How to Choose Between a Wired and Wireless Microphone: Musician’s Edition

One of the most common decisions facing musicians is the choice between a wired and wireless microphone. Owning a mic at all is a big step for a musician, and having to choose between a wired and wireless solution can be daunting.

While the simplicity of wired can be an advantage, a wireless microphone can benefit active performers. At the end of the day, though, personal preference should determine your choice.

Here are some factors to consider if you’re on the fence and not sure what you might prefer.

Context Is Key, Always

Do you like to move around a lot onstage?

Do you play an instrument that keeps you stationary, like drums or keys?

Are you comfortable with having multiple technology components to your microphone?

Are you lacking in grace, like me, and worried about tripping over mic cables?

These performance contexts are as important to consider as polar pattern, cost, dynamic vs. condenser, and other factors. The more you think about the physical part of stage performance, the closer you will get to choosing the solution that suits you.

The Microphone Cable: A Possible Burden

Do you just want eliminate the microphone cable? I ask because for some people, a Yes! response is reason enough to go wireless.

A wireless mic provides more freedom onstage as well as the ability to interact uniquely with the performance environment. If you’re an energetic performer who likes to move around the stage, the feeling of being unbound from a microphone cable can be freeing and exhilarating. On top of that, going wireless eliminates the fear of damaging or disconnecting a cable during a performance. (As someone who has been to his fair share of punk shows, I’ve seen many XLR cables bite the dust.)

cables wrapped around someone's legs

If you’re worried about wireless systems being too complex, it’s important to note that Shure systems are proven to have exceptional audio quality, ease of use, and reliability. There is no need to be concerned about losing the legendary sound that people are used to hearing with wired mics. Also, many of our systems are designed for musicians who run their own sound, so you don’t have to be a sound engineer to use them with confidence. For more information about choosing a specific wireless system, check out this helpful Shure webinar on the subject.

The Microphone Cable: A Possible Lifesaver

Many performers and sound engineers prefer wired microphones because of the ease of use and simplicity a wired connection provides. Wired mic users never have to deal with frequency selection or battery life. If there’s a mic problem during a performance, troubleshooting is straightforward because there are fewer things that can go wrong. It can be addressed immediately with a new XLR cable or a review of the signal path.

For anyone who doesn’t want to carry around or worry about troubleshooting multiple pieces of microphone technology, regardless of how user-friendly they are, a wired mic can be the way to go. In most cases, all you need is the microphone because the venue will have an XLR cable ready for you. This simplicity is a big upside to going with a wired solution. Plus, if you’re stationary when you perform, then the freedom of movement that wireless provides isn’t a factor for you.

Performer with a mic and piano

Personal Preference Shouldn’t Be Overlooked

Personal preference can be the deciding factor in choosing a solution. When it comes to investing into your craft, there are always going to be frustrating moments of indecision. If you have performed in front of audiences already, you’ll have a better sense of what you prefer and why. Sometimes that’s all you need to know in order to make the right mic choice for yourself.

Despite the fact that I occasionally stumble over cables, I chose a wired BETA 58A® because I like the way my voice sounds through it, and it fits my needs as a commuting musician with limited backpack space. Also, since I play an instrument while singing, I like having the microphone stationary on a stand all the time. I don’t need to move around the stage. My wired mic works for me both practically and aesthetically, which is what I hope for you whichever way you go.

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Mike Petruccelli

Mike Petruccelli

Mike Petruccelli is a Marketing Coordinator at Shure and a 2010 graduate of Ohio University. He is an avid songwriter who enjoys the music recording process from start to finish. His preferred live vocal microphone is the Beta 58A, and he’s on a lifelong search to find the best burrito in Chicago.

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  • Ned Ward says:

    Good article, but worth mentioning is that a $20 mic cable will beat out a wireless mic in sound quality until you get up in to the pro level. So if you’re on a budget, stick to a wired mic and don’t bother with anything under $500 in wireless. I have 57’s and 58’s from 1987 that are still working fine.

  • Howard Pavane says:

    Another consideration is where you are using a mic. As a songwriter with a home recording studio, about 90% of the time there’s no need for a wireless mic. It’s simple to patch & follow signal paths, even with multiple mics.

    I’ve been using Shure mics since my 1st 58 in the 1960’s. (BTW – that mic got beat to hell and it still works!) Back then everything was wired – and to me it just seems natural. And when I perform these days, I have to be seated b/c of a disability, so again mobility is not an issue.

    I also like to use my Beta 58A wth me for performing, like you said there’s always an XLR connector available. The mic is amazingly clear for vocals and doesn’t smell like beer on a house mic.

    My mic kit is all Shure. A condenser that stays in the studio, a 58A, and the all-around SM57.

  • Jay Silverberg says:

    This is by far the most honest and easy to read/understand articles that I’ve ever had the privilege to read. Thank you for writing like a real person. I’ve always been interested in the microphones that you can wear. I as a guitarist, like to go out into the audience while I’m playing and sing to a particular young women that I’d pick out. My regular mic has been a 58A for more years than I care to admit. If you could recommend a mic that I could wear that has fidelity as well as the Beta 58, I would buy it pretty quickly. Thanks again for a down to earth article.

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