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Whether you’re looking to up your stage presence or simply host a small conference, the world of wireless microphones can be quite an intimidating one to enter. Pairing the different transmitters, receivers, and microphones from a variety of brands may provide some headaches, especially if you’re not looking to mic up a theatrical cast of 30 singers. Samson’s CON 288M package is specifically designed to remove those headaches for the average consumer, and it certainly succeeds.
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The main selling point of Samson‘s CON 288M is the updated receiver, which both looks and feels a lot more impressive than the old black-box unit which came with the discontinued Concert 88 and similar packages. While it may not seem like much to get excited about, the ease of use and build quality makes the difference between money well spent and disappointment. Thankfully, it is both robust and intuitive. The two buttons on the front panel are for each of the receiver’s twin channels, automatically selecting the best wireless channel for communicating with the microphone transmitters. The device uses two antennae in a diverse design, which helps reduce the risk of interference along with its auto-mute technology. The volume knobs have a satisfying click as they move out of the ‘off’ position, so you can be sure when a microphone is muted if you’re adjusting it during an event, and the I/O is really kept simple with XLR outs for a mixing desk and 3.5mm/6.5mm jack connectors for other solutions. It may not be as clean or pretty as a rack-mounted unit, but the portability is perfect for a smaller event or non-permanent setup.
The CB88 belt-pack transmitter is also a solid piece of kit, with a wide steel clip that holds it firmly in place. It’s got a little bit of weight to it, but not enough to be overly dangly or at risk of pulling your pants down. Opening the battery compartment reveals the gain control, which can be adjusted with the little screwdriver that’s included directly above it. The slot for the screw also has a tiny arrow and markings for reference, which is a really helpful bit of attention to detail. The mute button is easily accessible at the top of the pack, without being at risk of accidental bumping. Of course, this transmitter is to be used with either the headset or the lavalier microphone.
The CH88 handheld wireless microphone should feel quite familiar to anyone who’s used something similar before. With a thick handle made of plastic, it doesn’t necessarily feel as particularly high quality as the other equipment in this box does, and it’s also rather front-heavy even once the batteries are loaded in. That said, the sound itself is just what you’re after out of a versatile live-audio microphone. It has a stronger mid presence compared to the ubiquitous Shure SM58, but that’s an easy enough EQ job if you find yourself looking for a flatter response. When unscrewed, the battery compartment reveals the same screwdriver-adjusted gain system as the CB88 transmitter.
As far as lavalier microphones go, the LM7 is pretty much spot on what you want, with a great tone for capturing speech whether clipped to the chest for full bass resonance or attached elsewhere for a bright yet accurate directional sound. The clip feels solid and strong, attaching to every kind of fabric I had lying around without any issues. The wire is very thin, making subtle routing quite easy if you’re hoping to hide any cable messes.
The rubber band that acts as a spring between the two ear-rests takes a bit of elbow grease to adjust if your head is on the larger side of average, but having a bit of pressure clamping the wire to your head is reassuring when fitted properly. I kept the headset on for a while and it started feeling a bit tight after half an hour, but it would definitely be bearable over the course of a gig. If the pressure does become an issue, you could always just snip the rubber off and use the wire in a traditional style, purely hanging on from the ears alone.
Visually, the HS5 is a lot bulkier than most popular headset solutions. The pop filter is about the size of a walnut, and the gooseneck wire is fairly thick. Personally, I see this as more an effort towards durability than lazy design, as I do feel like this could be dropped and whacked around quite a bit before breaking. Wearing this during a performance is definitely a strong style statement, so why not let it be seen clearly? Plus, at the end of the day, we do also care about the sound quality, which can’t be faulted.
The condenser microphone is as crisp and clear as you could hope for, and the gooseneck is both long and agile for a good variety in mic placements. The bleed rejection is pretty impressive, mainly due to the proximity you can have with the microphone itself. I can see this being a platform for taking extreme EQ well, if you’re in a particularly tricky feedback situation but don’t want to leave the vocals sounding flat or thin.