Hands on with Sennheiser’s 5th Gen EW-DP wireless microphone system

Apr 21, 2023

John Aldred

John Aldred is a photographer with over 20 years of experience in the portrait and commercial worlds. He is based in Scotland and has been an early adopter – and occasional beta tester – of almost every digital imaging technology in that time. As well as his creative visual work, John uses 3D printing, electronics and programming to create his own photography and filmmaking tools and consults for a number of brands across the industry.

Hands on with Sennheiser’s 5th Gen EW-DP wireless microphone system

Apr 21, 2023

John Aldred

John Aldred is a photographer with over 20 years of experience in the portrait and commercial worlds. He is based in Scotland and has been an early adopter – and occasional beta tester – of almost every digital imaging technology in that time. As well as his creative visual work, John uses 3D printing, electronics and programming to create his own photography and filmmaking tools and consults for a number of brands across the industry.

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Sennheiser recently announced the 5th generation of its Evolition Wireless microphone ecosystem, the Sennheiser EW-DP (buy here). Given Sennheiser’s previous generation wireless microphones and their level of performance and reliability, we had to check out the new Sennheiser EW-DP for ourselves while at NAB 2023 in Las Vegas. So, we chatted with Sennheiser’s Head of Audio for Video Portfolio, Tobias von Allwörden.

The biggest difference between the new 5th Generation and the previous generation models is that the EW-DP is entirely digital. Its predecessors were all analogue. This represents a significant change for Sennheiser’s flagship portable wireless system and helps to speed up the on-set workflow. However, unlike most digital microphone systems today, this one runs on UHF frequencies, not 2.4GHz.

Sennheiser EW-DP ecosystem – What’s in it?

The Sennheiser EW-DP ecosystem is comprised of four main units. The heart of the system is the EW-DP EK receiver. These are magnetically stackable receivers with a user-facing OLED display, allowing you to receive multiple wireless microphones at a single camera. Then you’ve got the EW-D SK bodypack transmitter. This clips to the user and contains a 3.5mm screw-lock TRS socket for plugging in your wired lav mic. One big – rather obvious – difference exists between the new EW-D SK and the previous-generation SK 500 G4. It lacks the display of its predecessor. We’ll get back to why this is later.

The Sennheiser G4 bodypack (left) vs the G5 bodypack (right)

You’ve also got the EW-D SKM-S handheld transmitter with the Sennheiser MMD 835 microphone capsule. This capsule is removable and swappable for other Sennheiser microphone capsules, allowing you a wide range of options for different polar patterns or sound signatures.

Finally, there’s the EWD-SKP plug-in transmitter, for use with a wide range of microphones. It features an XLR plug on the end for going directly into the XLR socket of a shotgun or other microphone and a 3.5mm socket for use with lav mics – effectively turning the unit into a bodypack. One particularly interesting feature of the EWD-SKP is the built-in microSD card slot, which allows the microphone to record a backup in the event of interference or to be able to use it as an audio-only microphone recorder without requiring the receiver to be turned on.

Why UHF and not 2.4GHz?

UHF frequencies might seem a little old-fashioned these days in a world full of 2.4GHz and 5Ghz systems, but that’s kind of the point. The world is full of 2.4GHz signals. Everything from smartphones and Bluetooth to radio-controlled cars and drones, not to mention WiFi, all run on 2.4GHz (or 5GHz) systems. There is a lot of 2.4GHz traffic in the air that can cause interference with 2.4GHz microphones. It might not completely disconnect them in a lot of circumstances, but it will often limit the range.

This problem is probably at its height, perhaps ironically when filming at trade shows. There are thousands of smartphones, cameras, microphone systems and other devices all competing for space on 2.4GHz. We’ve run into the limitations of 2.4GHz wireless systems ourselves in the past when filming at trade shows. Ultimately, swapping to wired microphones was the only way to be able to record interviews.

UHF has largely been abandoned these days. It is used for many TV signals and various other less ubiquitous technologies, but it’s less common than it was. And with most people streaming over the Internet these days and broadcasters already starting to consider an online-only presence, UHF is far less competitive than it used to be. This makes it an ideal solution for digital wireless microphone systems today.

So, it might have been a surprising move from Sennheiser to go with UHF rather than 2.4GHz, but it’s not an unwelcome one and will likely lead to better reliability and performance.

Side note: Technically, 2.4GHz is part of the UHF frequency band, but it’s not a frequency range used by the Sennheiser EW-DP system – except for Bluetooth communication with your smartphone.

Sennheiser EW-DP App Control

While the receiver contains a nice functional OLED display to let you know exactly what’s going on, the 5th-generation bodypack transmitter, as mentioned above, no longer possesses any kind of display. This is due to the fact that it’s no longer really required. All of the EW-DP devices are supported by and can communicate with the Sennheiser Smart Assist smartphone app. The app allows you to control your entire microphone setup from the palm of your hand.

Compatible with either iOS or Android devices, Sennheiser Smart Assist lets you allocate frequencies, name devices, remotely mute and unmute them and provides a fully automated setup function for your devices on location. As the name suggests, the app – and the devices it communicates with – are “Smart”. They’re intelligent enough to be able to figure out a lot of things behind the scenes, requiring very little wireless knowledge, letting you focus on the scene you’re about to shoot.

The key to the Sennheiser EW-DP system is its simplicity and the Smart Assist app plays a big part in that. Of course, you can control various devices using the buttons on those devices, too.

Senheiser EW-DP Specs

System
Audio link frequency rangesQ1-6 (470.2-526 MHz)
R1-6 (520-576 MHz)
R4-9 (552-607.8 MHz)
S1-7 (606.2-662 MHz)
S4-7 (630-662 MHz)
S7-10 (662-693.8 MHz)
U1/5 (823.2-831.8 & 863.2-864.8 MHz)
V3-4 (925.2-937.3 MHz)
V1-3 (1785.2-1799.8 MHz)
Bluetooth LE Frequency Range2404-2480 MHz
Audio frequency response20 Hz – 20 kHz (-3DB) @ 3dBfs
Audio THD≤ -60 dB for 1kHz @ -3 dBfs input level
Dynamic Range134dB
System latency1.9ms
Operating temperature-10ºC – +55ºC (14ºF – 131ºF)
Relative humidity5-95% (non-condensing)
EW-DP EK
Input voltage~1.8 – 4.35v
Input currentTyp. <250 mA / Max. <400 mA (BA 70)
Typ. <400mA / Max. <750mA (2xAA batteries)
<300mA @ 5v (USB-C standalone)
Power supply2xAA batteries 1.5v or BA70 rechargeable battery pack or USB-C PD power supply (max):
5v / 1500mA
9v / 900mA
12v / 700mA
Transmitter power (radiated)BLE: max. 10mW EIRP
Audio output power<2 dBV max (high level) / <4dBU max (high level)
Headphone output<50mW into 16 Ohms
Dimensions86x67x28mm
Weight (without antennas and power supply)Approx 140g

Price and availability

The 5th-generation Sennheiser EW-DP system is available in three different sets.

All sets include the EW-DP EK receiver, a magnetic mounting plate kit, a BA 70 rechargeable battery, two standard AA batteries, a locking 3.5mm TRS to 3.5mm TRS cable, a locking 3.5mm TRS to XLR cable and a USB-C charging cable for the receiver.

The EW-DP ME 2 SET is currently available to pre-order for $699, which includes the EW-D SK bodypack transmitter and the ME 2 omnidirectional lavalier microphone. The EW-DP 835 SET is available to pre-order now for $699 and includes the EW-D SKM-S handheld transmitter with the Sennheiser MMD 835 microphone capsule. The EW-DP ENG SET includes the EW-D SK bodypack transmitter and the EWD-SKP plugin transmitter and is also available to pre-order now for $899.

DIYP’s coverage of NAB 2023 is sponsored by Sennheiser, Zhiyun, B&H, and SmallRig

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John Aldred

John Aldred

John Aldred is a photographer with over 20 years of experience in the portrait and commercial worlds. He is based in Scotland and has been an early adopter – and occasional beta tester – of almost every digital imaging technology in that time. As well as his creative visual work, John uses 3D printing, electronics and programming to create his own photography and filmmaking tools and consults for a number of brands across the industry.

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