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Sennheiser Evolution Wireless Digital

Steve Savanyu • October 2021Road Tests • October 11, 2021

Sennheiser EW-Digital Handheld System

As more users opt for wireless mic solutions in a world of decreasing RF bandwidth, Sennheiser ups the game with its new Evolution Wireless — Digital. This affordable, easy-to-configure system includes features previously found only in the company’s flagship Digital 6000 and 9000 series. Sennheiser’s new easy-to-use “Smart Assist app” uses Bluetooth Low Energy to provide fast, automated setup, remote monitoring of multiple EW-D systems and mobile access to every system parameter from your iOS or Android device.

Using digital transmission in the UHF spectrum, the EW-D supports up to 90 channels across 56 MHz of tuning bandwidth. The system employs an equidistant tuning grid allowing EW-D transmitters to be equally spaced alongside each other in 600 kHz increments without intermodulation between transmitters. This simplifies frequency coordination, while 2,240 selectable frequencies offer fine-tuning in crowded RF environments.

Handheld systems can be preconfigured with Sennheiser’s popular e 835 capsule or as “base set” for use with a wide range of Sennheiser and Neumann microphone capsules. Bodypack systems are available equipped with popular Sennheiser headworn and lavalier microphones or a guitar/instrument cable terminating in a ¼” plug.

In the Box

For this review, Sennheiser sent an EW-D 835-S system with handheld transmitter and the e 835 capsule. Along with the transmitter, e 835 capsule and half-rack width receiver, there was a universal power supply with an assortment of mains connectors, rack mount hardware and a stand clip with a brass 3/8” – 5/8” insert. Also included was a pair of AA batteries and stick-on rubber feet for the receiver.

The rackmount hardware was a pleasant surprise. One of my complaints with rackmount kits is the flimsy metal “ears” that don’t really support the gear, torqueing and bending after a short stint on the road. Plus, many companies require you to order an accessory plate to “join” two half-rack width units. Sennheiser’s rack brackets are heavy-duty and extend the full depth of the receiver. The “joining plate” for mounting two receivers side by side is also included, along with a robust spacer bracket with pre-drilled antenna mounting holes (using the optional AM2 antenna front mount kit) for a single receiver setup. Thank you, Sennheiser!

The receiver has an all-metal construction with an attractive silver/black color scheme. Convenient dimples on the receiver’s bottom panel keep the stick-on rubber feet in place for tabletop operation. A large, easy-to-read OLED display indicates key operating parameters including: Frequency/Receiver Name, RF signal level, AF output level, and remaining battery life. Indicators also show Bluetooth active, Gain, AF Output and Channel #. Front panel controls allow access to system settings, and a dedicated power button is provided. The receiver’s rear panel has XLR and ¼” audio outputs, removable antennas (BNC) and a 12V DC power input with cable keeper.

The handheld transmitter featured all metal construction (except for the obvious antenna portion) and is compatible with a wide range of Sennheiser and Neumann capsules using the Sennheiser screw-on mount. The transmitter’s 134 dB audio input dynamic range eliminates the need for sensitivity adjustments. The transmitter operates for up to eight hours using two AA alkaline batteries. An optional rechargeable BA 70 Lithium-ion battery pack delivers up to 12 hours of operation. However, for charging, the BA 70 battery must be removed from the transmitter and placed in its dedicated charger.

On the bottom of the transmitter, two small buttons control power and access the sync function. Two independent LEDs offer visual indication of power, active audio, mute status, battery status and sync status.

A short press of the power button checks the transmitter battery status and identifies the associated receiver by flashing its front panel display. Pressing the sync button on the transmitter and associated receiver “pairs” the transmitter to the receiver and sets the transmitter to the receiver’s frequency. Unlike IR-based sync protocols, the EW-D uses Bluetooth Low Energy, eliminating the need to line up IR windows on the devices.

A convenient mechanical on/off switch on the transmitter’s side mutes the audio output. The switch can be defeated at the receiver or via the “Smart Assist” app.

With a metal housing and locking 3.5 mm input connector, the rugged bodypack transmitter works with a wide variety of Sennheiser microphones and instrument cables. Featuring the same control configuration as the handheld transmitter, the bodypack is designed for ease of use in a wide range of live and installed sound applications.

Transmitters have a preset 10 mW output. Using the included ¼-wave dipole antennas, the operating range can exceed 100 meters (328 feet) in ideal conditions. Sennheiser offers optional ½-wave dipole antennas along with LPDA paddles and other antenna solutions for increased range.

A free Android/iOS app offers convenient control of all system parameters

The App

To manage and control EW-D systems, Sennheiser created the “Smart Assist” app. Available for Android or iOS devices, the app accesses EW-D receivers via Bluetooth Low Energy. I tried the app on both my iPhone and iPad. The app was easy to set up and can control multiple EW-D systems without the need for computers or networking. Simply search for nearby receivers and pair them to your device. An overview screen shows all paired receivers. Tapping a receiver opens a dropdown with detailed information. The app walks users through the steps to setup and scan multiple systems (automatically building a frequency plan), sync associated transmitters and monitor system activity. Using the app, I could name the receiver (six characters) and assign it a color on the app screen. Touching the three dots on the live mode screen allows you to add, edit, and delete devices, auto scan (build a new frequency plan for paired devices) and check transmitters. You can also update system firmware and access a “Support Hub” for manuals, how-to videos and quick tips for getting the most out of your system. Although the iPad screen was bigger, I found using my iPhone as the control point was more convenient.

Welcome to Wireless Gigland…

After using the EW-D for several gigs, I was impressed with its overall performance. The audio from the e 835 capsule was clear and clean. Because of Covid, I requested acts bring their own vocal mics when possible. (We also sanitized the e 835 capsule before each use.) One act brought Sennheiser e 835 wired vocal mics so I had the opportunity to compare wired to wireless, and honestly, I could not tell the difference between them.

Another act brought its own wireless equipment, so I used the EW-D for the MC. It was easy to coordinate the EW-D with their equipment by using auto scan, while the band’s transmitters were turned on. Once the EW-D found a useable frequency, I used the app to re-sync my transmitter, and the MC mic was good to go.

I found myself going to the “Smart Assist” app on my phone rather than using the receiver’s front panel controls. At one gig, the lead vocalist got a little carried away during his performance, overdriving the system. A quick gain adjustment via “Smart Assist” between tunes brought his level down without issues.

As I do a wide variety of events, having a “real” On/Off switch to mute the transmitter is a plus. On big band gigs, the bandleader talks between numbers. I left the mute switch active, so he controls his mic and I don’t have to be watching him all the time. But when the vocalist sings, I defeated the mute function to keep them from accidentally muting the mic. The app allowed me to do it from over 30 feet away.

I ran a transmitter battery test in my studio. After seven hours, the app registered low battery with about 10% remaining. (One bar on the receiver display.) 30 minutes later, the app registered 5%, the receiver battery display began to flash and the transmitter LED blinked red. 30 minutes later, the app indicated 0%, but I still had a good 10 minutes before the battery finally died. Even with all the warnings, there is still plenty of time to change batteries.

Unfortunately, with only one system to review, I couldn’t test the multi-system functions with the app.

The Verdict

Sennheiser positions the EW-D system as “a versatile and feature-rich digital wireless system for those who sing, speak or play instruments.”

For the working musician, house of worship or corporate user who may not have a vast working knowledge of wireless, the EW-D offers a powerful yet easy-to-use solution with the robust RF and audio performance Sennheiser is known for. The “Smart Assist” app takes the mystery out of setting up multiple systems while providing useful system control and status using a familiar smartphone platform.

For rental and regional event production companies, EW-D is easy to configure for multiple system applications without the need for networked receivers and control systems. Simply use the app to add the receivers, auto scan them, and create a frequency plan. Sync the transmitters and you are good to go.

Overall, I found the EW-D system easy to use with exceptional audio and RF performance. Sennheiser is truly meeting modern day wireless challenges with EW-D, an affordable ($599/street) and innovative solution.

At a Glance

Giving Stage Performers a Helping Hand

Sennheiser’s Evolution Wireless Digital is a rock-solid digital wireless solution in an easy-to-use, affordable package. Along with superb audio and RF performance, the “Smart Assist” app for Android or iOS devices is easy to set up and can control multiple EW-D systems without the need for computers or networking.

Evolution Wireless Digital

PROS

  • Easy to set up
  • The “Smart Assist” app rocks
  • Robust RF performance
  • Real Mute Switch (defeatable)

CONS

  • Six-character RX name limit
  • No charging contacts on transmitters

FEATURES

  • Up to 2,240 selectable frequencies
  • Up to 8 hours operation w/AA batteries
  • Up to 12 hours operation w/lithium ion battery pack
  • 56 MHz bandwidth will allow for up to 90 channels
  • User-friendly app-based workflow
  • Frees musicians of the need for RF expertise
  • No need for a sensitivity setting on the transmitter
  • Low latency for EW-D transmitter (1.9 milliseconds)
  • EW-D pairs with Sennheiser/Neumann capsules

STATS

RF Bands: (Country-dependent): 606.2-662 MHz; 1785.2-1799.8 MHz; 823.2-831.8 MHz; 863.2-864.8 MHz; 662-693.8 MHz; 470.2-526 MHz; 552-607.8 MHz; 520-576 MHz; 925.2-937.3 MHz; 630-662 MHz

Transmitter RF Output: 10 mW

Max Range: 330’ (using supplied antennas)

TX Power: (2) AA batteries or BA 70 rechargeable pack

Audio Frequency Response: 20 Hz – 20 kHz (-3 dB)

Audio Output: 18 dBu max

Handheld System Pricing: $699/street

Manufacturer: Sennheiser

More Info: www.sennheiser.com

 

Steve Savanyu operates Buford T. Hedgehog Productions in Hudson/Macedonia, OH.

 

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