The FCC Has It In For Me


Q It seems that, in the U.S., the FCC is slowly encroaching on most, if not the entire, common spectrum used by wireless microphone systems. I had three Audio-Technica and two Lectrosonics wireless mic systems that operated in the 700 MHz spectrum. The FCC auctioned off that spectrum to digital HD broadcasters a few years ago so our microphone systems are now illegal to use in the U.S., although we occasionally use them for shoots in Europe. It now appears that the 600 MHz block is next on the chopping block for wireless microphone users. Are there other technologies under development from the manufacturers for the beleaguered wireless microphone user? At the rate the FCC is selling off spectrum, in a few years, might there be no more wireless microphones in use?
Mario S.
Via e-mail

A The explosion of digital television, mobile phones and wireless devices over the past few years has kept the Federal Communications Commission busy, trying to figure out how to allocate spectrum to the biggest users while not leaving other customers of the same spectrum hung out to dry.

The bottom line is that the FCC has already auctioned off the 600 MHz spectrum to the highest bidder, the wireless communications industry. This means that any wireless microphone systems you own that operate in the 600 MHz channel block eventually will become illegal, although the FCC has "kindly" allowed for a 39-month transition period where wireless users may continue to use their microphones, but at the end of that period, the new spectrum owners will activate their networks and the 600 MHz wireless systems will become illegal to operate, just as the 700 MHz systems became illegal to use a few years ago. Notice the pattern developing here?

The audio manufacturers haven’t been asleep at the wheel; we’re beginning to see alternative wireless mic solutions appearing in the market. The latest of these is RØDE’s RødeLink Wireless Filmmaker Kit. While the kit wasn’t available yet to testing and evaluation at press time, major audio retailers are posting that they will be able to deliver the kits beginning April 15, 2015. Retailing for just under $400, the RødeLink operates in the same 2.4 GHz spectrum as WiFi.

The RødeLink Filmmaker Kit is a wireless system for film and video production that features a transmitter, receiver and RØDE’s highly rated lavalier microphone, which retails for about $200 when bought separately. The system utilizes a Series II 2.4 GHz, 128-bit encrypted digital transmission signal that constantly monitors and hops between frequencies to select the strongest signal. The kit offers a high signal-to-noise ratio and provides a high-resolution, 24-bit 44.1 kHz digital transmission of lossless audio at a range of up to 100m.

The belt pack transmitter features a simple 3-stage gain adjustment and a mute lock function to prevent accidental muting. A locking 3.5mm input audio connector ensures body-worn microphones remain secure. The camera-mount receiver features a removable shoe-mount, enabling it to be used on-camera or as a belt pack receiver. A mute override function gives complete control to the operator, while mute status, input level and battery status for both the transmitter and receiver are displayed on the front of the unit. The receiver also utilizes the same locking 3.5mm connector as the transmitter to provide solid security.

Besides using AA batteries, both the belt pack transmitter and camera-mounted receiver can be powered by any USB power source using a standard microUSB cable. The system offers eight discrete channels that easily can be set up in seconds, with over 8,000 different channel combinations available. Channel selection and pairing are achieved with one-press operation and automatic scanning, which significantly reduces setup times when compared to traditional UHF setups.