One of the most annoying things about the electric guitar is all the wires. Electrics usually need to be plugged into an amplifier with a cable, which can be easy to trip over when you’re focused on your playing. Can electric guitars be played wirelessly, or will guitarists be tied to their amplifiers forever?
Electric guitars can be played wirelessly with either analog or digital systems. Wireless systems can be cumbersome; however, depending on the kind of system you buy, it can have undesirable effects on the sound. If you need to play a gig wirelessly, you should invest in a high-quality one.
This article will help you learn how to make your guitar play wirelessly and discuss the advantages and disadvantages of wireless systems.
Why Go Wireless?
The reason a wireless setup may be enticing to players is obviously the lack of cables. Cables can be troublesome when performing on stage, especially when you’re going not only for accuracy but showmanship. Add in a watchful audience, and there are many potential distractions that could lead to an embarrassing accident.
Not only that, but in most situations, guitarists are playing with other instrumentalists who are also plugged into amplifiers. If you accidentally get tangled up with someone else, you could potentially trip or even accidentally unplug yourself or one of your bandmates. That could result in an instrument suddenly projecting no sound.
Enter the wireless system, which allows players significantly more freedom when moving about the stage. There is no risk of tangling up yourself or anyone else. There is also no risk of unplugging yourself when you travel too far from your amplifier, either.
Analog vs. Digital
When considering wireless systems, the first thing to note is that there are two types of wireless systems: analog and digital. Analog systems are much less popular than they have been in the past but are still in use today.
Analog systems are much less popular than they used to be but are still in use today and have distinct advantages and disadvantages. Analog systems operate on a radio wave that you will have to pay a yearly fee to access. The drawback of this is that other radio frequencies may interfere with your own.
They also use something called a compander to work. Companders take the sound from a guitar, compress it so that it can be transmitted over radio frequency, then expand it again when it arrives at its destination. Companders can cause significant loss of sound quality.
However, analog systems have hardly any latency at all. Latency is the time it takes from when you strum your guitar to when the noise comes out of your amplifier. Analog systems will provide almost instant feedback.
Digital systems, on the other hand, operate with a digital signal, not a radio one. Because of this, there is no need to pay a yearly fee, no radio interference, and no compander. Digital systems will have no loss in sound quality.
Digital systems can have higher latency than analog, which has been the trade-off of avoiding the radio channel. That said, most digital systems today are advanced enough that this isn’t much of a problem. Technology has advanced to the point that the powerful sound of an electric guitar can be converted into digital data instantly.
That being said, cheaper digital systems can still have latency issues, even though the delay is significantly reduced than it used to be. Investing in a higher quality wireless system will ensure that there aren’t any latency problems.
In short, a digital system is much simpler to use and will likely not cause any sound issues if you buy a newer version.
Disadvantages of Wireless Setups
Of course, not all guitarists use a wireless setup. Many people have strong preferences for physical cables for a variety of reasons. Some of those reasons are outlined below.
The first reason people may prefer to use cables is simply the look. Wireless systems can be bulky sticking out of their jack. Cables are more noticeable but are much more commonly used, so no one will blink twice at them.
Another reason is that a decent wireless system tends to be more expensive than cables. This is especially true if you want to invest in a high-quality system, which can run for $200 to $400. When you take the price coupled with a wireless system’s potential sound issues, some players won’t risk it and stick to high-quality cables.
Wireless systems run on electricity and will need to be recharged after each use. This can be extremely inconvenient; if you forget to plug them in before a gig, you’re in trouble. Or worse, you could potentially run out of charge onstage!
Most systems will hold a charge for over four hours, so make sure to plug in before you perform! If this isn’t something you want to risk, use cables to plug your guitar in.
Sound Quality Issues
Historically, wireless systems have sound issues. Analog systems have interference, while digital systems have high latency. While digital systems are much more reliable nowadays, they are still less reliable than a good old cable. There is also no learning curve, and it allows players to plug in and play immediately. Wireless systems may not always be intuitive.
If you still prioritize sound above all else, you may decide you’re better off sticking to wires. Keep in mind that cheap guitar cables will also have a negative effect on your sound, creating fuzzy background noise.
Best Wireless Systems
If you’ve decided to take the plunge and go for a wireless system, several are available online! Here are a number of digital wireless systems for your electric guitar. None of these systems will break the bank, but they are high quality enough that there won’t be too much latency:
- The Getaria 2.4GHZ Wireless Guitar System is far and away the most popular system on Amazon. This digital system does not use a compressor and boasts a relatively low latency for a relatively low price. It can even connect to multiple sound systems at once. This video review of the Getaria system demonstrates its power and reach: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B4CEE7T2Y04
- The Westshell Upgrade Wireless Guitar can hold a battery charge for over six hours and transmit its noise over 150 feet. It has a delay of under three milliseconds and features over 100 channels with minimal interference.
- The Ammoon Wireless Guitar System 2.4G features a hinge so that it can fit many different kinds of instruments. It’s even compatible with tablets. This system also can connect to multiple systems at once, so if you’d like to play out of multiple amplifiers, you can do so with ease.
- If you’re ready to purchase a more expensive model, the NUX B-5RC Wireless Guitar System has a latency of fewer than five milliseconds. Also, it features a mute button for when you stop playing for a short period of time. It also comes in both black and white.
Electric guitars can be played wirelessly with the right setup. Wireless systems can be less reliable than traditional cables, though they have come a long way in recent years. They can give guitarists much more freedom to move around the stage, making for a much more dynamic performance.
Investing in a high-quality wireless system will ensure that there is no interference or delay. With the right tools, you can easily make your electric guitar wireless without sacrificing sound quality.