Hands-On Review: Shure Wireless Guitar Systems

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The guitar cable companies' worst nightmare.

By Allen Adleman

The appeal of wireless is obvious-it allows you to roam wild and free across the stage in guitar-god-like fashion. But you often hear wireless faulted. It messes with your tone. Batteries die without warning. Sudden dropouts are common and you're always in danger of cross talk from cell phone or CB chatter. Whether justified or not, these are widely held notions and I, like many, accepted them without question.

Still I was attracted to the idea of wireless freedom. When my guitar cable died a sudden and hideously noisy death in midsong one night, I realized that I was giving cables too much credit for reliability and perhaps wireless too little. I decided it was time to give wireless a try.

The Shure bet

As I researched available brands, one name jumped out at me. If any name should inspire confidence and trust, Shure should. They make world-class microphones famous for reliability through years of hard use. My SM58 has been battered by repeated blows and splattered with buckets of saliva. I've replaced the screen twice because it was bent out of shape. Still, that mic works fine and sounds just like it did new. It is a great vocal mic—beautifully designed and superbly engineered. The leap of faith to wireless was made easier for me by Shure's proven track record in engineering sound products that work really well.

I finally decided to give two Shure models a try: the more entry-level PGX14 and the more expensive pro-level ULXS. I borrowed a PGX14 from a friend who uses one and speaks highly of it. I also ordered a ULXS system from Musician's Friend. Based on my preference for the best gear I can afford, I was assuming it would ultimately be my choice.

Shure PGX14 Wireless Guitar System

The PGX14

I tried out the PGX14 first. I fiddled with it a little bit at home to make sure I could fire it up and then went wireless for the first time at my weekend club gig. We were playing in a fairly small room that would be easy for the system to handle. The PGX14 worked beautifully and without a glitch.

I really liked playing wireless just as I had expected I would. Though I didn't move around more than I normally do, I felt liberated. Not having to keep track of my cable allowed me to focus more on the sound and my playing. What really iced the cake was that nothing bad happened—no dropouts, no interference, no significant change in tone, and I cruised through two nights without a battery replacement. Even with this entry-level system, the Shure engineers managed to get it right.

I was thinking that maybe the PGX14 was adequate for my needs. I liked its simplicity, its clarity of sound, 200-foot range, its easier price, and the fact that it so completely dispelled all the fears I had about wireless. Maybe lesser systems can be troublesome, but Shure's PGX14 wasn't. It was completely set-and-forget.

Shure ULXS14 Wireless Guitar System

The ULXS14

Still, I was eager to try the ULXS on my next gig. This time the band was playing in a much larger venue. We would be louder and a huge stage meant I could put more distance between me and my amp, so I was happy to have the higher-end ULXS system. I was also keen to see if the ULXS sounded any different than the PGX.

The ULXS met the occasion with flying colors. This time I was boppin' and struttin' all over the stage and we pushed the volume pretty hard. But the ULXS didn't miss a lick. My guitar sounded just like it did through the PGX14 which was no different than if I were using a cable, except that there was no cable.

Although the PGX14 seemed perfectly adequate for my needs, I decided to go with the ULXS. It offers more available channels than the PGX so more systems can be used together. It may have a little more range. It adds a backlit display and a few more LEDs to make monitoring more precise. Most importantly, it offers the circuitry refinements that give it greater capability under demanding conditions.

I've been using the ULXS14 for months now and have yet to experience a dropout. I've never had a surprise battery failure thanks to its "fuel-gauge," and I haven't received any cell phone calls through my amp. I am now wireless without fear and enjoy the freedom. If you've been afraid to go wireless, get over it and get a Shure system.

Features & Specs

PGX14 System:

  • Automatic Transmitter Setup
  • Automatic Frequency Selection
  • Audio Reference Companding
  • 90 selectable frequencies
  • Microprocessor-controlled diversity
  • Channel display LED
  • Multifunction LED indicator (power, lockout, mute, low battery)
  • -10dB pad
  • 8-hour battery life
  • XLR and 1/4" outputs

SLX System:

  • Automatic Frequency Selection
  • Automatic Transmitter Setup
  • Audio Reference Companding
  • 960 selectable frequencies
  • Detachable antennas
  • Microprocessor-controlled diversity
  • RF presence LED
  • 5-segment audio meter
  • 3-segment battery fuel gauge
  • Multifunction backlit LCD
  • Frequency and power lockout
  • Rack hardware
  • XLR and 1/4" outputs

ULXS 14 System:

  • Automatic Frequency Selection with Group Scan
  • Audio Reference Companding
  • Ultrawide frequency agility
  • Over 1,400 selectable frequencies
  • Microprocessor-controlled Predictive Diversity
  • Multifunction LCD display: group, channel, current channel & battery status
  • LED indicators: RF reception, level, and transmitter audio level
  • Backlit LCD display on transmitter
  • 8-hour battery life
  • Operating range up to 300'
  • XLR and 1/4" outputs

Tags: Wireless Systems Shure


# Jay 2014-06-09 20:02
I have the PGX14. I play bass. I have a Charvel/Jackson 3B & play through an Ampeg SVT 2 with 8 x 10 cab[blocked]. I'm a VERY ACTIVE player. I run all over the stage & through out the club. I have never had any signal drop EVER. My bass comes out thumpin' just like it does if I corded. I would recommend this to ANYONE!!!!!!!!1

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