I never cared about analog
vs. digital or tubes vs. solid state debates,
because I’ve always just wanted whatever
I’m using to work flawlessly, be easy to use,
and sound great. So it’s no surprise I’m bored
with wireless vs. cable arguments, as well. I
dig cables and wireless systems, but as I still
run around stages like a drunken chicken
in the midst of ’roid rage, going wireless is
usually safer for bandmates, sound crews,
mic stands, monitor speakers, and various
These days, most manufacturers offer
wireless systems that can do the job, so it
often comes down to the “little things” that
make a particular model work for you or
not, and I found the new Sennheiser XSW72
($399 street) to be a well-thought-out and
rugged beast. I tested the XSW72 throughout
numerous band rehearsals, club gigs,
and a withering 104-degree performance
at a county fair. Guitars included a custom
LAG Jet (with humbuckers), a Hanson Chicagoan
(with mini humbuckers), a Gibson
Les Paul Junior (with P-90s), and a California
Guitars Tele-style (with single-coils).
I never experienced any dropouts—even
at the county fair, where the air was thick
with wireless systems and walkie-talkies—
or perceived any tonal or signal-level shifts.
The workhorse XSW72 delivered transparent
and consistent sound at every performance
and rehearsal. I never had to adjust
amp or guitar settings to “fill in” any audio
elements I felt were MIA. For techies, I’m
sure the XSW72’s true-diversity reception,
960 available frequencies (in 25kHz steps),
and automatic scan function were mighty
reasons for the system’s reliability.
But, then again, there are also those
“little things” to take into account…
• I loved the ease-of-use. I didn’t even
open the manual for four gigs until I felt guilty
for testing the device without acquainting
myself with the manufacturer’s directions.
• A screw mount securely locks the ¼"
guitar cable to the transmitter. Some units
do not provide this failsafe, and, as a result,
rambunctious stage moves and rushed packup
operations can cause the cable to come
loose. No worries here.
• The Mute button is big.
• The Power button is recessed to help
prevent errant windmills and unexpected
collisions from zapping your sound.
• The transmitter’s belt clip has a grip
as strong as the Hulk’s. I didn’t bother gaffer’s
taping it to my guitar strap, and the
transmitter never launched itself out into
• The transmitter’s battery door shuts tight.
I dropped the transmitter onto every stage I
played, and the batteries never popped out.
• The plastic transmitter casing ain’t no
wimp. I rolled a Marshall cabinet over it,
and it didn’t crack open or shatter.
• An Input Sensitivity switch (0dB,
-10dB, -20dB, -30dB) allows seamless
changing of guitars with different output
levels—essential for me, as I often use multiple
guitars armed with different pickups
throughout most sets.
The only aspects of the XSW72 I didn’t
comprehensively test were battery life
(Sennheiser claims ten hours, but, being paranoid,
I still changed the two AA batteries
after every gig) and transmission integrity
(I wasn’t on tour, so I can’t say if reception
in Austin or Nashville or New York would
be any different than the excellent reception
I experienced in Northern California).
Those two considerations aside, I found the
XSW72 to be a marvelous value, an excellent
plug-and-play performer, and a greatsounding
Kudos Tough as nails. Well designed. Easy
to use. Sounds great. Affordable.
Contact Sennheiser, sennheiserusa.com
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