The long-awaited launch of Shure's TwinPlex line of subminiature omnidirectional lavalier and headset microphones has been described as one of its most significant releases to date. Daniel Gumble spoke to Shure’s Stuart Moots, associate director, pro audio, and John Born, senior product manager, microphones, to discuss their plans to take on one of the most challenging markets in the business…
On April 8, 2019, at the annual NAB show in Las Vegas, Shure finally pulled back the veil on a product that has been waiting to see the light of day for just shy of 10 years. While the company’s business in the world of microphones and wireless digital systems was booming, monumental efforts were being exerted in the name of research and development behind the scenes, in preparation for what many of Shure's senior figures have called one of the most important launches in its storied history.
The product in question, of course, was TwinPlex, Shure’s new line of subminiature (5 mm) omnidirectional lavalier and headset microphones. Designed primarily for the theatre, broadcast, film/TV and corporate presentation markets, TwinPlex has been painstakingly engineered to provide natural audio at both high and low frequency for when professional vocal performance is needed. The new patent-pending capsule technology is suitable for the frenzy of theatre: quick costume changes or to be discreetly placed under a wardrobe with no impact on sound quality.
The range consists of four lavaliers (TL45, TL46, TL47, TL48) and a light and adjustable headset microphone (TH53) in multiple colours with extensive accessories and options. The dual-diaphragm omnidirectional design aims to deliver off-axis consistency and low self-noise, creating lifelike vocal clarity and warmth.
The product has already been garnering serious praise. “We’ve put these mics on a number of different people, and they simply sound outstanding,” said Peter Schneider, owner of Gotham Sound. “The noise floor is really low, and there’s an appreciated lack of handling noise – clothing noise from the cable is nonexistent.”
To simulate years of intense use, the TwinPlex cable was flexed, stretched, and pulled to the absolute limit in internal tests. Available in 1.1 mm and 1.6 mm options, the paintable cables offer immunity to kinks and memory effects and have a spiral construction with redundant shielding.
“The mics just lay flat, and they lay flat every time, for the whole length of the run, whether we were trying to place the mics in a wig, or another discreet part of the costume, there were no kinks,” commented Zoe Milton, theatre sound engineer. “They did exactly what you wanted them to do, which was fantastic.”
According to Stuart Moots, associate director, pro audio at Shure, the arrival of TwinPlex marks a major step into a somewhat new territory for the brand.
“TwinPlex is the next step in taking our microphone technology into avenues where we have previously had some success, but now have a product that can deliver what we have come to expect from all Shure products,” he told PSNEurope. “Technology, longevity and second-to-none sound quality is what our customers expect from Shure, from the ubiquitous SM58 to the new technology found in Axient Digital. We’re confident that TwinPlex will deliver on all fronts, and in doing so become the de facto choice for a lavalier solution across a huge number of markets.
“The possibilities with TwinPlex are not to be underestimated; we have taken key learnings from our KSM8 Dualdyne technology and applied it to the lavalier microphones,” he continued. “It would be easy to dismiss this as just another subminiature microphone, but the technology and processes we used to produce it were developed specifically for this mic. From the dual-redundant ground within the cable to the dualdiaphragm capsule, every aspect of how lavaliers are used from theatre to broadcast were considered in producing a lav that can stand up to the extremes of any performance, while consistently upholding the sound quality expected at this level. Wired microphone development continues at Shure, and when you consider how complimentary TwinPlex and Axient Digital are as a package, this is a hugely significant launch.”
John Born, senior product manager, microphones, at Shure, concurred: “This is arguably one of the most significant microphone launches for Shure in the last 10 years. For years, our customers looked to other manufacturers to fulfil premium needs for either sound or durability… that is no longer the case with TwinPlex. TwinPlex offers best-in-class sound quality, specifications, and durability. Combined with multiple colour, connector, sensitivity, and frequency response options, the TwinPlex portfolio can drop into virtually any workflow or use case with minimal effect to the engineer. Also, we have significant plans for further developments off this new transducer platform.”
Despite the fiercely contested nature of the theatre and broadcast markets, both Moot and Born believe that this area of the industry is ripe with opportunity for Shure to capitalise on. They are, however, more than aware of the challenges that come with successfully establishing a new product amongst some long-standing, competing heavyweights.
“We knew that taking on entrenched leaders in this market is challenging, that is why we spent so much time perfecting and field testing this portfolio, with years of extensive research, tweaking, and refinement from the cap to the accessories,” Born explained. “TwinPlex will be a portfolio that lasts for decades. It has been a joy to see the market react so positively to it.”
Moots added: “The multitude of options, from headsets to cables, connections and accessories, allows it to be used with any system, be it wired or wireless. This is obviously a huge advantage for anyone wishing to invest in a product that needs to work across different scenarios with different manufacturers. We are aware it won’t be easy as the market is very established, but we have listened to what the market wants and we’re confident TwinPlex will deliver.
“TwinPlex, along with Axient Digital, now provides a complete solution to a number of different markets, but one of the biggest opportunities is theatre. We know we have a great package with Axient Digital and the ADX1M micro pack, but we can now build on its success with TwinPlex. If we can apply our unmatched quality, reliability and durability to a microphone that is subjected to the most harsh of environments in theatre, then that can be carried over to all areas of content creation from sports to conferencing and everything in between.”
As for how receptive the market is to a new player looking to take on the established order, time will tell. Shure unquestionably has sufficient heft and reputation in its more traditional markets, and if the amount of time spent designing and refining TwinPlex is anything to go by, there’s little reason to doubt it can excel in the field. The ambition is certainly there, as Born concluded: “We wanted to offer the most durable, best sounding subminiature lavalier and headset products to mate with our premium wireless solutions."