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Shure UR3 and UR5 Microphones: Trying Out the Wireless Recoding and Transmission System

Shure, one of the most respected manufacturers of audio hardware, recently introduced a wireless transmission system: the UR3 UHF-R plug-on transmitter and UR5 UHF-R portable wireless receiver.

Shure UR5 on DSLR camera

The UR3 transmitter is constructed from die-cast metal; although it’s a little heavy (7 oz. with two AA batteries, or a little under half a pound), it feels robust and hearty. It features an XLR female plug for connectivity to microphone or microphone boom. It’s powered by two AA batteries, which will last about 10 hours with a condenser microphone if the UR3 unit is not providing phantom power, or about four hours with 48V phantom power for a dynamic mic. Its rounded shape makes it easy to hold, if necessary, but I find that most uses make the UR3 transmitter an extension of something else you’re already holding.

The system’s software allows users to program up to 10 microphone presets for quick recall of the mic’s gain, phantom power (+12V or +48V) and high-pass filter (40–240 Hz) settings. These settings can be copied from one UR3 to another.

The frequency range is 470–952 MHz.

The system setup is very simple, even for someone like myself who works primarily in video, not audio. I appreciate that the transmitter has its own sensitivity feedback system. An LED turns red and then flashes amber when the level gain is right.

It took me some time to get used to the little nubbin joystick that gets you into the menu system and allows you to select options. (It reminds me of the tiny joystick in the middle of the keyboard on some older laptops.) I started to think it would be far too easy for someone handling the mic to accidentally knock the joystick and change the settings, but there is a lock feature that prevents it.

The UR3 comes with a protective rubber cover and a belt clip.

Open frequencies are selected and synced directly to the UR3 from the associated receiver, making it remarkably easy to use.

Shure UR3

As you might expect, the UR5 receiver partners well with the UR3. It features full bandwidth scan and sync, and the LCD display shows the working frequency clearly. The UR5 can receive signals from up to 150 meters (line of sight) and I had no trouble with noise or dropouts in my testing. The UR5 offers 2,400 selectable frequencies across 60 MHz bandwidth.

Like the UR3, the receiver is able to store settings so that one receiver can be used with multiple transmitters and switch among them easily. It can switch between up to 40 different transmitters on the fly. It’s hard for me to imagine a situation in which you’d have 40 different wireless transmitters and want only one at a time, but be able to switch among them quickly; nevertheless, the UR5 allows you to do just that. Settings can be copied to other UR5 receivers.

The UR5 can run up to five hours on two AA alkaline batteries or up to 13 hours with lithium-ion batteries. You can also use Shure’s SB900 rechargeable batteries.

The receiver comes with two cabling options: male XLR and male 1/8”. (Many HDSLR cameras have only 1/8” audio inputs.) Setup of the receiver is a bit more complicated than the transmitter as the UR5 is a pretty powerful device intended for a range of production scenarios. It has its own tone generator and separate volume controls for the audio output and built-in 1/8” headphone jack.

The unit has good flexibility in mounting options, including a belt clip, hot/cold shoe mount for the top of your camera and Anton/Bauer mounting accessories. The UR5 weighs in at a little over 7 oz. with two AA batteries.

The automatic sync option was great for me—I didn’t have to fumble to get the transmitter and receiver up and running. The only time I have to deal with sound is when I’m operating as a one-man-band, generally when I’m recording an interview. I’ve been doing a lot of interviews for Filmmaker in a Box’s new series of educational videos, called FIB Online, and the Shure UR3 and UR5 have been great for setting my boom mic wireless and feeding the audio into the JVC GY-HM100U HD camera I’ve been using. I’ve had no problems with the UR3 and UR5 and am struggling to find anything critical to say about these audio accessories. Truly they’re solid, professional tools that perform exactly as you would expect them to—and even beyond. Both are flexible and intuitive, which is incredibly important when I’m all alone and wearing multiple hats.

The only complaint I have is the price of these units—just under $3,000 for the pair of them. That’s a little hard for me to reconcile when similar wireless systems are in the $500 to $800 range. The others are not as robustly constructed or as feature-rich, but when you’re counting dollars, it’s hard to reconcile the price point.   dv

Product:Shure UR3 and UR5

Pros: Excellent, intuitive design. Great feature versatility and flexibility. Excellent performance.
Cons: More expensive than I’d like. Slightly on the heavy side compared to other transmitters/receivers.
Bottom Line: The Shure UR3 plug-on wireless microphone transmitter and UR5 portable diversity receiver performed flawlessly for me. They’ll fit in perfectly with any professional kit.
MSRP: UR3 $1,249, UR5 $1,499