Top 7 Wireless Systems for Guitarists

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If you’re a guitarist or bassist who spends time performing for live audiences, you’ve probably found your focus split between nailing your parts and entertaining the crowd. Since fans get a kick out of seeing musicians move around on stage, how about giving them what they want? Get a wireless instrument system, stop camping out at your pedalboard, and really explore the stage space! With options from brands like Boss, Line 6, Sennheiser, and Shure, there’s a solution for every budget and experience level, from budding rockers to veteran engineers who deal with the big names.

Simple Solutions

Looking for a budget-friendly setup that won’t require a bunch of book learning? These three systems will get you going with a process about as simple as hooking up a guitar cable.

The Boss WL-20 and the Boss WL-20L are ultracompact wireless systems that provide a true plug-and-play experience. With either one, you “dock” the transmitter and receiver together for about 10 seconds to let them automatically optimize their wireless configuration, then connect the transmitter directly into your guitar/bass and plug the receiver into the first stompbox of your pedalboard (or straight into your amplifier if you aren’t using pedals). What’s the difference? Intended for instruments with passive pickups, the WL-20 simulates the gentle softening of treble that occurs when a 10' cable is used with passive pickups. The WL-20L excludes that “cable tone” feature as it’s designed for instruments with active pickups or onboard preamps.

BOSS WL-20 Wireless System for Electric Guitars with Passive Pickups

The Line 6 Relay G10S has a very similar transmitter and docking/syncing procedure, but opts for a stompbox-style receiver that offers manual channel selection for setups with multiple wireless units. The receiver also has a cable tone selector with three positions—off, 10' cable emulation, and 30' cable emulation—and 3-segment LEDs for RF signal quality and transmitter battery status. Since you can connect the receiver’s 1/4" output to your amp (or first pedal) and use its XLR jack as a DI output to a mixer, the Relay G10S is a great choice when you want a little extra flexibility on the output side.

Line 6 Relay G10S Digital Guitar Wireless System with Rechargeable Transmitter

The Sennheiser XSW-D PEDALBOARD SET is another cool option. Its stompbox-style receiver boasts an integrated tuner with a large LED screen and a footswitch that simultaneously activates the tuner and mutes the signal. Alternatively, you can easily mute the signal at the transmitter to avoid pops and hums when switching the transmitter between guitars. Like the Relay G10S, this system’s receiver has 1/4" and XLR outputs, but it has the extra benefit of being able to pair with up to four transmitters (though you may use only one at a time). The transmitter and receiver are paired at the factory, so all you have to do is make sure they’re plugged in and turned on.

Sennheiser XSW-D PEDALBOARD SET Digital Wireless Pedalboard Guitar System

All three systems operate in the 2.4 GHz band, so their performance will be best in environments with limited Wi-Fi / 2.4 GHz traffic and open line-of-sight visibility between the transmitter and receiver.

Traditional Systems

For engineers who desire a more traditional wireless system that will meet their own needs while serving any guitarist/bassist visiting the venue, the following models may be more attractive because they provide these noteworthy enhancements over the previously mentioned systems:

  • Transmitters with adjustable input gain/sensitivity
  • Extended battery life
  • Swappable batteries (no recharge time)
  • Receivers with adjustable output level
  • Longer operating range
  • More wireless frequencies (increased likelihood of finding an interference-free channel)
  • Greater expandability (support for more simultaneous systems)

The Shure BLX14R comprises a bodypack transmitter, a rackmount receiver with XLR and 1/4" outputs, and a 1/4" to TA4F instrument cable to connect your guitar/bass to the transmitter. Though the receiver’s one-touch QuickScan function scours 123 frequencies to select the best available RF channel, you can also manually select the group/channel if need be. The receiver employs two antennas in an “antenna diversity” configuration, which allows the single receiver circuit to switch antennas if the signal quality of the currently used antenna falls below a factory-set threshold.

Shure BLX14 Wireless Guitar System

The Sennheiser EW 100 G4-Ci1 also has a bodypack transmitter and a rackmount receiver with XLR and 1/4" outputs, but opts for a 1/4" to locking 3.5mm mini plug instrument cable. The receiver in this system boasts 1,680 frequencies (or 1840 in the new A1 band), a built-in guitar tuner, adjustable EQ, and dual antennas in a “true diversity” setup—the antennas are fed to independent receiver circuits, which are simultaneous analyzed for signal strength, allowing the one with better signal to be selected automatically. Though they are usually more expensive, true diversity systems are known to deliver enhanced protection against dropouts and switching noise.

Sennheiser EW 100 G4-Ci1 Wireless Guitar System

The BLX14R and EW 100 systems sit in the UHF zone, below Wi-Fi and Bluetooth signals. Each is available in three different frequency bands, so you can choose the one that helps keep you away from other wireless traffic in your venue.

Living Large

For performances in large concert venues and big houses of worship, you should consider a system specifically made to handle the unique technical challenges presented by such places. These next marvels of design have the traditional form factor with powerful improvements (see below) that are sure to please the discerning user.

  • Even more wireless frequencies
  • Multiple RF output power options
  • Remote monitoring and control over Ethernet
  • Transmitters with expanded power options and charging contacts

Available in two UHF frequency bands, Sennheiser’s EW 500 G4-Ci1 steps up to 3520 frequencies from the 1680 offered by the EW 100, and gives you three RF output power settings in place of the EW 100’s one. In addition to the expected XLR and 1/4" rear-panel outputs, the receiver sports a front-panel headphone output for convenient real-time monitoring, which is great for checking the signal quality when you’re trying to troubleshoot random distortion. The system’s bodypack transmitter can be powered via two AA batteries or a rechargeable BA 2015 Accupack. The Accupack can be left in the transmitter while being charged through the transmitter’s side contacts, as long as you also have the L 2015 charging station.

Sennheiser EW 500 G4-Ci1 Wireless Guitar System

Presented in single- or dual-channel configurations with two different UHF band choices, Shure’s impressive ULX-D Instrument Systems are digital components with 24-bit / 48 kHz audio, extremely high dynamic range, low latency, secure AES 256-bit encryption, and up to 64 MHz of bandwidth. The transmitters boast automatic input level adjustment, 1/10/20 mW RF output power selections, compliance with AA batteries or an SB900A lithium-ion battery, and support for docked charging via the optional SBC200US or SBC220US charging stations. Not wanting to deprive you of bragging rights, the receivers grant built-in limiting to prevent clipping, easy access to 60 dB of maximum system gain, and support for active/passive antennas.

Shure ULX-D Digital Wireless Bodypack Instrument Kit

Sure, the EW 500 G4 and ULX-D cost more than the other systems, but their clarity, flexibility, and feature sets are worth the extra coinage when working on high-profile gigs.

Conclusion

The right wireless system can untether the player from their rig and free them fret about what really matters most—their fancy gait, interpretive choreography, sweet 360° spins, and epic high-kicks. Before you go, let us know about your favorite wireless gear and applause-worthy stage antics in the Comments section, below.

1 Comments

I will upgrade through the different stages of playing over time. For now it is just a good old cable without the hassle of interferences.

A nice 60Hz boom, waking up everybody, has its charm to.

Anyway this is cool staff I couldn't imagine 25 years ago.

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