scan for a clear frequency” mode and found a clear frequency within 15 seconds.
Pairing the transmitter was as simple as opening up the battery compartment handle section, dropping in a couple of AA batteries, turning the unit on, hitting the sync button on the receiver, pointing the transmitter’s sync window at the receiver’s sync window (at a distance of about 6 inches), and waiting a few seconds. The screens on both transmitter and receiver indicate when the sync is complete.
The transmitter is now programmed to the clear frequency found by the receiver, with its display showing the new frequency. After the sync, the receiver also shows the transmitter’s battery life, confirming that the sync was successful. Simply, this is the easiest frequency scanning and syncing of a wireless system I’ve ever encountered.
Plugged into my bench PA, I turned up the system’s channel and gave it a listen. Sonically, it matched the wired OM5 mics in my company’s inventory. After getting familiar with the menu and changing frequencies a few more times, I was satisfied that everything was in working order and so I packed the system in the carrying case to get it ready for work in the field.
The first gig was a corporate meeting where the system was dedicated to a male presenter. We were considering a wireless system with a bodypack and headset mic for this application, but the presenter stated a preference for a handheld.
So I handed him the H60 transmitter, we did a quick sound check, and it was show time. He had a strong baritone voice and didn’t require much in terms of EQ to sound natural. While I usually prefer a wider cardioid pattern for spoken-word presenters, the hypercardioid OM5 worked quite well in this application, combined with good mic technique. Sonic quality was excellent, and the system performed flawlessly, with no dropouts or glitches.
Next up was a government meeting we handle almost every month, and this time, the Performance Series system was applied for the Q&A requirement. It also served as an extra transmitter to pass around when people who were not presenting were asked a question. (Because we’re required to record these meetings, all questions and answers need to be captured.)
The system proved as easy to set up as it was in the shop. I scanned the airwaves with an RF Explorer handheld spectrum analyzer, set up the other wireless systems for the event (leaving their transmitters turned on), and then set the Performance Series to auto scan. It found a clear channel in seconds, I did a quick sync, and we were in business. Again we enjoyed high sonic quality and flawless RF performance.
Moving It Around
The final application came for a Friday night performance by a rock/pop band at a large local nightclub. Normally the group’s male and female singers use mid-level wired mics, so the OM5 was a big step up.
We placed it first with the male vocalist, who also played guitar, and he sounded right on. He even commented during the show about how good it was sounding. In the next set, we switched the system to the female vocalist, and I immediately noticed that the male singer now sounded “thinner” with his mid-level wired mic while the female singer sounded far better than in the first set.
As a result, in the third set we switched the male vocal to a wired OM5 that we’d brought along, keeping the Performance Series on the female vocal. She didn’t play an instrument and thus could benefit from the greater mobility afforded by going wireless.
Following this evaluation, I can confidently recommend the Audix Performance Series with very high praise. The transmitter feels as good in the hand as units costing way more, the sound quality is top notch, and the ease of use in finding and setting frequencies is second to none. It’s definitely worthy of consideration by sound companies and musicians seeking rock-solid, reliable RF functionality with quality sonic performance. Find out more at audixusa.com.