The wireless microphone is a piece of gear that TAPS has employed with minimal success, but it has a few saving graces that continue to make it a valuable tool in our investigations.
One of the wireless microphone’s best features is that it can be put almost anywhere. This fact might entice a lot of investigators to buy a bunch of them and literally cover their investigation sites with them so no sound will escape detection. Don’t get ahead of yourself.
In actuality, I don’t think the wireless microphone is a terribly effective tool for providing audio evidence in real time—although many teams use it for that capability. Nor have we gotten great results reviewing recorded audio from our wireless microphones after leaving a location.
What wireless microphones seem to do well is provide a backup audio record of your investigation when your investigators have missed an important piece of evidence with their digital recorders. In an ideal situation, setting up wireless microphones will also allow you to hear audio phenomena in real time so you can direct investigators to report to specific locations on your investigation site.
Remember, a wireless mic is no substitute for a live observer, even if it has picked up the most compelling piece of audio evidence you’ve ever heard. You have to investigate.
By using wireless audio, you can monitor audio from your command center in real time and alert investigators to noises or voices picked up by the wireless microphones.
For instance, if you are monitoring a strange sound, you can communicate with your team to go there and do a Q&A session, provoke, or just set up a stationary video camera.
The problem with reviewing audio from the wireless mic in real time is that there are invariably distractions that will occur during a live investigation. You may be called away from the command center, go on a bathroom break, or have to deal with technical issues.
One way of mitigating these distractions is to make a note of when you step away from the command center and when you resume listening. This will indicate what portion of the audio recording you will have to review later.
Even with this safeguard, I’ve found that this is not an ideal way to review your audio. The best way to make sure there won’t be any distractions is to review the audio later in quiet conditions. We haven’t always achieved great results reviewing recorded audio from a wireless mic, but we value the practice enough to still employ it in our investigations.
How wireless audio works
The wireless mic transmits the signal to a wireless receiver that is in turn connected by a hard line to your computer. Your computer should have good speakers or you should have good head phones so you hear everything your wireless mics are picking up. Note: You will need audio software to listen to the audio from the wireless mic.
Before placing your wireless mics in their respective locations around the investigation site, you’ll want to test them. Make sure your wireless receiver is properly connected to your computer and your audio software is open. Speak into one of the wireless microphones. You should hear your voice from the speakers and it should register on your audio program.
You’ll want to perform this test again when you place the wireless mic in its location to make sure that the audio signal is not affected by distance, elements (if you’re outdoors) or other factors.
Place your wireless mic(s) around your location
Place the wireless microphone in paranormal “hot spots” around your location. These are spots where there has been reported paranormal activity. You can also set up microphones where there has been no reported activity based on your own hunches or just to get sufficient audio coverage of your investigation site.
It’s possible for wireless mics to pick up roaming frequencies, so make sure your mics are functioning properly before recording. You should also make sure you’re getting a clear transmission. An audio signal distorted by static is essentially worthless. Be aware that concrete walls and steel construction (found on ships and other locations) can block the audio signal. Once you’re ready to start your investigation, return to your command center, press record on your audio software, and you’re in business.
Investigating in concert with the wireless microphone
As I said before, the wireless mic helps you capture sounds that are audible when you don’t have your recorders running. For instance, say you’re investigating in a location where you’ve set up a wireless microphone. You haven’t turned on your own recorder because you haven’t started an EVP or Q&A session. Suddenly, you hear a loud noise that sounds like something is moving toward you. Your wireless microphone will effectively cover the space it takes you to start recording. You can then review the wireless mic’s audio during the investigation or timestamp it and review it later. This goes for voices as well.
It’s imperative that all your investigators know where each wireless microphone is set up so they can tag their approach and departure when they are in the area. This will help to distinguish their noises from sounds of possible paranormal activity and preserve the validity of your recording whether you review it later or in real time.
Listening to audio from the wireless microphone
There is no difference between listening to audio from your wireless microphone and digital recorders. Listen to audio in its raw form and avoid using audio enhancement of any kind. If you do enhance the recording, make a point of saving your original. Don’t ever manipulate the audio, add effects or delays or otherwise tamper with your recording. This will discredit your findings.
Finding inexpensive alternatives to the wireless microphone
Audio packages can cost upwards of $800, a price tag that may be way too high for the beginning paranormal investigator. An inexpensive alternative is a baby monitoring system, which can perform most of the functions—albeit at a much lower level—of wireless audio. Some BMS are as low as $50, which is affordable if you have a tight budget, but be wary of cheap systems, as sound matrixing or audio pattern recognition can distort the audio signal.
After several years of investigations, the wireless microphone has provided enough benefits for TAPS to keep it in circulation. Just don’t expect that it will ever become a substitute for a live investigator. At TAPS we’ve gotten the best results from being in the room, provoking, running EVP or Q&A sessions and getting up close and personal.
Remember, wireless audio is just a tool to help support your investigation, and a sound is just a sound until you apply your deductive reasoning to it.
Check out the introduction to Britt's Gear Guide as he takes you on a tour of the TAPS gear room.
Adam Berry answers your questions from Facebook!
Britt and KJ get a funny look at what they find while investigating.