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v Microphones

We just bought a headset mic for my dance club, and I got to look into which one to purchase. We were in a hurry to get one, so we only looked at what was available locally. Here is my report to the club officers:

I made some calls and visited 4 shops in town to inquire about a wireless headset microphone to use while teaching dance classes. Here is what I found out:

Features available:

Headsets are available in different styles: a) thin, springy plastic or metal headset bracket that goes over or across the back of the head and hooks over each ear. The mic is on a stalk that extends from this headset bracket. This is easily cleaned with a spray cleaner and paper towel. b) 1.5 inch wide elastic headband. The mic is on a stalk that attaches to the headband with velcro. The headband can be washed in a washing machine. This won't fly off during aerobics instruction or fast head motions.

the tiny mics are available in different fidelity/price ranges: a) good for spoken voice - aerobics instruction, square dance calling, etc. b) high fidelity for singing, concerts, etc. (costs lots of $$$)

The headset mic is a "directional" mic. A directional mic is used, because it will pick up less background noise than a "omnidirectional" mic. Because it is directional, it really needs to be adjusted so that it is in front of your mouth.

The mic is mounted on a stalk that comes off the headset and is connected to a transmitter with a wire.

The transmitter is a small box about the size of a cigarette pack, which can be clipped to a belt. It requires a 9V battery. On all the units I saw today, the mic wire plugs into the transmitter box, though some versions are hard-wired - no removable connector).

The receiver is a separate unit, powered by a 110V "adaptor" that plugs into a wall outlet. The receiver output plugs into the mic input of our stereo. A separate hook-up cable will need to be purchased to do this. This cable costs about $6. Receivers are available in a) single antenna versions - used when conditions are not difficult, like line of sight applications. b) double antenna versions have a microprocessor that switches between antennas depending on signal strength from each one, and is used in more demanding applications - like greater distances, different rooms, etc.

Here is what I found:

* single antenna receiver + headset + mic + transmitter Samson VLX Pro 8 $319 This is the brand that Garth and Madonna use (except they use the higher priced mic and dual-antenna receiver.) The battery in the transmitter will last 18 hours (that was one of the selling points of this unit - other brands eat a battery every 4 hrs) but you MUST buy alkalines

* dual antenna receiver + headset + mic + transmitter Samson VLX TD Pro 8 $407 This is the brand that Garth and Madonna use (except they use the higher priced mic) The battery in the transmitter will last 18 hours (that was one of the selling points of this unit - other brands eat a battery every 4 hrs) but you MUST buy alkalines

* single antenna receiver + headset + mic + transmitter Shure THS $260 I saw a picture of this transmitter/receiver in a catalog, but there was no picture of the headset.

* dual antenna receiver + headset + mic + transmitter Shure THD $350 I saw a picture of this transmitter/receiver in a catalog, but there was no picture of the headset. [Mark Balzer ]

Your mic must be matched with your voice type. High, schrilly voices need a mic with a good low frequency response. Low, non-destript voices need a mic good high frequency response that would make a schrill voice piercing. Your sound system should have separate EQ controls for your mic so you can set it to "punch through the music" when you're calling during a song.

My best advise is find a good reputable music store that caters to performance professionals and sample their goods. Unless you have a *lot* of experience in hearing your own voice, take someone with you to do the listening test. Remember, no matter how good you are, you never sound the same to yourself as you do to others.

Ladies... USE A MICROPHONE; turn up the volume and talk softly!! A woman's shouting voice has significantly less information in it than a man's projecting the same amount of volume. However, you can use this to your advantage if you learn how to manage your voice. This doesn't let the guys off the hook. A soft spoken voice with good inflection sounds much more pleasing that a hard driving voice. A good vocal instructor can help you learn these skills.

A well trained voice with a good sound system will make you sound like you're right next to each and every one of your students even though you're across the room. It's not volume you should be after it's presence. They're very different.

A headset mic is significantly more difficult to control that a hand mic. Yes, "It's really, really nice to have your hands free" but I've heard several really, really good dance teachers sound really really awful with a headset mic because they don't know how to use it.

BTW, Be very careful getting advice from a radio jock. The skills to have a good auditorium voice are *very* different from a good radio voice. [Dave Coffman ]

I've taught with a cordless headset for over seven years and I think they're wonderful. The freedom to move and demonstrate without juggling a hand-held or spinning around a cord allows me to concentrate on the lesson instead of the microphone. I think a cordless headset is one of the best investments an instructor can make, but be prepare to pay dearly for a quality system. You can expect to pay between $350 and $750 for a complete, "true diversity" (dual receiver) system. I recommend either the Samson or Nady 2-channel systems equipped with the Audio Technica ATM-75 headset. I think they're the best quality systems priced under $400. Here's my personal advice on how to choose and purchase a cordless system: 1. Check out the local musician supply store (usually a place with a name like "Guitar City" or "Keyboard's Unlimited") and TRY ON THE CORDLESS HEADSETS!!! If it's uncomfortable or intrusive, you don't want it!!! 2. Write down the EXACT model number and price of the systems you like. 3. Go home and call the mail-order musical suppliers listed below and ask for their best price on the models you've listed. 4. Compare prices and pick one.

The following mail-order houses were recommended to me by some Nashville musician friends of mine. Rhythm City 404-320-7253, American Music 800-458-4076 and Musicians Friends 800-776-5173 Their prices are usually 25% or more lower than the local stores and can deliver in two days. [John R Nicholson ]

We teach 5 nights a week and have for about 5 years now. After spending 4 years using Radio Shack systems (which do work extremely well, but are far from perfect), we discovered an excellent mike last fall. We saw the advertisement in Step By Step magazine from Coffeen Audio in Leawood, Ks. What he sells is a Telex FMR-150 wireless microphone system and has designed a special ear piece to go with it. This is not a headset, but an ear piece which hooks over the ear. I believe Hillbilly Rick and Denny Henegen both use this kind. Needless to say, I have no words for it other than "WONDERFUL". We get no intereference and they are easy to set up. However, they do not come cheap. If you are interested in further info, give us a call or call Coffeen Audio at 913-648-8780. [SUE ]

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Last modified on: Saturday, October 9, 1999.