SICK OF TRIPPING OVER GUITAR LEADS? MAYBE A WIRELESS GUITAR SYSTEM IS THE ANSWER FOR YOU. IF YOU'RE WONDERING WHERE TO START, WHAT THE BEST WIRELESS GUITAR SYSTEM IS AND IF YOU NEED A LICENCE TO USE ONE, OUR BEGINNER'S GUIDE TO WIRELESS GUITAR SYSTEMS SHOULD HELP YOU OUT!
Choosing the best wireless guitar system for your needs can be a little bit daunting. Where do you start, which wireless system do I need for my guitar, which wireless guitar system needs a licence? These are all questions you’ll probably be asking yourself. So today we’re going to look at some of the best options, explain the various problems you might face and provide the solutions in our complete beginners guide to wireless guitar systems.
WHY WOULD I USE A GUITAR WIRELESS SYSTEM?
Although guitar cables are great, you can sometimes find yourself tripping over them if you’re a musician that likes to run around the stage. If you want the freedom to roam the entire stage or venue whilst playing guitar, you’re sick of untangling leads before a gig or you have an uncontrollable wish to be carried around by the crowd whilst nailing a guitar solo (don’t we all?!) then a wireless guitar system is probably going to be the best bet for you. Big-name bands in the music industry use them all the time, and in fact, rely on them to put on the show they do.
Dave Grohl, Chris Martin, Bruce Springsteen and countless other musicians rely on wireless guitar systems so they are free to walk into the crowd and get the entire audience involved. It helps break that barrier between band and audience and can make Wembley stadium seem like an intimate gig, especially when you’ve got the likes of Mr. Grohl riffing in your face after running down the catwalk! Before you decide to invest in a wireless system or radio mic, you might want to consider some of the pros and cons of using a wireless system. For example, did you know you need a licence to use certain wireless frequencies?
Yep, that’s right. Some frequencies require a licence to use, whereas others are completely free to use. So let’s talk about the frequencies before we show you some options.
UK RADIO MIC & WIRELESS GUITAR SYSTEM FREQUENCIES
There are a myriad of different channels or frequencies that your radio mic or wireless guitar system will use. Some will require licences others are completely free to use and some are no longer in use. Here’s a general guide to wireless mic and radio frequencies, but it’s always best to check with OFCOM before you use one in case there are costs involved.
CHANNEL 69 RADIO MICS AND WIRELESS GUITAR SYSTEMS
OFCOM announced that they were removing access to RF bandwidth between 854-862MHz (known as Channel 69 ) back in June 2009. This channel is now longer in use as of 1st January 2013. It had previously been used extensively for multi-way radio mic systems and was available by purchasing an annual licence.
CHANNEL 38 RADIO MICS AND WIRELESS GUITAR SYSTEMS
Channel 38 uses the bandwidth area between 606-614MHz and was created to replace channel 69. Channel 38 does require an annual licence but will allow you to use multiple wireless systems with enough bandwidth for 12-13 radio mic and wireless guitar systems at once, both indoors and outdoors. This is a great option (and the industry-standard) for professional users, touring bands and even hire companies that rent out wireless systems.
823-832MHZ RADIO MICS AND WIRELESS GUITAR SYSTEMS
Access to the 823-832MHz spectrum was added to UK radio mic and wireless guitar system licences back in 2015 at no extra cost to the user. This means users of Channel 38 have the option to add an extra 13 systems using the 823-832MHz spectrum and were also given access to the 1.8GHz frequencies (read more below). The 823-832MHz frequencies are widely used across Europe so can be easily tapped into if your tour takes you across Europe.
1.8GHZ RADIO MICS AND WIRELESS GUITAR SYSTEMS
Access to the 1.8GHz (1785-1805MHz) spectrum was added to the standard UK licence in April 2015. Users could now combine Channel 38, 823-832MHz bandwidth and 1.8GHz and run up to 41 wireless guitar systems and radio mics simultaneously all for the cost of a standard licence. A standard licence is £75 as of March 2017.
2.4GHZ RADIO MICS AND WIRELESS GUITAR SYSTEMS
For those that don’t want to make the jump to paid licences just yet, you can use the 2.4GHz spectrum free of charge within the UK and the rest of the world. You should know, your radio mic or wireless guitar system will have to compete with any Bluetooth devices or Wi-Fi channels in the area, but this isn’t a huge problem if you’re using your device at smaller gigs or venues. Using this channel will potentially restrict the number of devices you can use at the same time. It’s not recommended to use any more than 4-8 systems at once, but the technology and bandwidth capabilities are constantly improving, which means the free 2.4GHz channels are being used by more people due to the fact you don't need a licence.
CHANNEL 70 RADIO MICS AND WIRELESS GUITAR SYSTEMS
Channel 70 otherwise known as 863-865MHz is a free to use (licence exempt) channel that allows the use of radio mics and wireless guitar systems free of charge throughout the UK. This channel is ideal for those just starting out on their wireless guitar system journey as the limited 2MHz of bandwidth will only allow up to 4 systems at once. Unfortunately, some users have said that they have experienced some interference from 4G mobiles in the vicinity – not ideal for professional users or those in need of a strong signal at bigger gigs.
DO I NEED A LICENCE FOR MY WIRELESS GUITAR SYSTEM OR RADIO MIC?
Not always. If you want the reliability of a UHF (Ultra High Frequency) channel and want to use a large number of devices (8 or more), then you’ll need a licence for Channel 38 etc. If you’re only playing smaller gigs in the UK and abroad or don’t want to run a great deal of devices, then you probably won’t need one and the 2.4GHz channel will be perfect.
CHANNELS REQUIRING A LICENCE:
These are the channels you have to pay to use
Channel 38 (606-614MHz)
LICENCE EXEMPT (FREE TO USE):
These are the channels you can use for free
Channel 70 (863-865MHz)
173.7 - 175.1 MHz
HOW MUCH IS A WIRELESS GUITAR SYSTEM AND WIRELESS MICROPHONE SYSTEM LICENCE?
According to OFCOM the prices of a wireless mic or wireless guitar system licence for one year is around £75. For more information on radio frequency licences visit OFCOM.
HOW MUCH IS THE FINE FOR USING A WIRELESS MICROPHONE OR WIRELESS GUITAR SYSTEM?
If you haven’t got a licence and you are caught using frequencies that require a licence, you can be fined, just like you can if you get caught in the UK using a television without a TV licence. This can be around £2,000 in extreme circumstances.
ARE THERE ANY PROBLEMS WITH WIRELESS GUITAR SYSTEMS?
As with anything you buy, if you invest in good quality equipment you’re less likely to ever encounter any problems. If you’re thinking “is wireless or wired better?” try them both out. With good quality equipment, you’ll enjoy interference free sound and a reliable signal from your amp to your guitar. If you purchase a licence you can add a great number of devices to your set up and use frequencies that are designed to take musical instruments and wireless microphones without any interference. There is a bigger investment involved with a wireless system, but it has its benefits for sure.
Wired or wireless - if you want your live show to sound great, invest in good quality cables or a good quality wireless system – it’s that simple.
SHOW ME THE BEST WIRELESS GUITAR SYSTEMS
So now that you’ve decided a wireless guitar system is the next thing you need to add to your rig, you’ll want to know what the best wireless guitar systems are. Well, fear not, we’ve got you covered and all frequencies catered for.
In summary here are what we think are some of the best wireless guitar systems:
1. Sennheiser XSW-D Wireless Pedalboard Set
First up we have the Sennheiser XSW-D Wireless Pedalboard Set. We think this is one of the best wireless guitar systems as it sits comfortably on your pedal board, out of the way and allows you to enjoy superb quality sound without a cable.
It's also got a built in tuner, which means you can replace your existing tuner with this sleek wireless guitar system.
We love it because you have an operating range of up to 75m (250ft) and the transmitter(the part that plugs into your guitar) is powered by a built-in USB-rechargeable lithium-ion battery. This battery actually gives you up to 5 hours of continuous play, so you're all set for any gigs. The receiver comes complete with its own power supply so there's no need for extra cables.
It's also easy to set up, frequency management is automatic and you can pair up to 5 systems to the receiver - perfect for those with multiple guitar changes. The 10Hz - 18kHz frequency response ensures all your tone is preserved and your guitar actually sounds good!
A budget friendly, easy to use wireless guitar system for players of all levels.
If you’re a professional musician, you want the very best options for your set up. The Shure GLXD16 Guitar Pedal Wireless System is one of the best wireless guitar systems out there that uses the free 2.4GHz channel - it's also one of the most advanced. This unit has been designed to preserve all the tone of your guitar and amplifier and even includes a built-in tuner. It utilises the Wi-Fi frequencies and automatically selects the best connection from 17 different frequencies (within the free spectrum) to guarantee minimal interference.
The GLXD16 takes up minimal room on your pedalboard and you can even swap it out for the tuner in your rig – saving vital pedal space. The bodypack features a locking mechanism so you can jump around the stage without it falling out. When looking for the best wireless system for guitar, this should be on your 'must-try' list. View the details, specifications and price here.
Licence required?: No
3. LINE 6 RELAY G75 WIRELESS GUITAR SYSTEM
Next up we have the Line 6 Relay G75 Wireless Guitar System which is a simple, plug and play option – just what we want! This amp top box, sits on top of your amp (obviously) or near the sound engineer, out of sight providing industry-leading audio made for the stages of the world. The transmitter fits on your guitar strap or pocket and the locking ¼” input fits securely into your guitar, leaving you to jump around stage and get on with the gig.
There are no special cables needed here and you even get 8+ hours of battery life with 50+ hours of standby time. Just plug your guitars cables in and you’re ready to go. The Line 6 Relay G75 runs on the free 2.4ghz channel, so there’s no need for a license, it provides a lossless 24-bit digital signal and you can add and switch between multiple transmitters easily. This is one of the best wireless guitar systems for those on a budget and want a simple, plug and play option that's easily expandable. View the details, specifications and price here.
Licence required?: No
4. Boss WL60
Another great plug and play system comes in the form of the Boss WL-60 Wireless guitar system; a modestly-priced, reliable and above all, extremely powerful wireless transmitter. There’s no set up required whatsoever, as you just plug the transmitter into your guitar via the included patch lead and the receiver into your amp or pedalboard.
It's not only one of the best wireless guitar systems, but it's also probably the easiest in the world to use as the automatic 14-channel scanning makes set up quick and uncomplicated. You also have built-in cable tone simulation controls at your disposal, which simulate the effect of a cable - or you can turn that off completely and enjoy a pure sound.
There’s a 65ft line of sight signal range so you can quite easily run around the stage without ever worrying about cutting out and the and the battery life offers up to 10 hours of playing time so you can rest (or rock) easy in the knowledge the WL-60 has got your back. A great option for pro-level guitarists in need of a reliable system. View the details, specifications and price here.
Licence Required?: No
5. BOSS WL-20 WIRELESS GUITAR SYSTEM
The Boss WL-20 Wireless Guitar System is by far the easiest wireless guitar system to use. All you do is plug in one transmitter to your guitar and a receiver in to your amp and you’re all set. No cables to mess around with, channels to select or packs to strap on. It’s that easy. We think this is one of the best wireless guitars systems as it offers up premium audio quality with selectable cable length simulation and ultra-low latency of 2.3ms.
A standard USB charger powers the internal rechargeable batteries which provide up to 12 hours of continuous playing time which means you’re ready to play massive gigs after one charge.
The key feature here, aside from the convenience, is the cable tone simulation reproduces the natural capacitive effect that occurs when using a 10-foot/3-meter guitar cable with passive pickups. This essentially provides a sound which rolls off the treble very slightly, giving you the warm tone you’re used to hearing with a normal cable – no digital, unnatural sounds to be found.
Next up we have the Shure GLXD14UK Digital Wireless Guitar System which is perfect for those who already have all their pedals on their board and just need an amp top box that they can set up quickly. We think this is one of the best wireless guitar systems as it offers incredible sound quality which is better than wired, it runs on the 2.4GHz system and offers automatic frequency management.
This automatic frequency management is exactly what pro-level guitarists want as it constantly scans for the optimal frequency free from interference and distortion. As soon as it detects anything you don’t want in the signal, the GLXD14UK switches to another channel seamlessly. You don’t even notice! A lithium-ion rechargeable battery provides up to 16 hours of continuous use and can actually be charged in the receiver.
he Line 6 Relay G10S Wireless Guitar System is the brand’s foray into pedal board wireless guitar systems, utilising the Relay G10 and a discreet receiver which fits easily on your board. Again, there’s no setup required here as you can plug the transmitter into your guitar and set the receiver to automatic detection and it’ll pick up your guitar– a simple plug and play operation.
We love this as it offers 24-but lossless digital sound quality up to 130 feet away (40m line of sight) which is perfect for gigs of all sizes and festivals. A built in rechargeable battery allows you to recharge the transmitter inside the receiver whilst it’s hooked up to your pedal board power supply or via the included power adapter.
Versatile output options like the standard ¼” jack allows you to connect the G10S to your pedalboard or amp easily, whilst the balanced XLR output means you can hook up to the G10S as a wireless DI box – ideal for acoustic guitars or for hooking up to a PA system. A perfect wireless system for those who want something with a minimal footprint and easy setup. View the details, specifications and price here.
Licence Required?: No
8. BOSS WL-50 WIRELESS PEDALBOARD SYSTEM
Continuing on from the Boss WL-20, the Boss WL-50 Wireless Pedalboard System is designed to free you from the hassle of a cabled wireless guitar system and ensures a stress free set up every time. This fits snugly on your pedal board and is the same size as Boss’ stompbox range, so it’s not going to cause too much of an issue in terms of space. You can power the receiver via an optional PSA-S adaptor, your 9V pedalboard power supply or two AA batteries and insert the transmitter whilst you’re not using it for a charge and for automatic wireless setup.
You have selectable cable tone simulations options: short, long, and bypass depending on your preference, a 65ft / 20m range (line-of-sight propagation) and ultra-low latency at 2.3ms. It’s simple to use, budget friendly and sounds great – what more could you want?! View the details, specifications and price here.
Licence Required?: No
9. SENNHEISER XSW 1-CI1-GB INSTRUMENT SET
New for 2017, the Sennheiser XSW 1-CI1-GB Wireless Instrument Set is a great option for internationally touring musicians in need of a high quality wireless guitar system. This unit scans 10 compatible channels within the paid licence spectrum, so you will need a licence to use it.
However, you get a completely stable UHF band at your disposal. The EM-XSW1 wireless receiver sits comfortably on your pedal board and the SK-XSW body pack transmitter attaches itself to your guitar strap or can sit in your pocket whilst the Cl1 instrument cable provides unrivalled connection from body pack to your guitar.
Finally, we have the Alesis Guitar Link Wireless System which is a professional level wireless guitar system, that also qualifies as one of the best cheap wireless guitar systems clocking in at just £69.
With this wireless guitar system, you get a comfortably sized belt pack that you can plug into your guitar or bass as well as a sturdy receiver that you can place on top of your amplifier or pedalboard. You get all the included cables and the easy pairing switch takes all the guesswork out of linking your guitar to the receiver.
A lossless 24-bit digital signal with high resolution provides uncompromising tone whether you’re playing indoors or outdoors and the option to power the receiver via AAA batteries or 9V adapter makes it a perfect portable solution. View the details, specifications and price here.