If you are playing gigs on saxophone, then chances are you would like to free yourself from the microphone stand.
After all, when you’re steaming away on your solo, you don’t always want to stand still.
These days there are a bunch of good and great wireless saxophone microphone systems on the market for sax players. Although they vary in quality and durability, all will make your live playing much more comfortable and give you that “sax god” feeling.
Clip on and play
All wireless setups for sax players essentially consist of two elements: a clip-on microphone and a radio transmitter and receiver setup. Some manufacturers bundle these two elements into the one package, while with others, you can purchase the two elements separately giving you more options for each.
A clip-on wireless saxophone microphone attaches to your saxophone bell and generally has a flexible arm that positions the microphone over the bell, while absorbing vibrations from your keys.
Some clip-on mics also give saxophone players the option of connecting to a standard microphone lead which can sometimes be really handy.
The wireless sender / receiver combo is the same technology used for vocal mics or wireless guitar systems. Whilst the receiver part of this equation is designed to be situated somewhere onstage, the sender part is connected to your sax mic. For most systems, this is in the form of a ‘belt pack’ which can also be attached to the lower sax bell. However, some manufacturers have a more compact solution – more on that in a moment.
What to look for
As you spend more on your wireless saxophone microphone system, you will generally see improvements in two areas. Firstly, you get a better microphone, which means a wider dynamic range and a smoother rounder sound.
Secondly, a better quality radio sender/ receiver will generally mean more clarity in the sound and better range. Normally your receiver will be onstage or just off stage. If you’re planning on walking through your fans as you play though, you might need a better quality radio system so your microphone stays in contact with the receiver.
Consumer vs professional
Another consideration is the legislation on wireless radio frequencies. In each country, certain frequencies are designated for use by wireless radio systems. Professional wireless systems will give you the option to select different channels within these frequencies and this is important if you plan on playing at events where there are a number of other people using wireless systems.
Each person will need to choose their own channel that doesn’t conflict with another performer. This way, you don’t have to worry about the vocalist coming through your sax wireless system or vice versa.
Some entry level “consumer” systems have a set frequency. Although you generally aren’t able to use these systems at larger gigs like festivals, many people use them at smaller gigs without problems. It is possible though to have an issue if someone else is using another system on your frequency. This includes other wireless vocal mics, wireless guitar setups or even the local taxi company.
Entry level choice
One great choice for a system that is reasonably priced is the Airline 77 system from Samson. This is a very clever design that incorporates the clip on mic and the sender in one tidy package.
The receiver unit is also compact and simple to operate. The sender on the microphone arm holds a single AAA battery which is generally good for a couple of shows or rehearsals. There is an indicator light to tell you when the battery is low – very important!
I personally used this system for many hundred shows. It’s very compact and convenient but the construction is quite flimsy. My microphone arm had to be “pimped” very early on with lots of gaffer tape and some wire coat hanger to make it more sturdy on gigs.
However, for the price, this is a good system that is great value for money.
Professional Sax Wireless Options
My main system these days is built by USA company Advanced Microphone Technologies who are known for great quality microphones (see picture at the top of this article). AMT’s latest system is called the Q7-LS and takes the concept of the Samson Airline mic to a whole new level.
This is a professional sound quality system and again very compact with the sender built into the microphone arm like the Samson design. The microphone on this system though is far superior giving a more dynamic and clear sound.
Whereas the Samson mic attaches to the sax bell with a spring clamp, the AMT Q7 has a very secure mounting system with a thumb screw. This make a much more positive and strong connection which is welcome if you are an energetic performer!
The receiver unit gives you the option of selecting from 99 channels keeping your system from clashing with other performers’ frequencies.
The receiver is a ‘true diversity’ system meaning it operates on two channels simultaneously to make sure you always have a strong signal. This is important for those “audience walks”.
At around £800 ($1000USD) this good quality mic is considerably more expensive than the Airline system but it is a clear winner for professional features and useability.
Other wireless mic options
Another system I reviewed recently was the super compact and hi-tech iSolo system from CloudVocal. This feature packed and tiny system is so portable, sounds great and has some cool features that any home recording player will be tempted by. Check out the full review here.
I also loved the Nux B-6 Wireless Mic, which in another great option you might want to consider. It’s also super-compact, and it charges in it’s case – so no fiddling around with separate charging cables. Check out my review, and the all-important sound test – here.
There are a lot of other microphones on the market. Popular makes are AKG, Shure, SD Systems, and Audio Technica. Although price is generally a determining factor when choosing a mic, if you are a busy performer then I would always suggest getting the best wireless saxophone microphone system you can afford. It is, after all, your sound that’s on the line and that is your most important asset as a player.
AMT Q7-LS: http://www.appliedmicrophone.com/wireless/
CloudVocal iSolo: Read the review and get a discount code here
What the pros are using:
I use the Shure SLX system and the beta 98H condenser microphone. I’ve been using it for almost all my career. This system is very dependable. You can use it in small rooms or on large stages and usually it just picks up the area around it me so I can stand right in front of the drums. The range is pretty good too. I can walk at least 100 feet away from the stage with no problem – it’s very dependable very durable and very easy to travel with. (image ©Bob Bartlett)
Fred Vigdor – Average White Band
I actually have two setups: one for the road, one for local gigs, both built around the AMT LS mic. It’s a great sounding mic that I’ve used for years. The sound engineers I’ve worked with love it, they say they can leave it flat and it sounds great. On the road with AWB, I use it with a Sennheiser G2 wireless transmitter (it can work with any wireless system), and when I’m home doing local gigs I use the same mic with AMT’s Wi5II wireless system, which has a small transmitter that clips onto the mic, so you don’t need a belt pack. (image ©JBarbosa)
Andy Snitzer – currently touring with Paul Simon
I use an AMT Roam 1 Elite, which is no longer available. With this mic the transmitter is on the clamp so there is no belt pack required, actually no cables at all! AMT mics sound fantastic, and the true wireless tech is a game changer for me.
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