Wireless Mic Shootout: Sennheiser G3 vs. Lectrosonics

Sennheiser G3 and Letrosonics SM transmittersIf you’ve ever looked into buying a wireless microphone for a video camera or an HDSLR, you probably figured out pretty quickly that the best entry-level system is the $600 Sennheiser G3, while the professionals use higher end Lectrosonics systems. Most people are kind of bummed that there isn’t decent entry-level system for under $600, and the next step up in quality above that is over $2000 more.

Basically, if you’re looking for a battery-powered wireless lav system and you’re on a budget, picking out a model is a drop dead easy decision. Without question the Sennheiser G3 is the best choice. The bad news is that you have to cough up $600. If you’re curious how the the Sennheiser performs quality-wise against the Lectrosonics, I made this little mic shootout to give you an idea:

I’d just like to state again (like I did in the video) that comparing these two wireless systems is a bit silly. Lectrosonics are more expensive for a reason. They’re built without compromises for professional situations where there’s no room for error. However, with that in mind, it’s still impressive to hear how well the Sennheiser G3 performs in this shootout.

I used the Sennheiser ME2 lavalier mic in the video. This is the mic that comes included with the EW112-p kit. If you’re shopping for one of these systems, be careful not to buy a kit that comes with the cardioid ME4 lav microphone. The ME4 doesn’t sound nearly as good as the ME2. This G3 system would have sounded even better if I had used it with a Sanken COS11 microphone. You can buy a Sanken COS11 with a locking mini-plug connector which is made specifically to be compatible with the Sennheiser G3 transmitters (check out the link in this sentence to see the mic). The Sanken COS11 is one of the best sounding lavalier mics in the world. These are the mics that I use on my Lectrosonics when I do professional production work, so I decided to use them on the Lectros for this test. I figured I’d show you the best of the best against what you get for $600.

Sennheiser ME-2 and Sanken COS11Even though the G3 sounded impressive in the shootout, the Lectros still sounded a lot better to my ears. The difference is a bit subtle, but subtleties go a long way in audio. What sets the Lectro’s apart is that they have a more open, natural sound. Yeah, they have the advantage of having the Sanken lav mic (which has a big impact on the overall sound), but if the Sennheiser G3 had a Sanken lav as well, the Lectro’s still would have been victorious. Besides having a higher-quality 5-pin microphone input, the Lectro’s have the advantage of their “Digital Hybrid” audio transmission system.

I won’t bore you to death with the technical details surrounding Digital Hybrid technology. Just know that it’s a more advanced way of transmitting an audio signal (namely because it isn’t transmitting an audio signal—the sound is converted into a digital format that is decoded and turned back into audio in the wireless receiver). It creates a surefire way to wirelessly transmit sound, and the fidelity remains higher because the audio doesn’t have to pass through a “compander.”

If you like the sound of the Lectrosonics system, but you don’t think you can swing getting a full-blown kit with SM series transmitters and 400 series receivers, you may be tempted by Lectrosonics’ entry-level system, the 100 Series. As much as I love Lectrosonics as a company, I would have to advise against the 100 system. I owned a pair of these myself, and they simply didn’t sound good enough. Go for a Sennheiser G3 EW112-p instead.

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Writer, musician, photo taker and video maker. When not writing somewhat longish articles for this blog, I write incredibly short things on Twitter: @SamMallery

5 thoughts on “Wireless Mic Shootout: Sennheiser G3 vs. Lectrosonics”

  1. Hi Sam, nice articles. In fact, largely on the strength of your reviews, I’ve just bought a Sennheiser MKE 400 and a G3 setup for my Canon 60D. The plan is to edit the output in FCPX on my MacBook Pro. Thanks again for the quality and depth of the reviews, they gave me the confidence to go ahead with these options!

    Regards, David.

  2. Hi Sam,
    Great review. I use Lectrosonics gear and was thinking about the G3 as a backup. In the end I opted for Lectrosonics LMa. The LMa is around $650 and still uses the Digital Hybrid technology. I just wanted to add that in the 5 years that I’ve been using the Lectrosonics gear (I work all over the world) I have probably had one RF hit. I say probably because it was at a military base and who knows what goes on there! Anyway when you buy Lectro gear, what you get is not only the best but also unbeatable back up. Whenever I’ve had issues; Lectrosonics I’ve provided a solution very quickly and most times at no cost to me. They have repaired equipment that’s been way out of warranty and not charged me a dime. This kit has paid for itself 10 times over.

  3. For budget cinematographers – getting a couple of G3 sets is a great solution for 2-way dialogue – which is still fairly affordable in total compared to the Lectrosonics.

    Love the Toyota vs. Limousine analogy.

  4. I am a university professor branching into making video documentaries. About six months ago I bought two Sennheiser EW 100 G3s and am happy with the audio quality. One pet peeve is that I find the menu system and having to scan and sync separately a small nuissance. A bigger issue is that the antenna on one of my receivers seems to have become unsoldered from the circuit board. I believe this is a design flaw that could be avoided with antennas that screw in (and out) – this would enable removing antennas when transporting and storing the units. While it is possible to purchase a new antenna and replace it oneself (there’s a great DIY tutorial on YouTube to guide one thought the process) I am not prepared to undertake soldering the circuit board. For that reason I am investigating the Lectrosonics line that have removeable antennas as this sems to be a worthwhile design feature. For now I’ll keep the Senns as backups.

  5. I own a number of Lectrosonics units including the UCR401, UCR411; LMa Transmitter, LM Transmitter, an older 100 series Transmitter, the plug style XLR HM and the newer HMa.

    I also own a single Senn G3 Evolution Kit with Lav and Handheld along with custom wires to take a tape out feed off my SoundDevices mixer. The Senn is a decent piece of gear, but I wouldnt pull it out and place it on talent for a job.

    It would get odd looks.

    Lectros are the industry standard for film, television and even certain stage applications. They are what talent expect to see, directors and producers expect to see, and they expect to see those units because the fidelity, noise levels on the mic pre-amps, circuitry, build including casing, features, the digital over FM UHF signal path, and their track record unquestionably the best out there for what theyre designed for.

    Id argue that even the older Lectro VHF units have a better sonic stage and line out noise floor on the RX end then the G3.

    I use the G3 to feed audio from one TX to multiple RX receivers with headphones for producers, directors, etc. For field monitoring purposes they are fine, but for reference or master tracks stick with Lectros.

    Secondly, a Lectrosonic LMa setup, unless you drop it in a pool or throw it out a two story window, will last you 20 + years.

    If you use the units just 10 times a year, less than monthly, thats an average of $5-7 per shoot cost till end of life (factoring 20 years).

    Using a Neumann TLM-103 mic into an HMa Transmitter, I can walk freely around a large set area and not be able to hear any difference from using an XLR cable right into my SoundDevices Mixer which have fabulous pre-amps for XLR connected Phantom Microphones.

    Literally I cannot tell the difference, even on AKG 701 Cans.

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