If 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.
Even 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.