TOA Guitar/Mike System
The vast attractions of being able to roam around all over a stage without a lead to trip over or break down (not to mention the safety angle of not being wired-up to your amp) must be appealing to every guitarist and bass player - not to mention singers. All hail, therefore, a new system from TOA (comprising their single channel receiver, lapel mike and guitar system) which has a total RRP of £586.50 (inc VAT), a price which must make it close to reality for many working players, especially considering its outstanding flexibility.
Until the appearance of the Toa system, radio mikes had been split into two very distinct kinds: the professional but limited (and legal to use) types, and the illegal (and often horrendously bad) which were legal to sell but not to use. If you felt like taking the gamble and buying one of the illegal 'under the counter' radio systems, you ran not only the risk (albeit unlikely) of being busted for infringing Home Office regulations on radio transmitters, but also the even greater risk of buying a dog. The new Toa system, however, is both legal and effective, as our testers found. Read on.
The Toa radio mike system is built in Japan to conform to the requirements of the official British system. As it leaves Japan the basic system comprises several different elements, those which concern us here being the WT730 single channel receiver and the WM330 Pocket transmitter with its Lavalier (clip-on or 'lapel' type if you prefer) mike unit. When this package arrives in Britain, the innovative folks at Toa U.K. make up a special lead to connect your guitar or bass from its standard 1/4" jack socket to the pocket transmitter, which they sell in with the RRP of the lapel mike and transmitter only.
Assuming that you've bought the whole package, what do you actually get? Well, it's a lot more than you think you're getting that's for sure! Looking at the guitar/mike end first, the clip-on mike is a pretty basic electret condenser type which you can either use or not, as you please. It is fed, via a direct link, to the tiny WM330 transmitter, a small plastic box measuring approx. 2 1/4" x 3 3/4" x 3/4" which runs from three AAA size Mallories and which you can either slip into your pocket, or (better) clip to your belt. This is the transmitter, and it has an on/off switch, LEDs for battery condition (you should get 30 hours' use from a set of alkaline cells) plus internal standby and sensitivity controls. It's small, neat and has a tiny 'whiplash' aerial fitted, from which the signal gets to the receiver. If you're using a guitar feed instead of the lapel mike, a specially provided lead connects from the jack socket straight to a small locking socket on the transmitter. Connection couldn't be easier, and neither could carrying the transmitter, which you soon forget is clipped to your belt.
The signal from your guitar is transmitted directly to the receiver unit, a low, flat metal-clad box which once again is very easy to set up, understand and use. Mains powered, the Toa receiver is tuned to the exact (fixed) transmission frequency being sent and can stand on or near your amp or mixer or, with the help of a racking kit, can be safely rack-mounted out of harm's way.
Provided on the rear panel of the receiver are various sockets. One of these takes the screw-in locking receiver aerial which comes with the package, the second (a metal 5 pin DIN type) is for accessory use (ie. battery power to drive the receiver), an Audio Output (again, a metal 5 pin DIN) for output to your mixer or amp comes next, and finally there's an IEC mains power input. There are two further controls on the back panel; a 'squelch' adjuster (used for suppressing unwanted noise when the mike is switched off) and a three-way slider which changes the output level from 'Line' to 'Mike High' and 'Mike Low'.
The sturdy little receiver's front panel is equally simple to understand. You have a chain of 5 LEDs and a series of pushbuttons which enable you to perform several vital tests. The first of these is to check 'RF' - in other words, to make sure that there are no 'dead spots' on stage. You hit the RF button and, while the user is moving around, ensure that the LEDs stay lit. Two further buttons then enable you to check performance for -16dB on the Vu scale and 0dB ditto. Finally, a Battery button shows you that batteries (if you are using them) are o.k. at the receiver end of the signal chain. Lastly, a headphone socket with volume control is provided alongside the mains on/off push button. Altogether it's a neat and practical package.
One vital point which we haven't yet mentioned is that, with a suitable connector, any mike can be used with this system if you fancy it for vocals instead of guitar use, or with its own Lavalier type. Suppose your favourite vocal mike was a Shure SM58, using the Toa would be no problem; you'd just connect it to the transmitter box via a suitable adaptor and away you'd go! This is, of course, a very major advantage indeed over those systems which tie you to one maker's mikes - not necessarily the one you'd ordinarily choose to use.
We have to admit that we deliberately gave the Toa system a hard time during our tests. We used it in a room when a computer was running (often an infuriating source of unwanted radio frequency noise), we deliberately imposed thick walls between players and the transmitter, we tried it with guitars, basses and a mike, and even used the Lavalier as a clip-on to an acoustic guitar. In every case the Toa system delivered a remarkable fidelity of sound, although adjustment (quite understandably) of the sensitivity control inside the transmitter was necessary when changing from low output guitars to high output ones.
A common problem with radio mike systems is the noise level and their tendency to pick up unwanted sounds of all kinds. In our tests we didn't experience any problems at all on either score. Both in terms of range and suppression of unwanted background noises the Toa worked extremely well. Used with a watchful eye on the receiver's LEDs when you're initially checking the system at a new venue, the Toa system seems to us to be a very welcome improvement in guitar/mike radio systems.
Not all players will be able to afford this Toa set-up, obviously, but for those who can it seems to us to represent exceptional value for money - particularly as it is by no means tied to guitar alone. Use it with acoustic instruments (employing the clip-on electret mike), use it for vocals with almost any make or type of mike you happen to prefer, you could even try it with keyboards as the perfect remote device - the Toa works well and is very good value for money. It is, moreover, backed directly in the U.K. by Toa's people, who seem to be both a willing and capable bunch. Try this one out - we reckon it's a definite goodie!
WT730 Single Channel Receiver RRP £316.25 (Inc. VAT) + WM330 Pocket Transmitter with Lapel Mike & Guitar Adaptor RRP £270.25
More details from Toa Electronics Ltd, (Contact Details).
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