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This article was originally published in issue #28
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As the name suggests, this is Audio-Technica’s take on the increasingly popular stompbox wireless concept. This relatively new development in wireless systems is aimed particularly at guitar players and other users of pedalboards who want the luxury of wireless performance without all the hassles of traditional rack mounted systems, which typically take up lots of space and threaten the user with back injuries every time they’re required to carry them anywhere!
Aside from saving space and weight in your rig, the great benefit of a stompbox wireless system is that you can place it at the start of your signal, therefore eliminating the need to run a cable from the back of the stage out to the pedalboard as would be required with a rack mounted receiver. The simplicity of this alone should appeal to most regularly gigging musicians who are looking for rigs that can be easily transported and set-up in a matter of minutes.
Once I’d got the unit out of the box I was instantly impressed with how simple it was to use. I’d got the whole system up and running in a matter of minutes (it would’ve been even quicker if there’d been two AA batteries for the pack included in the box, but I’ll overlook that!) and the interface of both the receiver and the pack couldn’t have been simpler.
Although a little on the large side, the UniPak transmitter was lightweight and comfortable to wear. The power button also acts as a mute when pressed quickly, - a useful feature for changing guitars during a gig without any hum or feedback, and the input gain could also be adjusted using a tiny screwdriver that was included and attached inside the battery compartment.
Overall the pack felt solidly constructed and my only criticism was actually the jack lead for connecting to the guitar; it’s got a special screw-in connector for the pack rather than just being a regular ¼” jack on both ends. This is always going to be a nuisance as it will be difficult to replace if lost, although to be fair it would be pretty hard to break it, so as long as you take care of the cable it shouldn’t ever be a problem. Lose, it however, and you've got a problem. (This is a criticism we've made before of Audio-Technica's wireless systems, another of which we reviewed in issue 25 - Ed)
The stompbox itself is very impressive, constructed in the rugged form you’d expect from something designed to spend its life being trodden on, and with simple controls that are intuitive to pick up and use straight away. It features an A and B output and the option to either switch between them or to mute channel A with the footswitch; this is ideal for amp switching, connecting a tuner that will be muted, or a variety of other set-ups where sending the signal in two directions could be useful. It also features a useful LED indicator which displays how much battery power is left in whichever UniPak transmitter it’s currently receiving (you can purchase additional UniPaks separately and the stompbox will pair with up to eight of them at a time). This LED indicator is a godsend for gigging musicians who’ll be able to clearly see how much life they’ve got left in their pack even on a dark stage and should hopefully help users to avoid ever dropping out due to lack of battery power. It also includes a peak LED which lets you know if the signal from the UniPak is too hot (which can be easily adjusted using the aforementioned micro-screwdriver).
I found the sound quality of the unit to be excellent, with no audible difference between the wireless signal and a regular guitar cable. There were no latency issues whatsoever and the range of the unit was similarly impressive. Experienced readers may recall problems with interference from analogue wireless systems but that’s just not the case with these high fidelity digital systems, which maintain a beautiful signal thanks to their much wider operating range.
Overall this is a great wireless system from a trustworthy, quality brand, and would be a welcome addition to any guitarists live rig. It is a little pricier than some comparable units on the market, but the build quality and host of extra features including the A+B switching option make this a serious contender that any professional guitarist should definitely take into consideration. We've docked the score by quarter of a point again, because of the issue of the non-standard cable.