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 drum hardware.
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 audience.
• 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 wireless unit.
Kudos Tough as nails. Well designed. Easy to use. Sounds great. Affordable.
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