Sennheiser Evolution G3 100 Series

Sennheiser Evolution G3 100 SeriesIf you want to go with a wireless microphone system, and you’re trying to balance between performance and price but don’t want to compromise too much on performance, I would suggest taking a close look at the Sennheiser Evolution G3 Series. I’ve been using the previous G2 model for the past year (on loan from a most generous benefactor) and I’ve been very happy with it. I’m about to purchase their current Evolution G3 100 Series ENG kit since I have to give the G2 ENG kit back and I’ve grown quite fond of having the wireless system in my sound kit ready to roll.

After doing some shopping around, I’ve come to the conclusion that the Sennheiser Evolution Series provides a nice middle ground between the less expensive systems (e.g. Azden) popular among event videographers and the more expensive wireless systems used by location sound professionals (e.g. Lectrosonics). I’ve used the Lectrosonics on a number of professional shoots and the performance of their “Digital Hybrid” system is spectacular, but it’s a little more than I have budget for, so the Sennheiser Evolution G3 it shall be.

There are two configurations of the Sennheiser Evolution G3 100 Series to consider for documentary work:

Camera Mount Wireless Microphone System, kit number EW 112P G3-{A/B/G}, estimated price: $600 (US), this kit includes:

  • SK100 G3 Bodypack Transmitter
  • ME2 Lavalier Mic
  • EK100 G3 Portable Receiver
  • Cold-shoe adapter for Receiver
  • Interconnection cables (1/8″ and XLR) for connecting Receiver to camera
  • Excellent, clearly written owners manual

Wireless Microphone ENG Combo, kit number EW 100 ENG G3-{A/B/G}, estimated price: $800 (US), this kit includes all of the items in the Camera Mount Wireless Microphone System, plus:

  • SKP100 G3 Plug-In Transmitter

Compared to less expensive VHF wireless systems, a UHF system provides longer range and you’ll experience fewer drop-outs and interference during use. I’ve had really good luck using the Sennheiser Evolution wireless system over the past year, and have been very pleased with its performance both in terms of sound quality and overall robustness and have not run into too many interference issues. Being able to tune the devices to one of 1,680 tunable frequencies makes it easy to find quiet spots in a electromagnetically noisy area like the Boston metropolitan area in which I live.

The EK100 receiver is designed to be attached to a camera via a cold-shoe adapter, it has a 1/8″ unbalanced TRS mini out which can be connection to camcorders with either a 1/8″ or XLR input (Sennheiser provides both 1/8″ or XLR interconnect cables in their kits). The receiver has 4 preset memory locations that can be reassigned to any of the 1,680 available frequencies, within the 42 MHz tuning range. This is handy because you can determine the frequencies least likely to have interference in your area and program these into the four presents, making it easier to pull these out and get them working quickly in documentary situations. The G3 features a new “adaptive diversity” design, it’s not “true diversity” but it does offer slightly better performance compared to the previous G2 series. There are also adjustments for audio level output and a squelch adjustment. It’s critical to set the audio level output to match your camera, otherwise you’ll get some over-modulation, which is sometimes hard to detect in the field unless you’re listening really carefully with good headphones (which you should always be doing, right?).

The system is available in two transmitter configurations: the SK100 body pack transmitter and the SKP100 plug-on transmitter, which attaches to any self-powered metal body microphone with an XLR connector (e.g. Electro-Voice RE50 reporters microphone) to be used wirelessly. The SK100 G3 body-pack transmitter has a 1/8″ locking-mini input for compatible lavalier microphones and it comes with an ME2 omnidirectional lavalier microphone. The transmitters support adjustments for audio input gain, and it’s important to adjust this properly. You want to avoid peaks (there’s an LED peak indicator in addition to an audio level on the LCD) but also not set the levels too low so you’re lost in the noise floor. In terms of functionality, the plug-in transmitter is very similar to the body-pack transmitter.

The EK100 receiver, SK100 G3 body-pack transmitter, and SKP100 G3 plug-in transmitter are each powered by two AA batteries and each sports an LCD display which makes it easy to configure and make adjustments via a logically organized menu system. When not in menu mode the LCD shows you channels and frequency information, battery status, audio level, and signal status. All three devices have metal bodies, which allegedly makes them more robust that cheaper plastic units, but I’ve never dropped any of these devices in order to find out how rugged they really are. I’m not tempted to try.

In the United States, the Evolution G3 is a UHF wireless microphone system available in three frequency ranges, A: 516 – 558MHz, B: 626 – 668MHz, or G: 566 – 608MHz, providing 1680 tunable frequencies and 12 frequency presets. Which range to get? The idea is to find a range that has the largest number of “dead spots” which all depends on your region. Sennheiser has a great calculator on their web site in which you can see all the licensed transmitters in your area in order to determine where the open slots are in the spectrum. You can use this to decide whether A, B, or G frequency ranges are best for you. It’s also handy for setting up presets that are likely to be free and clear, so there’s less fussing around in the field. The B frequency group seems to be the best option for the Boston area based on conversations with some sound people I know.

RE50In some situations I like using the plug-in transmitter with my Electro-Voice RE-50 reporters microphone, I like having the mobility without the wire, therefore the EW 100 ENG G3-B kit is my preference. If you never see yourself using the plug-on transmitter with a hand-held or boom microphone (by the way, it has to be a metal body mic and self powered, since the SKP100 G3 Plug-In Transmitter does not provide phantom power), you can save money and get the EW 122P G3-B kit instead of the EW 100 ENG G3-B kit. Basically you’re paying an additional $200. (US) for the plug-on transmitter.

A future option to consider is upgrading the Sennheiser ME2 to a TRAM-50 (my favorite lavalier, available cabled for the EW transmitters for about $220 (US)). You many also consider adding a Sennheiser ME4 cardioid mic to your kit for use in high-noise environments (but I would not go with this as your only mic due to more critical placement issues).

Rycote Lavalier WidjammerYou will also want to add a Rycote Lavaliere Windjammer (or equivalent) if you’re going to be working outdoors, these are available in white, grey, or black for about $25. (US) each. A windjammer is essential when using a lavalier mic outdoors when there is wind. Here’s an important pointer: use the windjammer over a foam windscreen on the lavalier, since the windjammer needs air space around the mic itself to work properly. I keep several of them in my sound kit at all times.

There is really only one down-side I’ve experienced using the Sennheiser Evolution G2 wireless microphone system (and this goes for the new G3 as well): since the receiver is designed to mount on a camera, it’s really awkward to use in a situation where you have a couple of receivers and a mixer in a shoulder-mounted pouch. The LCD display is simply in the wrong place. I really wish Sennheiser would have placed the LCD display on the top of the device (like the Lectrosonics receivers), but for mounting on a camera, I can see why the designers placed the LCD on top, and given that Sennheiser has brought these units into the marketplace at such an attractive price-point, this is but a minor inconvenience.

In the Boston area you can purchase these kits from Talamas Broadcast Systems, Rule Broadcast Systems, or The Camera Company. Online you can purchase them from B&H Photo-Video.

This post was inspired by Monika Fimpel, thanks for asking the question, and thanks to Bill Shamlian for his insights on wireless systems and frequency selections.

Note: This post was revised on February 22, 2010 to reflect that Rule Broadcast Systems is also a Sennheiser dealer. I also fixed an error in which I specified the EW 122P G3 kit (which includes ME4 microphone (cardioid) mic) instead of the EW 112P G3 kit that I intended to list that comes with the more versatile ME2 (omnidirectional) microphone. While the ME4 is better in high-noise environments, its added directionality and proximity effect make it less versatile for general use. If you’re only going to have one microphone for your wireless system, the ME2 is a more versatile choice, and if you find you need the more directional ME4 in some situations, it (or another cardioid lav) can be purchased separately.

Update: I actually went ahead and purchased two kits, one w/ an additional plug-on transmitter. I’ve been using these since April of 2010 and I’m very pleased with the kit (April 19, 2010).

Update: I continue to be very happy with these on my current documentary production and I recently added a third transmitter/receiver pair to my kit and upgraded two of them with a TRAM-50 lavalier microphone (and while they do sound better that the stock Sennheiser microphones, the primary motivation was that the TRAM is a flat microphone and has a better collection of accessories for more versatile mounting options. (November 1, 2012).

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Comments

  1. says

    I love the Sennheiser series mic’s. Now I want to dump my G2 series for a G3. Know the performance is better, now I have to figure out if I can afford the price.

  2. says

    Larry, I would not consider dumping the G2 series for a G3. While the G3 claims improved performance, I don’t think the difference is enough to justify the upgrade for that reason alone. Basically the G3 receivers have been improved with a diversity design,but you’ll not notice a night and day difference between the G2 and G3, you will notice a slight difference in extreme conditions. The G2 series are solid performers and I think you should hold on to them. The only reason I’m upgrading from G2 to G3 is that since the G2s were on loan, I have no choice.

  3. says

    While I don’t think it applies to these specific units, mics operate in the 700MHz band (698 and 806 MHz), which will be illegal in the USA starting 12 June, 2010.

    That might be a reason to upgrade.

    Here’s the notice:

    Under a new FCC rule, anyone who uses a wireless microphone (or similar device) that operates in the 700 MHz Band must stop operating their wireless microphone (or similar device) no later than June 12, 2010.

    http://www.fcc.gov/cgb/consumerfacts/wirelessmic_advisory.html

    Your tax dollars at work.

  4. says

    Rob, Good point you bring up. The new Evolution G3 wireless microphones are currently available in the U.S. in three ranges: A (516 – 558 MHz), G (566 – 608 MHz), and B (626 – 668 MHz) ranges. The previous generation (Evolution G2) systems were available in the C (698 to 806 MHz) range, a.k.a. 700 MHz. Some owners of these wireless systems may qualify for a rebate from Sennheiser when they trade in their system for new ones.

  5. says

    I have the G2 evolution kit and I have recently bought a Tram 50 to pair with it. I have been using Trams on Lectrosonics transmitters and they sound great but with the Sennheiser setup it sounds thin and ordinary. Any ideas why this might be happening?

  6. says

    Chris, I’ve never used a Tram-50 with the Sennheiser evolution microphones, I’m not sure why a Tram would sound thin and ordinary compared to the regular microphones the G2 and G3 kits come with. Some folks have suggested I upgrade to the Tram (I have a wired one I just love) but I’ve not done that, now I’m wondering what’s up?

  7. says

    Are there any cables that will allow me to attach my ta5f-lavs to the g2′s locking jack? Would love the option to use my better Sankens (with the ta5f connection) with the Evolution wireless, and I cannot find these cables anywhere (…and maybe since I can’t find the cables, I’m thinking that, in fact, they don’t exist!)
    thanks for any advice!

  8. says

    Marianna, I would talk with a professional sound dealer, for example, in the Boston area I deal with Talamas, they can tell you (a) if the combination will work, and (b) they can modify the cable or make an adapter.

  9. says

    Update on Chris’ issue: there was a problem with the interconnection cable, the Trams work fine with the Sennheiser evolution microphones, as several local sound recordists have reported to me.

  10. Paul says

    I don’t know if this is a dumb [question] or not, but here it is. Instead of connecting the EK-100 receiver to the camera could I instead connect it to a laptop with a properly configured “input”? I lecture and would like to find a way to record the audio, with reasonable quality, simply, without having to lug too much gear around.

    Has anybody tried this?

    (Thanks for your post.)

  11. says

    Paul, not a dumb question at all. I did a quick test, and it works fine. On the Mac, in System Settings set the Audio Input to “Line In” and on the EK-100 receiver set the output AF level to +12 dB. Works like a charm. I tested it using the Audio Record feature of the QuickTime player, but this would work fine with most any audio recording program. I’ve used Boom Recorder which has a nice set of features and is available in two track and multi-track versions, but there are many options out there including Audacity (free), AudioRecorder (shareware), SoundTrack Pro, etc.

  12. Johan Øverbye says

    David, I’m a singer looking for an in-ear system. There’s a local shop that’s getting rid of their G2 stock, so I can get a new G2 pretty cheap. Is the G2 cutting it still, or should I go straight for the G3?

  13. Paul says

    …just checking in for a second. I did end up buying the Evolution G3 100 Series “stuff’ for capturing my class lectures using my HP laptop. I ended up buying locally, paying a bit too much, I think, but it was worth the advise I received. I also ended up with an HSE Headset mic from galaxyaudio. It all works remarkably well, though the mic is a little flat in its frequency response.

    There are a few things to coordinate at the beginning of each class and I had to work the process out for the first few lectures but now, as mentioned, it all works well. Spare, charged, batteries are important as the receiver and transmitter are pretty hard on them. I get about five to six one and a half lectures out of them before they’re caput.

    Check out:
    http://www.elearntube.ca/video/275/Oracles-Read-Consistency-Model
    if you wish to get a feel for the fidelity of the gear in operation.

    Cheers and thanks for your help.

  14. says

    Im going to buy 1 set of the Sennheiser Evolution G3 100 Series
    and 3 sets of the EW 122P G3 kits.
    The only thing i really is in doubt of is which size mini windjammers (the ones with hair on) would fit on the me2 clip mics,and is there foam on the clip mics in the first place? Im going to windy outdoor locations and will attach the mics on people and
    I want to make sure no windy noise is coming into these small me2 mics.
    Size and quality is the matter to my questions.
    Greetings from Copenhagen
    Henrik J

  15. Justin says

    THANK YOU THANK YOU for posting this. I was waiting for Sennheiser’s tech dept. to get back to me on the difference between the ew 112 A, B, and G versions and your post couldn’t have been more clear. The link you provided was also magnificent! Thank you!

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