Closer Look: AKG WMS 470

The mid-range wireless microphone market is a pretty competitive market. All the major brands have their version of mid-range, somewhere in that $400 to $600 region for a single-channel of wireless. AKG has recently introduced another product to its popular 400 series, the WMS 470. With a market that’s tight, the company hopes that the 470 has something that will stand out among the crowd.

The WMS 470 is a complete package that would make most people quite happy. The receiver is a half-rack, all metal unit with both balanced and unbalanced outputs. It has a large LCD screen and pretty easy button-driven navigation. The screen offers complete monitoring, showing RF levels, audio levels, and the frequency or group, and channel or unit name. If you clip or loose RF, the backlight screen goes from green to an alarming red.

Proving once again that it’s the little things that make a difference, I appreciate the receiver’s readily available, yet hard to turn, output volume control. Rather than putting it on the back of the unit, it’s right on the front, but you have to push and release the knob in order for it to pop out and be adjusted--easy to get to when you need it but not easy to turn by accident. At the same time, I still don’t understand why anyone would make a receiver without a headphone jack. To me, it’s just so important in troubleshooting or basic monitoring. The WMS 470 lacks a headphone jack, and that disappoints me.

The handheld mic (HT 470) is basic and does the job. It’s a stylish and nicely contoured unit without a lot of options or controls. However, in comparison to the receiver, the handheld felt a little less substantial with its all-plastic housing, and the battery cover comes completely off (which means, someday soon, it’s going to get misplaced).

Aesthetics aside, it has one switch that can either be set to off, program/mute, or on. The switch on my unit was a bit loose and did generate some noise when the mic is jostled. The handheld has an infrared receiver/transmitter that allows it to communicate with the receiver, making frequency tuning and other adjustments easy. Using the smart "automatic setup" feature on the receiver will display all available channels, one group at a time. You can scroll through and find the group with the most channels available and then select your channel. The receiver is looking for open channels and takes into consideration interference and intermodulation. What I liked about this was that it doesn't just find a channel and tell you what to use. It allows you to see what’s available and make your own choice. The units have a 30.5 MHz tuning range.

Once you’ve set the receiver to a frequency, you can easily synchronize the handheld by using the "program IR" utility. I had to try synching twice, but I got it to work on my third try. The sound of the HT 470 was clean and decent as I expected. There was no frequency response chart in the documentation or online, but I suspect there’s a little poppy boost around 4k. The super-cardioid pickup pattern worked well and rejected feedback and ambient noise considerably.

An interesting, but sort of awkward, utility is the "rehearsal soundcheck" function. You tell it to start, and it will monitor your RF signal over time, and record any dropouts and note the time. This concept makes sense in theory, and it clearly is a descendant of larger computer RF software and monitoring, but on a small device without any graphical representation, it seemed only quasi useful.

The WMS 470 makes use of a pilot tone control to help eliminate pops in your system from a wireless mic coming online. Basically, the transmitter and receiver have to establish a stable pilot tone before the receiver will begin to pass audio. This effectively eliminates any problems created by turning a wireless mic on while its channel is open in the sound system. I appreciate the slickness of this and the smart use of standard technology.

Other perks include a very impressive 14-hour battery life on one AA battery. You also have the option to use rechargeable batteries and AKG’s CU 400 charging station, which allows you to charge the batteries without taking them out of the microphone. There are also a full range of accessories, including antenna distribution units and direction and omni-direction antennae. You can have an impressive 20 units in the same frequency band or up to a maximum of 48 units if you use multiple frequency bands. And, best of all, the unit ships with a rackmount kit.

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