Wireless systems have been in use since the 1980s, and they have become better and costs have come down. However, the continuing problem with wireless systems is dependable transmission, as you need a high-quality, digitally agile diversity system that has really good dynamics and low noise. In addition, unless you have a super high-end system (such as the Shure Axient or Sennheiser 9000), the wireless will introduce a tonal change and/or slight delay (latency). Purists do not use wireless systems for tonal reasons, and too much latency is no fun, as a musician cannot play a note and then expect to be in time with the drummer if there is a delay.
When a professional guitarist puts a wireless system in play during a big tour, the receiver is typically placed on the side of the stage near the monitor desk where a tech can keep an eye on things. The signal is then sent back to the artist’s stage position via a standard Hi-Z guitar cable to where the floor pedals and guitar amp are located. However, Hi-Z cables are much more susceptible to noise than the Low-Z balanced counterpart.
To eliminate this noise, live-performance sound techs have adopted the studio technique of Reamping—a recording process whereby you take a pre-recorded guitar track and send it back through an amp and/or pedals to audition different tones. In a live situation, a tech will take a Lo-Z balanced output from the wireless system, route it to a Reamping device to convert the signal to Hi-Z, and send it back to the pedalboard and amp. This not only eliminates noise, but the transformer in the Reamp unit tends to bring a more natural tone back to the guitar. A good transformer rounds out and smooths the digital edge that wireless systems can introduce, and guitarists notice the improved sound. The Radial ProRMP ($99 street) is popular for these reasons, and other manufacturers also make affordable options. The bottom line is that this technique can be a solution for all guitarists to improve the sound of their wireless systems—not just touring pros.
It is worth noting that a guitarist can also use a direct box mounted on his or her pedalboard to send a clean, unaffected and unamplified signal (before the pedals) to a recording system. This gives an engineer the option to Reamp the guitar signal in a recording studio in order to really dial in some tones. What goes around, comes around—from the studio to the stage and back!
Peter Janis is CEO of Radial Engineering.