By Mark Desloges | As seen in Professional Sound Magazine
Traditionally, there hasn’t been much of a middle ground when it comes to digital wireless systems. Often, it’s seemed like a choice between the entry-level “it does what it does” option and the feature-rich but far more expensive turnkey package.
Looking on the bright side, as this technology continues to develop, we see feature sets improving and price points diminishing. And so when engineers don’t have tens of thousands of dollars to spend on bulletproof, top-of-the-line touring rigs but still want rock-solid wireless performance for a critical application, it’s nice to know that you don’t have to break the bank to get something worthwhile. Enter Shure’s new QLX-D series.
I had the opportunity to test the QLXD2 transmitter with a handheld SM58® microphone and a QLXD4 single digital receiver. Together, they have a street price of under $1,500. What first impressed me about this package were all the accessories that came with it. You expect the basics – mic bag. AC adapter, and the like. But when I opened the package to begin my test, I was bombarded with bits and pieces – from rack mount ears to BNC couplers to all these little bits and bolts. I like that, and here’s why.
Expansion is almost always, and painfully, an afterthought. For many users after a mid-level solution for a professional application, the cost of the wireless unit alone can be significant, let alone the accessories one might need for different applications or configurations. Seldom do touring musicians, for example, consider the long-term when it comes to sound equipment; when the band gets bigger, the wireless unit has to start making the trip from the jam space to the venue, then town to town, and before you know it, country to country. Trust me, you have a new appreciation for your equipment once you’ve seen it strewn across the floor of an international airport. To me, this is a huge selling feature of the QLX-D digital wireless system; affordable enough for a mid-level user, yet robust enough to hack life on the touring circuit.
What struck me next was the edge that Shure has from its years of well documented customers relations and interactions. I know first-hand that the company welcomes and relies on user feedback to further its progress. It’s clear the company has designed its latest generation of wireless systems with the end user in mind. I appreciated how simple the QLX-D system was to operate even out of the box. Navigating the control panel isn’t like piloting an aircraft, and all the controls are logically laid out and easy to understand. higher-end features like network control capabilities and AES-256 encryption were particularly attractive at this price point.
Taking it a step further, all the functions and display read-outs are easy to interpret for an entry level user. With just a quick glance, the user can quickly gauge what the unit is going, which channel it’s on, if it had RF signal, and audio signal. No nonsense. Regardless of whether it’s a volunteer church technician or internationally touring RF engineers, nobody likes rooting through pages of sub-menus or having to plug a laptop into the RF receivers for a quick status check in a time-critical application. And while audio quality is never a footnote, a company with this type of reputation and time logged in product development and innovation is a pretty safe bet when it comes to product performance. The QLX-D series boasts transparent 24-bit digital audio and I was truly impressed with how clean the audio signal was post transmission. I was also impressed at how little noise came off the unit during my testing in an audio warehouse situated in a busy industrial park. RF spikes and pop are to be expected even at the best of times. Though I’ve got to say I found the QLX-D’s signal to be extremely clean.
After putting the unit through its paces over a few days in between festival gigs, what the QLX-D boiled down to for me was a product that’s perfectly suited to entry-and mid-level users that know they need performance that goes above and beyond what the slew of base-level “it does what it does” units have on offer. Instead, this is an impressive step up in performance that bellies the less significant step up in price, and it’s nice to see a company continuing to bolster its offering for mid-level applications. This is the kind of system that offers easy and reliable operation right out of the box but carries plenty of potential for expansion.