Sennheiser 6000 Series. A solution to all problems.
It has been a long time since digital wireless microphony came to stay and solve typical issues relating to audio coverage, intermodulation and interferences that are so typical of analogue transmission. And of course, Sennheiser has always been the referent when it comes down to wireless audio, as proven by its 6000 series.
Lab tes perfomed by Yeray Alfageme
The fact that these 6000 series is compatible with the top of range, the 9000 series, is yet another clue of what Sennheiser has been searching here: maintain both top-notch quality and features in a robust system that is capable of undertaking any production. We must be really grateful to Magnetron for giving us the opportunity to test equipment with these features. We have had the privilege of laying our hands in the following items of the 6000 series:
– Two EM 6000 dual receivers.
– Two SKM6000 handheld microphones, winners of several industry awards.
– Two SK 6000 transmitters, winners of several industry awards.
– A SK 6212 micro-transmitter.
– An L 6000 smart battery charger.
– Two e965 capsules.
– Antennae, lavalier capsules and all associated accessories.
Starting from the very end, a detail showing the quality and also what can be expected from this system –which may seem trivial to many, but an important feature to those of us who have devoted hours to configuring and putting together microphony systems- is the accessories kit for the capsules, which is just beautiful.
Details such as the sponges, which come in different skin hues, are not found in other systems or manufacturers. But let’s examine the system in depth.
EM 6000 dual receiver
This receiver has everything that is required to become any audio technician’s best ally, both at the set or in live events. It certainly comes with all features inherent to Sennheiser systems. Its robust metal build is made to last and both its construction and proper control are guaranteed even in the most demanding environments. Furthermore, it has features found in high-end digital systems such as encrypting -a must in certain critical environments- which offers yet an additional security layer without increasing a latency of just 3 ms.
Something already usual, but which works great in Sennheiser is the auto-scan feature. The only thing that needs to be done is specify the frequency range to use, mainly based on the local legislation applicable in our location, and this receiver will perform an automatic scan of the full spectrum and recommend what configuration to use. This, coupled with the Sync function that we will examine just below, both facilitates and ensures proper configuration of the system in a few minutes. Not any longer required are a spectrum analyser o extra metering equipment, as the system does everything for us. Add to all this the Wireless System Manager piece of software -reviewed at the end of this article- and the progress achieved is enormous.
Going over all features offered by this piece of equipment would be an endless task and, honestly, I think it would be of little interest to our readers. Therefore, we will focus here on two features that do make a difference as compared to others: Sync and Walktest.
The Sync function, by means of which the receiver automatically configures the transmitter in order to transfer to it all the configurations required, works surprisingly well. Just by pressing the Sync button for the channel of the receiver on which we want to work and getting the transmitter closer to the blue light that will flash on the device the task is successfully achieved.
Nothing, nothing else at all needs to be done in the transmitter and the whole configuration is then synced and ready to operate. This solves a number of issues that are easily avoidable and saves a lot of time so technicians do not have to navigate through the menus in the transmitters which, let’s be honest, no matter how well they have been designed, are always more awkward to operate, given their smaller size.
The other ‘WoW’ feature is Walktest. Once the auto-scan and sync procedures have been completed, and in order to have our system operate in the best conditions possible based on our environment, we just need to enable the Walktest function in our receiver and, as its own name indicates, take a walk through the area to cover so as to make sure there will be no reception issues. The system will automatically record minimum and maximum signal values for each of the two antennae, as well as signal quality and audio level thus ensuring that, if no issues are found during this test, our production will be guaranteed throughout our entire stage, set or outdoor environment we may be working in.
As for connections, the EM 6000 has balanced analogue outputs, AES outputs and even a Dante network output so we can directly get in our audio network with no need to resort to conversions or any additional equipment. As the equipment comes also with digital output, we have worldclock input and output for synchronization and Ethernet monitoring connection for its WSM software.
SK 6000 transmitter
The SK 6000 is the standard belt-pack transmitter in the 6000 series. It can work with the BA 61 battery, offering over 12 hours of operation, or even with standard batteries if needed. Its monochrome white-lit LED screen offers both a comfortable display and lots of information for this size. It is not a simple two-line screen, but a fully-featured display showing level, frequency and easy access to the entire configuration menu. We hope that by making use of the Sync feature, there will hardly be any need of using it.
SK 6000 automatically detects the capsule we have connected to it –provided it is a Sennheiser model, of course- or whether we are using the transmitter for conveying a line signal, and therefore automatically adapts its previous to the microphone or system connected to the input jack.
As we mentioned at the beginning, the entire 6000 series is compatible with its bigger sibling, the 9000 series, and proof of this is the fact that the 6000 series comes with both AES 256 and Digital 900 encryption –the latter a proprietary feature of the same series by Sennheiser.
SK 6212 micro-transmitter
This micro-transmitter is no doubt the brand’s major innovation when it comes down to using belt-pack microphones. It is approximately one-third the size of the SK 6000. However, in this instance, its lithium BA 62 battery cannot use regular batteries due to obvious construction reasons. It offers 12 hours of operation, the same as its bigger sibling, and all features and audio quality with no compromise at all.
Its 100% metal build and the main -if not the only- difference, is that it is completely robust, even more so than the SK 6000. Its display, which features just two lines of text, is sufficient for checking status and highly visible as it comes with two high-luminance white LEDs. With this model it is certainly obvious that the Sync feature will be of great help, as in the light of its compact size, configuring the device is a somewhat tedious task.
We have been positively surprised by this micro-transmitter, which we believe may even replace bulkier devices as it has no drawbacks but all the advantages associated to smaller, more robust equipment. However, regular batteries cannot be used here.
SKM 6000 handheld microphone
Construction of Sennheiser handheld microphones, the ones most used in music events, amongst others, is beyond question. And the 6000 series is no exception.
Sennheiser has created a microphone that supports both the brand’s and Neumann capsules, offering 5.5 hours of operation with is BA 60 lithium battery, which can be replaced by a pack of AA batteries in the event of emergency. Worth noting is the fact that the battery is distributed throughout the entire microphone body, which has not impact on weight balancing and ergonomics.
Buttons, both on/off and for menu access, are conveniently located and protected, with no need for awkward lids or covers as in previous models, in such a way that there will be no chance for accidents or undesired configuration changes during operation.
As all other transmitters, the operation indicator LED, that in this instance is the Sennheiser logo itself and which also works as on/off button, can be disabled for a more discrete operation of the microphone in sensitive environments such as theatres or similar venues.
The rest of accessories and pieces of equipment within the 6000 series make the grade as for what we have seen so far in the Sennheiser professional series. Worth mentioning is the L 6000 smart battery charger, which comes with slots for charging both BA 60 and BA 61 and 62 batteries in a quick, reliable fashion without compromising their life cycle and no risk of overcharge-related damages. We could even leave our batteries to charge overnight without any problems. A feature that is at least surprising is the Ethernet connection, but let’s see its use within the Wireless System Manager (WSM) software.
Wireless System Manager (WSM) software
In order to be able to use the configuration, management and control software for Sennheiser wireless microphony systems -the Wireless System Manager (WSM)- along with the 6000 series system, we must have version 4.3 or higher, which is available, free of charge and free of license, at the Sennheiser website.
This system may be used from a single computer or from several computers at the same time, thus allowing for monitoring, configuration and operation of the systems in parallel by controlling the rights provided in each individual computer. And it is here where the fact that the battery charger comes with an Ethernet connection becomes a useful feature that enables knowing the status of each battery and therefore if we can replace them in full confidence that we will have enough charge to continue operating.
In addition to this, the feature that really comes handy and means a real change even in the equipment to use in our productions is the frequency scan.
This function enables marking the areas in the spectrum that are free from interferences, so we can locate our transmission in these areas. We have already mentioned that the EM 6000 receiver comes with the auto-scan feature, but having a graphic version of the spectrum and being able to monitor all frequencies in real time is really something else. It is like having a full-fledged spectrum analyzer within the receiver system in just one computer.
In addition to all this, it also calculates the areas within the spectrum that are free from intermodulation, as these are adjacent transmissions which -even though not using the same frequencies- may cause transmission issues.
After having performed this advanced analysis we can tell the software to allocate frequencies offering lesser risks of experiencing issues to the various receivers in our system. The final step in the process would be to synchronize each transmitter with the relevant receiver and we are then ready to go.
What we have just described is something really irksome and requires additional equipment when using analogue systems. For this reason, is easy to grasp that Sennheiser 6000 series is a system that truly facilitates wireless audio operations a great deal.
The Sennheiser 6000 series does mean a change of paradigm in many aspects, as also does the 9000 series. It is not only a digital microphony system as such, but also makes use of the features offered by the new technology available in order to provide functions and capabilities that had been impossible in previous systems.
This, coupled with the new design provided by the Sennheiser micro-transmitters and the support offered by the control software –enabling monitoring and smart scan of frequencies- results in the elimination of risks associated to operation of wireless systems. This equipment can now be used in environments that were up to now unthinkable, with quality and reliability levels unheard of.
We open the flight-case, connect our computer to the system, run a scan and follow the program’s recommendations, transfer the recommended configurations to the receivers in our system, sync the transmitters, and ready to go. And everything with no additional equipment required, in an intuitive, swift fashion.