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FIX: Shure PG88 PG2 won’t turn on

If your wireless Shure PG2 series PG88 handheld microphone won’t turn on, the problem might be 1 simple fix away. Or not.

I recently had 2 of these handheld mics give me some problems. One of the microphones wouldn’t respond reliably to presses to the power/mute button. Sometimes it would work, sometimes it wouldn’t (usually when it mattered the most, of course). The other microphone simply wouldn’t power on at all. Here is how I fixed them both.

0. Check the Frequency

I gave this a Step Zero designation because before you even bother trying to fix a discontinued wireless microphone, you should make sure that the unit you have operates in a frequency band that is still allowed by the FCC. If not, recycle it and start fresh. If you are outside the U.S.A., check your country’s wireless regulations. 

1. Check the Battery

First, make sure you have a good 9V battery. A battery tester can help remove doubts about power supply issues. If I had a dollar for every time I hadn’t checked the simplest thing first… 🤦

I don’t know what the minimum voltage specification is that Shure designed the PG2 series to operate on, but the further a 9V battery drops from a full 9V, the less likely you are going to have a good time as an audio engineer. Get a fresh battery and give that slightly drained battery to an electric guitar player. Allegedly some guitar pedals—specifically distortions and overdrives—produce “better” sound when the power is under-voltaged or sagging a little. You probably should ask R.G. Keen about that.

9 volt battery and battery tester

This cheap battery tester works well enough.

*** Everything beyond this point runs the risk of damaging something, possibly permanently. If you’re “not good with this sort of thing,” consider taking your microphone to a professional or a friend who quotes The IT Crowd and knows the difference between a Ben Heck and a Ben Eater. ***

2. Short the Button

Is the microphone really DEAD dead or is the mechanical button maybe the problem? Narrow the search by opening the microphone, connecting a good battery, and using tweezers or something metal to short the button leads. If that makes the microphone turn on/off/mute, then you know that the board isn’t completely dead and the switch is probably the culprit. Be careful not to touch the tweezers to other parts of the circuit. There’s only 9V at play here, but who knows what you could fry by touching something wrong.

screwdriver indicating place to unscrew capsule from body

This is the spot to unscrew.

grille unscrewed from capsule

If you grab too high, you’ll unscrew the grill from the capsule.

capsule unscrewed from body

Grab lower to unscrew the capsule and grill from the body.

screwdriver indicating where to unscrew the OCB fromt he body

One small phillips screw holds the PCB inside the microphone body.

PCB sliding out of the microphone body

Once the rear screw is removed, the PCB can slide out of the microphone body.

tweezers on the button

CAREFULLY place tweezers across the legs of the surface mount momentary switch.

tweezers powering on the switch

If the LED lights up after holding the tweezers on the button leads, you have a good mic with a button that is dirty (at best) or bad (at worst).

3. Clean the Button Contacts

Maybe it’s just dirty? If you’re certain the battery is good and the tweezers light up the mic, the next step is to try cleaning the power/mute button. Contact cleaner for electronics can revive buttons and faders like magic. DeoxIT is basically the defacto industry standard electronics cleaner. Spray a little DeoxIT directly into the power button and press the button a bunch of times. The idea is to mechanically work the cleaner down into the button between the internal metal contacts to clean away dust and corrosion. Try a few rounds of spraying a little cleaner and tapping the button a bunch of times. If that lights up the microphone, then you might be good. If not, try the spray and tap a couple more times.

4. Replace the Button

If the contact cleaner still doesn’t do the trick, you might have to order a replacement button and re-solder the part onto the PCB. Apparently, that is a common repair and, luckily, Full Compass carries an exact replacement for the switch. Once you have the replacement button in hand, you’ll have to desolder the existing button and resolder the new one into place. If that sounds daunting, again, contact your friend that can explain the nuanced differences between the foul-mouthed, jargon-blending curmudgeons behind EEVblog and AvE.

5. Give Up

If none of the above steps worked, I guess buy a newer product that isn’t discontinued? Why try to fix something? Why did you have so much unfounded hope? </bleak-sarcasm>

No, but for real though, good on you for trying to repair what you have. Louis Rossman, patron saint of the right to repair, wants to bless you and your children and their children and their children for your eagerness to fix what you already have. It’s good to try to fix our stuff and we should keep trying to do so regardless of the outcome. I always learn a lot when I try to fix things. Only sometimes do I succeed at it, but I certainly learn something every time I try and that makes me better at solving the next problem that comes my way. When I do find success, I blog about it with the hope that others can learn from what I have figured out for myself. I hope you found success on this project too. Let me know how it turned out for you in the comments below.

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Future Music Debate: Beyond Analog vs. Digital

A response to the question “After Analog vs. Digital, what will we fight about in the future?”

As part of their “#DJChat,” German audio equipment manufacturer Behringer asked this question on Twitter:

…Analog vs. Digital is a debate that will always continue. But in the future, what technology will we move on to AFTER digital? 😀 #DJChat

It’s an interesting concept. The wars between analog and digital rage on because they are systems separated by technologies that both have pros and cons. As technology progresses, what new pros and cons will we have to debate against older systems? Initially I answered with the following:

@BEHRINGER future: Cerebral vs. Digital. Was it made entirely “in the box (aka your head)” or did you collab with other humans and devices?

Realizing there’s much more to this debate than just a tweet, I thought I’d talk more about it here.

We Need Better Words to Describe How We’ll Make Music in the Future

In my original tweet, I used the phrase “Cerebral vs. Digital” to describe the future debate I imagine will happen. Maybe my choice of opposites wasn’t perfect. Better words can probably be found. This concept of diametrics I have in mind could be expressed in a variety of ways.

  1. Cerebral vs. Physical
  2. Solitary vs. Collaborative
  3. Internal vs. External

Each of those word combinations is describing the same contrast of ideas. But how to best describe it?

Composite image of music flowing from a girls mind.

The New System of Mind Music

In the (maybe not so distant) future, musicians will have the ability to directly output music from their heads. Technology will be developed that will allow artists to simply think/imagine/hear the music in his/her head and output this as audio and/or notation. This cerebrally generated “audio feed” could be routed (maybe even wirelessly) to a recording device to be documented, distributed, and sold. Theoretically, this process could happen as a live performance. The signal could be routed to a sound system for a concert, to an internet connection for worldwide streaming, or even directly injected (almost telepathically) into the head of a “listener” outfitted with the proper “receiver” device.

The possibilities are fantastic. Composers could direct an entire imaginary orchestra as they hear it in their minds. Dancers could dance to their own music in real time. Musicians could play exactly what they intend to play. Singers could sing in whatever voices they can imagine. Handicapped artists suddenly would be unrestricted by their handicaps.

This is not a matter of if, it’s a matter of when. If we already can control toy helicopters with our thoughts, then it’s only a matter of time before we can output music directly from our minds. UPDATE (2011-09-23): This just in… UC Berkeley neuroscientist Professor Jack Gallant announced today that it’s possible to recreate the video from brain activity.

This technological breakthrough in music will follow a path familiar to video games. With the Wii, Nintendo brought wireless motion-sensing accelerometer action to everyday people. The developers of Guitar Hero and Rock Band banked a lot of cash by making it really easy to “play” popular music without having to learn an instrument. Microsoft’s Kinect for Xbox removed the need for a controller, allowing the person to become the controller. I don’t know who will create the first mind-controlled music technology, but somebody’s going to do it.

Brace Yourselves

Cool meant something totally different back then. Don’t judge.

As with any change, it’s going to get worse before it gets better. Unfortunately, music will experience yet another Regrettable Period in which we have to learn how to use this new technology properly. I predict some gross and unsavory abuse of the technology, much like the ubiquity of terrible synthesizers in the 1980s or prevalence of auto-tuned vocals since Cher started believing in life after love. But some lucky artist is going to enjoy the honor of being known as the one that mastered this wonderful new system, thus becoming the “Grand Master Flash of whatever-this-thing-may-become-known-as.” Someone will figure out how to use it right, but it might take some time. In the meantime, wear earplugs.

Why We’ll Argue About This

At first, this newfangled gadgetry will be heralded as the end of “real” music and musicianship. The critics will say it’s too easy and not authentic music. Traditional composers and invested players will complain that no one has to learn how to write or play anymore. And much in the same way that digital was derided as a poor substitute for analog, purists will say that this cerebral form loses something in the process. Those arguments all might be right, but there may be a bigger issue lurking.

Trapped “In The Box”

When the process of making music becomes entirely internalized it will be really great because of it’s purity and singularity of thought, but will it simultaneously suffer from lack of external influences? When digital recording became popular, the question was often asked by one artist or engineer to another: “Was this all done ‘in the box?’” – meaning: was the audio signal created, mixed, and mastered on the same computer? Early on, music created entirely in this fashion lacked the beneficial effects that analog systems inherently imparted upon the audio signal. Today, the line has been blurred by better technology, so it’s harder to tell if something was recorded analog or digital. Only engineers with “golden ears” can hear the difference (even then I suspect shenanigans). At any rate, the question still remains: What benefits will be lost due to the signal remaining “in the box” of your head?

Potential Musical Influences

  1. People – The comradery, inspiration, ideas, criticism, differing views, and friction found when people work together often makes for better music. Being alone can lead to dead ends and boring or bad music. Collaboration can make beautiful things.
  2. Hardware – Though they are inanimate objects, the instruments and devices used to make music come with their own inspirations, challenges, rewards, frustrations to overcome, and occasional good glitches. Sometimes a piece of gear has to be conquered and relinquishes its magic upon defeat.
  3. Criticism – The critic is the archenemy of the artist, but every good story needs a villain. Without judgement, no work is ever as best as it can be. Words are often revealed for their folly only after they’ve left the head.
  4. Movement – Music and movement are very strongly related. When making music, movement is both part of the instigation of sound, but also a reaction to the sound being created. Performance and dance are like cousins. So if movement is not necessary for the creation of music, what effect will that have on the final product?

Good Things Will Happen

A lot of things can go wrong in this new system, but a lot of things can go right too. Eventually we’ll work out the kinks. We’ll figure out the typical pitfalls. We’ll master this medium like we have with all the others. One day amazing music will be generated using nothing but musicians’ brains. I’m hedging a bet it will be the direct output of some ridiculously young Mozart’s mind that will blow us all away. Perhaps this new interface will teach us something about how our brains work. Maybe it will allow us to communicate more precisely on ever deeper levels. What if it develops into a new universal language? Hmm.