If you couldn’t tell, we obviously love microphones. They come in many different shapes, sizes and applications. Nowadays, many electronic solutions seem to be gearing more and more towards wireless capabilities. When it comes to our concern, microphones have been wireless for quite a while, but not until recently has technology allowed it to really take off when it comes to overall quality (and completely replacing wired mics when applicable). There are quite a few models out there worth looking at, so today we went through a bunch to pinpoint the top 10 best in the market to help your shopping endeavors. Let’s see what we found.
How wireless microphones work and their benefits
A wireless microphone works by connecting a microphone unit(s) to a wireless receiver/transmitter via radio frequency or digital signal. This allows us to cut out those pesky cables, giving us some obvious conveniences that come with not having to deal with wires. Receivers/transmitters come in different shapes and sizes. Some connect to a 3.5 mm jack and transmit the sound coming from the microphone to speakers/headphones that way, while others sit on a desk or table and hook up to the speaker system via a wire itself.
Microphones can also come in all forms (the most popular being dynamic handheld mics, but we’ve seem some lav too). Which type of receiver/transmitter and/or microphone(s) really depends on your intended uses and needs when it comes to a wireless system.
How to choose your wireless microphone
- Your budget – There’s a pretty big range when it comes to the wireless mic market. Some can go for a couple hundred dollars to the thousands (giving you the top of the line, professional models) while other more affordable models will cost you within the $100 or less area. How much are you willing to spend? The more you invest, the higher quality (and longer lasting) the mic will be. We’ve gotten a lot of criticism (which we’ve left in the comments to remain transparent) and realize that we did indeed have a lot more lower-end models in this list, so for this year we’ve updated it with a big range from professional mics all the way down to budget-friendly systems. We tried our best to cover the huge range of what can constitute the “best wireless microphone”.
- Receiver, transmitter, or both? For a wireless microphone “system”, this phrase entails multiple parts. For a microphone to be “wireless”, you need to be able to send as well as receive data coming in to and out of the mic. Therefore, this guide focuses on mostly systems, but we do have a few bare mics (the mic itself without a receiver, which means you’ll either need to buy one separately or you already need one. They usually come with their own transmitter). We’ll write a separate guide on both later down the road, but this guide should cover most bases.
- How many mics? To our surprise, a lot of people researching for a wireless mic system are looking for more than one mic units in their package. This all depends on the next part of our list (intended use). If you’re needing multiple speakers, getting a package that comes with more than one mic unit will save you money. Otherwise, grabbing a high quality, single-unit wireless mic with a transmitter and receiver will suffice.
- What type of wireless microphone? Although right off the bat, many associate the word ‘microphone’ with a handheld, traditional stage mic. There are a few main “types” wireless microphones (in particular, the mic itself with a transmitter) that we want to highlight. We’ll include a few each in our top 10 list below.
- Handheld: The traditional microphone that typically involves a dynamic microphone with a transmitter built-in to the mic itself. These are the most versatile and span across most uses, such as stage performances, speeches, karaoke, and more.
- Headset: As the name implies, these typically have a microphone mechanism that is supported by your head with the microphone flexible for adjustment near your head, similar to something we’re all familiar with, such as a traditional computer headset.
- Lavalier: Lav microphones are tiny mics hooked up to a slim and non-intrusive wire that connect either using a clip on your shirt or another, creative means to attempting to be hidden. These are great for most uses, especially speeches, if you weren’t interested in actually holding a handheld microphone or wearing a headset and instead ask for a less blatant “i’m wearing a microphone!” look. We just wouldn’t use them for music performances on stage since their size and quality aren’t optimal for actual lyrics or instrument, as the music will interfere with the pickup.
- Your intended use – We feel the use is relatively important when attempting to find the right wireless mic system for you. This will ask for what “type” of wireless microphone as highlighted in the previous bullet point, but also correlates with how many mic units you’ll actually need — have multiple speakers at a seminar? Singers and instrumentalists on stage for a performance? Perhaps not even music or speech related, but need a wireless microphone for your camera? Your use is also important when determining other needs of your system as well, such as the needed wireless range, power, and more. You can find a packaged system with more than one microphone unit and transmitter that all send to the same receiver, but you may also have to purchase extra on the side depending on how many users you’ll have.
- Analog vs. Digital – Analog connects your microphone to the receiver via a radio frequency. Digital receivers (which are more expensive) uses a signal that is typically uninterrupted (like WiFi) to transfer the sound. Both work quite fine, but going digital gives you obvious benefits, albeit with a higher price tag. You can probably get away with an analog unit if you presume you won’t find many frequency interruptions where you’ll be or plan on being in a smaller environment (and also can sacrifice the chances of, although not too likely, your mic cutting out).
We’ve also just written an in-depth guide on how to set up a wireless microphone system, so read that after you purchase to be able to properly work yours.
The top 10 best wireless microphones on earth
Sennheiser EW 135
As another one of our favorite brands of all time, this particular wireless microphone has made a name for its self through time and use. Senny is big in the headphone world but they’re up there with microphones as well. The EW 135 G3 comes with their e835 cardioid dynamic capsule, a little mic clip in case you need it, as well as an EM100 receiver (rack-mountable if you need to). In terms of build, it’s very sturdy with some metal housing. The bandwidth comes in at 42 MHz — 1680 tunable UHF frequencies (will rarely get any interference, if ever). A few other additives you’ll be getting with this higher-end wireless microphone is illuminated graphic display (both the mic and receiver), an auto-lock function so you don’t accidentally change settings mid-mic use, as well as some HDX compander (companding is a way to compress, expand and ultimately process signals — think DBX or Dolby) for amazing sound quality. If you have the budget, the Sennheiser EW 135 is by far one of the best wireless microphones in the in the handheld game today.
Audio-Technica System 10 Pro
We love this wireless microphone system since it offers some choices to cater to the user’s individual needs. Available in a handheld version, lavalier, or even a package that comes with both (and you can purchase multiple transmitters on the side if you happen to need more), this high-quality wireless mic system by one of our favorite brands is known for its overall quality in both sound and build. It also operates outside of TV bands for less chances of disruption (at 2.4 GHz range) and is rack-mountable if you need to do so at a venue or organize it with your other live gear. It can operate extremely far here as well (with an Ethernet cable) — 328 feet, and although the receiver itself can operate two receiver units, you can always sync more receivers to increase that count although it will come with a cost (up to 10 receiver units). The audio-quality is great here due to the 24-bit operation, and the levels of diversity in frequency, time and space help with a natural sound. The Audio-Technica System 10 Pro is a great pick as the best wireless microphone and a system well worth checking out, regardless if you need a lav or handheld (or both!).
Our first headset (also known as ‘headworn’) pick as the best wireless microphone here, and if you’ve ever even tried to search for a ‘wireless microphone’ you’ll see a dominance of previously mentioned Sennheiser but Shure is right on top of their tails. This particular wireless mic system sports their MX153 earset headset mic, a BLX1 bodypack transmitter, as well as a nice rack mount receiver in their BLX4R. The bodypack transmitter is needed here since the headset doesn’t have it built-in (way too small), but you’ll simply have placed on the side of your hip and will be fine to move around freely. There’s about 14 hours of continuous use with 2 AA batteries, and a range of nearly 300 feet. The receiver is one of Shure’s better models and is made of rugged metal, rack mountable, an LCD display with RF and audio metering, as well as LED indicators. Lastly, the ‘headworn’ model here brings us a lot of versatility and comfort. No proximity effect, very light weight, and something called ‘CommShield Technology’ to help with RF interference (especially cellular). This is by far the best wireless microphone system if you need a headset, no questions asked. We love the Shure BLX14R/MX53.
Here’s another one of Shure’s most popular wireless microphones, in particular the handheld game. This is a wireless microphone with a system that features a dual channel receiver with a pair of transmitters – each one comes with a Shure PG58 mic capsule, so great for those with multiple performers and speakers. The transmitter not only has a PG58 mic capsule but also a reliable and rugged ABS polymer chassis with its frame for durability. Other features include an off and on ergonomic push button switch, a single bi-color and a 10dB pad as an extra aid. It comes with a nice windscreen with a comfortable shape and size. The receiver is the tabletop design and it comes with ‘QuickScan technology’ that examines a room to identify the different frequencies located there and will then choose the best option, which is very nifty although we typically ask for those more advanced to manually set their system up beforehand. Lastly, the battery status is shown on the LED screen for another plus. We recommend grabbing the Shure BLX288/PG58 over the previous handheld model if you want two microphone units and want to save some cash.
Here’s another one of Audio-Technica’s highly rated wireless microphones. It has a miniature lavalier condenser mic to use for hands-free needs like newscaster style video, theater, dance and more. It at the same time has a dynamic microphone for the handheld uses like recording videos, talking or singing. It is compact and has an ultra-lightweight transmitter with a receiver that is powered by a single 9V battery. This is one of the best wireless microphones that work in ranges between 100’’ up to 300’’ with the right conditions. It comes with a belt-clip for reliable and quick camera mounting for easier positioning and use. An antenna which is rubber coated and durable can be used in order to get even better reception. The system uses two user-switchable frequencies for an interference free operation. Take a look at the Audio-Technica ATR288W for a model that’s in the middle price-point and may be looking for both a dynamic and lav mic in one package.
Sennheiser Evolution EW 122 G3
Here’s another very high quality lavalier system to rank as the best wireless microphone, especially from that Sennheiser brand name again. Higher in the price-range range for sure, but you’ll be getting what you pay for — A cardioid clip-on lav mic in their ME 4, very solid EM 100 G3 receiver, and sleek bodypack SK 100 G3 transmitter. The transmitter and receiver’s builds in particular come in a very sturdy metal housing, and the lav isn’t some cheap little clip-on solution either — does well at picking up the speaker and rejects noise from the side for less feedback with a nice rich sound. You have a 42 MHz bandwidth with 1680 tunable UHF frequencies for a stable reception, and there’s also the automatic scan here if needed. Capped off with a few side features that are more convenient than needed, such as a graphic display, HDX compander and auto-lock function, this is definitely “high-end” for those who want the best of the best in a wireless microphone if a high quality lav mic was in your taste with the Sennheiser EW 122 G3.
Sennheiser EW D1-ME3
Another Sennheiser back-to-back appearance but this time a very sturdy and high quality headset that rivals the previous Shure pick. System here includes a lightweight evolution ME 3-II wireless headset mic, EM-D1 rackmount receiver, and SK-D1 bodypack transmitter. Very sturdy metal housing here with up to 15 compatible channels. There’s an automatic frequency management feature that pairs up with the interference prevention that has a back-up channel to work with Wi-Fi and Bluetooth. Another plus here for those in to more techy friendly gear is their iOS app fro remote control and monitoring of the system if you don’t want to hang out in the sound booth. The Sennheiser EW D1-ME3 is yet another one of the best wireless microphone system if you’re one to need a headset. However, they also offer this model in a lav or other types of condenser mics if you need.
Here’s another Shure model that’s a bit similar to the first wireless mic recommended but still worth its own separate review. It features a system for presenters, guitarists, vocalists and more. The series uses the cutting edge 24-bit wireless technology. The microphone has ultra clean performance and easy setup and the system can scan and sync its features to be ready to be used at once. It can work in the range of over 200 feet and you have total freedom when it comes to the wireless usage. The system comes with a handheld microphone and its transmitter. You will always find the right system to fit your needs. Look into the Shure PGXD24/SM58-X8 for another solid choice for those needing a high quality, top of the line wireless microphone and system made by Shure.
Here’s a nice appearance by Sony but is geared towards camera users instead of stage musicians and speakers. This one was pretty high when it came to user ratings so we had to take it into consideration. If you have two people at play here, this mic system lets the user and the operator of the device communicate well, eliminating the need for another intercom system. It’s great for filming, particularly DSLR cameras but any type will suffice. The receiver and the transmitter have a 3.5 mm headphone jack. A belt clip with an armband has been included to easily wear and mount the receiver and the microphone as well. The carrying pouch is used to protect a transmitter and aid in travel. This wireless microphone allows one way communication where it can pick up the voice of one subject so if you’re particularly interviewing, recording a single individual in action or merely want sound isolation in general, take a look at the Sony ECM-AW4 — it’s also a huge plus if you plan on using a video camera alongside of it. It isn’t too expensive, either.
Let’s end on a different note, shall we? This particular model is the wireless version of the infamous SM58 (which made its ranks in our best dynamic microphone article) and is considered one of the best and reliable microphones of all time (we’ve even seen photos of the president using an SM58). So the unit is great, but what about the transmitting system? The SLX wireless system uses the patented ‘Audio Reference compounding technology’ with a setup that can synchronize automatically. It’s a great choice for performing live music, portable road cases, lecture halls, corporate boardrooms, houses of worship or really any wireless application you can think of if the user doesn’t mind holding their mic. This wireless system is known to have clear transmission with their technology that offers a dynamic range for the microphone. It is contrary to the existing competing systems that are normally restricted with a fixed compression ratio since it uses a variable compression ratio. The result is to eliminate the wireless artifacts in the quiet passage with a superior dynamic range. If you wanted an immediate answer for one of the most solid microphones in the market and only need one unit without a receiver, take a look at the Shure SLX2/SM58 system and don’t look back if you needed a single handheld — the reviews are too high to think twice.