Wednesday, May 15, 2013

New Shure BLX Wireless Overview, Whats new, why choose it?

Shure’s brand new line of BLX wireless microphone systems are now available and in stock at agiprodj.  Just when you thought there were enough 3-letter wireless systems out there (PGX, SLX, ULX, etc), Shure throws BLX into the mix!  Is this new series really necessary?  In a single word, yes.  Shure did their homework with BLX, just like they do with all their products.  The birth of BLX really comes from combining many of the key features of PG, PGX & SLX in its conception.  They asked users of PG, PGX and SLX what they loved about their systems, and also what they didn’t love.  In the end, Shure researched, listened, and then took some of the best features of all these other series and created BLX.  And we predict great things.

One of the first things we noticed right off the bat about BLX, is that for an entry-level wireless series, you get a TON of configuration choices.  There are over 100 different products in the BLX line!  Let’s touch on the receiver options first.  BLX comes with 3 different receiver options, the BLX4, BLX4R, and BLX88…

BLX4 & BLX88 (single & dual channel):

·         Diversity receiver with internal antennas, integrated into the chassis housing.  
·         Lightweight, durable chassis
·         Enhanced Group and Channel Scan (PG didn’t have this, PGX only had channel scanning)
·         Function and Power Lock

The BLX4R is a half-rack receiver, which costs a little more (about a $50 difference between an SM58 system that is BLX24/SM58 vs BLX24R/SM58), but don’t make the mistake of thinking you’re paying $50 for a glorified rack mount kit.  There is WAY more going on with the BLX4R receiver, with external removable antennas, rack mount hardware and front mount kit included, and tough durable metal chassis.  This receiver is a completely different style receiver from its BLX4 counterpart, and probably for a different user altogether.  Anyone looking for a wireless microphone system that is road worthy, or perhaps needs installation, the BLX4R version is what you want.  The Shure BLX4R also would allow you to run distribution systems and/or external antennas.  Also different from the BLX4R vs BLX4 is the high resolution LCD screen of the BLX4R.  This large LED screen will display channels, RF meter, antenna indicator, audio meter with clip indicator, and lock indicator…all of which will be important to the more savvy user.  Pretty much anyone that wants to build a wireless system with multiple units, distribution, shark fins, etc will need to go with the rack mount receivers.  The BLX4R really resembles more of an SLX product in terms of the type of system you can build and the overall look.  Speaking of the comparison to SLX, let’s get right into that one…

What’s the difference between Shure BLX vs SLX?

The first thing to note is that unlike the PG & PGX series which are officially discontinued, the Shure SLX series is alive & well, and available like always.  The SLX series includes a couple of handheld microphone capsules that you won’t find in the BLX series, such as the SM86, Beta 87A & 87C.  The SLX capsules are also interchangeable.  Again that comes back to the specific type of user for wireless microphones.  Shure found that most entry-level wireless users don’t need or even want the more advanced handheld microphone options, so those choices remain reserved for SLX and above.

You can’t dial in a specific frequency with BLX, so SLX has more frequency functionality.  This might be an issue with either 1) A heavily populated wireless area or 2) a user that wants to be able to see the frequency he’s using.  BLX transmitters and receivers do NOT sync, and that is by design.  According to Shure research, they found that the IR sync function of most entry-level wireless systems confused most users, so with BLX you let the receiver scan for the best frequency groups, then it sets itself (either one channel for single receivers, or both channels for dual receivers), then you manually tune the transmitter to that same group.  Done.  Simple as that.  Now let’s take a look at the transmitters…

BLX handheld microphone options (called BLX2’s) include PG58, SM58, and Beta 58A.  These are fixed heads that are not interchangeable, which seems to suit most entry-level wireless users.  Transmitters run on 2 AA batteries, with an anticipated 14 hours of life.  Not too shabby.  10dB gain adjustment, and battery status is provided with a single bi-color LED.  Color ID antenna cap options are available (WA621), making it easy to differentiate one handheld transmitter from another at a glance.

BLX bodypack transmitters (called BLX1’s) are slim and lightweight. Tactile on/off toggle switch, NOT a push on/push off.  This is nice in order to “feel” if a bodypack is turned on if you can’t see it either because it’s behind you or you’re in the dark.  One very outstanding feature of the BLX1’s is the continuous, adjustable gain which allows precise gain adjustment for your exact need or application.  For a bodypack transmitter which may see all kinds of uses, we are very pleased to see this feature.

We mentioned at the top of the blog how impressed we were with the number of choices the BLX systems have.  Here’s where the BLX systems really shine, with the following impressive choices and combinations:

·         WA302 Guitar/Instrument system
·         PG30 Cardioid Condenser Headworn Microphone
·         PG185 Cardioid Condenser Lavalier Microphone
·         MX153 Earset Microphone

 Shure says you can expect a typical range with BLX, about 300’ line of sight.

With BLX, you also get improved audio performance.  The frequency response of an SM58 BLX handheld is almost identical to that of a wired SM58.  BLX has superior companding over PGX.  This really used to show up when someone would talk into an SM58 held down at the belly.  A lower signal level used to mean less accurate companding.  That’s not the case with BLX.Audio quality approaches that of their high end stuff, at entry price levels.  And speaking of PGX (or even PG)…

What’s the difference between Shure BLX vs PGX vs PG?

·         BLX has a larger bandwidth, allowing more systems to be run at the same time.
·         Enhanced Group and Channel Scan
·         Ability to rack mount receivers (BLX4R).  This was not even an option with PG or PGX
·         Along with rack mounting, ability for BLX to be distributed or use external antennas (BLX4R)
·         BLX does not sync like PGX.  Again, Shure feels like although this feature is lacking, it really is a bonus
·         Wider range of handheld microphones with BLX vs PG, including PG58, SM58, and Beta 58A


We’re not done.  With QuickScan, Shure BLX allows you to do a Group scan first, to assign the Group to all your mics, then a Channel scan to assign a clear channel to each mic.  The scan is VERY fast.  And on a dual receiver, it sets the 2nd receiver automatically. Simple stuff.

Bandwidth & ranges

BLX comes with a 24 MHz tuning range.  There are 4 frequency bands to choose from H8 (518-542 MHz), J10 (584-608 MHz), K12 (614-638 MHz) & M15 (662-686 MHz).  You can run up to 12 compatible systems per band (similar to SLX)

Fun fact:  Shure uses a standard part number nomenclature.  “1” = Bodypack “2” = Handheld “4” = Receiver, and “88” = Dual Receiver.  This goes for PG, PGX, SLX. BLX, ULX, etc.  So if a you needed a replacement bodypack transmitter for your SLX system, that is an SLX1.  Need a PGX SM58 handheld?  That is a PGX2/SM58.  The BLX24/SM58 comes with a BLX4 receiver and BLX2 SM58 handheld.  A BLX1288 system would include a BLX88 dual-channel receiver and a bodypack (with either an instrument cable, headset, or a lav mic), and a handheld.  You get the idea.

We congratulate Shure on the BLX wireless series, and as always we look forward to helping you any way we can! is Proud to be an Authorized Shure Wireless and Shure Dealer.

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