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Using the Sennheiser ew100 and ew100 G2 Wireless Lavalier Mics

I’ve used the original Sennheiser Evolution ew100 wireless lavalier mic for several years now. It’s a great system, easy to use, with rugged components. I recently added a new G2 wireless and thought I would share my experiences with this mic.

The new G2 versions are available in a variety of kits which differ primarily in accessories included and the supplied lavalier mic. Both my original ew100 and new G2 came with the omnidirectional ME2 mic. This is a good solid workhorse mic, not great in any one area, but an all around good performer.

Most accessories are the same or compatible between the G1 and G2 editions (3.5" to XLR cables, 3.5" to 3.5" cables, hot-shoe adapter, belt clips, etc.) The G2 comes with a new plastic hot-shoe adaptor for mounting the receiver on a camera’s hot-shoe mount. The adapter attaches to the receiver using the belt clip. The fit is snug, though not immobile. So far this has worked great. It’s a simple and neat solution for mounting the receiver to the camera. I liked it so much I bought a clip for my older ew100.

The manuals for both versions of the ew100 are passible. All of the information you need is in there, but you do have to read between the lines to get some of it. A little knowledge of audio theory and previous experience with wireless mics really helps here.

I don’t remember what the factory presents for the original ew100 are, but below I will go through how I set it up and the settings that work for me. The G2’s factory settings are HOT! They may work for line level inputs, but definitely not for mic recording. You’ll get lots of over-modulation and distortion. But again, a close look at the manual and a little time adjusting settings.

The G2 is a joy to use. I like the smaller size compared to the G1. Menus are easier to use. Both seem equally rugged (actually, the G1 seems a bit more durable--less plastic abounds). Recording quality, subjectively, seems identical between the two.

One other minor but significant difference. The G1 uses 9 volt batteries (one each in the transmitter and receiver) while the G2 uses two AA batteries in each unit. I use rechargeable Li-on 9 volt batteries in the G1 and 2700 mha 1.2 volt AA rechargeables in the G2. Record time in the G2 is about 3 hours with the rechargeables (it’s a good 3-5 hours with alkalines), but I’ve had no problems with either system stemming from using rechargeables (though Sennheiser doesn’t recommend it, unless you use their rechargeables in the G2).

It’s also worth noting that you can use a G1 receiver with a G2 transmitter (or G1 transmitter with a G2 receiver). The pilot tone feature must be turned off in the G2 for this to work. This is a great example of backward compatibility (along with the fact that pretty much all of the accessories for this series are identical between the two).

For an under $1000 wireless system, you can beet the ew100 series (original or GG2). If I could afford it, I would buy Lectrosonics transmitters and receivers and Tram mics, but one kit like that will set you back a minimum of $1800 and as much as $4500 (I’ve rented the Lectrosonics and Tram combination for some documentary work and they are truly awesome). Nevertheless, I love these Sennheisers. I’ve also got the XLR transmitter that attaches to handheld mics, which I use with a Sennheiser ME66 or 416 shotgun mic.

Setting Up the ew100 G2

Here’s how I set up the G2 receiver and transmitter.

The first group of steps are adjustments I make when I use a new unit or when I want--or need--to start from scratch. Perform these 4 steps for both the receiver and transmitter. For good measure, I make sure that the transmitter is off when I set up the receiver and vice versa.

  1. Turn on and reset each unit to the factory defaults. Press SET, choose RESET, select OK, and press SET.
  2. Scan for available frequencies. Press SET, choose SCAN, press SET, choose START, press SET. The number of frequencies (channels) found (up to 4) are shown, along with the frequency itself. Press SET to store them.
  3. There are 8 banks (or groups) of channels. Each bank contains 4 channels. Press SET, choose BANK, choose a channel (I almost always leave this at 1) and press SET
  4. Choosing a channel. Press SET, choose CHANNEL, choose from among the channels listed and press SET. Generally there will be 4 channels listed. If you change to a different BANK, up to 4 different channels will be listed. I say up to because when you SCAN for frequencies, you may find that less than 4 channels are listed as available.
  5. Press SET, choose PILOT TONE, choose ON and press SET. In use, if the receiver does not receive the Pilot Tone signal from the transmitter, it will automatically mute the output.

And here are the settings I check or adjust each time I use the receiver.

  1. Turn the receiver on. Make sure the transmitter is off.
  2. Adjust the Output Levels (AF Out). Press SET, choose AF OUT, press SET. You can choose a setting between +12 and -30 in 6dB increments. The default +12 is way to hot for mics. Choose -12 or -18 for mics and press SET to store.
  3. Adjust the Squelch (SQUELCH). Generally I leave this set to LO, unless I hear interference when monitoring a signal. Press SET, choose SQUELCH, choose LO, MED, or HI and press SET.

Here are the settings I check or adjust each time I use the transmitter.

  1. Adjust the Sensitivity (levels). Press SET, choose SENSIT, choose either -10, -20 or -30 depending on the input:

    -10 for people
    -20 for presentations (according to Sennheiser; I have used this for music/vocals as well)
    -30 for music or vocals or line level input

Note, when using these units, I connect all mics/cables before turning them on. I turn on the receiver and set it up first, then the transmitter (switching on the Mute button first).

The last step is to set levels on the camera or recorder. On the cameras that I regularly use, I’ve found that manually adjusting the gain so that the setting is somewhere between 10 and 2 o’clock produces the best results (this assumes that straight up on the dials is the halfway setting). But always adjust to the levels indicated on the camera, and monitor with a good set of headphones!

If the levels appear too hot on the camera and you’re turning the gain way down on the camera, adjust the AF OUT on the receiver to bring the levels down to a more comfortable level. And, of course, the opposite is also true.

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