In this article, we go over some of the best wireless systems for musical instruments in various price categories. We’ve based our reviews on a combination of user reports, forum discussions, technical specifications, and good old common sense, making sure to keep our choices as affordable as possible without sacrificing quality. As such, this is not a list of the juiciest bones for vanity item collectors, but a collection of practical solutions for the working musician.
At the same time, although you can find wireless guitar and bass systems starting at prices of around as little as $100, if you’re looking for a permanent fixture to your setup, we recommend not dipping below the $300 line. Cheaper units tend to be riddled with problems such as excessive noise and hiss, sound dropouts, and flimsy construction, among others. For those just interested in testing the potential of cutting the cord, however, we do go over a couple of quality budget options as well.
If you’re confused about some of the jargon related to wireless systems, see our wireless instrument system buyer’s guide, where we explain some of the key terms and point out specifications to pay attention to when choosing one best suited to your needs.
Otherwise, without further ado, here are our top picks for the best affordable wireless guitar and bass systems.
The biggest problem with most quality wireless instrument systems like this one is remembering the seemingly random letter and number combinations in their name. Sennheiser’s Evolution Wireless (EW) D1 is a line of digital wireless instrument systems operating in the license-free 2.4 GHz band, with the CI1 designed specifically for guitar and bass, and we have nothing but praise for it.
Released in 2015, the D1-CI1 comes packed with all the latest tech and features, including automatic frequency scanning and selection, wireless link protection (preventing interference from nearby Wi-Fi and Bluetooth signals), and automatic gain control. It also has a built-in 7-band equalizer, a low-cut filter, and a de-esser.
The system consists of a bodypack transmitter, an instrument cable, and a rack-mountable receiver. The 3.9 ms latency is not the best on the market, but more than acceptable for standard performances, and insufficient range should never be an issue, as users have reported working distances of over 230 feet (70 m).
The CI1’s clear display keeps you updated on the remaining battery life/operating time, as well as showing signal strength. Though the D1 systems can use up to 15 channels, for ideal results – as with most 2.4 GHz systems –, operating more than 4–6 units together is not recommended.
Users have hailed the CI1 for its clarity and sound quality across both guitars and basses, even those with extended ranges (e.g. 5-string basses). With a frequency response of 20 Hz to 20 kHz and an A-weighted dynamic range of over 135 dB, that should be no surprise.
While the D1-CI1, with all of its main functions automated, is designed with ease of use in mind and leaves you free to focus on your performance, you can also control it using an iOS or Android app. Dropouts, dead spots, and interference are combatted with a combination of time, frequency, and antenna diversity, making this one of the most reliable wireless instrument systems out there.
As if that wasn’t enough, the system also comes with a hard transport case and a 2-year warranty when bought from a Sennheiser dealer. It runs on two AA batteries (included) that provide continuous operation of up to 6 hours. Additionally, you can also get the optional BA 30 rechargeable battery pack, which ups that to 11 hours.
All in all, the Sennheiser EW DI-CI1 offers one of the best combinations of value, sound quality, ease of use, and reliability in the realm of digital wireless instrument systems.
2. Shure GLXD16
The Shure GLX-D16 is a digital guitar and bass wireless system designed specifically for pedalboard users. It operates in the unlicensed 2.4 GHz band and the compact but sturdy receiver integrates perfectly into any pedalboard system. To really drive this point home, Shure have even supplied it with a trusty mutable built-in tuner controlled via an onboard footswitch.
Under ideal conditions, the GLX-D16 offers simultaneous use of up to 8 systems (4 typical) and has an operating range of up to 200 feet (60 m) indoors and 65 feet (20 m) outdoors. Keep in mind, though, that most conditions will not be ideal, and Shure list 100 feet (30 m) and 65 feet (20 m) respectively as more typical results. Latency falls between 4 to 7.3 ms depending on the channels used, which may seem high compared to some other units, but users report no problems in practice.
Like the Sennheiser system discussed above, the Shure GLX-D16 is super easy to set up and use thanks to its automatic linking and frequency hopping, as well as reliably resistant to interference and dropouts owing to a combination of diversity features. Clarity, fidelity to tone, and freedom from noise are guaranteed by a frequency response of 20 Hz to 20 kHz and a dynamic range of 120 dB (A-weighted).
Perhaps the best feature of the GLX-D16, however, is the battery technology. The system comes with a custom lithium-ion battery that offers an operating time of up to 16(!) hours off a 3-hour charge – better than any of its competition by a mile. Battery charge is monitored by intelligent circuitry, which keeps you informed of the precise remaining runtime, and the battery can even be charged via USB.
The system also allows you to connect multiple transmitters to one receiver, which is handy if you’re switching between instruments. And if, for whatever reason, you’re not entirely sold on the guitar pedal receiver design, the Shure GLX-D14 offers the exact same capabilities using a traditional wireless receiver (though isn’t rack-mountable).
As it is priced about the same as the Sennheiser D1-CI1, a case can be made for both units. Sacrificing a bit of range, a few extra built-in effects, and a smidge of technical prowess for a unique compact design, unmatched battery life, and potentially a few extra combined systems, the Shure GLX-D16 is a worthy contender for the spot of best wireless instrument system in this price bracket. The choice is yours.
Relay is a series of digital wireless systems for guitar and bass designed by Line 6, which operate in the 2.4 GHz band. Though we list the G50 here, you might want to check out the other units in the series as well, which cover several prices ranges from budget to higher end, offering more operating range, compatible channels, additional features, and better construction as the price goes up (see comparison table on Amazon – scroll down)
The Line 6 Relay series is one of the most raved about digital wireless systems on music forums and for a good reason. They simply offer the best available bang for buck in terms of reliability and sound fidelity even though the line was established back in 2010. Though there are some reports of the occasional defective units, malfunctions, or dropouts among the cheaper models, they seem to be isolated cases and bad luck more than anything, as overwhelming evidence points to the Relay series holding its own even among the newest tech.
We’ve chosen the G50 specifically, because it’s more or less the golden mean of the Relay product line and has most features your average guitarist could need at an affordable price without sacrificing sound or build quality. As with the Shure, you can integrate the G50’s receiver into your pedalboard, though this one doesn’t come with a tuner.
The G50 has an impressive frequency response of 10Hz – 20 kHz and a 120 dB dynamic range, which grant it a clear and full sound both on electric and bass guitar. It even includes highly praised cable tone simulation settings for those reluctant to make the leap to wireless for fear of tone loss – in fact, some claim it sounds even better than any cable, with more depth and and clarity. Heresy, I know.
The system runs on two non-rechargeable AA batteries (included). Using rechargeables will likely cause problems with inaccurate battery level indication, but the 8-hour battery life using non-rechargeables is not too bad. The G50 has an operating range of 200 feet (60 m), though higher priced units like the G55 and the G90 take this up to 300 feet. The relay series also has some of the lowest latency ratings of the digital systems on the market, with the G50 rated at less than 2.9 ms.
The Relay system tunes out Wi-Fi by protecting your signal using encoding and by broadcasting on multiple channels. As such, many users have reported working with the G50 right in the middle of wireless routers with no issues. As the 2.4 GHz band seems to be highly unpredictable, though, especially with lower and mid-priced systems, not everyone may be as lucky. On the occasion that signal loss does become a problem, however, it’s usually a simple matter of changing channels, although you will need to do this manually.
While the G50’s signal protection features don’t seem to be as comprehensive as those of some higher end units – which can manifest in more dropouts – and it lacks a proprietary rechargeable battery pack, it’s still one of the best performing wireless guitar and bass systems on the market, especially in terms of tone, and can be had at a fairly affordable price. And if the G50 isn’t for you, the Relay series offers plenty of other options to consider.
4. Shure PGXD14
Shure’s range of wireless systems covers just about every price range imaginable, from entry level ones like this one to professional gear costing in the thousands, and it’s no coincidence that this is the second Shure system on our list – they simply know what they’re doing.
On the surface, the PGXD14 looks fairly unassuming. Its simple plastic construction and flimsy-looking antennas might even be cause for concern if you plan on taking it on rougher roads (though it does ship with a padded carrying case), but beneath the skin, this wireless guitar and bass system offers a solid combination of excellent sound quality and reliability.
Most of the numbers are pretty standard: 20 Hz to 20 kHz frequency response, >108 dB dynamic range, 3.5 ms latency, and 200 ft (60 m) operating range. The receiver employs automatic frequency selection, one-touch synchronization and true diversity circuitry. Meanwhile, the beltpack tansmitter is thin and lightweight, holding 2 non-rechargeable AA alkaline batteries (included) that can power it for up to 10 hours – which is quite respectable.
What sets this one apart from the others on our list, though, is that it works in the 900 MHz band (read more about it here) instead of 2.4 GHz. The band itself is fairly narrow – though, like the latter, license-free –, covering frequencies from 902 to 928 MHz, which limits the simultaneous use of systems to 5. It’s also unavailable to wireless systems in most countries outside of the USA and Canada. It does, however, mean that it’s seated above TV and radio transmissions and well below standard Bluetooth and Wi-Fi signals.
This makes the PGXD14 a good choice if you know you’ll be performing in Wi-Fi-laden venues and/or have previously had recurring interference issues with 2.4 GHz systems. Though the 900 MHz band is, among others, also used by amateur radio and walkie-talkies, whose communications can be unpredictable, you’re probably less likely to run into these on most performance stages than clashing with local Wi-Fi connections.
Other than that, the PGXD14 offers no dazzling extras, but at its relatively low price tag it has all the basics covered with the quality and dependability of many much higher priced systems. The sound is clear and crisp, dropouts virtually non-existent, and the set-up quick and easy. And at the end of the day, that’s all that really matters.
5. Xvive U2
The Xvive U2 is a budget digital wireless system operating in the 2.4 GHz band, usable for all electric instruments. It’s a fairly minimalistic device with no extraneous features, consisting of a compact plug-type transmitter that connects straight to your instrument, plus an identical receiver, with no extra cables or cumbersome bodypacks in between – aka truly wireless.
In terms of price, the Xvive U2 is the lowest we’re willing to go on these systems. Go any lower and, frankly, you’re just asking for trouble, whether in lack of sound quality, operating range, interference or just plain old durability. Despite being a budget system, however, the Xvive U2 performs admirably – getting the job done and then some.
It has a standard 20 Hz to 20 kHz frequency response and does not lack for sound quality nor degrade your tone in any perceivable way. The 6 ms latency might seem high in numbers, but in practice, falls well outside the range detectable by the human ear, at least unless the rest of your rig is already producing a considerable amount of signal lag.
The Xvive U2 offers a reported operating range of 100 feet (30 m), which seems to hold up well in practice, and should be more than enough for the smaller venues it is obviously designed for. Among earlier models, some users have reported receiving defective units, so there are obviously some hitches in the production process yet to be ironed out, but the customer support experience has thus far been overwhelmingly positive for many, and most problems have been solved with technical support or replacements quickly and painlessly.
The system holds battery charge for 5 hours, which is not much, but the battery is rechargeable via USB and reaches full capacity in only 1.5 hours. However, the battery is not replaceable, meaning when it does finally give out, you’ll have to switch out the whole unit. Though designed with all stringed instruments in mind, the Xvive works best with passive pickups and has been known to cause problems (noise, squealing, etc.) with some (though not all) hotter active setups.
In areas of heavy close-range Wi-Fi activity, there have been reports of interference, and as the Xvive only has 4 channels to transmit over, evading external signals can prove problematic, especially as it does not have automatic channel switching. At this price range, however, this is simply a fact of life and you would do well to keep any similarly priced digital wireless systems away from Wi-Fi routers.
Considering its super low price tag, then, there isn’t much to lose in going with the Xvive U2 as chances are you will find yourself positively surprised. Technology has come a long way in the last decade and you no longer need to pay out of your nose to cover the most basic needs. Thus, for anyone on a budget looking to dip their toes in the pool of wireless performance, whether for comfortable bedroom/band practice or playing on more modestly sized stages, the Xvive U2 is a worthy piece of equipment.