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Review: Sennheiser XS Digital Wireless Portable Lavalier Set

Paul Schmutzler runs Sennheiser's new portable wireless lav kit through its paces in a variety of shooting environments.

Today I'm reviewing the Sennheiser XS Digital Wireless Microphone Series. This is a new kit that Sennheiser has just come out with within the past few months and the particular configuration that I'm using is the XSWD Portable Lavalier Kit.

Configurations

This kit comes with several different configurations that you can buy. Some have the 3.5mm or 1/8" connection like I have here in this kit and some have XLR connections.

But they come in a variety of options as far as the microphone and the connection as well. So this kit comes with a standard, clip-on lavaliere microphone which I'll show you here. It's fairly basic. It has a metal windscreen on it and a clip and then the 3.5mm plug on the other end. And it does actually have a threaded barrel that will lock it onto the receiver or the transmitter. So for yourself or for your interview subject, you have the microphone that plugs into the transmitter. And looking at these two devices it's impossible to tell which is the transmitter and which is the receiver, but that's why they have a handy label on the backside.

On the label, you'll see that it actually has a microphone or a camera indicating whether it's the transmitter or the receiver. So in this case I know because it has a microphone I plug my microphone into this. And this acts as an all-in-one piece of equipment here. It has a built in rechargeable battery that charges with the USB-C port here. And the kit does come with a USB-C cable if you need that. And then the only other thing you have is the port for the microphone to plug into as well as the button to power it on and off. So this is a multi-function button.

There's a color-changing LED above it that indicated whether the power is on or off, whether it's charging or not, whether it's looking for a connection or whether it's paired with the transmitter. And there's a pamphlet inside the box with your kit that will tell you what all the lights indicate.

Connecting to Your Camera

Connecting these to your camera and to the microphone and getting them on your subject is very easy. First, you'll take your transmitter, which, of course, hooks up to your microphone that goes on your subject, and you'll use this connection right here and just slide it right into the holder. It's molded to fit this perfectly. It's very small. It doesn't have an antenna sticking out like a lot of microphone battery packs do. It just has this little spring right here that connects onto either the top of somebody's pants or a belt or shirt or it can just slip into a pocket, because the only thing coming out of this is the microphone on this end.

This makes it very easy to get it on to somebody and they don't feel awkward or uncomfortable because they have this bulky thing hanging on to them. And that's really great, especially when you have amateurs on camera that are not used to wearing a lavaliere set like this.

For the other end, there's a similar connection. You have a cold shoe mount that, of course, is greatly suited for most cameras, especially DSLRs like I'm using. And then you slide this in in the same way. This just kind of widens open and you just slide it in like that and then again, you'll connect right here. The cord that you use to connect is another 3.5mm with a locking nut, screws on, and that way it keeps it from accidentally getting pulled out.

The other end that goes into, for example, my camera that has a mini-plug. You're out of luck there. There's no lock for that one because obviously your camera's not going to have that threaded barrel to be able to connect to. But it's a very short, but stretchy cord. So that's great. It keeps it our of your way.

I found the length of this one was just right to fit on my camera without having too much cord there. So it plugs straight into the camera, and that's good to go.

Powering On and Pairing

Now once you've got everything connected, powering on and pairing is very simple. You simply hold the buttons down, both of them light up, and when you have solid green, they're ready to go. They usually flash for just a few seconds before they lock on.

The other nice thing about this set is they can actually be paired with multiple, different sets. So if you have, say, an XLR kit that's different from your normal, run-and-gun, lavaliere set like this, you can pair multiple microphones, multiple transmitters and receivers with multiple other transmitters and receivers.

Audio Quality

What's the quality like? And I can tell you from using this for several week now the quality is fantastic. I've used this microphone outdoors, indoors, on myself, on interview subjects, and every time it's performed wonderfully. It does a great job of blocking out outside sound and not picking up too broad of a range and it has really good wind resistance as well with the built-in windscreen. At the 4:37 mark of the video above, you can listen to a couple of clips of some things that I've shot recently with this microphone set to hear some samples of how it sounds.

Advantages of Going Digital

This is a digital, wireless kit and Sennheiser says one of the biggest advantages to a digital kit over a traditional analog system is the ease of set-up, because it connects to itself very quickly and easily. There's no changing frequencies and trying different things, because it automatically selects the optimal frequency based on the environment that it's in.

Some hardcore sound guys might take issue with that because they want to be able to select things manually if they need to, but I can tell you that digital systems are very resistant to inference and static so it's not going to be an issue for most situations. And that's my review of the Sennheiser XS Wireless Digital Portable Microphone Kits.

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