Getting the right mic is the first step towards super audible, content-rich, engaging YouTube videos, recordings, podcasts, interviews, singing, gaming, and much more. But with hundreds of content creators sharing different opinions about microphones, making an informed decision between wireless and shotgun mics is sometimes easier said than done.
Wireless mics are better for content creators and performing artists who wish to maintain a decluttered working space as they allow free movement. On the other hand, shotgun mics are a better pick if you’re primarily concerned with extracting pure, crystal clear audio from your equipment.
But that’s not the end of it. This article peeks inside what wireless and shotgun mics are to help you better understand how they work and their benefits over other mics.
What Is a Wireless Mic?
Looking back at all the shows, church sermons, and other live performances, you’ll likely remember a time when the performer held onto a mic with a visible wire.
Or perhaps, they could move across the entire room carrying the mic wherever they went.
A wireless mic is a type of microphone with no physical wires connecting it to the rest of the audio equipment. It works hand in hand with a wireless microphone system to reproduce the speaker’s spoken message through an in-built transmitter and an RF receiver.
Wireless mics have found hundreds of uses since the 1950s. Although many people love using them today, the creative technology behind how they work has come a long way.
Today, we’ve seen several types of wireless mics designs in a headset, handheld, and lavaliers for talk shows, live performance, just to mention a few.
How Do Wireless Mics Work?
The biggest advantage of wireless mics lies in how they work. For better convenience and flexibility, the manufacturers had to find a way to make them work without wires or any sort of physical connection to the rest of the audio system.
Wireless mics work by transmitting signals from inbuilt signal transmitters. First, the mic captures the voice and converts it into an electrical signal. Next, a transmitter converts that signal into an encoded electromagnetic signal and sends it to the receiver, which readies it for amplification.
Wireless microphones can send wireless signals to the receiver and amplifier for further processing. This is enabled by:
- The inbuilt transmitter
- The receiver
The Inbuilt Transmitter
Wireless mics communicate via radio frequencies. The transmitter takes the audio signal from the mic and converts it into an RF frequency. Transmitters for microphones operate in two frequency bands; Very High Frequency (30-300 MHz) and Ultra High-Frequency Bands (300MHz-3GHz).
Once the signal converts into a radio frequency, the inbuilt transmitter sends it to the configured receiver.
Now that the electromagnetic signal is in the air, it needs a way to get back into the system. A receiver “listens” to the mic’s specific RF and turns it into an amplifiable audio signal containing the speaker’s original message.
To do this, the receiver must be tuned to the mic’s transmitter frequency. This allows the “listening” receiver to “hear” the transmitting microphone. There are several kinds of receivers, but a typical one has two antennas to pick up the strongest signals from the mic’s transmitter.
Other Essential Elements
Unlike wired microphones, wireless mics have no physical connection to the amplifying equipment. So, your wireless mic comes with an inbuilt battery to address its power needs. Wired mics get a stable stream of power from the wires.
Wireless mics have to rely on the inbuilt battery for power requirements.
The Benefits of Wireless Mics
Having a clean, working environment with no wires to untangle every time you set up your equipment sounds great. But wireless mics also do offer something more, such as:
- Wireless microphones are flexible in setup.
- They enhance the speaker’s performance from all angles.
- The speaker can set equipment at any corner of the room without worrying about cord length issues, tripping, or cluttered wire mess.
Let’s go over some of the most significant benefits of using wireless microphones:
Wireless Mics Allow Easy Movement
Wireless mics use RF transmitters in place of wires.
Unlike corded mics that limit the user to one point, say, the stage, speakers using wireless mics can move about wherever they like and get better engagement with the audience.
Prevent Cabling Issues and Wire Clutter
Wireless mics prevent cabling issues such as damaged cords and annoying wire clutter. With corded mics, all the audio gear simply has to be out in one place.
This brings about complex systems of wires running across the performing stage.
On the other hand, wireless mics allow you to set up your broadcasting mics separately from your receiving equipment.
Better Safety for Performing Artists
Corded mics are a couple of times more likely to trip someone who can’t see the wires. This could cause unnecessary injuries or damage to expensive equipment.
With wireless mics, you no longer have to worry about tripping on a wire. This provides a much safer environment to work in.
The Disadvantages of Wireless Mics
Although wireless mics offer some level of convenience and flexibility compared to other mics, they do experience a few drawbacks.
- Limited range
- Limited battery life
- Interference from other RF transmitters
The limited range for one is something we all have to deal with when working with wireless mics. Corded mics are limited to the length of the cord, while wireless mics are limited to the transmitter capabilities.
Most wireless mics in the US cover a distance under 100ft (30.48 meters). However, some can go a little over 500 ft (152.4 meters) in the ideal conditions (with a powerful transmitter, powerful battery, and receiver).
Limited Battery Life
The limited battery life is another issue manufacturers can’t seem to get around.
Unlike corded mics that continuously get power from the corresponding equipment, wireless mics rely on power-hungry transmitters to get the job done.
Wireless transmitters drain the battery’s power and have to be recharged frequently before use.
Interference From Other RF Bands
Interference from other RF bands may also inhibit electromagnetic signals from getting to the receiver.
Nowadays, we work with many devices that depend on transmitters and receivers for communication, e.g., television, RF garage door openers, radios, and many more. If other transmitters and receivers communicate via similar frequencies, there will be interference.
What Is a Shotgun Mic?
Shotgun mics set the industry standard for excellent quality audio, outstanding performance, and top-quality professional equipment for your videos and podcasts.
They are designed to pick out low-volume sounds from a particular direction. But before we go deeper, what are they?
A shotgun mic is a condenser or dynamic mic characterized by its tube-like design with slits/holes in the side. They are designed for content creators who want high-quality, focused sound from a particular source. Shotgun mics focus on the sound coming in through the front of the microphone.
Shotgun mics derive their name from how they shoot sound from a specific source. For the best result, they must be pointed directly towards the speaker/sound source.
How Does a Shotgun Mic Work?
Shotgun mics are known for their directionality. They “listen” to sounds from the specific source and avoid those from the sides and from the back. That being said, how exactly do shotgun mics work?
A shotgun mic works by focusing on sound from a specific source and channeling it along the length of the tube. The side slits also take in sound from the sides, but this sound doesn’t make it to the mic’s capsule due to a phase cancellation effect.
Shotgun mics capture sound in four main pickup patterns as follows:
- Omnidirectional pickup pattern. Generally speaking, omnidirectional mics capture sound from all sides of the mic. Although shotgun mics are highly directional, some digital camera mics like the Rode VideoMic Camera also pick up sounds from all directions. This is not to say that omnidirectional shotgun mics capture all-around 360° sound clearly. However, some can get the sound coming from the back.
- Cardioid pattern. Cardioid shotgun mics pick up the sound from the front but reject the sound from the back. It’s a useful property since shotgun mics need to be as directional as possible.
- Super-cardioid. Super-cardioid mics are more directional than normal cardioid mics. They can capture sound more directly from the front and avoid nearby sounds from other equipment, provided that the user holds a specific position.
- Hypercardioid. Hypercardioid shotgun mics pick sound from the thinnest angle. Again, the user has to find the best position for these mics to get the best sound possible.
- Supercardioid Shotgun Microphone with Windshield
- Integrated Rycote Lyre Shockmount
- Plug--play Operation
Last update on 2023-05-30 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API
The Benefits of Shotgun Mics
The rule of thumb is to position your mic as close to you as possible (but not too close) to get the clearest vocals.
But in today’s professional content creation, staying too close to the mic may not capture the best shot for your video. So instead, you want to try a highly directional mic that can be kept at some distance and still record clear sound.
Luckily, shotgun mics record high-quality audio in a specific direction. They can be kept at a distance between 2-3 feet (0.60-0.91 meters) and still capture highly accurate audio with minimal interferences from other side objects.
Here are two main advantages of using shotgun mics for your recordings:
As mentioned before, shotgun mics can pick out the speaker’s voice from a distance.
This gives them an edge over omnidirectional mics that can’t capture equally accurate sounds without being close to the speaker’s lips.
Clear, Accurate Sound
In terms of clarity and accuracy, shotgun mics would crush other mics, including wireless omnidirectional mics.
The tuned design and side slits filter out the surrounding sound with the phase canceling effect.
The Disadvantages of Shotgun Mics
Despite the many advantages, shotgun mics come with a few drawbacks.
The directionality, for one, could present an issue when locating the ideal positioning angle for your shotgun mic. That’s because you have to aim the mic directly at the speaker.
For example, suppose you have multiple guest speakers in your podcast. In that case, it could be challenging to capture all their voices accurately with a single shotgun mic.
Not Ideal For Music Recordings
Secondly, shotgun mics are not that good for musical recordings. The unidirectional property means that they can only focus on one thing at a time.
And since music is a combination of vocals, drums, beats, and instruments, an omnidirectional mic would do a much better job.
Note: Shotgun mics do prevent disturbances from surround sounds. However, they often experience handling noises from too much movement of the mic and its parts. So, get a stand or boom arm for the best results.
Which Is the Better, the Wireless Mic or the Shotgun Mic?
Wireless mics are better for those who need convenience, free movement, and safety. However, go for shotgun mics if you’re more concerned with accurate audio for your videos or podcasts. Both have different applications, so the better choice between wireless and shotgun mics varies by your needs.
It would be best to figure out what you need your equipment to do for you before making your end decision. After all, wireless mics are pretty popular in live performances, for example, church sermons, concerts, stand-up comedy, and social events.
Shotguns, on the other hand, have a popular in-studio use where movements are kept to a minimum. Whether you have a talk show going on, an upcoming interview, or a video to record, you can never go wrong with a high-quality shotgun mic.
There is no good or bad choice when it comes to wireless vs. shotgun mics. It all boils down to your preferences and the tasks you have ahead.
Although most wireless mics have an omnidirectional property, they do make an excellent choice for decent quality sound with a little background noise. But if you only want the speaker’s voice in your cut, a shotgun mic should do the job.
- My New Microphone: How Do Wireless Microphones Work?
- Shure: Multi-Pattern Microphones: What, Where and How?
- Video Maker: Everything you need to know about shotgun microphones
- Yamaha: Advantages of a Wireless Microphone System
- Shure: Range Of A Wireless Microphone System
- Video Conferencing Australia: The Limitations Of Wireless Microphones
- Sweet Water: Shotgun Microphone
- Geeksper: What Is A Shotgun Microphone? When To Use? Pros And Cons
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