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Cuttin’ the Cable – Back in the Day
For years, if you wanted to go wireless with your guitar you had to buy an expensive wireless system that included a large desktop or rackmount receiver with protruding antennae, as well as a cell phone-sized guitar transmitter powered by batteries. These wireless systems are still popular amongst the pros and definitely what you want to use if you’re a gigging musician. They’re reliable, sound good, and have a long range but are still expensive and a little inconvenient to use. While you may not be tethered to your amp anymore, you’ll still have several pieces of gear to set up and contend with.
These are exactly the reasons I’ve never “gone wireless.”
A New Way to go Wireless
However, in the past few years we’ve started to see lower cost, hobbyist-friendly wireless guitar systems emerging. They lack the pro features and long range of their bigger cousins, but there’s no bulky receiver, batteries, power cables, and cell phone-sized transmitters to contend with.
While browsing Amazon recently, one such system caught my eye. It wasn’t the cheapest compared to its competitors, but had a LOT of positive reviews:
It was the Xvive U2 wireless guitar system.
However, as we all know, Amazon reviews don’t always tell the whole story. So, I decided to order one for myself and put it to the test.
The Xvive U2 Wireless Guitar System
A few days later, I heard the telltale sound of a delivery person throwing a box at my door from the street. My Xvive U2 system had arrived! Now, I crossed my fingers that it survived the trip.
Tech Specs at a Glance
Before we dive in and start unboxing everything, here are the tech specs for the Xvive U2:
- 2.4GHz digital wireless signal transmission with 24-bit/48KHz uncompressed conversion
- 100 ft. range, line-of-sight
- Compact form factor with swiveling plug; no bodypack or wires
- Rechargable; included USB split cable recharges both units at once
- Four channels
- 20Hz – 20kHz frequency response
- Approximately 4-5 hours battery life
- Not for use with active pickups
Similar Products / Competitors
The Xvive U2 is just one of about a dozen similar compact wireless guitar systems available. Here are a few systems with very similar specs and features that you should check out before you lay down your hard-earned cash:
Note: I have not tested the 3 systems listed above. The fact that they’re listed here is not an endorsement or recommendation for any of them. I’ve listed them simply so that you can comparison-shop.
Unboxing and First Impressions
Okay, enough talk already. Let’s open up the box and see what we’ve got inside.
The Xvive U2 system consists of:
- 1 wireless transmitter
- 1 wireless receiver
- USB charging cable
- Carrying bag
- Instructions and warranty information
The wireless transmitter and receiver feel sturdy and well-made. I believe these are made of ABS plastic (the same plastic that many guitar flight cases are made of). The swivel mechanism of the plugs has a good stiffness to it, so once you’ve pivoted the Xvive into position, it’ll stay where you put it. To ensure the Xvive doesn’t scratch your guitar or other equipment, there is a soft rubber pad on the back.
On one side of the Xvive you have a power switch, channel-change button, and two LED’s. One LED is dual-purpose for showing power (on/off) and battery status. The other LED is the audio signal indicator LED, which tells you which channel you’re using and whether the two units are synched. It sounds complicated when I explain it, but it’s really not. When I first got my Xvive, I didn’t even read the instructions. I turned on the power, plugged them in, and they automatically synched themselves. It was almost as easy as plugging in a guitar cable.
Below I’ve taken a few shots of the cable and manuals that come with the Xvive U2.
The Xvive U2 In-Use
You should probably charge your Xvive U2 before first use, but I was too eager to try it out, so I didn’t. Luckily, it had enough juice right out of the box.
That said, the first thing you need to do is plug the transmitter into your guitar. This is where I decided to test the plug design on the Xvive–too see how universally it’ll fit different guitars. For this, I grabbed 2 guitars and 1 bass–all with very different output jacks.
The Xvive fit just fine on 2 of them, but would not plug into my Ibanez SR bass, which has a very narrow jack on the front of the guitar–a style unique to Ibanez. It’s sort of a modified Stratocaster-style input jack as you’ll see below. So if you play and Ibanez guitar or bass with this style jack, be aware that the Xvive will not work for you. Strat players, fear not, the Xvive U2 fits a Strat’s output jack just fine. To prove it, I borrowed a Stratocaster image from the Xvive website.
Next, plug the Xvive U2 receiver into whatever you would normally plug the other end of your guitar cable into. That could be your amp’s guitar input, a rack effects unit, a guitar pedal, etc.Now, you’re all set… just flick the power switch on the transmitter and receiver. It doesn’t matter which one you turn on first. They should automatically synch with each other without you actually having to do anything. At least, that was my experience. They just worked… right out of the box.
When both units are on and synched properly, here’s what you should see:Transmitter: Solid red light only
Receiver: Solid red and solid blue light
Don’t be thrown off by the red light here. In a weird twist of logic, Xvive decided that a red light means the battery is good. As long as the light is solid and not blinking, then your batteries have plenty of juice. If that red light ever starts to blink or actually goes off, then it’s time to recharge.
The only time you’ll see the blue light on the transmitter is if you change channels. To do this, press the “channel” button once, and you’ll see the blue light on your transmitter flash. Count the number of flashes, because this will tell you what channel the unit is switching to. One blink is channel 1, two blinks is channel 2, and so on. When you do this, you’ll see the blue light on the receiver go off. The receiver does not automatically change channels along with the transmitter. You have to physically go over and make the same channel selection on the receiver too. So, follow the same procedure. Press the “channel” button on the receiver until you see the same number of blue blinks, and once the two units synch up, the receiver’s blue light will stay solid. Remember though, you’ll never see a solid blue light on the transmitter, only the receiver.
Sounds confusing, but don’t worry. After actually doing it a couple times it makes total sense. It’s just difficult to explain in words.
Note: Something I noticed, and I’m not sure if it’s normal, is that sometimes pressing the “channel” button once doesn’t do anything. Nothing changes. Instead, I have to press the button twice to get it into channel-change mode. After that, a single press works as normal.
Sound Quality and Distance Tests
There were two main things I was curious about when I ordered the Xvive U2: sound quality and range.
To break each of those down further, here’s specifically what I was looking for with sound quality:
- Would the Xvive U2 sound as good as a guitar cable?
- Would I notice the 6ms of latency? I hate latency; drives me nuts.
With regard to range, here’s what I was wondering:
- How far away from the receiver could I get?
- How would the Xvive be affected by walls, closed doors, etc?
- What about other wireless signals buzzing around in my house like my wireless router, cell phones, etc?
Sound Quality Tests
I won’t lie, I didn’t have a scientific approach to this part. I let my ears be the judge, and my view is that if I can’t actually hear or feel a difference in fidelity, I’m happy. Even if there IS some measurable difference that a machine might be able to pick up, I don’t really care as long as my ears can’t detect it.
That said, I couldn’t detect any difference in sound quality between the Xvive and my favorite guitar cable. I would play a phrase with the Xvive, then quickly switch to my cable and play the same phrase. I’d do this while continually switching back and forth, and I just couldn’t detect any difference in sound quality. I also recorded myself in my DAW while doing this switcheroo, and the wave forms looked identical to me. I’ve seen other reviews where people say they could see a slight reduction at the extreme ends of the frequency spectrum when using the Xvive. Maybe, but as I said, as long as I can’t hear it with my ears, I’m happy.
As far as the 6ms of latency, well, I kinda think I could maybe hear/feel it, but that could’ve been my imagination… tainted by the fact that it’s stated in the product specs. Said another way, I think that if I hadn’t read about the 6ms of latency in the specs, I probably wouldn’t know it’s there. Basically, latency was a total non-issue for me.
Distance and Obstacle Tests
Again, this was pretty unscientific, but my method here was to record myself paying the same riff, over and over, into my DAW while moving to different positions throughout the house. I recorded into my DAW because, after a certain point, I was too far away to hear myself well enough to judge sound quality. Recording allowed me to come back and listen for any audio issues while I was on the other side of the house (or outside). We have neighbors, so cranking the amp to concert volumes isn’t an option.
Not only was each test spot progressively further from the Xvive receiver, there were progressively more obstacles between me and the receiver–such as walls, furniture, and cars.
What Others Are Saying
But hey, don’t just take my word for it. Here are a couple really great videos demoing the Xvive U2.
While I’d consider the Xvive U2 very affordable for a wireless guitar system, if you compare apples-to-apples, it’s a bit more expensive than similar competitors. This is why I’ve deducted 1.5 stars here. However, I think the value is there. The transmitter and receiver are well constructed, rugged, and I like the swiveling jack. Not many of the Xvive’s competitors have this swiveling jack feature, which means the Xvive will fit more guitar jack-styles than its competitors.
I couldn’t discern any difference in sound quality between the Xvive and my guitar cable–and I repeatedly switched between the two to test this aspect. Regarding latency, I couldn’t actually detect any latency with my own ears, despite the fact that Xvive’s specs state that there’s 6ms (or less) latency. If it was there, it was so low that it was basically a non-issue for me.
It’s important to note here that I did NOT test the Xvive in a live/stage situation. I’ve read a few reviews on Amazon where gigging musicians said they experienced some interference, but I can’t confirm that for myself. So, keep this in mind when making a purchasing decision. If you buy the Xvive and use it for a live gig, please come back here and leave me a comment in the “Leave a Reply” section below.
The Xvive transmitter and receiver don’t feel cheap. They’re made from ABS plastic and feel very sturdy. I think they could stand to be dropped and not break or have any issues. The swivel mechanism on the plugs isn’t loose and sloppy–so the body isn’t going to flop around once it’s plugged in. The power switch and channel-change buttons feel sturdy and are low-profile and firm enough that you’re not going to accidentally switch the thing on/off or accidentally change channels.
Ease of Use
I was able to use the Xvive right out of the box–without even reading the instructions. I simply plugged the transmitter and receiver in, switched on the power, and started playing. It was that easy. Charging is easy too. Just plug one end of the included charging cable into a standard USB power source, and the other two ends into your Xvive transmitter and receiver. Charging only takes a couple hours, max. However, I deducted 1 star here because changing channels can be a little confusing at first. Also, I found an odd inconsistency where sometimes I only had to press the channel-change button once to get the channels to change, and other times I had to press it twice. No idea why the discrepancy.
Recap: What I Liked
- In the tests that I did, the Xvive U2 seemed unaffected by walls and other obstacles between the transmitter and receiver.
- Both units are rechargeable via a standard USB port.
- To my ears, the sound quality of the Xvive was just as good as using my favorite guitar cable.
Recap: What I Didn’t Like
- The Xvive manual states that the system can not be used with active pickups.
- I didn’t test this, but based on some Amazon reviews the Xvive may be susceptible to some interference at busy venues.
- The Xvive’s plug will fit most guitars, but not all of them. It would not fit into my Ibanez SR bass jack.
The Final Verdict
As far as playing in the comfort of my own home and music room, I loved the Xvive. It sounded as good as a guitar cable and worked flawlessly. I’m honestly not sure if I’ll go back to using a guitar cable. So, if you’re primarily a play-at-home guitarist like me, go out and get yourself an Xvive U2. You’ll have a blast.
However, there are scores of you out there who are gigging musicians and wondering how the Xvive will hold up under live conditions. Unfortunately, I don’t play live anymore and wasn’t able to test the Xvive in a live situation where there are other signals flying around and other such interference sources. So, I simply can’t comment on the Xvive in that capacity.