Representatives and consultants from the UK’s theatre, broadcast and live sound, corporate AV and installed sound industries gathered at London’s Royal Academy of Dramatic Art (RADA) in May for a technical preview of Shure’s new flagship wireless microphone system, Axient Digital.

Announced at NAB in April, Axient Digital takes the audio performance, wireless operation, automatic interference detection and avoidance, and transmitter remote control and monitoring features offered by Shure’s previous analogue Axient wireless systems, and builds these features into a scalable system with an ultra-low-latency, high-channel-density digital RF engine at its core, offering AES256 encryption and advanced connectivity as standard.

Commercial Integrator Europe attended the event, with Shure UK’s pro audio group manager, Tuomo Tolonen, leading the sessions. Axient Wireless was launched to combat the growing capacity restraints associated with RF spectrum. Ofcom has continuously sold off spectrum to mobile carriers, leaving companies such as Shure fighting back to ensure the reliability of wireless audio.

Demand for the RADA preview of the new system, which replaces Shure’s existing Axient and UHF-R wireless microphone ranges, was such that three sessions introducing the system were held during the day to accommodate all of the attendees who registered.

At RADA, Tuomo summarised the components of the new Axient system and explored its capabilities in detail, explaining the system’s suitability for each of its target markets and responding to the audience’s questions at the detailed Q&A at the end of each session.

“Demand for convenient and utterly reliable wireless systems in the theatre sound, live music, and corporate and installation audio markets is still rising, even though the range of RF frequencies available for radio microphone usage all over the developed world is shrinking because of spectrum sell-offs,” he explains.

“The pressure is on, because audio failure in most of these markets is not an option. Axient Digital is Shure’s response to these challenges, and we’re delighted — although far from surprised — at the healthy interest it has attracted.”

In the UK, 800MHz has been lost due to spectrum sell-offs, although that figure is a slightly worse in the US, where an extra 80MHz has been lost in recent years. Despite this sell-off, channel counts in the audio sector have been going up, forcing companies such as Shure to squeeze ever more channels onto a shrinking spectrum.

Shure asked itself: “How can we operate radio in harsh environment? How do we pack a load of channels in spectrum?” The answer was Axient Digital, which provides a huge channel count in a harsh channel environment.

The core features offered by Shure in its Axient Digital range includes things such as:

  • High-performance RF – next gen digital radio with channel quality metering. True digital diversity with Quadversity. High density mode.
  • Front panel of receiver gives users additional information – quality of the RF carrier. It’ll tell users that they can get full bar RSI receiver, but one bar quality. Or the opposite.
  • Analogue radios give warning when quality drops. Now Axient Digital does.
  • High Density Mode triples density from 20 – 63. Benefits to spectral efficiency, but also caution.
  • Latency of 2ms from mic input to analogue output. 1.7 if using Dante + AES3.
  • Support for AES/Dante with one receiver. Outputs for everything. Analogue output 3/4 can be reconfigured to AES when in AES mode. Jack outputs still remain active, so can use analogue and AES.
  • There are primary Dante and redundant Dante.
  • Can run all systems at same time – ideal for redundancy.
  • Digital carrier can have encryption.
  • Dante Browse menu will find all Dante devices on network.
  • Dante Cue is a headphone matrix built-in to the receiver. Select one receiver to be listening station, with headphones plugged in – hold channel down and it’ll automatically be routed to headphone socket of listening station.

Axient Digital is due to begin shipping later this summer with the AD series handhelds and bodypacks. The ADX series transmitters, including the ADX1M, the first micro-bodypack with an internal, self-tuning antenna aimed at the theatre, broadcast and corporate audio markets, will be added in the new year.