Hands-On Review:AKG WMS 400 Wireless System
Professional wireless made ultra-easy
By Oscar Sommers
Wireless equals freedom and, for performers, freedom is precious. The ability to roam the stage while turning on a dime—without tripping over a cable—offers levels of physical and emotional expression simply not possible with a wired system. It can make your performance a lot more fun too, letting you get down and rock out with the audience without fear of unplugging or running out of cord. Most people who go wireless never want to go back.
For musicians already into wireless and ready to move up to a high-performance, multichannel system, the WMS 400 is a logical choice. For first-time wireless users, it is a revelation. The system takes all the guesswork and frustration out of wireless, which is why it will appeal to newbies. But even wireless vets will find setup and operation easier and nearly seamless, which is more than you can say about most wireless units. It’s also flexible enough to cover nearly any situation.
The WMS 400 system is modular, so you can choose the setup that best fits your needs. The base of each system is the SR 400 diversity receiver. The SR 400 has a backlit LCD that’s easy to read and is housed in a half-rack metal case. It uses the channel- and signal-handling technology from the flagship WMS 4000 system. Using the Auto Setup mode, the receiver will automatically scan the available radio frequencies and program a group of channels that are clear of any interference from the environment or competing frequencies. Then it transfers those presets to the transmitter—whether a hand-held unit or a body pack—by infrared signal. Just hold your transmitter unit up to the infrared window on the face of the SR 400 and it will send the vital information over to the transmitter for you. It’s similar to the way you use your remote control to program your VCR or DVR to record your favorite show, except you only have to hit one button and the whole process only takes about a minute. Nice.
The smart frequency scanner and Auto Setup mode not only make setup quick, they also mean the system deals with situations where frequency interference might be an issue. A Lock mode keeps your settings dialed in no matter what. If in the future you want to add a mic or body pack, the WMS 400 system can operate 24 channels simultaneously, all with the same easy setup and interference-free operation.
Personalized and professional
You can add your choice of several different transmitter setups to the SR 400, all of them based around either the HT 400 handheld mic transmitter or the PT 400 miniature body-pack transmitter. Choosing the HT 400 option for lead or backup vocals lets you use either a D 880 dynamic element or C 900 condenser element on the hand-held mic with an integrated transmitter, infrared window, and LCD to give you battery and data information. It’s finished in a unique soft, satin black enamel formulated to minimize handling noise.
The WMS 400 system provides wireless options for guitar, bass, keyboard, brass, woodwind, and acoustic instruments. The transmitter for all the instrument setups is the PT 400, a miniature body-pack transmitter billed as the smallest and lightest available today. As the PT 400 is smaller and lighter than a pack of playing cards, I’m inclined to believe AKG’s claim. The PT 400 is also the basis of the WMS 400 system assembled for public speakers and presenters, which offers a choice of a lavaliere or headset mic.
The WMS 400 also explodes several myths about wireless. You’ve probably heard that wireless messes with the tone of your voice or instrument, since most wireless systems have a frequency range that cuts off around 80Hz and only extends to 16 or 18kHz. The WMS 400 has a much wider 35Hz to 20kHz range so you get full frequency output with a powerful 120dB of response. The WMS 400 also boasts a 50mW signal output that has been tested under real-world conditions, so you know you’re going to have full signal strength from across the room, not just next to the receiver.
The WMS 400 is also incredibly energy efficient. You can get six hours of performance from standard alkaline AAs, or eight hours with rechargeable batteries. An indicator on the transmitter gives you the battery life in hours and minutes and gives you a warning when you’ve got an hour of operating power left. If you spring for the CU 400 charging dock (which I highly recommend) you also won’t have to worry about the cost of battery replacement. The CU 400 delivers a full charge in about an hour and pays for itself and a WMS 400 system in less than one year of heavy use with regular batteries.
With the WMS 400 you get noiseless, easy-to-use, reliable, energy-efficient wireless for way less than similarly equipped systems. If you’ve been using an entry-level wireless system or have never gone wireless from fear of the complications, the WMS 400 is for you.
Features & Specs:
WMS 400 features:
- 2 bands each 30mHz wide
- 50mW ERP output power
- 120dB S/N
- 12 channels per band (24 channels total)
SR 400 features:
- Diversity receiver
- Half-rack metal case
- Backlit LCD screen
- Status LEDs
- Menu navigation buttons
- Level control
- Auto Setup feature with frequency scan
- 3 modes: Auto Group, Auto Channel, Preset
- Rehearsal function
- Infrared setting transfer to transmitter
- Handles up to 12 transmitters
HT 400 features:
- Hand-held mic with transmitter
- D 880 dynamic or C 900 condenser cartridges
- Rugged spring steel mesh grille
- Preset/battery life display
- On-Mute/Program-Off switch
PT 400 features:
- Body pack transmitter
- Voice or instrument applications
- Mini-XLR connector
- Gain control
- Preset/battery life display
- Detachable belt clip
- Flexible antenna
- External mute switch connection