Most guitarists will be used to the necessary evil of using guitar cables and have horror stories of cheap cables, noisy signals and the perils of tripping up on stage. Yet cables are no longer an absolute necessity, thanks to the best guitar wireless systems in this list. For those playing live shows, switching to a wireless system can be like crossing the Rubicon. There’s no going back. There’s no tripping over guitar cables mid-solo. No electronic snap, crackle and pop from a damaged jack. Just pure guitar signal, pure freedom and a whole lot less to go wrong.
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Once upon a time, wireless systems were reserved just for pro guitarists, but with options available at every budget levels (prices start from as little as 60 bucks), the opportunity is here for any gigging player to liberate themselves from the cables, and focus on what is most important: performance. You might wonder why you haven’t done so already.
With Black Friday on the horizon, it could be worth holding off on picking up a new wireless system until the Black Friday guitar deals start emerging. We'll be reporting on the best offers right through to Black Friday itself.
What is the best guitar wireless system right now?
The Line 6 Relay G10S is a breeze to set up and has an incredible 130 feet range. In most clubs, that’ll allow you to wander off to the bar – maybe even the parking lot – and not lose signal. The system delivers 24-bit audio quality and selects the strongest frequency upon docking the transmitter with the receiver. Clever stuff.
If you have a bigger budget, the Shure GLX-D16 sure is expensive, but you get plenty of bang for your buck, with a nifty receiver that can be housed in your pedalboard, a bright onboard LED guitar tuner, and a signal that will be rock-solid for distances up to 20-30m. The automatic frequency management makes setup a breeze, too.
The best guitar wireless systems: buying advice
Putting faith in the signal
While the benefits of a wireless guitar system seem obvious, many players remain suspicious. We’d like to thank This is Spinal Tap for that, with Nigel Tufnel’s disastrous Airforce-base gig experience a cautionary tale for the ages. But that's satire, and the chances of you picking up air traffic control – or, worse, the local talk- radio station – just before a blazing run-through of the Sweet Child O’ Mine solo at the Brewsters’ wedding reception are minimal as technology has improved.
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Manufacturers have long been alive to these risks, and configure their hardware and operating frequencies accordingly. If you look at the manual for these systems, many will offer guidelines for touring musicians as to which frequencies are allowed to be used and where; this helps preserve a strong signal and sound quality no matter the venue. Many systems will offer a variety of channels so that you can find the frequency that works best, and many find this automatically.
You will find that most of today’s wireless systems are easy to use. You don’t need a grounding on audio-electronics to set them up, with many offering a 'plug in and play' experience.
How do wireless guitar systems work?
A wireless system comprises two parts: the transmitter and the receiver. The transmitter connects to your guitar via its 1/4-inch output jack, and can often take the form of a dongle, or a pack that can be attached to your belt or guitar strap. The transmitter sends your signal to the receiver, which can be rack-mounted, sit on top of your amp desktop-style, or sit on your pedalboard, and this has an output that is then sent via cable to your amp’s input.
Many wireless systems are not compatible with guitars with active pickups because of how the TRS jack output is configured. Always check your guitar and with the manufacturer before you get started. If you find yourself with such an issue, don’t go reversing your jack output just yet – a more simple fix might be to use a 1/4-inch adaptor or a 1/4-inch to 1/4-inch mono patch cable.
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As for power, most receivers will more than likely take DC power, while the transmitters will be powered by batteries. A good guitar wireless system should offer many hours of playing time, so there should be no worries about running out of juice.
Aside from good battery life, features to look out for include high-range, multi-channel functions, wide frequency response and dynamic range, and low latency. As with most gear, you get what you pay for, but you needn’t spend much for high-performance wireless audio.
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The best guitar wireless systems in the world
Designed for use with guitar or bass, the Relay G10S can be housed on a pedalboard or beside your guitar amp as a standalone unit. It uses a transmitter with a 1/4-inch connector that attaches to your guitar’s output, much as a Wi-Fi dongle would for a laptop or TV.
With a full frequency response, a wide dynamic range to ensure your signal does not get compressed en route to your amplifier, 24-bit lossless digital audio quality, and Line 6’s Cable Tone tech to emulate the capacitance of a regular guitar cable, the G10S is an excellent system for the price, and offers fuss-free setup.
This system ships with Shure’s first pedalboard receiver, the GLX-D6, the GLX-D1 transmitter pack, and the WA305 Premium 1/4-inch to TA4F guitar cable that has a locking thread for secure connections between the transmitter and your guitar. Everything feels secure here and super-tough.
The GLX-D6 has a metal enclosure and is built to be positioned where it may get stepped on, and its bright LED tuner (strobe and needle) is a huge bonus. The unit features Shure’s LINKFREQ Automatic Frequency Management, so it will always find you a solid signal. If there’s interference, the unit will simply switch to another so that you can keep on playing.
As you might demand of a Boss unit, the WL-50 has a receiver that’s at home on your pedalboard, offering a convenient but excellent sound-quality performance. Ultra-low latency, excellent dynamics, full frequency response and a very respectable 65-foot range is just what we are looking for, while there are two onboard cable simulations to mimic the capacitance of cables.
You’ll get up to 12 hours of playing time from a single charge, while the receiver also has a DC output for powering external pedals. The unit is compatible with most guitars or basses with passive pickups.
Don’t be fooled – for the money and the unassuming dongle construction, XVive’s U2 has a very respectable range, a full frequency response and transfers excellent- quality audio. With only 6ms of latency, there is really little to complain about here.
Some might find the transmitter/receiver designs a little primitive, but for an easily configurable wireless system offering this performance and change from 150 bucks, we can live with that.
It comes in a variety of finishes, too, including gold. The rechargeable lithium-ion batteries offer up to five hours of playing time.
A smarter take on the dongle transmitter/receiver setup, Sennheiser’s XSW-D set is another wireless system that offers fuss-free use and high performance. Latency is super-low here - less than 4ms - while a maximum range of 250 feet in optimal conditions is more than most would need.
What if the conditions are sub-optimal? Well, the transmitter and receiver will flash green and red when the signal gets weak. Charge the system via the attached USB-equipped charger or any USB port.
The AirLine 88 was an expensive unit when it was launched, but it has come down in price considerably, and offers a low-latency and high-range wireless solution.
The transmitter is powered by AA batteries and offers up to 12 hours of playing time, while the receiver is a rack-mountable standalone unit, with 16 channels across a 24MHz bandwidth.
The receiver has options for a 1/4-inch output or balanced XLR (hello, bassists, this can be DI’d to the PA), and there's an adjustable level on the receiver for variable gain control. Samson says its Tone Key tech will shut out interference and the True Diversity design will prevent signal dropout.
So the WMS420 is a little pricier, but you will be rewarded with an easy setup and excellent performance. For our money, a 98-foot range is more than enough for most stages, while the build quality is exceptional.
Those who don’t like the tabletop receiver configuration could put the WMS420 in a rack. It’ll take up a half-rack space. The battery pack can be attached to your guitar strap, connects to your instrument via the bundled cable, and takes two AA batteries, offering up to eight hours of playing time.
The transmitter has charging points for using rechargeable batteries. Diversity antennas make this a good solution for pros playing in a crowded multi-channel environment.
Audio-Technica’s ATR7100G uses a bodypack and tabletop receiver setup, with a proprietary mini-jack to 1/4-inch cable included for attaching your instrument to the transmitter.
Range-wise, well, you’ve got plenty, and the 9V battery in the transmitter should keep you playing for up to 14 hours.
More expensive systems will offer better performance and a full frequency range, while the receiver is a simple non-diversity, single-channel design. But you can find this online for 40 bucks, so it's a good option for those exploring the potential of wireless systems.
While systems such as XVive’s U2 and Boss’s WL-50 are a great entry point for those looking for a wireless system, the DKW3GT has them beat on price, and offers enough range to make it a credible proposition.
The system uses a WGT transmitter that has a locking mini-jack to secure your connection between the instrument and bodypack, while the battery-powered bodypack has an LED that illuminates to let you know if it’s running low. The transmitter has an input-level adjuster, and Nady promises zero pop when switching it on and off.