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electronic MUSICIAN

Sony DWZ Digital Wireless Systems

By Craig Anderton | February 21, 2013

Affordable, musician-friendly rigs for guitar/bass or handheld mic


I NEVER used wireless because of sound and reliability issues, but digital wireless changed my mind. There’s no companding, and as long as you’re within range, forget about pops or the signal cutting out. And if you go out-of-range, the signal usually disappears more elegantly than with analog.

The Sony DWZ-B30GB and DWZ-M50 systems have much in common: 2.4GHz, license-free operation over six channels; 24-bit PCM digital audio; transmitter switches (3-position attenuator, lock/unlock, mute/power, and channel select); +12V AC adapter for the receiver; USB ports for firmware updates; and a compact size. Choose wideband mode for minimal interference to other gear, or narrowband for minimal interference from other gear. Now, let’s consider the differences.

DWZ-B30GB Optimized for guitar and bass, this includes a bodypack (which runs on two AA batteries), compact receiver, guitar-to-bodypack cable, and belt/strap clip. The receiver also accepts 9V battery power or a pedalboard’s –9V power distribution—genius if you want to go wireless to your pedalboard. The unique, 8-position “Cable Tone” control is a high-cut filter that emulates the cable capacitance for seven different cable lengths so you can match your wired and wireless “sound.” Outputs are XLR, 1/4" phone, and a second 1/4" phone tuner out that generates audio even when the system is muted from the transmitter. With alkaline batteries, Sony estimates about 10 hours’ battery life for the belt pack, and 3.5 hours for the receiver.

DWZ-M50 The mic is a cardioid, unidirectional dynamic type; the feel, size, and weight are comparable to an SM58, and both the wind screen and capsule are removable/ interchangeable. (Sony offers three compatible capsules, and some third-party capsules are compatible.) Unscrewing the hand grip accesses the “set-and-forget” controls, while power and mute are always available.

The receiver is larger than the DWZ-B30GB’s. Output connectors are the same, although the XLR has a mic/line level switch. The DWZ-M50 accommodates two external antennas (unlike the DWZ-B30GB’s internal antenna) and has a bright, color LCD that offers menus for programming system settings, including those of its built-in 5-band graphic EQ. The display also provides useful operational data—signal strength, estimated transmitter battery life (selectable for alkaline, Ni-MH, or lithium types), EQ status, and audio output level.

In Use Both systems are easy to set up and use—just don’t place the receiver close to RF interference sources (like a wi-fi router). The DWZ-M50 can choose the clearest channel, or scan them and display the best candidates; or, you can choose channels manually. For the DWZ-B30GB, you need to try different channels manually to determine which works best.

When I tested both devices indoors, even in a space with intervening objects, operation was 100% reliable to at least 70 feet. Maximum line-of-sight goes up to about 200 feet for the DWZ-B30GB and 300 feet for the DWZ-M50, but lessens with increased interference or objects (especially walls) between the transmitter and receiver.

Overall, Sony’s debut of musician-friendly wireless systems is auspicious. If you’ve avoided wireless because of analog’s limitations, you may be very surprised by digital’s offerings, and what’s more, with these models you’ll probably be able to afford to go digital.


SUMMARY
STRENGTHS: Easy to use. Affordable. 24-bit digital audio quality. Includes some useful, unexpected extra features like the DWZ-B30GB’s Cable Tone control and the DWZ-M50’s automatic channel evaluation.

LIMITATIONS: You don’t get a $700 mic in a $700 wireless system, although you can change capsules. The DWZB30GB has less maximum range than the DWZ-M50, and a more primitive channel selection process.

$499.99 MSRP (DWZB30GB), $699.99 MSRP (DWZ-M50)
sony.com/proaudio

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