Sennheiser ew 100 G3 Wireless Mics: How to Scan Frequencies and Set Levels

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Sennheiser ew 100 G3 wireless mic systems are a popular option for use in video production, and they typically work right out of the box—without requiring you to fiddle around with the settings. Even though you can use these systems right away, they’re designed to be versatile, and they offer some important features that can help you avert potential disasters. This article provides simple instructions on how to scan the frequencies in order to avoid interference, and explains how to adjust the audio levels to get optimal results. You’ll come away knowing all of the important stuff that isn’t obvious the moment you first pop one out of the package.

One of the features of the Sennheiser G3 systems is the availability of 1,680 frequencies; however, if the kit worked the first time you set it up, why would you ever futz with it? When you give up the reliability of a hardwired connection and go wireless, you run the risk of experiencing interference. Everything could be running smoothly one moment, but you could get hit with interference at any time, and it’s helpful to know how to remedy the situation.

The Sennheiser G3 systems have 20 Banks of frequencies with 12 Presets each. The Presets within these Banks were chosen by Sennheiser to help you avoid common pitfalls that are often encountered when operating wireless mics. For example, if you're using more than one Sennheiser G3 wireless system at the same time and both systems are in the same frequency range (A, B or G), you can avoid intermodulation-distortion issues by setting both systems to operate on the same Bank. 

How are you supposed to manage that much stuff when all you want to do is to capture the dialog of a simple sit-down interview? The key is to master the “Easy Setup” function on the Sennheiser EK 100 diversity receiver. Easy Setup scans all 1,680 frequencies, locks out frequencies that are occupied by other signals, and switches the current channel of your receiver to a new one that’s presently free of interference. After you use the Easy Setup feature on the receiver, you must use the Sync feature on the receiver to beam the new channel to the transmitter wirelessly. Instructions for both processes are provided below.

How to Scan Frequencies on a Sennheiser EK 100 Receiver

1) When the receiver is powered on, press the Set button once (this puts the receiver into Menu mode). Next, press either of the arrow keys until Easy Setup is displayed, and press the Set button again to enter into the Easy Setup mode.

2) Using the arrow keys, select Scan New List from the Easy Setup menu, and press the Set button again to begin scanning.

3) The display will read Scan New List, and an animated progress bar will move across the screen. After about 55 seconds, the display will inform you how many Banks and Free frequencies are available for use. Press the Set button twice to Store the new channel. Then press the arrow keys until Exit is displayed in the Easy Setup menu, and press Set to exit. You can then exit the Menu mode by quickly pressing the On/Off button, or by using the arrow keys to navigate to the Exit option in the menu, and pressing Set.

Now your EK 100 diversity receiver will be set to a new channel that’s free of interference; however, you must Sync the new channel to your transmitter.

How to Sync the EK 100 Receiver with a Sennheiser G3 Transmitter

1) When the EK 100 receiver is powered on, press the Set button once (this puts the receiver into Menu mode). Next, press the arrow keys until Sync is displayed, and press the Set button again to enter into Sync mode. The word “sync,” with a black triangle graphic, will fill the display of the EK 100 receiver.

2) With the battery doors open on both the EK 100 receiver and SK 100 G3 beltpack transmitter (the transmitter must be powered on), hold the two units face to face, one foot away from one another or closer. When the infrared beam from the EK 100 successfully syncs the new channel, a check mark will appear beside the word “sync” on the display, and the receiver will return to Menu mode.

3) The receiver and the transmitter will now be operating on the same frequency. You can exit the Menu mode on the receiver by quickly pressing the On/Off button, or by using the arrow keys to navigate to the Exit option in the menu, and pressing Set.

Tips

  • If you're syncing the receiver with an SKP 100 Plug-on transmitter, opening the battery door isn't necessary, because the infrared sensor is beside its display.
  • If you, anyone on your crew, or your on-camera subjects have mobile phones, smartphones or tablets, make sure to turn them off when you’re working. All of these devices can interfere with the audio of your wireless system.
  • It’s always important to monitor your audio with a pair of headphones as you work (you plug the headphones into your camera—not into the wireless system). This way you’ll be able to hear the static interference or audio dropouts when they happen, and you’ll know immediately that there’s a problem that needs to be fixed. If you’re not listening on headphones as you work, you’ll never know that your wireless microphones are faltering, and you won’t find out until it’s too late.
  • Radio-frequency conditions change radically from location to location. If you scan and set your frequencies at one location, you’re taking a risk if you travel to a new location and use your wireless microphone system without rescanning with the Easy Setup feature. I timed myself with a stopwatch, and it only took a minute and a half to scan frequencies, and to sync the new frequency with the transmitter. This process only requires a few button presses. It can save you from experiencing interference, and potentially save a take or two, or even an entire day’s work. It’s well worth the effort.

Setting the Levels on a Sennheiser 3G Transmitter

Once again, if Sennheiser ew 100 G3 wireless systems work for most people right out of the box, you’re probably wondering why you would ever want to adjust the audio levels. Well, imagine your subject is a person with a really loud voice, and you’re shooting them in a quiet environment. Because this person speaks so loudly, the transmitter is going to require a lower audio-level setting to capture the sound properly. Without making this adjustment, the mic would overload and distort. In contrast to this scenario, imagine your subject is a person who speaks very softly, and you’re shooting them in a noisy environment. In this case, the transmitter is going to require a higher audio-level setting.   

If your primary interest is storytelling with moving images, the deeply technical audio term “gain structure” likely isn’t in your vocabulary. In wireless microphone systems, the audio signal can get amplified at the input of the transmitter, amplified again at the output of the receiver, and amplified a third time at the input on your camera. In order to achieve the best sound quality, each of these individual audio levels needs to be properly adjusted. If any one of them is too low, you won’t achieve good signal-to-noise performance. If they’re too high, the audio will distort. When they’re all properly set, you will have good gain structure

The key to setting levels with the Sennheiser G3 wireless systems is to keep an eye on the audio-level meter on the transmitter and the receiver’s display. Don’t be intimidated by setting audio levels. It’s a pretty simple task. Your main goal is to adjust the levels until the meter is bouncing a little more than halfway up the scale.

How to Set the Audio Levels

1) When the transmitter is powered on, press the Set button once. The transmitter will then be in the Menu mode. Press the arrow keys until Sensitivity is displayed, and then press the Set button again to enter into the Sensitivity mode.

2) You adjust the Sensitivity up or down with the arrow keys. The highest setting is 0 dB, the lowest is -60 dB. Tell the person who’s wearing the mic to speak at the volume they’re going to use during the shoot. Ask them to repeat “Testing one, two, three,” and adjust the level up or down, until the meter is bouncing a little more than halfway up the scale.

Please note, when the transmitter is in the Sensitivity mode, you can no longer see the audio meter on its display. However, you can look at the display of the Sennheiser G3 receiver, because it has the same meter on its display. The audio meter is the second-left-most item found on the display of the EK 100 diversity receiver.

Tip

  • Make sure the person with the mic keeps repeating “Testing one, two, three” until you’re confident that you have the level set properly. Also, keep in mind that most people tend to speak louder during the shoot then they do when you ask them to say “Testing one, two, three,” so anticipate louder volumes by leaving a little extra headroom.

How to Set the Levels on a Sennheiser EK 100 Receiver

The next level that you need to adjust is the AF Out on the EK 100 receiver. The AF Out can be adjusted from -30 dB to +12 dB. The method you use to adjust it is the same as the transmitter. Have your subject keep repeating, “Testing one, two, three,” as you adjust the AF Out level. Again, the ideal setting is when the meter is bouncing a little more than halfway up the scale; however, the meter that you need to look at will be found in the device into which the receiver is plugged, such as a video camera or a mixer.

1) When the receiver is powered on, press the Set button once (this puts the receiver into Menu mode). Next, press the arrow keys until AF Out is displayed, and press the Set button again to enter into the AF Out adjustment mode.

2) You adjust the audio output level from the receiver by pressing the up and down arrow keys. Look at the audio meter of the device into which you’ve plugged the EK 100 receiver. Once again, the ideal setting is when the meter is bouncing a little more than halfway up the scale.

The final audio level that needs to be adjusted is the input level on your camera. Accomplishing this varies from camera to camera. Some cameras have physical dials for adjusting the input levels, and on other cameras the audio levels are adjusted in the menu settings. Either way, the method is again the same. The ideal setting is when the meter is bouncing a little more than halfway up the scale. If you’re using a camera with numbered meters, you'll want to adjust the audio level so that the meter is bouncing around -12 dB, or slightly below.

This may sound like a bunch of extra work, but it’s really very simple, and in practice, it doesn’t consume much time at all. The payoff for scanning and syncing your channels, as well as adjusting your audio levels every time you shoot, is that you’ll know you’re getting the best sound possible.  

Thanks for checking out this B&H InDepth article. If you have any questions at all about Sennheiser ew 100 G3 wireless systems, you can speak to a B&H sales professional by visiting our SuperStore in New York City, giving us as a call at 1-800-866-6969, or joining us for a Live Chat. We also encourage you to submit your thoughts in the Comments section, below.

EK 100 Receiver
Modulation Wideband FM
Frequency Ranges 516-558, 566-608, 626-668
Receiving Frequencies 1680, tunable in steps of 25 kHz
20 frequency banks, each with up to 12 factory-preset channels, intermodulation free
1 frequency bank with up to 12 user-programmable channels
Switching Bandwidth 42 MHz
Nominal/Peak Deviation ±24 kHz  / ±48 kHz
Receiver Principle Adaptive Diversity
Sensitivity With HDX, peak deviation: < 4µV, typ. 1.6 µV for 52 dBA rms S/N
Adjacent Channel Rejection Typ. ≥ 65 dB
Intermodulation Attenuation Typ. ≥ 65 dB
Blocking ≥ 70 dB
Squelch Off, Low: 5 dBµV, Middle: 15 dBµV, High: 25 dBµV
Pilot Tone Squelch Can be switched off
Compander System Sennheiser HDX
S/N Ratio 1 mV, peak deviation = ≥60 dBA
THD ≤0.9%
AF Output Voltage At peak deviation, 1 kHz AF: 3.5mm jack socket: +11 dBu (mono, unbalanced)
Adjustment Range of Audio Output Level 42 dB, adjustable in steps of 6 dB
Temperature Range  -10 ˚C to +55 ˚C
Power Supply 2 x AA batteries, 1.5V or BA 2015 Accupack
Nominal Voltage 2.4V
Power Consumption At nominal voltage: typ. 140 mA
With switched-off receiver: ≤25 µA
  SK 100 Beltpack Transmitter SKP 100 Plug-On Transmitter
Modulation Wideband FM Wideband FM
Frequency Ranges 516-558, 566-608, 626-668 516-558, 566-608, 626-668
Transmission Frequencies 1680, tunable in steps of 25 kHz
20 frequency banks, each with up to 12 factory-preset channels, intermodulation free
1 frequency bank with up to 12 user-programmable channels
1680, tunable in steps of 25 kHz
20 frequency banks, each with up to 12 factory-preset channels, intermodulation free
1 frequency bank with up to 12 user-programmable channels
Switching Bandwidth 42 MHz 42 MHz
Nominal/Peak Deviation ±24 kHz  / ±48 kHz ±24 kHz  / ±48 kHz
Frequency Stability ≤±15 ppm ≤±15 ppm
RF Output Power at 50Ω Typ. 30 mW Typ. 30 mW
Pilot Tone Squelch Can be switched off Can be switched off
Compander System Sennheiser HDX Sennheiser HDX
AF Frequency Response Microphone: 80 Hz - 18 kHz
Line: 25 Hz - 18 kHz
Microphone: 80 Hz - 18 kHz
S/N Ratio 1 mV, peak deviation = ≥110 dBA 1 mV, peak deviation = ≥110 dBA
THD ≤0.9% ≤0.9%
Max. Input Voltage 3 Vrms 3.3 Vrms
Input Impedance 40 kΩ, unblanaced / 1 MΩ 60 kΩ, unblanaced
Input Capacitance Switchable N/A
Adjustment Range of Input Sensitivity 60 dB, adjustable in steps of 3 dB 48 dB, adjustable in steps of 6 dB
Temperature Range  -10 ˚C to +55 ˚C  -10 ˚C to +55 ˚C
Power Supply 2 x AA batteries, 1.5V or BA 2015 Accupack 2 x AA batteries, 1.5V or BA 2015 Accupack
Nominal Voltage 2.4V 2.4V
Current Consumption At nominal voltage: typ. 180 mA (30 mW)
With switched-off transmitter: ≤25 µA
At nominal voltage: typ. 180 mA (30 mW)
With switched-off transmitter: ≤25 µA
Operating Time Typ. 8 hours Typ. 8 hours
Dimensions 3.2 x 2.52 x 0.94" (82 x 64 x 24mm) 4.13 x 1.7 x 1.7" (105 x 43 x 43mm)
Weight 0.35 lb (160 g) 0.43 lb (195 g)

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Superb article. Thank you, Sam.

Indeed, a great article. Clearer than the owner's manual, that's for sure! I do have one question. When adjusting the AF output, you mention "monitoring the device the receiver is plugged into" and "bouncing about halfway up". Well, the device the receiver is plugged into is the recorder, and its level is dependent on its input setting. So how could this method be useful?

"Halfway up its scale" seems relevant to the meter on the receiver itself. no?

Just making sure I understand. Thanks!

Great article, Sam. Thanks for the detailed step-by-step. I currently have one G3 receiver and transmitter and am thinking about getting one more for 2-person interviews. Should the new G3 bundle be on the A bank or should I go ahead and get a B version? Are there any downsides to B vs. A in terms of interference? Thanks!

Hi Michael -

There is no reason why you would not select the same G3 bundle you are currently using.  There will be no interference between the units as the systems will sync to different, discrete frequencies that will not compete for bandwidth. You may easily use up to seven systems simultaneously with no interference or drop-outs.   Sennheiser employs an Easy Setup feature on the receiver, that will Sync  the receiver to beam the new channel to the transmitter wirelessly.

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

Before I ask a question, below is a quote from a website I stumbled upon.
"Most commonly used antennas in wireless audio are linear polarized. Linear polarization means that the antenna is radiating electromagnetic energy on one plane only, either vertically or horizontally. For maximum signal strength, both the transmit and receive antennas in a wireless system must be oriented in parallel with each other. Any deviation from this position will result in signal loss, with a perpendicular antenna orientation creating the maximum amount of degradation"
So my question is - When you have the G3's receiver positioned above your camera's hotshoe horizontally and assuming that your talent's transmitter is likely mounted vertically most of the time, how much signal degradation would you get vs. when you have both transmitter and receiver positioned vertically?

Very useful article.Got one straight out of the box on location, adjusted the transmitter output level but didnt know there was a level setting on the receiver as well. Thanks a bunch !!

Great article, Sam...keep 'em coming! Thanks!

Very useful article on setting up the Sennheiser ew100 G3, I looked on Sennheiser website and it was not clear at all and very useful additional tip on audio settings when filming.

Thansk very much, Matt S

Great article. Thanks for posting.

Love B&H - best store in the World in my opinion!

Thanks for this life saving article. Very helpful and easy to understand.

When using multiple wireless sets (I have five), I presume the process requires leaving each transmitter on after setting it to a new open frequency, so each successive receiver will see your own transmitters when it scans for open frequencies.

I bought a receiver from EBAY and just found out the preset frequency range is different form the UK transmitter range, can we every change the preset range or have I messed up big time?

This is the best info!  Thanks so much.  I can walk into my shoot more confident knowing what you shared.

The manual may be good for tech savvy sound people but not for me.

Thanks again!

Thanks do much for this article. It's all a bit confusing and sometimes overwhelming for a starter like me, especially the audio part, so this was really helpful!

Thank you for this extremely helptul information. I and several other producer friends were just discussing problems with RF interference on shoots. It has become surprisingly worse in the last 2 years and we're all having identical issues with our G3's. A few of us produce videos in medical facilities and RF interference costs us time quite frequently. I will use the techniques listed here on the next shoot. 

I have an older Sennheiser unit ew-100.   When I plug the XLR cable into the amplifier, I get noise.  I have tried setting the squelch at

lo, med, and high, and the noise is the same.  Any ideas?  Don Hemme for Stafford Church of Christ - 830-480-4648 cell

Hi Don -

The bodypack receiver outputs a mic level signal.  Be sure that your amplifier can accept this mic level and/or the amplifier is setup for, or switched to line level. Also, adjust the "AF output" and "AF sensitivity"" from the MENU settings. If you continue to have issues and you have checked the batteries and connecting cables, please contact SENNHEISER directly.

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