How to Connect a Wireless Microphone Headset to a Mixer
Many of us rely on wireless microphone headsets to effortlessly interact with our media, but some people have a more direct approach. Image: Yudha Bhaskara via Flickr

A wireless microphone headset is convenient for a variety of purposes — especially if you’re as animated as I can be when I get really wound up. Rather than getting tangled and mangled in the cords and wires and alloys and compositions and things with… molecular structures of regular headsets and microphones, many opt for the wireless microphone headset as a way to be more mobile with less clutter and fuss.

These people are often DJs — short for disc jockeys, so named for once spinning disks of vinyl on turntables to motivate a crowd of people into impromptu dancing, but now more often than not spinning laptop hard drives full of digital music for the same purpose. You can find them in clubs, weddings, bar mitzvahs, and other events around the wide, wild world. Or they can just as often be conference speakers or tour guides or Madonna.

But I’m No Professional! How Can I Connect a Wireless Microphone Headset to a Mixer?

Maybe you’re finding a wireless microphone headset on yourself — for whatever reason — and you’re wondering how to get it to work with a mixer. Maybe you’re at your niece’s 12th birthday party and the DJ has fallen into a sugar coma from too much cake. Now you’re in charge of keeping kids ear-deep in the tween tunes of the day, but you’ve never flown this kind of plane before. No matter! Snap out of it! You’ve still got to bring this party to a safe landing. Let’s say you’re looking at a typical wireless microphone headset just sitting there on the mixing board, unconnected, because the DJ never fully unpacked his gear; we’ll take the Audio Technica ATM75 as an example.

Aside from the wireless microphone headset itself, you’ll probably also see:

  • A battery pack/transmitter unit that is designed to be clipped to a belt, pocket, lapel, or other spare bit of clothing. Speedo waistband? Whatever. We won’t judge.
  • A receiver unit.
  • A mixer/mixing desk (that’s the big, colorful table with all the knobs and dials and levers that looks like it belongs on the bridge of the Kirk-era Enterprise or the console of a TARDIS).
  • Miscellaneous cables.

Okay! Wow! That’s a Lot of Stuff!

The first thing you do when gazing upon this visual cacophony of device and device accessories is remember that you’re the grown up in this situation and the kids are relying on you to save the say. After talking yourself down from being overwhelmed with the magnitude of the scenario, you’ll want to connect the wireless headset microphone — which probably has its own attached cable terminating in a TA3F (aka mini XLR) or 3.5 mm jack — to the battery pack/transmitter unit.

If your wireless headset microphone uses mini XLR, then you may need to get a mini XLR to 3.5 mm adapter if your battery pack/transmitter uses a 3.5 mm jack instead of the mini XLR connector. The wireless microphone headset may also have switches to turn the microphone on/off or to change the way it is set up.

Oh! That’s Not So Bad. What Next?

The next stage is to connect the receiver unit to the mixer/mixing desk. I will say that sometimes the manufacturer will give you all the necessary cables to connect you to most mixers/sound systems, but this isn’t always the case. The big question here: what kind of cable do you need? I can’t truly answer this for everybody — it depends on your mixer and on your receiver. The mixer you have may only use 1/4 inch jacks or may have a mixture of 1/4 inch jacks and XLR connectors. The receiver may use mini XLR, 3.5 mm jack, 1/4 inch jack, or XLR as a connector. The good news is that they are all analog signals, so you can mix between them pretty simply. If you were going from digital to analog, then this would be more tricky.

If you’re still visualizing yourself in the nightmare birthday party scenario above, then the chances are pretty good that you’ll find the right connections in that mess of miscellaneous cables we mentioned — the DJ probably pointed in their direction just as he was passing out.

For an idea of the variety of options you have when you’re connecting a wireless microphone headset — or even just a wireless microphone — to a mixer, this video does a nice job of illustrating your choices:

After you’ve connected everything, it’s a good idea to turn on the battery pack/transmitter, the receiver, and the mixer — in that order.

Now you will have full control over the audio from your wireless microphone headset and your audience adoring preteen audience should love the fact that they can hear you without clamping their ears shut or having to strain to hear you. Beiber on, dude!