Shure’s latest wireless delivers superb sound quality and higher channel counts to counter shrinking RF bandwidth.

As a major provider of audio, video, lighting, and staging for events throughout Canada, Toronto-based Westbury National is constantly striving to remain at the forefront of production technology. With Canada’s 600 MHz band soon to be auctioned off as part of the Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada initiative, the firm had been researching its next major investment in RF technology. A demonstration of the new Axient Digital systems by Shure distributor SFM convinced them that the solution was at hand.

“We were looking for a potential replacement when SFM invited us to the advance demo. I was very impressed with the sound quality, so I arranged a sample for evaluation,” says Wilf Wagner, Senior Audio Specialist for Westbury. “Once we had it in the shop, it didn’t take long to realize that this could be our wireless of the future.”

It’s notable that this was Westbury’s first foray into digital wireless. “Previously, we weren’t too happy with the performance of the digital systems we had seen,” notes Wilf. “But Axient Digital really did turn my head with how far Shure had advanced in the overall design. In addition to the sound quality, it offers a lot more channel density, which helps us work around limitations of other systems. We also loved how easy this system makes the transition from UHF-R, which we have used happily for many years.”

For sound rental companies, a significant investment in any product category requires due diligence and careful consideration. In addition to the shift to frequencies below 616 MHz, Westbury National was looking for a wireless system with outstanding sound quality, advanced features, and reliable operation, one that would be well accepted by their customers, meet tour rider requirements, and integrate smoothly with their existing infrastructure. Axient Digital checked all those boxes, earning a purchase of 50 channels for Westbury National’s rental department.

The order included 12 AD4Q four-channel receivers and one dual-channel AD4D. To ensure having the ability to meet the needs of any production, 80 transmitters were purchased, including 36 AD1 bodypacks and 36 AD2 handhelds. The handhelds sport a mixture of SM58 and Beta 58 microphone capsules, and are also fully compatible with Westbury National’s existing stock of Shure capsules, such as the KSM9 and SM87.

One very attractive feature of Axient Digital is the wideband operation of all receivers and transmitters, all of which feature an operating range of 470.175 to 615.575 MHz. This provides a critical advantage in sound rental by eliminating the need to juggle multiple frequency codes in inventory.

“That wide bandwidth is a gamer-changer for us,” says Wilf. “It means we’re never trapped in a corner when we inter-mix wireless mics with other systems, like in-ears or comms. That also eliminates a lot of inventory headaches, like having to carry three different versions of the same transmitter. That’s a big bonus.”

Axient Digital’s system layout and user interface were instantly familiar to Westbury’s experienced staff technicians. “All we had to do was to learn some of the new features, like the Channel Quality meter, which is fantastic,” notes Wilf. “The actual operation is very user-friendly.”

Westbury also appreciates that Axient Digital operates with equal ease whether deployed using traditional XLR outputs, or going all-digital as part of a Dante network. “For bigger jobs, we use networked systems. We are a big Yamaha console user, and they have incorporated Axient Digital so they can be viewed at the console as a device on the Dante network,” Wilf explains. “That flexibility is really useful, since we do a lot of simple two-channel rentals as well. We’re already planning to expand our stock of dual-channel receivers.”

Having now used Axient Digital successfully for several months, Westbury National is confident that they made a smart purchase decision. “With wireless systems, obviously you want something you’re happy with in terms of technology, sound quality, and reliability,” says Wilf. “That means being able to send it out and confidently know that it’ll do the job. The other key is having a product the market wants, in the corporate and theatrical segments and especially for tour riders with big and small musical acts. We’ve noticed that some bands, especially with our North American clients, are already requesting Axient Digital, both for vocals and instruments. That’s a great sign with a new system. We couldn’t be happier with our investment.”