The Best Wireless Guitar System 2017 Review
Tired of being tied to your pedalboard and amp? Want to free yourself from the hassles of long cables? Then check out our review of the Best Wireless Guitar Systems, updated for 2017.
This review of wireless systems is sponsored by Sweetwater. All the products listed here have been selected by GuitarSite.com. Where available, you can click thru to Sweetwater for more information or to make a purchase.
Wireless Guitar Systems have come a long way, now widely used by professional touring musicians for their convenience and reliability. But they are not just limited to professionals who rock big stages, there's a good wireless system for most gig setups and budgets. Here we look at the best of them, featuring top-rated digital and analog wireless systems from a wide price range to cover various performance and budget preferences.
Things to Consider When Buying a Guitar Wireless System
Types of Wireless Systems for Guitar
Not all wireless systems are created equal, they can generally be categorized into two types based on how they transmit audio signals: Analog (VHF/UHF) and Digital.
Digital Guitar Wireless systems convert the signal to digital data and transmits them securely via the same frequencies that WiFi routers use. Since the signals are coded, the system becomes more resistant to interference. These systems are also smarter and use frequencies more efficiently, to the point that some can even automate channel/frequency detection and allocation. Because of their interference free operation, versatility and transparency, they have now become the industry standard. The only downside is that they are a bit more expensive for now, but even this will change as production volumes increase.
- Analog Guitar Wireless Systems are still used by many musicians, thanks to their practicality and accessibility. Older systems run on VHF radio frequencies that range from 30MHz to 300MHz, the same frequencies used by radio and TV broadcasts. These are no longer recommended because the frequencies are susceptible to interference, but they are still viable in situations where frequency use is not an issue. The most common and more accessible systems use UHF TV frequencies that range from 300Mhz to 3GHz. These are more reliable, but are limited by the various UHF frequency regulations that vary from place to place.
Wireless systems utilize radio frequencies to send sound data from the transmitter to the receiver. Other radio emitting devices like TV, microwave ovens and radio communication devices also use some of these frequencies, so it is important to ensure frequency compatibility when using multiple wireless systems in one venue. Today's wireless systems allow for more efficient use of frequencies and can even automatically choose free frequencies for you. If you're looking to get an analog system, make sure that it will not use the same frequency as other musicians in your group. This is the reason why manufacturers build wireless system with specific "bands", to ensure that when you get two or more units, they operate in different frequencies.
Wireless guitar systems these days have enough range to cover the biggest stages, but in case you need more, you'll want to keep an eye on this specification. For most gigs, you won't be needing ranges that go beyond 150 feet, but you'll have to keep in mind that solid objects between the receiver and transmitter will shorten the range dramatically.
Many professionals prefer rackmountable units because they can easily be secured into rack cabinets. If you don't have a roadie, or you don't have rack gear, then you'll want to consider those with smaller profiles for convenient storage and setup. If you still have space on your pedalboard, you might want to consider stompbox style receivers so all your gear is packed and setup in one place.
The Top 10 Wireless Guitar Systems:
Below are what we consider as the best wireless guitar systems on the market today. Both analog and digital systems are well represented, you can also pick between tabletop, stompbox and other form factors.
Shure GLX-D16 Digital Guitar Pedal Wireless System
Big name wireless systems maker Shure will not just sit by while guitar manufacturers like Line 6 overtake them. With popular artists like Maroon 5, Alice Cooper, and Fallout Boy endorsing their products, Shure continues to challenge other manufacturers in the market. The GLX-D16 is a digital wireless system specially designed for guitarists, having a receiver that takes the form of a stompbox. This particular wireless system features impressive technology that improves its signal reliability, called "LINKFREQ Automatic Frequency Management". With this technology, the transmitter sends out multiple signals and the receiver will seamlessly switch and choose the best signal to use.
This means that you will get the same clarity as you move around within its 200 feet range of operation. The body pack also comes with a rechargeable lithium-ion battery, while the pedal receiver comes with a built-in tuner. While I would have liked it better if the price was a bit lower, the GLX-D16's features and reliability more than makes up for the cost. It also helps that this wireless system looks really nice, making it the favorite of many of today's touring artists, including many that do not officially endorse the product.
Pros: Highly rated in the market thanks to its impressive signal stability, reliability and fidelity.
Cons: The cable included with the body pack is not as sturdy as we’d like it to be - some people report having to tape it to stay in place.
Line 6 Relay G75 Wireless System
Known for making the latest guitar gear technology more accessible to the masses, Line 6 continues to innovate and build on their popular products. The Line 6 Relay G75 Digital Wireless System is the upgraded version of the popular G50, providing professional tour capable quality, reliability and versatility, while somewhat keeping the price sane, at least when compared to other systems with the same features. The Relay G75 lets your guitar signal pass through its state of the art interference-free digital 2.4GHz signal, and it does so while maintaining high resolution 24-bit audio quality.
This wireless system offers the same Cable Tone technology that they use on their amp modelers, which subtly changes your guitar tone to make it sound like you're wired. This cable tone effect works by subtly degrading the clarity of the guitar signal, and interestingly, this results in a more familiar tone that guitarists prefer. Like the G50, this pedal has a 200 feet range of operation, but it comes with more channels (up to 16), more I/O connectivity and it has a modern LED display. The transmitter uses two AA batteries which can run for up to 8 hours. If you're looking to upgrade, or you're looking for a reliable professional grade wireless system, the Relay G75 is highly recommended.
Pros: Premium wireless guitar system at a more reasonable price point.
Cons: With all its features, it requires a bit more reading and time to setup
Sennheiser EW D1 Digital Wireless
One of the downsides of digital wireless technology can be its complex setup, thankfully technology has improved to make it as quick and convenient as your home WiFi router. A good example of this is the Sennheiser EW D1 Digital Wireless, which automatically and quickly sets up your system for you. The transmitter and receiver work seamlessly together to assign and manage frequencies within its 2.4 Ghz range, even when you're using multiple transmitters. In addition, maintenance work is done by the Sennheiser EW D1 automatically, it scans for interferences and changes frequencies seamlessly, when needed, in real time.
On top of monitoring and fixing interference, it automatically adjusts transmission power for improved reliability, and it also optimizes your input signal for maximum dynamics. With all its smart features, its like you have a sound technician living within the EW D1 system! Although it drains batteries a tad bit faster (2 x AA batteries run up to 6 hours), this digital system offers incredible convenience and fidelity. If you're looking for a worry-free plug-and-play digital wireless system then check this out.
Pros: State of the art audio quality and auto-configuration.
Cons: Drains batteries faster than others because of its auto-scanning feature.
AKG WMS 470 Instrumental Wireless Guitar System
AKG is mostly known for their microphones and related accessories, yet they join this list with the guitar friendly WMS 470 Instrumental wireless system. At the core of this system is the AKG SR470 analog wireless receiver, which is often positively cited, thanks to its environment scan and auto setup feature. With a few button presses, the system itself will find interference-free channels and frequencies within it's range of operation, and automatically setup the system for you.
This system is available in four versions, each one operating on different bands to makes it easier to setup multiple wireless systems in one venue. Theoretically, you can get up to 48 wireless systems running within these four bands, but you'll probably just be needing a fraction of that. In addition to its convenient connectivity, this system works just as well with AKG wireless mics, making it a flexible tool in case you need if for other uses. Finally, the transmitter's battery pack gives you up to 14 hours of use, more than enough for the average gig.
Pros: Versatile, easy to use and reliable.
Cons: It uses a special mini-XLR to 1/4" cable that can be hard to replace when damaged or lost.
Sennheiser EW 172 G3 Wireless Guitar System
Sennheiser built their reputation on transparent sounding wired and wireless microphones, and it did not take long for them to branch out into producing quality wireless systems for other purposes. The Sennheiser EW 172 G3-A is a UHF based system designed for guitars, featuring a compact body pack that lets you conveniently connect with any type of guitar, and a rackmountable receiver that does not get in the way of your existing rig. And the best part of the EW 172 G3-A is its one button setup that automatically tunes the system for best performance.
After quickly setting it up, the system affords you some tone shaping elements, starting with the "virtual cable length", along with the built-in 5-band EQ. While these features may complicate setup for beginners, advanced users will find them handy for making critical adjustments. Giving it the ability to handle multiple instruments, including bass guitars, this wireless system has a wider AF frequency response, there's even a handy guitar tuner built-into the receiver! The transmitter uses two AA batteries that run up to 8 hours. If you're looking for an easy to setup wireless guitar system with advanced features, then get the Sennheiser EW 172 G3-A.
Pros: High fidelity multi-instrument wireless system with tone shaping and one button setup.
Cons: The tone shaping features may complicate matters for beginners, and it drains battery faster than usual.
Samson Airline 88 Guitar Wireless System
The Airline 88 guitar wireless is specifically designed by Samson to be compact and guitar friendly. The receiver comes in a sturdy table top profile, which seems to be the favorite configuration of many guitarists because it is easy to store and setup. What makes this system guitar friendly is its miniaturized transmitter, which plugs straight to your guitar, removing the need for inconvenient body packs and short cables. To ensure compatibility with popular guitar types, you can configure the transmitter plug in two ways, be it facing forward to fit into recessed top mounted inputs as found on Stratocasters, or facing downward for non-recessed inputs. Note that this special guitar transmitter is not shown on the video below, and we will update the article when a video is made available.
The transmitter and the receiver feature a host of guitar friendly controls, which include a Power On/Off and Mute switch with red/green LED indicator, a Peak LED indicator and an Input Level control that you can use to compensate for different pickups. The transmitter runs on a single AA battery that can last up to 12 hours, which is impressive efficiency. Samson's roster of professional artists include Richie Kotzen, Herman Li and many more.
Pros: Guitar friendly connectivity and controls.
Cons: Not as sturdy as we want it to be, but will be able to handle normal usage.
Audio Technica ATW-1501 System 10 Stompbox Wireless System
Audio Technica's System 10 ATW-1501 is another Digital Wireless System that takes the form of a guitar pedal. It is designed to be as convenient, intuitive and pedalboard-friendly, sporting a single foot switch that let you toggle between various output modes and to mute or unmute your wireless signal. Behind this simplistic interface however is impressive wireless technology that allows for automatic setup that you can rely on even when you often change venues.
Following today's digital wireless format, System 10 ATW-1501 operates in 2.4 GHz range, far from TV and DTV interference, and it is more than capable of safely handling your audio signal wirelessly, with its ability to receive up to eight body pack transmitters simultaneously. Both the receiver and transmitter are compact and sturdy, and both are very easy to set up. The body pack is powered by two AA batteries and it can run up to 7 hours. If you are looking for a transparent wireless system that is backed by a reliable brand, then you should check this one out..
Pros: Affordable stompbox style digital wireless that is easy to set up.
Cons: High fidelity sound maybe too clean if you prefer warm "wired" tones.
Shure BLX14R Guitar Wireless System
Backed by Shure's undeniable reputation in building quality wireless microphones, the BLX14R offers the same rock-solid build and fidelity for use with guitars and other instruments. Gone are the days of complicated setups because this one comes with QuickScan technology, automatically assigning the best available UHF frequencies to your transmitter and receiver. And more importantly, you are getting the same signal and physical reliability as found on other Shure products.
There aren't that many features in this wireless system, which makes operation simple and straightforward. There's just two buttons that let you set the group and channel, along with the main power button. The BLX transmitter is just as simple, with just a simple power switch, giving it increased efficiency that lets it run for up to 14 hours on two AA batteries. The receiver is designed to be compatible with Shure's many other wireless transmitters, including microphones and body packs. If you're looking for a practical and reliable wireless guitar system with big brand backing, the BLX14R may just be the one you need.
Pros: Affordable and straightforward wireless system with up to 14hours battery life.
Cons: Does not have any extra features.
Line 6 Relay G50 Digital Wireless Guitar System
Line 6 has usurped more established manufacturers of wireless mic systems with their market topping Relay series. This line of digital wireless guitar systems continues to dominate in terms of sales, with the G50 being the top seller - thanks to its impressive sound, clarity and reliability. Professional guitarists like Dino Cazares and Robert Cray are convinced that this system sounds very much like an analog cable, and they trust it enough for use as they tour and play professionally. Even big name bassists like Billy Sheehan approves of the Line 6 Relay technology!
The G50 is lightweight, easy to use, and has a maximum range of 200 feet. What makes it stand out is its ability to emulate cable tone, and it does so by applying controlled resistance to your signal, which subtly reduces the top end. The "Cable Tone" knob lets you set the "cable length" that you want to emulate, and you can turn it up to as much as 100 feet. And what's even more impressive is that the Relay G50 is able to emulate cable tone while maintaining a clear and uncompressed signal. Another practical feature is the battery life meter, which shows how much use you still have with the transmitter's two AA batteries, which should give you up to 8 hours of use. Long story short, get this wireless guitar system and thank me later!
Pros: Best bang per buck road worthy digital wireless system.
Cons: The transmitter is a bit bulky when compared to other units.
Nady MGT-16 UHF Wireless Instrument System
The Nady MGT-16 is a compact 16 channel UHF wireless system, and one of the best in its affordable price category, designed for bass and guitars. You get all the basic features of UHF wireless including 250 feet of range, auto sync infrared set up, and LED indicators for low battery, power and RF reception. The main selling point of the Nady MGT-16 is its small-sized components. While other wireless systems require "belt packs", this wireless guitar system comes with a small bug-type transmitter that can be securely plugged and mounted into your guitar.
The bug-type transmitter even comes in two different plug formats - a 30 degree angled plug designed for the recessed input jack of Strat-style guitars and a right angle plug for guitars that have top or side mounted input jacks. Finally, the stompbox sized receiver will easily fit in your pedalboard for seamless integration into your rig. With artists like Slash and Steve Vai included in their roster of users, you can be sure that sonic quality exceeds professional standards.Check it out at Nady.com.
Pros: Affordable and straightforward UHF Wireless System.
Cons: Extra handling care maybe needed because of its lighter form factor.
Wireless guitar systems are just that, wireless systems... they don't magically make your guitar sound better, nor do they make it sound worse (well at least the ones in this list), so don't expect your tone to magically improve. What they provide is the freedom of movement and reduction of clutter, which can spell the difference between a mediocre performance and an unforgettable one.
If you or your band are looking to go completely wireless then check out the Gearank guide to handheld wireless microphone systems. Gearank now also has a guide using the Gearank algorithm to find the highest rated options: The Best Wireless Guitar Systems Under $500.
As always please feel free to share your thoughts and any experiences, good or bad, you've had with various wireless systems in the comments below.
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