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Larry Kaltenbach

Are pro wireless mics too expensive in 2014? Your thoughts?

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I'm seeing all the latest pro wireless mic offerings advertised in the header here on jw, and pondering what the jw community, including manufacturers, retailers, and end users think about wireless pricing relative to a few developments in the production world:

 

a) the fact that video camera pricing have dropped and keep dropping dramatically while offering buyers astounding image quality improvements and new features

 

B) the impact item (a) above has had on production budgets, particularly the pressures it has placed on sound professionals to offer more gear and labor for lower and lower prices.

 

c) Other items I haven't thought of but I'm sure the jw community has

 

Thanks.

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They're just tools. You buy the tools that fit the job you're doing at the budget you're working at.

If you're underpricing your services, then the best wireless are too expensive -- if you're charging proper rates, they're not.

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Interesting question..... My opinion....  probably mine only...  (as usual)

 

I LOVE Lectro, the people, the company AND the gear, the guys and gals there have always been top notch...just to be on the record... ...but..

This is a discussion, so here it is.

 

  If you can NOW buy a recorder AND Mixer...  Nomad and 633 for example for a reasonable cost....  633 at @ $3000.00,   then why is a radio mic ONE (1)  still around @ 3100.00  (With a SMQv)...?  That Nagra WAS @ $12,000!!!  (2 tracks)   The 633  10 tracks, smaller lighter with mixer and quite a few bells and whistles... Not only so much less expensive but SO MUCH more for the reduced cost...

 

Sure Vegas were cheaper then, and the cost was less... but I think you get the point.

 

If Sound Devices can adjust pricing with such a big leap in Technology, packaging and usefulness, why not our Radio mic companies....  I think at least on long established systems, there should be some reduction, but easy for me to say.

 

At least Zax of which I do not use, has implemented feature sets worthy of more expense to purchase them, with the TC and recording capabilities.. Expensive, but newer, and MORE!!  OK, I will give them a nod for that...  But those 411a's have been around for a while.... Years... Why STILL so expensive...  STILL paying off R&D? who knows... I know it takes a lot more to deliver on the product than we probably think..

 

It seems almost everything BUT Mics and Radio mic systems has come down quite a bit in price....  Further, those radio mics are needed more and more while pressure from producers is for less an less funds for the Sound mixer to offset those costs. The cost adjustments are not only I think wanted by all, but actually needed...

 

Again, I would like to see some adjustments on technology that has been around for a while now...  (411a's for example)

 

  I would also like to see some of the "price locks" from manufacturers go away to allow for some competition for sales from our usual suspects as well as some companies NOT on the radar screen...  

 

If nothing else, drop the price control locks....  I for one dislike them... I know they MAY have some meaning, but of all the stuff I purchase in my life, it is seldom I run into these "locks or price controls"...   

 

Do the controls keep the floor on resale high for the back end...?  Maybe....  but, pay now, or I guess.... pay later...

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There's no doubt that the market for high end wireless gear is ripe for a disruptive change like what happened with DSLR cameras on the camera side, but so far it hasn't happened: cheap wirelesses generally do not work as well or sound as good as expensive wirelesses.  One factor involved that doesn't play on the camera side is that the environment that wireless mics have to operate in gets more crowded and full of new actors with very powerful transmitters every day, at the same time that assumptions that more and more functions and channels should become wireless are more or less widely held.  So the for the designers of wireless equipment, the situation keeps getting harder to manage even without working towards a price break through.  Maybe some young genius has already solved these issues, but for the moment even  the very best and most expensive wireless systems have severe limitations.

 

philp

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Cameras sell more and have a shorter useful life. Radio mics that are built well function well and are durable, and will out live a camera many times over (assuming the FCC hasnt stepped in and messed things up with our spectrum).

 

I dont mind keeping prices high because it makes them (and our job to some extent) out of the reach of any people that otherwise would flood our industry and potentially become competition for our jobs. Yes, it takes years of experience to have years of experience, but all a producer sees is saving $$$ most of the time, and will go with the lower cost person, even if they get burnt time after time.

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Cameras sell more and have a shorter useful life. Radio mics that are built well function well and are durable, and will out live a camera many times over (assuming the FCC hasnt stepped in and messed things up with our spectrum).

 

I dont mind keeping prices high because it makes them (and our job to some extent) out of the reach of any people that otherwise would flood our industry and potentially become competition for our jobs. Yes, it takes years of experience to have years of experience, but all a producer sees is saving $$$ most of the time, and will go with the lower cost person, even if they get burnt time after time.

People are flooding the industry regardless of the cost of Radio mics.... They can use various options... I don't think higher prices of units keeps people from flooding....  It used to, but no more.... 

Where you lived was more of a factor than how much you paid...

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This is an apple to orange type of discussion. Have one camera in the room shooting a scene and then add another camera and another and another and each camera works without effecting the other camera. Now if you start out with one wireless working great and then start adding more, soon you will have problems of the wireless not working at all along with adding wireless phone and wifi devices. All of the radio waves are a finite amount while the light waves aren't competing with other light waves to be seen. But they can alter the color of the room. But then you don't turn every available light on either if you are good at lighting.

I think the problem might be solved when audio devices start to be able to share the audio waves, but have an address on that wave length. Not sure this can be solve in the analog airwave, but might be able to be address on the all digital airwave, but then would have to address the delay induced in the A to D conversion.

But then this won't make the price go down at first because of the cost of RND, but after a few years I could see the price begin to fall just like computers when they first came out.

And producers will always try to get what they want for the lowest price without caring about how much the equipment cost.

Scott.....

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I don't think the prices are too high for the gear we get.

The old Vega's were mentioned, and they were once one of the few premium systems.  a single 66/77 Vega system was a bit over $2k new, back in the 1980's.  Today the Sennheiser Evolution series wireless, for example, are ~600 for a kit that offers far more capability, and superior performance than the 66/77 system did, and you can still buy single channel VHF systems for ~$150..

 

The current marketing strategy and restrictions actually works pretty well, and isn't really costing the end users as much as many of you seem to suspect....  We no longer have what I used to call the "phoney retail" prices that no one ever paid; those prices included a really gross ( ::) ) markup, whereas today's pro gear carries only a quite nominal, reasonable mark-up, allowing our usual suspects to conduct business the way we like them to.

There is plenty of cheap stuff available (visit the NAMM shows!) but the stuff that does what we want it to, pretty  much the ways we want it to (technological limitations apply!) seems to be appropriately priced;  if it were not, then interloper companies would lower their prices, as there is certainly no shortage of competition.  There is, however, a finite and limited market for the top quality wireless equipment for our wants and needs, thus eliminating economies of scale a bit for the manufacturers; this is also why some requests do not get adopted.

 

JonG: " it is one more barricade to overcome at the very least. "

bologna! (baloney ?)

the 'trust fund baby' sound mixers don't care, and others buy Azden, etc, if the Sennheiser Evolution 100 wireless is too expensive;  BTW, the Azden's are actually a pretty good bang for the $$, and far exceed those old Vega wireless, that once worked for us.
 

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Interesting topic.

Pro gear is a loaded phrase. Is a 5D camera a piece of pro gear? It can in the hands of someone with knowledge and experience,  capture images that are used in a "Pro" project, but try to make a real Hollywood film with one or twenty of them. They aren't made to work the way we make film/tv. An Alexa on the other hand is made for the pro market and is priced so. I'm sure an Azden could work for over 1/2 of our wireless mic shots, but I'm not going to work with a tool like that. I want the best of class and I have paid that price for a lot of years. I look at the used market for Lectro's and it seems to support the new market prices. Seems to me that when the used market drops, the new market will follow. On the other hand, what do I know?

CrewC

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What is oxymoron in this case? Most of the expensive wireless transmitters and receivers (around 3.000€ to 5.000€ for two transmitters and one dual receiver) using 300€ lavalier microphone.

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Cameras sell more and have a shorter useful life

 

 

 

Those are actually the same issue. Cameras sell so many times more units* than radios, that it's worth it for manufacturers to keep bringing out new models. Capture just a slice of additional market from your competitors, and you can make a significant profit. And when you're making that many units, you can use cheaper assembly methods and development costs per unit almost disappear. And when you're selling that many units, dealers compete on mark-up and make their profit via volume.

 

Compare that to how many professional radios get sold every year. Development costs per unit are significant, and there's a lot of hand assembly / short-run machining. Our favorite radio companies -- which are tiny, particularly when compared to Panny and Sony -- have to charge what they do just to stay in business. Our favorite dealers have higher costs per unit as well, just in maintaining stock and demo units and keeping their people trained.

 

Professionalism, keeping the cost of mixer entry high, and stuff like that are certainly real from us users' point of view. So is jealousy when we see how much cheaper it is to buy a workable camera. But the real issue is simple economics: if the kind of radios we want to use are going to exist at all, they're going to be expensive.

 

 

 

* -  I wasn't able to find quick figures for movie-style cameras, but worldwide sales of still/DSLR cameras in 2012 was >98,000,000 units according to Grand View Research. Yeah, close to 100 million just that year.

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malcolm: " Why is this? "

they are deliberately gouging you! 8)

maybe it is personal..?

Mike you are at it again!!

Do you mean me personally or anyone who isn't from the USA?

Can't think it would be me as I've only recently moved into the world of Lectrosonics and I have never even seen an example of the Italian equipment let alone made any enquiries to buy one.

Are we moving back into the realms of where you feel that you have to write something no matter how puerile or stupid it is.

I thought that you were moving away from all this nonsense and you had started replying to subjects in a manner which actually help the people. How wrong could I be?

Malcolm Davies.

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Malcolm: " How wrong could I be? "

Sorry, but there are international economic forces at work, and the answer to your original question is rooted in multi-national marketing, economics, international trade, currency issues, government policies and regulations plus tariffs, and soooo much more, but your question sounds to me like you are taking it personally...

and think that there must be some simple answer like a conspiracy against < ?? >. and in a way, maybe it is, but that would be a government conspiracy against the foreign manufacturers and in favor of the homeland products.

All of the manufacturers would like to sell more product, (any where and every where!) and about none of them are trying to price themselves out of markets, any markets; come on, that just makes no sense at all...to anybody, especially the manufacturers, importers, and dealers.

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Compare our wireless systems with professional lenses, Follow Focuses, tripods etc. those haven’t seen much innovation in recent years either but still cost a lot of money. Can you get the job done with the  cheaper versions that are out there? probably. But I just don't want to deal with all the hassle that comes with consumer market gear, It would cost me too much time and nerves to deal with it on a daily basis and even the expensive stuff usually pays for itself through rentals.

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A lot of great things have been said above. I think the most important aspect, as Jay said, is the number of units sold. The higher end cameras are freakishly expensive. Anyway, I don't think that camera prices have come down so much, it's that new types of gear have entered the market and some people were crazy enough to use it as a movie camera. A Canon 5D is not cheap for a still camera.

On another note, a camera is basically like our receiver, and that's only half of the deal. You (usually) need the transmitter, too. In this case light. While there are new developments in lighting gear, the prices seem pretty stable to me. And if you need a 4kw Arrisun, that still puts you back a few grand and the technology doesn't seem to have changed much in the last... century

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Lectrosonics and Wisycom are a lot more expensive in the UK (excluding any offers presently floating about). Why is this?

Malcolm Davies.

Lectro sells at one price, in fixed USD, to all dealers. There are no Euro markups. Any landed pricing differences are due to customs, VAT, shipping, etc. The playing fields are as flat as we can make them.

Best,

Larry Fisher

Lectro

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Lectrosonics and Wisycom are a lot more expensive in the UK (excluding any offers presently floating about). Why is this?

 

I know that Europeans and Aussies have complained for years that Apple computer and iPhone prices are also higher in their countries than in America. Even the music on iTunes is more expensive outside America. Apple insists it's because of tariffs and government issues, as well as shipping, but I think their argument is a little hollow given that they're a multinational company making goods in China.

 

When it's a small market like film sound, I understand why devices like wireless cost what they do simply because they're not making hundreds of thousands of them. There's also lots and lots of QC and alignment that goes on with them, so it's not something you can just stamp out and ship like a plastic toy. A wireless mic transmitter or receiver is not something like a computer, made in mass production where prices will drop if the cost of the internal processors drop. 

 

I noticed Larry Fisher's wry April 1 comment about the "2000-piece Lectro SR Kit," and I sympathize with him: it's a miracle the thing is as inexpensive as it is when you consider how many parts are inside it, how tight the tolerances are, and how close everything is together. 

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Shure UR1/UR5 is $2k a channel, new. It's got great performance, wideband and a great sound. Used Lectro can be had around that price.

I don't care that the price of top quality wireless systems are $3000-3500 per channel. If it's the right tool and your business model supports it, then get it. We are in a business that, if we are charging proper rates and getting steady, good work, we should be making $80k-150k per year. That's plenty to invest $8k-15k per year (10%) back into equipment.

I don't see where the issue is. If gear is too expensive, then rent and build it into your kit fee until you can buy.

I don't envy the camera situation at all. There are new cameras every year, far too many to count and they lose their value so fast that the only way to keep them is to rent them constantly or use it as your only camera of choice (which is impossible as clients spec different cameras every other job). So cameramen own sticks and glass and support gear.

I find it far easier to invest in my career with wireless as they hold their value, pay for their "new-to-used" loss in a couple of rentals and at the end of their career can be resold for 80% of their value. They are great assets. Yes it costs to get into them but you have a physical asset at the end of the day, and one that makes money for you as well.

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Malcolm: " How wrong could I be? "

Sorry, but there are international economic forces at work, and the answer to your original question is rooted in multi-national marketing, economics, international trade, currency issues, government policies and regulations plus tariffs, and soooo much more, but your question sounds to me like you are taking it personally...

and think that there must be some simple answer like a conspiracy against < ?? >. and in a way, maybe it is, but that would be a government conspiracy against the foreign manufacturers and in favor of the homeland products.

All of the manufacturers would like to sell more product, (any where and every where!) and about none of them are trying to price themselves out of markets, any markets; come on, that just makes no sense at all...to anybody, especially the manufacturers, importers, and dealers.

 

Thank you for your concise observation.

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