I was never much of a wireless guy until the past few years, when a band I play with started achieving some success and our stages got big enough that cutting the cable began to make sense. Last summer I logged a ton of tour hours with a wireless system, and now I feel well equipped to describe what’s hot and not about the whole idea. First off, the freedom is killer, obviously. I felt much better able to roam and ham it up for the audience knowing I was untethered. Also, wirelesses can make soundcheck a much more engaging process, as I was often able to walk out and hear the live mix through the front-of-house system. In fact, this advantage is reason enough for everyone to get a wireless that they perhaps use only during soundcheck. The not-hot features are plenty: first, the battery situation is a bummer. Once, they died on the gig, during a tune. Not cool. A second time, they were about to die, and a mad dash for AA batteries ensued. Also not cool. Finally, my tone was close to playing through a cable, but not quite there, even with the fairly high-end system I was using. All this adds up to a gear category that’s ripe for a fresh approach. Enter PRA Audio Systems, whose WiC (Wireless Instrument Connection) wireless sets a new standard for ease of use and fidelity.
Paul Raley is the man behind PRA Audio Systems, and he brings a rich and deep engineering background to the job. In his former life, Raley designed complex radar and wireless systems for the satellite industry and military. As a longtime serious musician, Raley knew his no-compromise know-how could be put to great effect in our little corner of the business world, so he started PRA.
The first obvious difference between the WiC and the more conventional competition are the WiC’s exceptionally lightweight, pocket-size transmitter and receiver. The units’ industrial design is slick, and the simple user interface is immediately understandable. PRA packages the WiC with all a player will need to get up and running, including a nice synthetic leather case with belt clip for the transmitter, short lengths of ¼” cable, and a charger and USB cable for the batteries. Yes, I said “charger” and “USB,” which should set off bells of joy in you or your tech. Using the same sort of high-capacity lithium ion batteries we already use in our cell phones and more, the WiC’s batteries last up to 20 hours of continuous use and charge up fast (15 minutes to two hours, depending on discharge). PRA says they’re good for at least 1,000 charging cycles, and also PRA also offers a battery-replacement program should the battery in your unit get tired. Using USB for charging makes it infinitely easier to ensure the WiC is always fully juiced, since it’s the ubiquitous standard for all the technology we enjoy. It can be charged with the included charger, but it’s also fine to plug it into a computer’s USB port, or even a car charger—anything that outputs the standard five volts.
Getting the WiC up and running is easier than I’ve experienced with any other wireless. First, you charge up the receiver and transmitter. Next you turn them on, hit the pairing button, and plug them into your bass and amp. Then, you play. And it works. That’s it. Operating in the 2.4GHz band, the WiC automatically picks an available open frequency. In practice, I never had any trouble with unwanted noise drifting into my signal. A/B’d against cable and other wirelesses, the WiC held its own. Its ADA converter operates at 48kHz/24kHz, so only the most golden-eared could honestly say they hear a difference between it and the average ¼” cable.
My only slight quibble with the WiC was the plastic casing of its receiver and transmitter. While it’s fairly rugged, it doesn’t convey a super-sexy high-end vibe, either. It’s the sort of nit-pick only the player would notice, but the devil is in the details. Other than that, the WiC is essentially a perfect wireless system. It’s small, sounds great, lasts a long time on a single charge, and never fails to find a clean and open channel. If you’re in the market, this is a must-see.
PRA AUDIO SYSTEMS
Pros Excellent sound, handy form factor, progressive engineering
Cons Plastic case could be a touch sexier
Bottom Line All the wireless you’ll ever need.
Made in USA