Shure Axient Wireless System: So What?

Over the last 3 posts, I’ve spent considerable time (and 3,000 words) telling you about the Axient system. Yes, it’s impressive. Yes it’s expensive. But the real question is, “So what?” Why should Axient even be on the radar? I think this is an important question. And it’s one that’s a bit tough to answer definitively at the moment, but I think will become more clear over the next 2-3 years. 

The reality is, our spectrum (or more correctly, available spectrum) is shrinking. The government has figured out it can make a boatload of cash by selling it off, and much like a heroin addict, will continue to do whatever it can to keep selling spectrum. There are a bunch of proposals before congress and the FCC right now that may (or may not) directly affect our ability run wireless mic’s in the spectrum we’re currently using. One proposal is to have TV stations re-locate to another channel, opening up their existing channel for sale. 

The FCC has been granted permission to sell more spectrum, and that option to sell has to take place by 2022, but we don’t know exactly what the plans will be yet. So while there is no immediate threat, change is coming. 

Second, as part of the DTV transition, we are starting to see TVBDs (TV Band Devices) showing up. The first stationary TVBD transmitter went live in Wilmington, NC on Jan. 12 of this year. As these devices start popping up, it’s going to mean all kinds of fun for us in the church world. The spectrum that was happy and clean at rehearsal could suddenly become a crowded mess when people start showing up in our auditoriums with TVBD-enabled tablets (or whatever they come up with). Again, not an immanent threat, but over the next 2-3 years, this is something we’ll be dealing with.

It will really become incumbent upon us as TDs to become experts at RF management. Of course, the first line of defense is to wire every mic that can easily be wired. But our pastors and worship leaders have gotten very used to being wireless, and telling them they can’t do that anymore is going to be a tough sell. 

On the other hand, they are going to be none too happy if their mic keeps getting knocked off air (or bombarded with interference) every weekend. That’s where a system like Axient really shines. You can set it up so that you are almost impervious to RF interference (at least from the congregation’s standpoint). 

Yes, Axient is expensive right now. But I suspect two things will happen over time; first, the price will likely come down a little bit as the system gains traction, and second, the technology will move downmarket. Other manufacturers will have to come up with a similar system as well, and competition will also force prices down. 

Several companies are already going to digital transmission (Line6 and AKG for example), and once you go digital, there are some cool things you can do. 

To some extent, the Axient system is sort of like early mini-computers in that it is offering unheard of power and performance at a premium price. Over time, that technology will migrate to the rest of the line, and in a few years I suspect that active interference avoidance will be “standard issue.” OK, maybe it will be 5-7 years, but I think it will happen—if only because it will have to.

Shure said they are working on more stuff based on this technology, and you have to know that other companies are as well. I think the upshot of this system is that it indicates we are on the cusp of a RF technology revolution. As someone who makes his living with technology, I am excited by this. 

Now I want to hear from you; what say you about the Axient line?

Today's post is brought to you by Heil Sound. Established in 1966, Heil Sound Ltd. has developed many professional audio innovations over the years, and is currently a world leader in the design and manufacture of large diaphragm dynamic, professional grade microphones for live sound, broadcast and recording.