This simple test reveals how well a wireless mic system can handle high frequency audio transients and, in fact, the quality of the entire audio processing chain in the system. Set up the wireless system with a pair of headphones or a sound system at a fairly high level without feedback. It is best to be able to listen to the audio output of the receiver away from the acoustic sound that the keys themselves generate. Set the input gain on the transmitter for a normal level with an average speaking voice.
Gently shake the key ring loosely near the microphone so that the keys jingle and rattle. Shake the keys within a foot or so of the microphone, then move them gradually away from the microphone while you shake them until they are as much as 8 to 10 feet away from the mic. Listen to the audio that comes out of the receiver. Does it sound like car keys, or a bag of potato chips being crushed?
Next, have someone talk into the wireless system while the keys are shaken as in the previous paragraph. Listen for distortion of the talker’s voice while the keys rattle. Move the keys from a foot or so from the microphone and then away from the microphone to as much as 8 to 10 feet and listen to the effect on the talker’s voice.
This is a tough test for anything other than a hard-wired microphone. The results you hear will tell you, without argument, how well the input limiter, and compandor attack and decay times work in the design, and give you a clear idea of the audio quality you can expect from the system in real life. A loosely shaken set of metallic car keys on a key ring produces large quantities of high frequency transients. A wireless system that fails this test miserably, and a lot do, will also distort sibilants in the human voice. Often listeners don’t notice this high frequency transient distortion because sibilants don’t have a specific frequency but are more like random noise. Distorted random noise still sounds like noise. On a system that fails the key test, however, strong sibilants won’t have a clear, open quality but will instead have a muffled sound as if someone’s EVALUATING WIRELESS MICROPHONE SYSTEMS hand has been put between the mouth and the mic. The key test will warn you to listen closely for the effect. The key test will also reveal audio circuits that are upset by supersonics. The peak energy of jangling keys is actually around 30 kHz, well above human hearing. If the circuits in the transmitter don’t filter out the supersonics, the compandor will respond grossly. This is a valid test since sibilants in the human voice also contain supersonics. Supersonic overload will cause sibilants to sound ragged as the level is driven up and down by sounds you can’t hear.