Saturday, February 10, 2018

RODELink Performer Kit - Digital Wireless Condenser Mic.

RODELink Performer RS-DESK Receiver
As the RF spectrum gets increasingly devoured by big money, going wireless becomes increasingly more difficult. Many manufacturers, in addition to RØDE, have been mining the 2.4 GHz Wi-Fi band for the last three or four years.

Wi-Fi is a pretty busy space these days and 2.4 GHz is a lot higher than the 500 MHz to 600 MHz UHF band where so many traditional wireless mic systems operate.

Remarkably, most of these new 2.4 GHz systems work pretty well, but as with all gear, they do have limitations. Most, manufacturers, including RØDE, use some sort of redundancy circuitry to make sure the audio makes the trip. I have not encountered any of the dire reports of drop outs if someone walks between the mic and receiver. In this case, the RØDELink Performer was able to go through at least one 1954 plasterboard wall between rooms and also from the basement to the first floor without dropout.

The Audio-Technica System 10 gear I have used will also go through a wall and a floor, but perhaps not for a long walk-and-talk with the mic and receiver at great distances. So far, I've gotten at least 200 feet in clear open space. In a metal-reinforced, concrete, underground parking lot filled with cars (which might be a reflected RF nightmare), I got 120 feet.

Rode's Series II 2.4GHz encrypted digital transmission is sent on two channels simultaneously, RØDELink automatically selects the strongest signal for best reliability. If that frequency gets too busy, a look ahead circuit has already chosen another frequency and inaudibly switches both the mic and the receiver to the new frequency. After doing that, it then keeps an eye out for the next new frequency to go to if the new one goes bad. Note to some techs; this is a one-to-one 2.4 GHz encrypted system. You can't run two receivers to pickup the sound of one microphone.

The RØDELink Performer Kit includes a RØDE TX-M2 handheld wireless mic, mic clip, AC powered RØDE RS-DESK receiver, a RØDE LB-1 rechargeable lithium-ion battery, an AC power supply for the receiver and a micro USB charging cable for the RØDE TX-M2. I'm not in favor of rechargeable mics or receivers with "locked in" batteries you can't swap out on the job. Rode sidesteps the issue completely by allowing access to the battery compartment and allowing standard AA batteries to be used in case you forgot to charge the RØDE LB-1 in time for the gig. Yay RØDE!

Front Panel Display
There's a lot going on with the RS-DESK receiver. Pictured on the left, here, the front panel display shows which of the eight channels is being used. In this case, channel 5. Below that, the transmitter (TX) battery display shows a full charge. In the center is a level indicator that shows the incoming level from the mic. On the right, the receiver shows that it has a lock with the mic and that the output level of the receiver is set to 0 dB, The two small buttons to the right of the display allow you to bump the output of the receiver from -20, -10, 0, +10 and +20. The power switch is on the far right corner of the front.

Rear Panel
Around back from left to right, there's an AC jack that accepts the secure, screw-on power supply cable, a micro USB port for future firmware upgrades, a mic/line output mini switch, balanced XLR and unbalanced 1/4" TS jacks. What you don't see here are the two screw-on antennae jacks at the edges of the chassis.

I made arrangements with Mike Scarinzi, owner of AAPS Productions in Baltimore, MD. Mike has been in the trenches doing live sound since the mid 80s and now runs multiple live sound systems for hire; anything from a simple EON on a stick to large scale concert systems. His latest band in which he plays bassChubby Hoo Hoo, was playing at The Stables; a half and hour or so northwest of Baltimore in Westminster, MD. Ian Burke, one of Mike's guys, was mixing. The Stables is a typical restaurant/bar venue with a raised stage and a dance floor. I got there at 8PM. The music starts at 9PM. That night, Mike was running an Allen & Heath GL3300 console, EAW tops and KSI folded horn subs and JBL MR (15" and 1") monitors. Shure SM58s were up for all vocals except the lead vocal. For that they had a Shure PGX4 with an SM 58 head.

RODELink Performer Digital Wireless Mic and Receiver
I checked in with Ian and we swapped out the Shure wireless for the RØDELink Performer. We placed the receiver on the edge of the stage next to the snake. That put it about 12 feet from the mic. No problems with dropout. Ian did a quick check, including dipping the RØDE TX-M2 mic into the monitors to see how readily it might feedback. All good. He handed the mic to Steve Myers, the band's front man, lead vocalist and guitar player for a quick mic check before the show started. During the first break, Steve commented that he was impressed, saying it was a "good, strong mic." Ian also liked it and mentioned that he could even hear Steve's hand claps as he moved around the mic during songs.

Out in the audience, I quickly noticed the edge on all of the SM58 mics used by the other musicians. If you do live sound, you know what I mean. God bless the SM58, but they can be scratchy if you listen close enough and the mains are of high enough quality. Steve's sound on the RØDELink Performer was very clear and clean. I could hear the scratch every time the background vocals kicked in on the SM58s. Steve's voice is loud enough to crush some mics, but that was not a problem with the Rode TX-M2.

Even in a busy Wi-Fi environment we had no reception problems with the receiver at the stage and the audio coming back at mic level through the snake. I wish we had had time to run the receiver back by the console, about 50-60 feet away just to see, but it was showtime. The lead vocalist felt very comfortable with the sound he was getting back through the monitors. There was no feedback. The sound man liked the clarity of the TX-M2. All Good!

8/16/18 Added Content From Rode
RØDE Microphones releases the Performer Kit’s RØDELink TX-M2 Handheld Condenser Microphone as a standalone unit, sold separately for the first time. For content creators requiring different microphone options to suit any situation, the RØDELink system – home to the Filmmaker Kit and News Shooter Kit – now has a stylish, durable, compact handheld solution, the TX-M2.

The TX-M2 gives existing Filmmaker Kit owners – filmmakers, reporters and content creators – the freedom to mix and match the RØDELink microphones in their kits: the same RX-CAM receiver works simply with the Filmmaker Kit’s Lav/TX-BELT and the Performer Kit’s handheld TX-M2.

The TX-M2 pairs easily with the Filmmaker Kit’s RX-CAM for easy to-camera presenting and  interviews. This handheld mic houses a super cardioid condenser capsule, providing low handling noise and crystal-clear audio. The TX-M2 is powered by the LB-1 Lithium-Ion Rechargeable Battery (ships in the box) for up to 10 hours on a full charge, or 2 x AA batteries for 6 hours of use.

Important information about purchasing from Amazon in the USA.
RØDE Microphones does not authorize "Fulfilled By Amazon." RØDE has purchased counterfeit RØDE products using Fulfilled by Amazon and highly recommend that you only purchase RØDE products from authorized dealers. If you purchase any RØDE microphone from an unauthorized dealer via Fulfilled By Amazon you will not receive any US warranty or technical support.
You can view a full list of authorized US dealers here.

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