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RF Coordination from Start to Finish

Using Shure Wireless Workbench 6, RF Explorer, & Touchstone Pro

November 28, 2017 9 comments
RF Coordination from Start to Finish

With all of the changes that the 600 MHz band has been going through with the FCC Auction, I have been doing a lot of RF Coordination over the last month or so. Because it is such a misunderstood area, I thought I would make a video from start to finish of how I coordinate wireless using the RF Explorer Spectrum Analyzer, Touchstone Pro Spectrum Software, and Shure Wireless Workbench 6.

If you want to go directly to the YouTube Video, click here!

RF Explorer Spectrum Analyzer

RF Coordination from Start to Finish

I have written about this before with my post about Inexpensive RF Spectrum Analyzers, and the RF Explorer still is one of my favorite simple spectrum analyzers that you can find. Easily found on Amazon there are a few models that I recommend:

This is the base model, costs $139 and has a workable range from 240 MHz to 960 MHz which covers the main set of frequencies that popular wireless microphone systems and wireless in-ear monitor systems use.

This is the upgraded model for $269 and has a workable range from 15 MHz to 2.7 GHz. This covers all of the usable RF spectrum for our wireless products from VHF, UHF, 900 MHz and WiFi.

The RF Spectrum Analyzer

Just like an RTA for Audio, the spectrum analyzer for RF does just that, it is an RTA for radio frequencies instead of audio.

RF Coordination from Start to Finish

We are able to visually see what wireless frequencies are being used by television stations, wireless microphones, wireless in-ear transmitters, or other wireless products. Using this equipment is vital to making an informed decision as to where to put your wireless channels for your church, venue, or band.

Touchstone Pro

Touchstone Pro - RF Coordination from Start to Finish

Touchstone Pro is an RF Spectrum Analyzer Software which works with RF Explorer as well as the RTL-SDR dongle which you can get for less than $30.

Touchstone Pro - RF Coordination from Start to Finish

This program can scan the bandwidth that you want and then you can export a file which can import directly into Shure Wireless Workbench which we will use to coordinate the wireless. There are a lot of other features to this program like monitoring frequencies that you specify, however, my main use of this program is to export a trace into Shure Wireless Workbench 6.

This program is available for both Mac OS X & Windows. (at the time of this post, it is $49)

Shure Wireless Workbench 6

Shure Wireless Workbench 6 - RF Coordination from Start to Finish

This is the main program that I do all of my RF coordination in. With the RF Explorer analyzer and Touchstone Pro, I am able to export the trace as a .csv and import that into Shure Wireless Workbench 6 as a scan file. I can then make informed decisions as to where to place my microphones.

Now Shure Wireless Workbench 6 (WWB6 from here on out) is a FREE program that you can get directly from Shure HERE. There is a version for both Mac OS X and Windows. The great thing about the program is that it not only has wireless information for mostly all of Shure’s products, but it also has Sennheiser and Lectrosonics products. If you don’t see one of your products, you can create a product and input the RF datapoints to have WWB6 integrate that as well.

RF Coordination from Start to Finish

Okay, here it is! The full RF Coordination for a church from start to finish and where I typically do the scans.

Now, I do need to point out that RF Coordination is so much more than just setting frequencies, you do need to make sure all of the infrastructure of the equipment is set up correctly, gain’s are set correctly at powered antennae, connections are wired correctly, correct antennae are used in the system. But half the battle is setting where your channels are located because even with the infrastructure set up correctly, if you place your wireless in the wrong spot, it just plain won’t work!

As we travel through the grace period with the FCC auction of the 600 MHz spectrum, I will make sure to keep posting about RF, and please if there is something I can answer about RF, post below!

9 Comments
  1. Blake Ferguson says:

    Hey,

    So I am coordinating 9 different campuses for my church and one of our campuses is a beast. When I set my Sennheiser IEM g3’s according to the WWB6 I still get a ton of noise and hissing pops in the ears. It’s super odd and seem wrong.

    1. dbbaudio says:

      IEM transmitters are difficult. You are putting a LOT of RF power in a single location and when using antenna combiners you are now sending all of that RF from the same location. If possible, I would recommend trying a lower output power from the IEM’s and that will help reduce some of the IMD you might be causing with having a lot of transmitters. Have you done a scan with a spectrum analyzer at all?

  2. Greg Cotton says:

    Great start of an article. I have been involved with a touring musical production with a local church for several years. When I first got involved, I had very little experience with wireless mics, and knew nothing about Frequency Coordination. After learning a bit from reading forms, etc. I’ve been using WWB for the last several years – relying on the online database of interference sources (e.g. known TV stations within range of a Zip Code). Although not ideal, it has been an invaluable tool in allowing us to use a much larger number of mics in an increasingly crowded RF environment (avoiding intermod). I just recently purchased an RF Explorer, so I’m eager to integrate that into my RF Planning.

    1. dbbaudio says:

      That is great, Greg! WWB in combination with the RF Explorer providing scans will be a huge help to the RF coordination you are doing. Best of luck!

  3. Dave Watson says:

    Hi Drew,
    Question on the DIY RF Distribution System. Since the auctioning of the upper RF frequencies, we have purchased wireless mics in the 470 – 516MHz A1 band. I notice all of the PCT splitters start at 540 MHz. Will this still work, or do you know of an 8 way drop amp that will work at 470MHz?
    Thanks for your help from Tucson,
    Dave Watson

  4. MIke B says:

    Very informative. thank you.
    Question: I notice you were having the problem of finding backup frequencies for the Kids Room. Is it an option to NOT add channels 16 and 18 as exclusion frequencies? You said these frequencies (channels) were not active TV stations, but noticed that the RF energy was present (so you added them to avoid those frequencies). If those were excluded, would that have opened up additional frequencies to be used by Wireless Workbench? since your transmitter signals are 30-40dbM higher than this exclusionary band, I wonder if it would work.

    1. dbbaudio says:

      Mike, I will typically try to pull out as many frequencies as I can without going into areas where I might get interference. Because TV channels can always upgrade their transmit antenna or swap out for higher power transmitters, I try to keep as many frequencies outside of used TV channels as possible. If all else fails, I will then start letting in lower power TV channels to put my mics in.

  5. Erick Jaimes says:

    Hey Drew,
    I loved this video! I’m extremely new to RF coordination, but I have to do it for a church I started working at. This might be a silly question, but what connection needs to be made to connect the RF explorer to the antenna combiner? Looking forward to hearing back. Thanks!

    1. dbbaudio says:

      The RF Explorer has an SMA connector for the RF input, so all you need is an SMA to BNC adapter and then a BNC to BNC coax cable! Once you have those things, you are ready to go!

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