Introduction: Cheap Lo-fi Wireless Audio Performance System

Picture of Cheap Lo-fi Wireless Audio Performance System

Wireless audio performance systems free the performer from being tied directly to the amplifier, allowing them to perform some pretty awesome leg kicks and righteous spin moves. But how cool is it to spend all your beer money on equipment? I would say, pretty damn uncool. These systems are very expensive. For example, the Shure PG14 Performance Gear Wireless Guitar System costs $450.00 for a receiver, transmitter, and instrument cable. $450.00? Personally, if I spent $450.00 on something, I would damn sure want to be able drive it in a destruction derby. I was pondering these thoughts the other day, and I'm here to tell you, dear reader, that your old pal Aimless J. Lackluster has come up with a solution for the performer on a budget. It may not sound as clean as the $450.00 version, but it works, it's simple, and you'll save enough money to feed the habits which feed your creativity. Clean, pure sound is for the Phil Collinses of the music world. Personally, I have no use for that type of "perfection."

DISCLAIMER: This is a lo-fi wireless audio system. In my mind, the sound quality and the freedom of motion is worth way more than what could be expected from about $5 and ten minutes of work, but these things tend to be subjective. If you want pure clean sound, you discriminating virtuoso you, save your pennies and spring for the $450+ professional version.

DISCLAIMER. Part II: Yes, I did actually make it, and it works. Sheesh...

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Step 1: Get Your Materials

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Things you'll need...

1. A set of walkie-talkies. Just about any variety in good working order will do. I found my "kiddie" style National Geographic walkie-talkies, batteries included, at the swap meet for a paltry $5. I'm sure I could have gotten a cheaper pair if I had been more patient, but I was rearing to try my idea out, and $5 seemed reasonable.

2. Two 1/4" audio plugs, male or female, depending on your preference. I actually just cut a guitar cable in half, and that worked out pretty clean. Doesn't really matter, basically you just want to run the signal from the guitar to the "transmitter" unit and from the "receiver" unit to the amp.

3. Solder, flux, soldering iron, maybe some hot glue. You know, the usual junk.

4. Might be good to have a Churro around, just to nibble on something between steps.

Step 2: Modify the Damn Things

Picture of Modify the Damn Things

...both in the same way. One walkie talkie will be the transmitter, plugged into the instrument, and one will be the receiver, plugged into the amplifier. Open the walkie-talkies and look for the speaker/microphone (same thing). There should be two wires running to the speaker/microphone. Use a soldering iron to soften the solder holding these wires in place and remove the wires from the speaker/microphone. These wires will need to be joined to your 1/4" audio outs for both walkie-talkies. Run these new audio outs through a hole drilled in the plastic housing of the unit. Be sure to provide enough slack in these new cables to reach the amplifier, in the case of the receiver, or the instrument, in the case of the transmitter. Solder all the new connections securely, and insulate and secure the connection with hot glue. A good, secure connection will ensure that the signal is as clean (in a lo-fi sense) as possible.

Step 3: Designate Which Walkie-talkie Will Do What

Picture of Designate Which Walkie-talkie Will Do What

Designate which unit will be the transmitter (the one plugged into the instrument). Most walkie-talkies have a button which when depressed will transmit the audio signal to the other walkie talkie. You can either solder the points which this "momentary" push-button connects to together for a permanent solution, or just tape the button down.

Step 4: Rock Out!

Picture of Rock Out!

Plug the transmitter (the one with the "call" button hacked) into the instrument of your choice, put it on your studded belt, plug the receiver into your amplifier, turn both units on, and play some metal. Kick the air, jump and spin, and do your best judo leg sweeps as you belt out some selections from Master of Puppets. You may notice some inherant distortion and hum, but fret not, dear reader. Nobody will notice these subtle imperfections in sound quality as you slide from one end of the stage to the other, writhing ever so cobralike on the floor like some sort of amyl-nitrate fueled rock'n'roll God.

Step 5: Options

Picture of Options

Thems are the basics, gang, but the fun doesn't stop there. Below are some other options to keep in mind that may help to optimize your capacity for audio assault.

1. Rehousing the units: Take all the guts out of the walkie talkie, and rehouse them in something more befitting a rock'n'roll monster such as yourself. Something with cobras or skulls and junk. Or, if you're feeling especially daring, something with cobras AND skulls. Another possibility is to house the transmitter unit within an instrument, like your cheap chinese keyboard or your circuit bent TMX Elmo. Imagine the possibilities for audience participation.

2. Utilize the "send tone" button: Most walkie talkies have a "send tone" button. Snot-nosed kids like to use this particular function to pretend they know morse code when they are playing army or between sessions of grab-ass. We can do better, right gang? Consider turning this into an on-the-fly guitar mounted optical theramin, or simply a loud-ass noisemaker. Not even the $450 dollar professional wireless systems have any bells and whistles like this.

3. Other products which can give similar results: Mr. Microphones, those crummy 80's devices and their inumerable bastard step-children (see Police Academy 2 for details) which transmit audio directly to your FM radio can be used in a similar fashion, with the Mr. Microphone as the transmitter and an FM radio as the receiver. Cordless house phones can be used if you know how to make them run off 9volt, but I'm not going to get into that. Anything that transmits audio from one device to another without wires is fair game. Who knows, maybe you can hack those hands free cellphone earphone/microphone adapters and jam with your buddies across the continent with your free nights and weekends. I'd try it myself, but I've never touched a cell phone, and I ain't starting now.

That's all for now, gang. Keep rocking the most.

Aimless J. Lackluster

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Comments

Wantashi Na (author)2014-02-28

capt hook is a moron...excuse him he's a liberal demorat

jmoreira1 (author)2012-11-25

It didn't worked for me. I've done it correctly. Before I finish, I pluged the walkie talkie to the amp and talk with the other one, and it worked. But when it was all done and plug one to the amp and the other to the guitar there was no sound only the "mmmm" from the amp. someone can help me please? Thank you.

mung (author)2007-10-09

This is cool and all of the money you save will help to pay for the huge fine you will get from the FCC if you get caught. First of all the FCC rules say that you can't transmit music on FRS. Second the rules say you can't modify these radios. If you were going to do this you need to reduce the output power so that it is around .01 watts to be even close to legal. So watch out with this and make sure that you know of the FCC rules before doing it.

KaosKIdd (author)mung2011-06-02

Having done this instructable, it's not bad at all. the FRS bands do limit the quality of the sound, but it does work. However, if you happen to have one of the little things from Radio Shack that plugs into your mp3 player and transmits it to your radio, the frequency response would be much better, as the author points out as "fair game". The reason why I suggest this is the band it transmits on, and the power it transmits with is within ALL FCC regulations, thus no one can get into trouble. For a better explanation the rules about the FRS bands please see:
http://wireless.fcc.gov/services/index.htm?job=service_home&id=family
The modifications as listed in the FCC are based on the transmitter and antenna of the transmitter: meaning power, frequency, radiated power and peak envelop power. The actual radio, outside of these restrictions, are open for development and experiment as long as you do not modify these parameters. Lastly, as depicted in the page from the FCC, the FRS bands CAN be used for business related work; which includes the transmission of music. For other bands under the FCC control, it is expressly stated that business can not be transacted, also expressly stats music can not be the purpose of the transmission from the operating station. The FRS bands differ from most if not all of the other bands in their operations.

adrian09 (author)2011-01-11

meaning change to another switch?

adrian09 (author)2011-01-06

but why is there another 'call' button on ur walkie talkie? the one above the speaker?

anand sharma (author)2010-07-31

how will u connect guitar plug in walki talkie...help me out

Pbyrd (author)2010-07-25

Would this work with a bass guitar? I'm not sure if the walkie talkies would pick up the bass sound too well.

Glockenator (author)2010-02-26

stupid question here: whats a churro?

capth00k (author)2009-12-21

 Mmmmmmm Churro's.  To the Aussie -- if your country has no Churro action - then perhaps it's time to consider a country with guns and Churro's ; like the USA

ramcorsolerto (author)2009-09-27

Great Instructable!!! Mine works quite well, but if my guitar's volume is turned to 10 makes a lot of gain... How can I reduce the gain? Changing the resistor (Brown, Green, Orange, Gold) maybe? Thanks.

Nipmeow (author)ramcorsolerto2009-10-26

yea you could add a resistor to the transmitter, i havent built one yet soo i cant recommend what size resistor to use

By the way, it is a 15k...

pakidood (author)2008-09-05

yo man my version is giving me too much static how do i reduce it ps awesome hack

ramcorsolerto (author)pakidood2009-09-20

Thats why it is called a LO-FI signal, but by covering the female jacks with electric tape will do just fine, but be carefull, don't cover the male jack pathway.

chevyboy666 (author)2008-09-19

that first pic is Ace Frehley right?

xrobevansx (author)chevyboy6662009-08-24

I was thinking the same thing, so I looked to see if anyone else thought that too....Back in the NY Groove!

chevyboy666 (author)xrobevansx2009-08-24

Have you heard about Anomaly? Ace is back & he told you so!

ChucklesProductions (author)2008-11-13

I do love a good churro.

They don't have churros here in Australia. What should I eat?

daulef (author)Agroking2009-08-24

oh yes we do! else i wouldnt reside here ;) hehe

RelaxedSoup (author)Agroking2009-07-09

Try a banana.

timheppner (author)2009-07-23

Just found this and I think this is a sweet idea. I have tried it on my bass (active pickups) and can't seem to get any sound coming through the FRS radio. I have tried it with my ipod, and it's working, so I know it's not the FRS. I'm wondering if a guitar will work better. I'll try it with a friend's guitar and see how it goes. Also, I'm using the FRS's mic jack, so I don't need to rig up something to keep the talk button pressed down, so there was no need to open up the radio and mod it. As soon as the jack is plugged in, it automatically transmits. Something that may be useful for someone else. I'll let you know how it goes with the guitar.

Metal4God (author)2009-04-18

ok, i read how you said "put it on your studded belt" well...what if you want to swing it over your sholders? wouldnt it make more sence to put it on your strap? or take out the componans and put it in one of thoes hallow box things from radio shack?

PuddleOfMudd25 (author)2009-02-16

Is this supposed to seem ridiculously easy, or am I missing something? Defiantly going to try it, even though I don't need it :P.

drmjj55 (author)2008-12-27

CHUROS R GOOD

ninjabob7 (author)2008-08-30

So will this give better sound quality than an iPod-style FM transmitter? Because I already have one that I got for $10 bucks at Grocery Outlet, and it's pretty clear for mp3's if you can get the dials adjusted just right.

peterpan73 (author)ninjabob72008-10-31

Yes it does. the iPod style FM Transmitters are broadcast band 88-108Mhz types which implies that some mobile dude might pass by your neighbourhood with his broadcast Mp3 TRansmitter and you'd prolly hear JLo on your amps rather than your guitar riffs. Same goes with the CB transmitters. They have good freq stability no doubt but interference is inevitable and tweaking them is a tad difficult. So stick to FRS and GMRS people. YOu're better off that way.

peterpan73 (author)peterpan732008-10-31

And anotther thing. Those iPod transmitters won't transmit more than 10 meters prolly more with an external wire propped as an antenna to say 20m max. They're around 50mW output so they're too weak for any decent use, let alone using them on stage especailly a bif stage area. You're risking blind spots there.

ninjabob7 (author)peterpan732008-10-31

Yeah, that's kinda what I thought. I wasn't planning on using it "for real" - just wondering. Also, I'm fairly certain it's illegal to boost power on a transmitter like that... Not sure if simply adding an antenna would qualify though...

peterpan73 (author)ninjabob72008-11-01

Of course its illegal in the US. Hope u understand that its something I've done does not mean you can do it everywhere in the wqorld. I live in a country where it can be done though, beyond FCC jurisdiction.

ninjabob7 (author)peterpan732008-11-08

Yeah, for a "free" country, we sure have a lot of dumb laws here in the US of A. Not FCC specifically - radio has to be regulated somehow, but DMCA sucks.

Rishnai (author)2008-05-27

I'm working on a cell phone hack right now so that I can take RCA or 1/4 inch signal and transmit it hi-fi via the cell phone's hands-free attachment port. My band has a lot of over-the-cell-phone practice and songwriting sessions, but we're tired of the crappy sound. Bluetooth might work better, but whatever. If it works, I might make an instructable. In the meantime, I guess I'll have to build one of Lackluster's creations.

ninjabob7 (author)Rishnai2008-10-31

Bad idea. Phone sound is compressed. That means that any frequency outside "normal speaking range" is chopped, meaning the bass guitar will be cut completely, and any notes that make it through will be missing their harmonics. BTW, that's why phones sound tinny - not quality of parts.

rbstic (author)2008-02-06

i did this 24 years ago.

peterpan73 (author)rbstic2008-10-31

and lemme guess .. using rigid crystal oscillators or the VFO types.

spinner000 (author)2008-01-03

hey man i love the idea im actually workin on one right now and ive run into a problem; whenever i plug in the receiver i get a very high piutched sqeak the gradually gets louder and higher pitched any ideas on a fix

peterpan73 (author)spinner0002008-10-31

Sounds like feedabck to me. loosen up the audio gain and try again if it doesn't work check for audio signal at every audiostage of the circuitry. Often this squealing could be from a leaky coupling capacitor.

Rishnai (author)spinner0002008-05-27

You're getting feedback. Treat it like any other microphone feedback: move. But you've probabl fixed that by now, I bet.

callmeshane (author)2007-10-28

Hi I am Gay and Christian, and ...... no sorry wrong flashback... I am just Gay.... yeah... Pickled brains don't make for innovation... Kudos for getting off your arse and having a go.... And what Peterpan73 says...... I hate armchair experts, or barstool intelectuals.... In Straya - a while back.... TAG Hyer?? watches left the factory for $150 each. Importer onsells them to retailer for $750 each. Retailer sells them to customer for $3500 each.... $3500 watch still only comes with a 12 month warranty. LOL Me thinks with my limited experience that wireless guitar setups, really are not that brilliant, and one is paying more for presteige and "Tha Name" than technical wizzardry. And me also thinks that QUALITY electronics, properly configured and robustly assembled and fitted, should not cost very much at all.... But if your NOT a technical wizard, and you have to pay some one to make this for you.. or to reconfigure a cheapie setup into a permanent installation within the guitar..... I feel that this is where the higher price of the ready to run system may have be better than the cheapie system... For instance, if I am playing a gig, the quality system should switch on and give a fairly reliable signal for X hours on a set of fresh batteries. But if paying patrons get a lame show because of poxly fitted up electrics, then who loses.... I am all for efficient use of the resources, but they MUST be properly done, to make them absolutely reliable and good quality.

marcocen (author)callmeshane2008-07-05

i agree with you...partially. i do think that most of the money you pay for one of those high-end wireless thingies and you're paying for the brand. but i think that if you're using this in a gig, you have two reasons: 1) you perfected it, tested it and know the system is reliable or 2) you're not proffesional enoeugh to pay for a branded product and if you're just starting, i don't think it really matters if equipment fails in the middle of a song. perhaps the same would happen with a 450 dollar wireless setupanyway!

peterpan73 (author)marcocen2008-10-31

Marcocen is right. Paying $450 + for the reliability is nice but what if it fails midway during a performance. How do you compensate the $1 million that the punters paid to see your act? Will Shure or Senheiser reimburse what they paid to see? So I concur with the testing and perfecting. Trial runs are what you need. If space shuttle Challenger went down in flames anything could happen to its equivalent hobby rocket.

killerjackalope (author)2008-07-29

You can actually make pretty impressive systems if you dig up good walkie talkies, we have a set that I used to bodge a simpler wireless sound system up so I could walk around listening to music, it involved the mic port and finding the right volume output so it didn't distort, after that I can listen to music over the walkie talkie to my hearts content, these were slightly pricier but the quality was what impressed me, some sets can be great...

itsachen (author)killerjackalope2008-10-09

what walkie talkies did you use? id like to do this instructable, but obtain decent sound. i play with alot of distortion but i would like a nice sounding system. also how did you build yours? did it involve soldering those two wires to the cable like in this instructable?

peterpan73 (author)itsachen2008-10-31

I used Cobra FRS sets (don;t remember the model) need to check.

killerjackalope (author)itsachen2008-10-09

It was pretty similar to the design in the 'ible except I found the input had to be reasonably low gain to keep the receiver in check, for one that's being amplified anyway it wouldn't be too hard to do it without clipping, get a half decent pair of walkie talkies to start with and the sound will be better. If you build one of these play with the input volume from the instrument to try and find a nice level, also if you were very clever you could bypass the amplifier in the receiver altogether for less distortion, well that's the theory anyway...

hey this is great..:D my friend is redesigning band instruments and wants to make them totally wireless and compact..thanks for this! its sure gonna help..

sumguysr (author)2007-02-08

no self respecting artist would ever be caught playing their music through anything that sounded like an frs radio, or a phone or a kids toy.

alexmason (author)sumguysr2008-07-25

I respect myself dick-wad . I think your jus pissed cuz you didnt come up with the idea urself bro ;P

sumguysr (author)alexmason2008-07-26

I'm sorry, I made a bad choice of words a year ago. You might have great self respect, it doesn't have anything to do with this instuctable. My point was simply that ISM band radios aren't nearly high quality enough to purport to be wireless microphones or to compare to commercial options, overpriced as they may be. Peterpan corrected me on the capabilities of frs radios, I still have my doubts about their audio compression but I haven't tried and he seems to know what he's talking about. Regardless the original instructable when I posted my comment used ISM band toy radios.

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