Why Use Procell Alkaline Batteries In Your Wireless System?

With so many different batteries and types of batteries out there, why choose Procell Alkaline as a non-rechargeable option?

Recently while mixing a taping of a multi act television show, the runner was sent out to bring back batteries for the Shure UHF-R and Sennheiser e300 wireless systems we were using. Upon her return, she was very proud of the deal she had found on the batteries we needed. I painted on a smile, congratulated and thanked her for her successful efforts. Then I turned and sighed with disappointment because the deal she had found was unfortunately on nickel-cadmium batteries as opposed to alkaline batteries. We made it through three days, around eight bands and only lost one RF mic. Thankfully it was not the lead singer that was in the camera shot the majority of the time. Because we were not clear to only get alkaline batteries we would really have to be on our toes about keeping the batteries changed between acts.

Rumors of battery life indicators on wireless systems being released in the near future that can monitor the drain of other types of batteries, such as nickel-cadmium (NiCad) or nickel-metal hydride (NiMH) exist but for now the wireless systems in the market account for the drain characteristics of an alkaline battery. Even if new technology on RF systems can consider other types of batteries and their drain characteristics, I’ll stick with a good ol’ high-drain, industrial Procell alkaline battery and here’s why.

The slope of the discharge curves between various batteries directly impacts the performance of your wireless system (Fig A). The discharge curve is calculated by the time of discharge versus the voltage drain of a batteries life. In other words, how long do you have before the battery will no longer power your wireless component.

The discharge curve slope of a NiCad and NiMH battery is quite steep (Fig A). What this means is that when this type of battery drops below the voltage your wireless system needs to continue to operate, it happens very fast. This is not a desirable discharge curve for our wireless system components. You may be in the middle of a show and loose your lead singers microphone without warning.

Figure A
battery comparison

An alkaline battery (Fig A ) has a moderately sloping discharge curve actually even more subtle than the graphic shows, giving you a longer time before dropping below the voltage threshold. This slope is advantageous and makes the alkaline the most appropriate type of battery for wireless systems. The slope of an alkaline will give you plenty of time to make it to the end of the show and quite possibly through the next nights show.

There are two reasons I use Procells over other alkaline batteries. The Procell alkaline battery’s major advantages are a high energy density; the ability to operate continuously at relatively high discharge rates (in your wireless system) over a wide temperature range; and a shelf life in excess of four years. The second reason is cost. The cost of the alkaline battery, on a service life basis, is lowest in medium to high drain applications.

If your production has a tight budget or you just want to be more efficient – here are some simple tips to get more life out of your batteries.

  1. Turn it off after sound check
  2. Use your batteries from the previous show for sound check
  3. Always meter your batteries
  4. Let JSS help determine your battery usage to. This will allow you to purchase at the highest quantities/lower cost without having them ‘on the shelf’ too long
  5. RECYCLE! I feel extremely guilty for the amount of alkaline batteries I’ve tossed into our landfills around the world, thousands I’m sure. In an effort to remedy that, we at JSS are committed to not further damage our environment. If you bring JSS your used batteries we will apply a discount to your next battery purchase at JSS. If you don’t bring them to us, we urge you to find a recycling center near you that accepts them. Even if you didn’t purchase them from us, we’ll still gladly accept and dispose of them properly.

Jason Spence
Audio Engineer/Owner of JSS
(615) 534-1190
www.JSS.net