April 21, 2014

Numark Orbit Controller + Shure BLX Wireless Mic System Reviews

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This month finds our scribes taking on a pair of DJ-related items. Boston jock Paul Dailey reviews Shure’s BLX wireless microphone system, while Denver DJ Wesley Bryant-King handles Numark’s Orbit controller.

Shure BLX Wireless System
When it comes to multi-purpose microphones, for me, most discussions begin and end with Shure.

While I have used a ton of different mics over the years, I always seem to gravitate back to Shure products. The oldest member of my collection of trusty SM58 mics has been in my gig bag for two decades—and, aside from the obligatory dent at the hands of a drunken best man, it works like the day it was purchased.
New for 2013, Shure has rolled out the BLX Series—a line of wireless microphones focused on the entry-level DJ and PA market. This series brings features and options previously found only on more expensive models to users at a reasonable price point. (System prices begin at $374 retail.)

You can choose a body pack transmitter with headsets and lavaliere (BLX1), or handheld (BLX 2), then select the microphone you want on your unit (PG 58, SM58 or Beta 58) and the type of receiver that best suits your needs—the single-channel BLX 4, the single-channel, rack-mount BLX4R and the dual-channel, rack-mount BLX88. For this review, I was provided with a BLX4R, along with a handheld equipped with a Beta 58.

The BLX-4R receiver is clean. The box is lightweight and the hi-res LCD display provides quick view of all of the data you need, in a well-considered, easy-to-read format. Everything from setting up your microphone to finding a new channel and seeing where you stand in terms of battery life has been simplified, without sacrificing performance or expandability.

A proprietary feature called Quick Scan allows you to swiftly and effortlessly scan both channels and groups to find the cleanest frequency—not simply the next open frequency, but truly the optimum frequency for the location. For those familiar with the tedious task of step adjusting through 10 or 15 channels without knowing which is best, this is a major step forward, particularly at this price point ($261 retail). Battery life has also been dramatically improved, with more than 14 hours of use off a pair of AA batteries (vs. standard seven to eight you find with most wireless units).
The sound quality of my BLX-4R with Beta 58 microphone was exceptional, delivering rich lows, smooth highs and plenty of gain. And the clarity of the unit in general blew away my expectations and made my five-year-old system mic sound like a muffled mess in comparison. One thing that threw me off a bit was the weight (or lack thereof) of the mic—as it’s less than a third of the weight of my trusty SM58 wired unit. But after holding it through a long introduction and multiple announcements, I came to truly appreciate the nimble design.

Shure has set the bar pretty high with this new entry to the wireless market. Tasked with a simple idea—bring high-quality sound to the masses in an affordable and intuitive package—the engineers at Shure have succeeded in spades.  The Niles, Ill.-based company designed a package that not only looks and sounds great, but also is easy to set up and simple to use. Shure R&D people have taken the most common pain points of wireless mics (noisy channels and interference, trouble with clipping, a battery dying during the wedding toasts) and added safeguards to automate and improve those situations.
I liked my new BLX 4 so much I am adding it permanently to my mobile rig—can’t give a much higher recommendation than that.  Well-done, Shure.

Numark Orbit Controller
This past January, when I attended Winter NAMM with the rest of the DJ Times crew, it was clear that there’s always a lot happening in the realm of DJ gear, but also that much of it appeared to be of the incremental-improvement variety. Mixers and controllers keep getting better and more capable and CDJs now double as multimedia player/controller hybrids, able to play just about any type of media from any type of disc, while enabling better control of digital applications.

There was, however, at least one example of “completely out-of-the-box” thinking that the folks at inMusic Brands were particularly interested in showing us: Numark’s Orbit controller.

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