Hands-On Review:Sennheiser ew 100 G3
Expanded frequencies and enhanced features come to the ew 100 Series
By Jon Chappell
Harmony Central Senior Editor
With the introduction of the new ew 100 G3 series, Sennheiser has improved on the previous G2 generation in several significant ways. Providing the same flawless and glitch-free signal transmission as before, the G3 system make it even easier to set up your wireless operation while offering greater flexibility and an enhanced feature set that will appeal to sound technicians and musicians alike.
Frequency expansion and agility
The number of available frequencies in the 42MHz bandwidth is a whopping 1,680, so even in a crowded RF environment, the auto-scanning feature will have no trouble finding unoccupied frequencies for all your wireless gear. The G3 has been expanded to now include 20 preset banks with 12 channels in each bank—a boost over the previous four channels per bank. In addition to the 20 preset banks, there’s a user-programmable bank that allows you to set up multiple channels to run simultaneously.
And while we’re mentioning expansion, the frequency response of the G3 now extends down to a subterranean, earth-moving 25Hz, which is good news for five-string bass players. The low B string on a five-string bass is just above 30Hz. Tuning the fifth string down to A would be 27.5Hz—still well within range to capture the fundamental of your lowest string.
Being able to read the display of your wireless unit in any performance venue is critical, especially during setup, as you often have to adjust for new and different environments. The new LED display sports better resolution than the segments in the G2, with both the lettering and the icons optimized for legibility against a brighter amber background. Text is larger and easier to read, and meters and other icons are better designed, making them quicker to eyeball and comprehend. The unit is more user-friendly and encourages exploration of its many modes.
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The ew 100 series offers several helpful new features. Soundcheck mode has been previously available on other Sennheiser units (such as the 500 series), but it’s now included on the ew 100 receiver. In Soundcheck mode, the level meter changes to show infinite peak hold, which allows you to test for overloads and then adjust your sensitivity accordingly. Soundcheck mode also records minimum and maximum antenna reception values as you do a walk-through of the performance space, covering every area you’re likely to visit during the course of your performance—including offstage and the audience's space. When you're finished walking the venue, leave the transmitter in the primary performing spot and walk over to the receiver to see if you need to adjust your antennas or squelch settings based on the minimum reception values. This will ensure that you know exactly what your coverage and range is when it comes time to perform.
The ew 100 G3 series offers a choice of two mute modes: RF mute and traditional AF (audio) mute. RF mute stops the transmitter from transmitting on that frequency, which not only mutes the signal (as would AF), but allows another transmitter tuned to the same frequency to then communicate with the receiver. If you have two or three guitars onstage, all outfitted with beltpacks, you can keep them all tuned to the same frequency, selectively muting and unmuting them as they’re pressed into service. By having multiple instruments on the same channel (strictly a no-no without the advent of RF mute), you greatly simplify your individual frequency use. Your soundman will appreciate this one!
Speaking of guitars, Sennheiser’s updates to the G3 include several functions that will be welcomed by guitar players. Already mentioned is the expansion of the frequency response to 25Hz, but two features in particular seem designed to keep guitarists happy. The first is the Guitar Tuner, which not only boasts a highly readable display and accuracy to within 1 cent (1/100th of a semi-tone), but two ways to employ the tuner: in active (always on) mode and mute, where the audio is silenced when the tuner is engaged. The tuner is of the chromatic variety, so it’s not just usable by guitarists, but for any plugged-in instrument that can slip out of tune.
The second feature speaks to the tone freak contingent among guitarists. Some players like the idea of a wireless system because of the untethered freedom it offers, but are wary of making the leap because they’ve based their sound on the tonal impact (even if it is a negative one) of a 20' unbalanced cable. For those players, the G3 offers a simple solution: a cable emulation mode that simulates the capacitance effect of the cable between your pickups and the amp (or effects in your signal chain). In this way, you can use the G3 to compensate for any tonal differences between wired and wireless setups, leaving the settings on your guitar, amp, and effects intact, for the times when you go back to a wired setup. Cable emulation mode has four settings, and is just one more way the G3 allows you to shape your tone using the wireless system, rather than making you adjust your gear to conform to the transmission technology.
The G3 is not only feature-rich, but super-easy to set up, owing to the receiver’s auto-scanning feature and infrared syncing. You simply scan for frequencies on the receiver, hit the Sync button, point your transmitter’s infrared lens toward the receiver’s front panel, and you’re done. Then you’re free to access the G3’s many features: soundcheck, cable emulation, mute modes, and the guitar tuner—all of which are a breeze to work with because of the excellent display. So if your wireless needs require flexible frequency selection and channel choice, a quick and straightforward scan-and-sync routine, and musician-oriented modes and features, the ew 100 G3 has you covered on all fronts.