Camera Audio Made Easy with the New Shure FP Wireless System

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Nearly every kind of videographer needs a dependable wireless microphone for their camera, but none of them need unnecessary headaches. Shure recently released a new product called the FP Wireless System, which makes it easier than ever to avoid the unwanted audio problems from which all wireless microphones suffer. This is the easiest-to-use “Frequency Agile” portable wireless system in existence. The term Frequency Agile means that the system is capable of switching channels, which is necessary if you experience interference. If you purchased wireless mics in the past and were burned by unexpected audio problems, or if you’re researching your first wireless mic purchase, read on to find out how the new Shure FP System has changed the game.   

The new Shure FP Wireless system consists of the FP5 Portable Receiver, the FP1 Beltpack Transmitter, the FP2 Handheld Transmitter and the FP3 Plug-On Transmitter. All of these components are extremely lightweight, so they won’t weigh you down when used on your camera rig. The heart of the system is the FP5 Portable Receiver, which features diversity antennas that make the connection with the transmitter more reliable. Its output is a TA3F jack, which is a locking connector that offers a higher level of audio quality than what you find on competing models. Likewise, the FP1 Transmitter features a locking TA4F input, which is what is used on some of the highest quality wireless systems on the market. The FP system operates in the UHF frequency spectrum, which is still the best option available. Another handy feature is that these components are compatible with Shure’s SLX series of wireless systems.

What you won’t find on the FP System are very many buttons and controls. There are no menus to navigate, and no complicated processes to carry out. One of the only controls to be found are the physical gain knobs. This is a welcome thing, because when the gain is controlled digitally from a menu within an LCD screen, it tends to scare off videographers. The power LED on these units warns you when the batteries are low and the FP5 Portable Receiver has a second LED that glows blue when you’ve established a link with a transmitter. Achieving a solid connection between the transmitter and receiver is extremely important when using a wireless system. The Shure FP systems scan across multiple channels to find reliable open frequencies, and finding a clean channel to use is as easy as pressing the Scan button on the FP5. Syncing this newly found channel with the transmitter only requires a single button push as well. Even though this task is easy on the FP system, it’s a process that no videographer should overlook.

Here’s the situation: a videographer realizes that they need a wireless microphone in order to capture the best-sounding dialog into their camera. They do some research and determine that a specific model has the most features and the most recommendations from other users. They purchase that model, set it up and everything goes really well… for the first three shoots. On the fourth shoot, they set up their camera and wireless mic, but this time there are problems. The mic picks up static noise and the sound drops in and out. The videographer checks the equipment two or three times, but it’s all plugged in the way it had been before, when it had worked. They know the wireless mic system has features that can remedy this problem, but they haven’t the foggiest idea how to do it. Suffice it to say, the sound on this particular shoot suffers terribly.

What went wrong here? The main problem is that the person didn’t completely understand how to operate the wireless microphone they had purchased. Therefore, the person operating the equipment is to blame. However, the other part of the problem is that the wireless system they bought was far too complicated. To the videographer, it seemed like you would need a degree in audio engineering in order to fully understand how to use the wireless system. What this person needs is a wireless microphone system that makes it easy to fix static and interference issues—the new Shure FP Wireless System.

When you experience static interference and dropouts, you need to know how to change the channel on which the microphone system is operating. On some systems, you are required to physically change the channels on the device, much like you would on a TV when you can’t find the remote. What’s confusing about wireless systems is that there are multiple pieces of equipment that all need to have their channels adjusted. If you need to manually change the channel on the receiver, then you also need to manually change the channel on the wireless transmitter. More advanced wireless systems offer an infrared capability, which makes it possible for the receiver to wirelessly beam the selected channel over to the transmitter. This infrared capability is found on the Shure FP Wireless system, but what’s remarkable is that the designers at Shure simplified the process to a single button push.

Pressing the magic Sync button when the receiver is mounted on top of your camera and the transmitter is attached to your subject’s belt on the other side of the room won’t do the trick. In order for the infrared process to work, you need to have the battery door on the FP5 Portable Receiver open, and if you’re syncing with the FP1 Beltpack Transmitter, you need to have its battery door open as well, and the two units need to be facing one another, separated by about eight inches (20 cm) of space. When you arrange this setup, simply pressing the Sync button will make the FP1 Transmitter adjust to the channel on which the receiver is operating.

There is also a second button on the FP5 Portable Receiver called "Scan." Any wireless transmitter worth its salt has the ability to scan frequencies in order to find the best available channel to use. Many systems do this, with varying degrees of difficulty. The Shure FP Wireless System has made the task of scanning as easy as humanly possible. You press the Scan button, the receiver finds the best available frequency, adjusts the channel and completes the task without requiring you to do anything else. Since this process automatically changes the channel, you need to sync your transmitter afterward.

If you’re not familiar with wireless microphone systems, pressing one button to Scan and another button to Sync may not sound like a big advancement. But you have to understand that carrying out the same tasks on other systems requires fishing through lengthy menus, making selections and commanding the system to carry out these tasks. That’s very different than pressing one or two buttons and being finished. These tasks are so intimidating on other systems that most users don’t bother learning how to do them, and their ignorance eventually catches up with them: the price they pay is having terrible sound on multiple shoots.

Wireless microphone systems are very sensitive to the environment in which they’re operating. While one environment may be perfect for a wireless mic (free of interference issues), there’s no guarantee that moving a few rooms down the hall will be as pleasant. Therefore, anyone who operates a wireless mic should be well versed in how to change the channels on their system. The new FP Wireless System from Shure finally makes the channel-changing process as easy as people need it to be.  

I had the opportunity to give the Shure FP Wireless Bodypack & Handheld Combo System a short test run, and I was impressed by its sound quality. It’s a bare-bones system in many ways: the FP1 Transmitter doesn’t have an LCD screen of any kind, and there is no way to tune in the frequencies besides the infrared sync. However, the lack of a display and minimal controls makes it more appealing. Not having a display also helps it be more battery efficient. The manual states that the FP1 gets up to 11 hours of life from a pair of alkaline AAs (according to the manual, every component in this system offers long battery life).

The FP2 Handheld Transmitter in the system I tried out came with the VP68 capsule, configured in an omnidirectional pick-up pattern (which is exactly what you want for video production). It’s also available with an SM58 capsule (which features a cardioid pick-up pattern). The nice thing about the FP2 is that it’s compatible with any of Shure’s wireless microphone cartridges. The body has a plastic feel, but there is a rubber-like bumper on its tail end. The same rubberized material is used for the top of the FP1 transmitter and the FP5 diversity antenna. In order to sync the FP2, you have to unscrew the battery compartment. While this may seem like a drag, it’s nice knowing that the IR sensor is hidden when in use, so you know it won’t accidentally change channels if it mistakes another light source as a command (such as the autofocus on a camera).                                                       

The included WL 183 lavalier microphone is a bit large, and it has a little bit of weight to it, but the audio I recorded sounded very good on playback. There are many other lavalier microphones available that are compatible with this system, such as the Shure WL93, the Countryman B3 and the Sanken COS-11D-R. I tested the system out by shooting some video in the densely packed airwaves of midtown Manhattan. A quick scan and sync was all that was needed to steer clear of interference issues. I shot myself speaking to the camera and walked around 25 feet away without any problems. The room I was in wasn’t larger than 25 feet, and the system struggled when I left the room and walked further away. The kit I tried out came with a nice selection of accessories. In addition to supplying you with nicely made output cables for both XLR and 3.5mm mini-plug, it also included a camera shoe mount, two windscreens for the microphone and microphone clips.

The new FP Wireless System is available in many variations. If you need just a single wireless lavalier, kits are available in five different frequency ranges: G4 (470 -494 MHz), G5 (494-518 MHz), H5 (518 – 542 MHz), J3 (572 – 596 MHz) and L4 (638 - 662 MHz). There are several handheld mic kits available with either the VP68 or the SM58 capsule. Combo kits are also available with an FP1 transmitter and a FP3 plug-on transmitter (which features hefty metal construction). These combo kits don’t come with microphones, so remember that you have to buy the mic separately if you go this route.  

All in all, the FP is certainly a welcome addition to the menu of available wireless systems, and it will be a standout option in terms of user friendliness.

Thanks for reading this B&H InDepth hands-on review. If you have any more questions about the Shure FP Wireless System, please submit them in the Comments section, below.

Shure FP Wireless System
Working Range
Line of Sight
300' (100 m)
Note: Actual range depends on RF signal absorption, reflection and interference
Tone Key 32.768 kHz
Audio Frequency Response 45Hz - 15kHz (±2 dB) 
Total Harmonic Distortion <0.5%, typical
Ref. ±38 kHz deviation with 1 kHz tone
Dynamic Range >100 dB, A-weighted
Operating Temperature Range Battery characteristics may limit this range: -18°C (0°F) to +57°C (135°F)
FP1 Beltpack Transmitter
Gain Adjustment Range -10 to +20 dBV
Input Impedance 1 MΩ
RF Output Power 10 to 30 mW
Varies by region 
Pin Assignments
TA4M
1: ground (cable shield)
2: +5 V Bias
3: audio
4: Tied through active load to ground (on instrument adapter cable, pin 4 floats)
Housing Molded polycarbonate case
Power Requirements LR6 AA batteries, 1.5 V
Battery Life Up to 11 hours (alkaline)
Dimensions 4.25 x 2.5 x 0.75" (108 x 64 x 19mm)
Weight Without batteries: 0.18 lb (81 g)
FP2 Handheld Transmitter
Maximum Input Level At -10 dB gain setting: +2 dBV
At 0 dB gain setting: -8 dBV 
Gain Adjustment Range 10 dB
RF Output Power 10 to 30 mW
Varies by region 
Housing  Molded PC/ABS handle and battery cup
Power Requirements LR6 AA batteries, 1.5 V
Battery Life Up to 11 hours (alkaline)
Dimensions 10 x 2" (254 x 51mm)
Weight 0.64 lb (290 g)
FP3 Plug-In Transmitter
Gain Adjustment Range 0 to +40 dBV
Input Impedance 9 kΩ
RF Output Power 10 to 30 mW
Varies by region 
Power Requirements LR6 AA batteries, 1.5 V
Battery Life Up to 12 hours (alkaline)
Dimensions 4.6 x 1.4 x 1.7" (117 x 36 x 43mm)
Weight 0.35 lb (160 g)
FP5 Portable Receiver
Audio Output Type: TA3F
Configuration Impedance balanced
Pin Assignments
TA3F
1: ground
2: hot
3: cold
Maximum Audio Output Level Ref. ± kHz deviation with 1 kHz tone: -5 dBV (into 600 Ω load)
Impedance 200 Ω
Housing Molded polycarbonate case
Sensitivity Typical: -108 dB, for 12 dB SINAD
Power Requirements LR6 AA batteries, 1.5 V
Battery Life Up to 12 hours (alkaline)
Dimensions 4.25 x 2.5 x 0.75" (108 x 64 x 19mm)
Weight Without batteries: 0.18 lb (81 g)

Items discussed in article

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Can you connect the Shure bodypack transmitter to the Rode Lavalier mic?

How does the Shure FP Wireless system compare to the Sony UWP-V6 in terms of durability, ease of use, signal quality and signal distance/strength as well as brand support and warranty?

There are a number of different frequencies spanning from 470 to 662 MHz. How do we know which one to chose for our purposes? Is there any difference in the purposes of each of those frequencies?

Hi Socrates -

This Rode MiCon-3 Adapter is intended for use with Rode MiCon terminated microphones. The adapter features a 4-pin TA4-female connector, compatible with Shure wireless transmitters. 

Use the Shure Frequency Finder tool to determine the best frequency channel selection for your geographic area.  Most U.S. cities have multiple local television stations, whose operating frequencies must be taken into account before choosing a frequency band of wireless system.  Sonically speaking there is very little  (if any) difference in the audio quality among these various frequency channels.

Shure brand support and warranty are very sound (no pun intended).  Shure includes two years parts and labor with this wireless system.  If you additional questions - please e-mail us at AskBH@BandH.com.

Thank you for your reply - it is very useful except that the Shure Frequency Finder tool doesn't include neither the FP wireless system nor Canadian locations.

Is it possible to pair two receivers (Cam A and Cam B) with a single microphone/transmitter?

Also, if I want to use two system in parallel (Mic A to Cam A, Mic B to Cam B), what do I need to buy/do?

Thanks

 Hi Martin -

There is no problem syncing one transmitter to multiple receivers.  As for the second part of your inquiry  -  the Shure system is frequency agile so you can have several systems running simultaneously without interfering with each other. Just press one button to Scan and another button to Sync  - all set!

Please contact us via e-mail if you have additional questions:  AskBH@BandH.com

Can you pair 2 transmitters to 1 receiver (if they are in the same frequency class)?