Intro: 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...
Step 1: Get Your Materials
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
...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
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!
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
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