Sennheiser ew 500 G3 Evolution Wireless System Review

Mar 1, 2010 12:00 PM, By Steve La Cerra

SUPERIOR SOUND, MAC/PC MANAGEMENT SOFTWARE, EASY OPERATION

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Hit the Road, Jack

The Receiver Parameters screen provides access to ew 500 G3's Easy Setup mode. Scan New List scans the RF spectrum for unused channels and compiles a list of available channels. After setting the receiver frequency, you can open the belt pack to expose the infrared sensor, place the belt pack in front of the receiver and press the Sync button on the receiver. The receiver (via the infrared port) tells the transmitter to change to the appropriate channel — very clever. Of course, you can always manually set the frequency on both components.

When using the ew 500 G3 for guitar and bass, I encountered one snag: It was difficult to nail down unity gain settings. In theory, one sets the transmitter's sensitivity just below clipping and then adjusts the output of the receiver so that gain structure of the guitar rig behaves as it would when using a cable. This was easier said than done. After a bit of fiddling, I settled on a sensitivity of -48 for the transmitter and +24 output from the receiver, but the gain staging of the guitar rig did not quite behave as it would if the guitar was connected via cable. (Perhaps in the future, Sennheiser can furnish “suggested” settings for guitar.) In any case, audio quality was excellent, and most people would be hard pressed to know the instrument was not tethered. Initially, I thought “cable emulation” was a simple high-cut filter, but careful listening revealed a subtle change in timbre, with a bit more “body” and a slight decrease in high frequencies as the emulation amount was increased.

The rear panel Ethernet port allows the ew 500 G3 to be used with Sennheiser's Wireless System Manager (WSM) software, which — I am delighted to report — runs on Mac OS X and Windows. Available for free from Sennheiser's Website, WSM is essential for multiple systems, but it's useful even with only one system. In addition to the ew 500 G3, WSM allows for remote monitoring of many Sennheiser wireless products. On my MacBook, I could view RF strength, battery reserve, frequency and audio level, and the Properties menu addresses every system parameter.

WSM also provides RF spectrum analysis for pinpointing RF activity, as well as an RF level recorder that can log a time frame ranging from one minute to 24 hours. The purpose of the RF level recorder is similar to Soundcheck, but in WSM signal quality is shown on a graph depicting RF strength vs. time. You can walk the stage with the transmitter, and if there is an area where the signal is dropped, you can deploy a remote antenna to compensate. Embedded in WSM is Frequency Manager, an app that automatically scans the RF spectrum, finds vacant channels and allocates them to various wireless systems on the network.

Excellent Performer

Sennheiser's ew 500 G3 succeeds on many levels. First and foremost, its audio quality is fabulous. Despite the fact that it employs companding, instruments never sounded like they were being dynamically altered, as I have found to be the case with lower-quality companding circuitry. RF performance is excellent. Throughout the shows I did not experience a single dropout or glitch, and all of the unit's functions worked successfully. The management software works flawlessly and runs on OS X or Windows. Sennheiser has done a very thorough job in engineering the ew 500 G3, which should be on a shopping list for anyone considering a serious RF system.


Steve LaCerra is a live sound engineer based in New York City.

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