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DIY Wireless Microphone Antenna Distribution – Part 2

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In continuation to my previous post, I will start discussing how I solved the wireless distribution at my church in an economical way with a DIY Wireless Microphone Antenna Distribution setup.

One of my many hobbies include amateur radio, which is the personal & experimental use of specific radio frequencies established by the FCC.  My callsign is KD7QCU.  Basically, I am a big nerd of radio stuff.  I get to talk to people all around the world with my radio and antennas outside of my house.  It is quite a fun hobby and our technological age with regards to RF has a lot to thank the amateur community for experimenting with radio.

This is me at the top of my ham radio tower that I purchased.

I figured in my mind that because TV and the wireless microphones share the same frequency spectrum, some of the tv splitters might work the same with wireless microphones as they do with TV.  Thus, we find ourselves looking at a two-way coaxial splitter.  This is something that you would connect your TV antenna to on one side.  Then the outputs would go off to your different TV’s allowing multiple TV’s to get the same signal.

The coaxial splitter uses transformers or different combinations of resistors to split a signal to its separate outputs.  Being that TV’s don’t transmit themselves, only receive signal, you can hook as many TV’s up as you want without causing harm to a television.  Wireless microphone receivers do not transmit either, they only receive.  So we can treat the wireless microphone receivers the same as TV’s.

I conducted a series of tests using the RFExplorer handheld RF spectrun analyzer.  This analyzer has a 50 ohm SMA antenna port on it, so to connect the antennas up to it, I needed some adaptors.  There was a SMA to BNC adaptor placed on the unit.  Then from there I used a length of LMR 200 coax to connect into the different devices in test.  A transmitter was placed onstage with a sine wave being played into it.  This assured even signal transmission levels as the level did not deviate in amplitude.

First, I need to talk about an important unit, the dBm.  This is the power ratio in decibels (dB) of the measured power referenced to one milliwatt (mW).  dBm is a common unit for displaying signal strength.  -73 dBm is an “S9” signal strength on an S-Meter on a common ham radio.  Most 801.11 wireless network receive strength is between -70 dBm and -90 dBm with a maximum signal of -10 dBm to -30 dBm.

Baseline Test

My first test was to test the signal strength of a SLX body pack at different distances to see the dBm level.  I plugged in a Shure 1/4 wave vertical antenna into the RFExplorer for the test.  This is the stock antenna that Shure ships with their wireless systems.  I then measured the following levels at 3 different distances.

  • 10 feet = -30.5 dBm
  • 25 feet = -41.5 dBm
  • 50 feet = -52.0 dBm

The purpose of this initial test is to see how much signal should be going into the receiver at a max setting.  I would presume Shure would make their receivers work with the transmitter right next to it, without overloading the receiver.  Taking this presumption, I can now say that -30.5 dBm would be a good maximum receive strength to have at the receiver without causing any overload of the receiver.  So in any of my testing I am wanting to make sure the receiver does not receive any more signal than -30.5 dBm.

My next test would involve connecting the spectrum analyzer up to the stock antenna and Shure UA221 splitters which we use at North Ridge Community Church.  The purpose of this test is to see the effective signal that the SLX receivers are getting from a microphone on stage.  The arrangement of the setup you can see in this photograph below, it is part of the Shure dual side by side mounting kit, which uses two UA221’s to split two antennas off to the two receivers.  Note where the antenna is located, next to metal.  The signal strength read -68 dBm.

This is how the dual mount SLX receivers look on the front. Note where the antennas are mounted.

After this test I decided to test the signal strength in the same configuration, but moving the 1/4 wave vertical antenna into open space, meaning nothing around the antenna.  The measured signal was now -56 dBm, a +12 dB boost.  The reason for this is that the metal from the rack and mounting hardware of the SLX receivers was affecting the antennas ability to receive.  Much like a tuning fork, antennas will resonate at certain frequencies, when metal gets near a tuned antenna, it will start to change the frequency that the antenna resonates at or change the impedance, both of which will affect signal quality, normally in a degrading way.

I was able to source a ham radio operator who manufactures antennas out of printed circuit boards.  His callsign is WA5VJB.  One of the antennas that caught my eye is a 400-1000MHz Log Periodic antenna.  This type of antenna is directional, high gain and has a wide bandwidth.  Also the 400-1000MHz has our wireless frequencies falling in that range.  Shure sells a similar and more polished version of this antenna, they paint theirs black, add a mount to it and sell it for $200-$300.  It just so happens that the WA5VJB log periodic can be grabbed for $25 off of his eBay store.  The antenna comes with a spot for an SMA connector to be soldered onto the antenna.  To complete the system, I needed to get an SMA to BNC adaptor cable which was sourced for $10-$15 off of eBay.

My next project was testing the Log Periodic antenna with the spectrum analyzer.  I setup my test again with the sine wave into the transmitter and placed that onstage.  The measured signal level came in at -43 dBm.  This is a +25dB gain over the stock 1/4 wave vertical mounted in the rack.  This antenna was attached to a clamp using a spring clamp, better results would be yielded if I removed the metal clamp and used a non-metalic mounting system.

Now that we have an antenna that yeilds better results than the stock 1/4 wave vertical, I want to be able to split this signal out to the different receivers.  When you split a signal from one to two you will have a 3dB or more drop in signal.  When you start splitting the signal to more devices you will have more dB loss.  This is one reason I wanted to have a high gain antenna like the log periodic, to be able to have enough original signal to split to the 7 receivers.

There are two main types of Coaxial Splitters, active and passive.  A passive splitter will use transformers and/or resistors to split the signal.  An active will split the signal using powered circuitry and most of the time add a small signal amplifier to boost the signal.  My first series of tests were to see if a passive two way splitter would produce the same results as the Shure UA221 splitter.

I sourced a SVI SV-2G two-way passive splitter with a bandwidth of 5-1000MHz.  One issue is that the TV Coaxial splitters use F-Connectors, and most of the wireless products in the audio industry uses BNC.  I decided to use an adaptor from F-Connector to BNC for the tests.

I attached the 1/4 wave stock antenna from Shure to the antenna port of the splitter.  I then tested both outputs of the splitter and measured an expected 3.5 dB loss (the specs called for a 3.5 dB loss).  The interesting thing is that the Shure UA221 measured a 4.0 dB loss.  By these measurements the SVI coaxial splitter outperformed the UA221.  I also listened to different audio coming through the wireless system to make sure that no audio degradation was present.  No distortion or degradation was present on the signal.

Next, was to test a three way splitter.  The SVI SV-3BG, same bandwidth of 5-1000MHz and an expected loss of 6.0 dB.  After connecting and testing the three way splitter, I found the same expected loss as detailed on the unit.

After testing both the two way and three-way passive splitters, I wanted to test an active splitter.  I found a 4 way PCT-MA2-4P active coaxial splitter, this requires a DC power source at 12-15v at 300mA.  The spec’ed gain is +8dB.  I connected and found the expected gain of +8dB.  I also tested audio quality and found no change compared to the UA221.

I wanted to go into further testing of the amplified version compared to the UA221.  I was worried at first of the amplifier inside of the splitter adding in noise.  I attached the log periodic antenna to both the Shure UA221 and the PCT-MA2-4P and tested signal strength, noise floor level, and then calculated the signal to noise dB difference.  Here is what I found:

Log Periodic into UA221

  • Signal Strength: -46 dBm
  • Noise Floor: -94 dBm
  • Signal To Noise: 48 dB
  • Gain Compared to 1/4 Wave rack mounted Antenna: +22 dB

Log Periodic into PCT-MA2-4P

  • Signal Strength: -36 dBm
  • Noise Floor: -88 dBm
  • Signal To Noise: 54 dB
  • Gain Compared to 1/4 Wave rack mounted Antenna: +34 dB

Not only did the PCT-MA2-4P allow the connection to twice the amount of devices, but also outperformed in the signal strength and signal to noise measurement.  Comparing the signal strength of the amplified PCT-MA2-4P (-36 dBm) to the SLX transmitter at 10 feet (-30.5 dBm) has this still in a safe range for not overloading the receiver.

At this point, I knew this was promising!  The use of inexpensive television coaxial splitters was a formidable option for wireless system antenna splitting.  I am going to lead this post to an end.  In the next post, in the following weeks, I will show you the application of using an 8-way active coaxial splitter in a wireless microphone system.  Please if you have any questions, feel free to leave me a post below.

P.S. Some of you may argue that the TV Coaxial splitters are 75 ohm and that the conversion of a 50 ohm antenna to the 75 ohm splitter back to the receiver looking for a 50 ohm load will apply more loss than I measured here.  While yes you do have a bit of loss from the conversion of 75ohm to 50ohm (less than a dB of loss), the spectrum analyzer, just like the wireless receiver has a 50 ohm connector on it.  So any losses created by the 75-50 ohm conversion would be already calculated in my tests.

Read the rest of the series!

  1. Wireless Microphone Dead Zones?!
  2. DIY Wireless Microphone Antenna Distribution – Antennas
  3. DIY Wireless Microphone Antenna Distribution – Introduction
  4. DIY Wireless Microphone Antenna Distribution – Part 2
28 Comments
  1. Scott says:

    Are you planning to do a video or write up of how to on this antenna? I am looking for this exact thing and while your detailed explanation is great, however your knowledge of the subject is much deeper than mine. In other words, I need the dumbed down version/how to :-).

  2. Alex says:

    Hi Drew, how do you and performers like those Sennheiser G3 IEM systems? any problems with drop outs, interference, sound being noticeably compressed?

  3. Jim says:

    Back in the day of VHF wireless mics, I successfully used the readily available splitter-amplifiers found at Fry’s or Radio shack to build an antenna distribution system for connecting 4 diversity wireless receivers to work off of 2 antennas. It worked great. Your experience is a great follow-up for the UHF equipment. Same principles apply. Good Work !!

  4. Eric says:

    Drew, thank you for your evaluation of these products. I am planning on using the same or very similar setup for our AT3000 wireless system. How did you power the active splitter? I would like to use the powered antenna jack on the AT receiver, but it is only capable of supplying 60mA.

  5. Kent Britain says:

    The TV splitters are a Hybrid Transformer.
    They have no impedance really, just a power divider.
    I have worked with many and find that they work well from 30 to 100 Ohms.
    The resistive splitters are another matter of course.

    Pretty Antenna!
    Kent Britain WA5VJB

    PS Many will give them a quick coat of black spray paint.
    One coat of paint can barely bee seen on the Network Analyzer.
    Basically it just moves the bandwdith down 5 to 10 MHz.

  6. Tim Pan says:

    Hi, I would very much like some info on an active-8 way splitter with the use of the inexpensive Log Periodic antenna. Currently I have tested out the Shure UA844’s with active paddles, and these have cleared up all the hisses/pops from lack of antenna reception to my SLX systems. However, the cost to buy 2 x 844’s and 2 x UA874s paddles will cost AUD$3k, and still I have to use a passive splitter on one of the RF outputs to avoid having to buy 3 x 844’s as per shure manual (in order to have 8 RF outputs).

  7. kleinke49 says:

    Sorry if I missed this in the post, but do you have two of these setups? As in you connect all the antenna 1 of all the receivers to one setup and then antenna 2 of all the receivers to the other setup?

  8. Matt says:

    Hi Drew, love your blog. As a fellow ham and church tech guy, I’ve also done some work with wireless mic frequencies. I’ve found that a wideband antenna (I use a biconilog antenna, similar to your log-periodic but goes down to about 30Mhz) combined with an SDR is great combination … it gives excellent resolution and can assist in identifying offending RF. The DVB dongle (described in QST) SDR is a great $15 “spectrum analyzer/signal analyzer”.

    -Matt

  9. Ed Richards says:

    Hi Drew
    I am a tech director at a community theater and just recently purchased a Behringer X32 compact. I have really enjoyed your video tutorials. Question: Is there a wy to “safe” the Matrix faders so that they are not affected when you use he scene recall function?

  10. Tom Boyce says:

    Drew, I do not see the follow up post with the 8 way active splitter. Did you go through with it?

  11. Matthew says:

    HI Drew,
    Any follow up observations? Did you complete a permanent install with the PCT-MA2-4P and WA5VJB PCM antennas? Did you use two sets for diversity?
    Looking at this for our church in the near future. Thank you for your blog.

  12. Scott says:

    Any update to this? I am interested in the finish product…

  13. John says:

    Hi Drew,
    Thanks for these two great posts on wireless antenna distribution. For my church, I’ve followed many of your suggestions, including acquisition of a WA5VJB log periodic antenna to boost the RF signal reception. Unfortunately, my antennas/receivers are at the back of the church, a long way from the pulpit, so I need all the gain I can get. I’m trying to mate a Shure UA830 In-Line RF Amplifier to the log periodic antenna to get more gain, but when I connect the antenna, the UA830 shows loss of DC power. The UA830 DC Power indicator stays lit when the stock Shure antenna is connected, but goes out when the log periodic antenna is connected. Any thoughts as to what I might have wrong?

    Thanks.

  14. Mike says:

    Hey Drew, could BNC “T” connector be used to split antenna signal into Shure SLX instead of the $100 UA221?

  15. Myron says:

    Hi I have a question for you , by the way thankyou for valuable information but I noticed that you can only hook up one antenna or would you go to the one that has two input and four outputs so you can use two antennas on both sides of the stage. PCT-VC5U or PCT-VC9P please let me know if either of these will work 600Mhz to 700Mhz

  16. Corey Benson says:

    Drew, I used most of the spec’d components you’ve suggested here, with mostly excellent results. I originally decided to go the passive splitter route, and am now upgrading to the active splitter you suggest above. I was wondering… two years later, are you going to publish your findings with the 8-way active splitter you mentioned above? I’m about to double the number of wirelesses I use, and would be interested in your findings! Thanks!

  17. Nick Bair says:

    I’m looking to apply this same solution with my church’s Audio-Technica 2000 series receivers. But I don’t want to damage anything…do you think it’s necessary for me to do the spectrum analyzer test? I don’t have an SA, and buying one makes this inexpensive alternative a lot less inexpensive.

  18. Nice article Drew. In fact I used the same technique for 5 racked wireless for a new church plant. They don’t have a ton of money and they are in a rented space and have to pack it up after service. Needless to say the fewer cables the better.

    They found an iem rig with a blown up antenna combiner. I was wondering if you could share the combiner you used. I ve looked at the YouTube video a bunch but can’t quite catch it.

    Thank you sir and God Bless.

    1. dbbaudio says:

      RF Power Combiner for IEM Transmitters
      Mini-Circuits ZBSC-8-82+

      This works for combining 8 IEM transmitters in the 10-800MHz range at up to 125mW each transmitter. This will combine the signals of each IEM transmitter into one antenna. Currently it looks like they have it in stock for $150. Great product and is still in use at the church to this day.

  19. Ron Pierce says:

    Hi Drew,
    I’m in Manitoba, Canada. Love the DIY video.
    Here’s my challenge.
    We have 10 wireless microphones and 11 IEM transmitters.
    For the In-Ear-Monitors I am looking this combiner: Mini-Circuits ZFSC-12-1W-75
    Will this work if I put a 50 ohm terminator on the unused port?
    Can you recommend a 12-way power splitter for the microphones? I’m having trouble finding any larger than 8.
    Thanks for any help that you or your viewers can provide. Blessings, Ron

    1. dbbaudio says:

      Hi Ron! Sorry for the delayed reply! The 12-way that you listed will not be optimal for your use for IEM transmitters. The use of a 75 ohm combiner on a transmitter expecting 50 ohms will give a 1:1.5 SWR which will induce 0.18dB of loss, additional to the 12dB of internal loss from splitting you would be between 12-13dB of loss depending on the frequency you are using. With the 8-way power combiner that I have listed before (ZBSC-8-82+), the gain of a log periodic would be able to compensate for the loss of the combiner. My recommendation would be to get two of the ZBSC-8-82+ and use two log periodic antennas like the 400-1000MHz antennas from WA5VJB for the transmitters. You will want to have 6 transmitters on one of the setups and 5 on the other. Make sure that you get 50 ohm terminators and place those on the empty ports of the power combiner.

      For the 10 wireless receivers, I would also have two sets of unity gain active 8-way splitters (PCT-VC-9U) with a generic passive 2-way splitter connecting the one antenna to the two 8-way splitters. You could also use an 8 way with a 4 way (PCT-VC-5U).

      Thanks so much for your question!

  20. Jim Trudell says:

    Hi Drew,

    I have 4 Shure ULXP4’s in a rack, for the sake of just getting the antenna’s outside of the rack and saving some space of mounting 8 antennas, I’d like to combine the antennas.

    Could I simply use 2 of the PCTMA24Ps that you mentioned with some adapters and a pair of the stock antennas to combine all 4 units?

    1. dbbaudio says:

      Hey Jim! Yes you can use the PCTMA24P to combine the antennas for the distribution to your receivers. One thing to note is that it is suggested to remove the DC voltage from the ULX receiver antenna jack. You can do this modification by going to http://shure.custhelp.com/app/answers/detail/a_id/2451 to read more about it. Thanks so much!!

  21. Brandie L. says:

    I have 20 wireless Sennhesier G3 receivers. Would I have to get 4 sets of the unity gain active 8-way splitters (PCT-VC-9U)?

    What is the best/easiest possible way to distribute these antenna’s?!

  22. Kim says:

    It’s a great article. I have some questions.
    Is it okay to distribute the signal to the 8 receivers using the ZFSC-8-43? This splitter is similar to the ZBSC-8-82, but the ZFSC-8-43 has a relatively high phase unbalance.
    I don’t know what phase imbalance has any effects.
    The signal may be weak because it is more than 50m away from the transmitter, but it will be amplified via LPDA and LNA, so the signal will not drop significantly.
    https://www.minicircuits.com/pdfs/ZBSC-8-82+.pdf
    https://www.minicircuits.com/pdfs/ZFSC-8-43.pdf
    Previously, I connected four receivers with three SMA y type splitter cables, so instead of the power splitter, I wanted to connect eight receivers with seven cables in an inexpensive way.
    However, it is thought that using a splitter rather than a y-type cable will give better reception performance.

    Or is it okay to use a generic TV splitter like sv-2g or sv-8g? I will only use it for receive.
    Thanks.

  23. Christoffer says:

    Any updates coming on this?
    I am looking for a way to budget distribute 8 Shure QLX-D receivers for seminar use…

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GET THE X32 ROUTING WORKSHEET FOR FREE!

I FOUND THAT OVER THE YEARS, HAVING MY ROUTING WRITTEN DOWN NOT ONLY MADE MY JOB EASIER BUT IT MADE ME FASTER AT MY JOB!

AS A THANK YOU FOR COMING TODAY, I WANT TO GIVE IT TO YOU!

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