AKG's WMS 40 PRO Series

AKG’s new WMS 40 PRO Series of wireless mic solutions includes the Microtools PR 40 mini receiver, which can easily attach to any video camera.

From cell phones and computer Internet access to low-cost microwave transmitters for ENG teams, everything is going wireless these days. Audio microphones in particular have excelled from wireless technology.

Over the years, wireless mic systems have gotten better in quality and less expensive. The new WMS 40 PRO Series wireless mic system from AKG is typical of this new breed of product.

It includes a handheld or lavalier mic, which is the transmitter, and a single or dual antenna stationary base station. For our tests and when using it for video/ENG applications, the PR 40 Miniature Portable Diversity Receiver, part of the Microtools series of add-ons to the system, helped us use it with a camera.

Working in a high RF environment

More ENG and TV documentary makers are using smaller DV and DVC/DVCPRO cameras. And as most folks who have used them know, the onboard mics leave much to be desired.

Shooting a behind-the-scenes documentary at the recent PGA Sony Open, we needed to do one-on-one interviews with a handheld wireless mic that didn't cost an arm and a leg and would work in the high RF environment with tons of other wireless systems around it. There's no faster way to end a small, independent shoot than to have your gear step on the audio of a national or local TV crew. The WMS 40 PRO fit the bill with its High Definition Audio Performance technology, which offers a high degree of noise rejection.

At the Sony PGA Open, there wasn't much time to change batteries or adjust frequencies. Luckily, the transmitter and receiver operated for more than 24 hours on a single AA size battery.

With AKG's FLEXX Diversity system technology, each unit has three frequencies for each channel in addition to its fixed frequency. This enables you to zero in on a good frequency that won't bother other shooters and will still deliver good audio to your camera. This allows you to use your system in conjunction with other systems and add additional mics (up to nine for each base unit).

The included HT 40 Pro Cardioid handheld mic/transmitter is both handsome and rugged while being lightweight. It weighs less than 6oz. The mic is also color coded with a small tag so it can easily be matched with its base unit or portable receiver, which makes it user-friendly.

Add-on options galore

The WMS series offers multiple options. You can have a lavalier or a handheld, multiple receivers feeding multiple recorders or audio systems, and wireless transmitters, which are useful for musicians. All of these options are called Microtools.

The WMS Microtools PR 40 UHF portable diversity receiver is of special interest to video camera operators. The small receiver, about the size of a box of Tic Tacs, attaches to your camera and feeds the audio from the mic to the camera. This feature includes two cables, both of which have an 1/8in I/O for connection to the micro receiver. One cable has a 1/4in male plug for connection to a high-impedance input. The other has a Y connector with a 1/8in female output for headphones and a 1/8in male output for connection to the cameras or the VTR's audio input. Operating on a fixed-quartz stabilized frequency in the UHF frequency range, the PR 40 uses two swiveling antennas and two AAA batteries.

One of the nice features of the WMS 40 series is that we were able to run from one interview to another with no set up time, and the audio sounded great. And the mic and rig look professional, which is beneficial when you are not with a major news or sports organization.

We tried the unit with two different cameras: a Sony VX-1000 DV camera and a JVC KY-27 with a BetacamSP back. We also used the WMS 40 PRO with a K-Tek boom pole. In all cases, it performed flawlessly.

The only feature I would want to add to it is a three-prong Canon balanced output on the base unit to go along with the 1/4in high-impedance balanced out. This would allow an even better integration with mixers and audio processors. Adding a digital I/O wouldn't be a bad idea either.

Balance and value

Having the ability to custom-configure a wireless mic system and mix a handheld with a lavalier are benefits that can't be overstated. I've used many different wireless mic systems, both as a professional videographer and as a musician. The WMS 40 PRO and PR 40 micro receiver offer a perfect solution for today's videographer with a balance of value and features at a cost that's less than other pro systems with similar features.

Once you've gone wireless, you'll never go back now that the audio quality of these systems rival that of corded microphones. With costs of equipment rising across the board, videographers and ENG crews looking for a professional and cost-effective wireless mic solution should consider the WMS 40 PRO series.

Tom Patrick McAuliffe is a journalist, video creator and former member of the U.S. Navy's Combat Camera Group.