REVIEWED: Kam KWM11PRO & KWM1920
The Kam brand has been synonymous with affordable wireless mic solutions for many years, which have proven to be extremely popular with mobile DJs. I was therefore interested to be given the opportunity to try out the latest new releases in this popular line, now available once again thanks to a worldwide licensing agreement with well-known equipment distributor JHS.
The two kits that I have to review are the KWM11PRO, which is a dual microphone fixed channel system, and the KWM1920, which is very similar but with the ability to change the wireless frequencies. Not only has Kam been producing well-priced mics for a very long time, they have also kept the same product names. When I flicked back through my collection of Pro Mobile back issues, I found that we first reviewed an iteration of the KWM1920 here in Pro Mobile way back in 2005 for issue 9! Although the principle is the same – an affordable twin wireless mic kit – these latest versions are very different to those featured 15 years ago.
Both of these new kits are supplied in their own carry case, which are the moulded plastic style that power tools often come packaged in. The cases are fitted with foam linings that have slots for both mics as well as the receiver, power adapter and other accessories. This is a nice addition, as these mic kits are so affordable that you could easily spend as much again on a flight case if a storage/carrying solution wasn’t included!
The fixed channel KWM11PRO kit is extremely easy to use and would make the perfect first wireless mic kit for a new DJ. Equally, it’s also ideal for rental purposes, as there’s very little that users can do wrong to stop it working correctly!
There are just three controls on the receiver: an on/off power switch and a rotary level control for each mic. In addition there are also two LED indicators for each mic as well as a central backlit LCD screen. The green RF LED lights to show a signal is being received from the mic, while the amber AF LED lights to show that an audio signal is being received. The LCD display shows the frequency for each channel, and there is a corresponding LCD screen on the mics themselves that display the channel they are transmitting on. This is necessary because, although the frequencies are fixed, two different versions of the KWM11PRO kit are available that use different pairs of frequencies. This means that two kits (working on different frequencies) can be used at the same time to allow four mics to be used simultaneously.
The back panel of the receiver is equally simple. You’ll find a low voltage DC power socket, for use with the supplied mains adapter, alongside dedicated balanced XLR outputs for each mic and an unbalanced ¼ jack output that provides a mix of the two. This could prove useful if you only have one mic input to your DJ mixer; using the combined output you can hook up both mics to that one input and use the controls on the receiver to balance the levels. There’s a jack lead included as part of the set for this, but you’ll need to provide your own XLR cables if you want separate feeds for each mic.
With a compact form, the receiver has a moulded plastic construction and is fitted with rubber feet, making it easy to find a space for within a mobile DJ setup. It features a pair of integrated aerials that, while not removable, can be repositioned in any direction to achieve the best possible reception in any given scenario.
The two identical handheld mics have dark grey plastic bodies combined with black metal grilles. When loaded with batteries, they have a nice balanced feel. They are perhaps a little on the light side, especially if you are used to a metal-bodied mic, but still feel comfortable in the hand. Unlike the toys I used to get as a kid growing up in the ‘80s, batteries are included! Each mic requires a pair of AAs and these sit in a holder on the back of the mic covered by a slide-off panel.
A bright red push switch for turning the mic on and off is located in a recessed dip on its bottom. This has to be pressed for a few seconds to register, which helps to prevent the mic being accidentally turned off when in use. Conspicuous by its absence is a mute function. However, this could both be a blessing and a curse! If you are using the mic yourself, you may want to be able to mute your mic while away from your console. However, if you are giving the mic to punters, for example to make a speech, giving them the ability to disable the mic remotely is never a good thing!
When I tried out the mics in a gig-style environment, I must say that I was very impressed by their vocal clarity. They replicated my voice very faithfully over its full spectrum of frequencies. I was also able to push the volume pretty high before experiencing any feedback, which is a problem I’ve found with cheap mic systems in the past.
As part of my testing, I did an A-B comparison with a similar system from a big name mic brand, which retails for more than four times as much, and it was very difficult to tell them apart sonically. If I was being really picky: I did notice quite a bit of handling noise on the Kam mics, although this is unlikely to be a big problem in a DJ environment.
The mics and receiver supplied with the variable frequency KWM1920 kit are very similar but with some subtle, yet significant, differences. The receiver features a larger backlit LCD screen that, in addition to showing the receiving frequency for each channel, also displays digital bar graphs for RF and AF. The screen also shows the battery level for the connected mics, which could prove extremely useful for situations where they are in use for prolonged periods (for example wedding speeches).
There are also three additional buttons for each channel – Up, Set and Down – which are used to alter the receiving frequency. A total of 20 different frequencies are supported, which are arranged in two Groups of ten Channels. Changing the frequency is simply a case of pressing and holding Set; using Up/Down to select the desired Group; pressing Set again; using Up/Down to select the desired Channel; and pressing Set again.
Altering the channels of the handheld mics is even easier, as this is achieved using infrared. After carrying out the steps outlined above on the receiver a red light illuminates beside the IR transmitter on the front panel. All you need to do is place the IR receiver on the mic (located next to the LCD screen) up to the IR transmitter and the channel of the mic is automatically changed. I found this very easy to do and much more intuitive than the system of pressing tiny buttons hidden in the battery compartment that I have encountered on other variable channel wireless mics.
In terms of audio clarity and quality, the mics provided with the KWM1920 kit are the same as those already described that come as part of the KWM11PRO system. However, the variable frequency version does offer the addition of that missing mute function! It is activated or deactivated by quickly pressing the power button (instead of the long press to switch it on/off). The LCD display on the mic also displays extra information. A five-segment battery life indicator helps you know how much juice is left. Also, alongside the currently-selected frequency, there is also the Group and Channel number displayed.
It’s worth mentioning that both systems run within Ofcom’s designated ‘licence-exempt’ frequency range. This means that whether you choose the fixed frequency KWM11PRO or variable frequency KWM1920, and whichever channel options you choose when using the latter, you won’t need a licence to use them in the UK.
It’s also worth pointing out that Kam have also introduced matching new single-mic versions of both systems. The KWM6PRO, which has a suggested selling price of just £49.99, is a simple single-channel system (available in four different frequency options). Meanwhile, the KWM1935 is a multi-channel version that has a price tag of £67.99.
Overall, I think all four of these kits are very well thought out and extremely user-friendly wireless mic solutions that offer incredible value. If you compare them to much more expensive pro options, they do feel a little plasticky, but that’s not a fair comparison to make. In the budget mic space, these are some of the best systems I’ve ever seen.
The KWM11PRO is extremely easy to use and therefore the perfect entry-level wireless mic system, meanwhile the KWM1920 introduces multi-channel selection in a straightforward and intuitive way. These systems are perfect for a new DJ looking for their first vocal mic for announcements and crowd interaction. Meanwhile, for pros who already have a high quality mic system, they are perfect for letting punters get hold of for speeches or karaoke, as well as to provide a very competent backup system.
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The full review can be found in Pro Mobile Issue 101, Pages 74-76.