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Review: Sennheiser AVX Wireless System

The Sennheiser AVX wireless sound system records crisp, clear, noise-free sound, is simple to configure and operate, and runs for hours on a single battery charge.

The Sennheiser AVX wireless sound system records crisp, clear, noise-free sound, is simple to configure and operate, and runs for hours on a single battery charge. While the handheld system that I tested wasn’t cheap at $899.95 (B&H), it’s as close to perfect as any microphone/receiver set that I’ve ever tested. 

Description

My test system has two main components (Figure 1, below): the handheld mic and the receiver, the latter of which is the same for the lavaliere and handheld systems. The receiver plugs directly into the XLR port on your camcorder and can draw Phantom power, enabling operation for as long as your camcorder has power. In this mode, the unit shuts off with the camcorder, preserving battery life. The receiver also has a battery, enabling operation with DSLRs and other devices without Phantom power.

Figure 1. The Sennheiser AVX Handheld set. Click the image to see it at full size.

Sennheiser includes the accessories shown in Figure 2 (below), an XLR-to-mini-jack cable and a hot shoe mount for connecting the receiver to a DSL or other camcorder without XLR input, and a belt clip for attaching the receiver to your belt. With another inexpensive adapter, you can input audio from the mini jack into your iPhone or Android device, but it won’t work without an adapter.

Figure 2. These accessories enable input into a DSLR or inexpensive camcorder. Click the image to see it at full size.

The receiver has three on-board controls: one for pairing with the microphone, one for turning the unit on and off and for checking the battery charge, and a third for adjusting output, with four volume levels. The battery indicator has a max of four green stripes, each representing an hour of operation. When the last green light turns to a blinking red light, you have about 15 minutes left. You can run the unit while charging, so if you have a juice pack handy, or a wall plug, you can extend shooting time.

I tested the cardioid handheld microphone, which has a nice solid feel, and includes the Sennheiser 835 capsule. Sennheiser also sells an AVX model that uses the omnidirectional MD 42 capsule, so be careful when buying to make sure you get the desired pickup pattern. Like the Lithium battery in the receiver, the microphone charges via a micro USB connector and Sennheiser includes both the cable and a wall plug. The microphone should work for up to ten hours on a single charge, and contains a small LCD that shows remaining battery life.

Setup and Use

Getting up and running is simple. If you're connecting the receiver to a camera with XLR and Phantom power, plug it in and turn on your camera. Then turn on the microphone. Behind the scenes, the AVX uses the license-free 1.9 GHz band and pairs automatically, which takes about 4−5 seconds. According to the marketing materials, the AVX selects the best operating frequency for the signal, and can switch during transmission to maintain quality. Other systems that use 1.9 GHz include cordless phones--a potential conflict, but one that I didn't experience.

Once the microphone and receiver successfully connect, the pairing light on both turns green, and you should be ready to go. If the units don't pair automatically, there's a button you can press on both to manually pair the units, which may be necessary if you turn one or the other off. If you're working with multiple AVX units, pressing the pair button on either transmitter or receiver will cause the pair button on its mate to start blinking. To manually pair a microphone and receiver, you press the pair buttons on both units simultaneously. To avoid conflict, Sennheiser recommends using up to 12 AVX channels simultaneously in Europe, and 8 in the U.S.

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