Guy Coker: Digital Wireless Pioneer | Part 1
Once upon a time, Line 6 Principal Wireless Product Developer Guy Coker was a musician on a quest for great tone. Hear how he went from answering phones for an electronics company to revolutionizing the pro audio market with his digital wireless technology.
How did you first get into wireless technology?
I was a frustrated musician. I was broke and without a job, so I started to work for a small electronics company answering phones. I would bring my music gear in all the time, which would spark conversations about different products to develop, and I got the idea to start working on digital wireless.
The fact that I couldn’t buy a good wireless system was really problematic—there was nothing out there that felt or sounded like a cable. The company liked the idea, and we started working on it. It took about three years to develop the first digital wireless system.
How did your background as a musician influence your designs?
Tone was number one in developing the wireless system because that’s all I cared about. As a musician, you spend all this money on your pedalboard and amps, you invest all this time… and then you plug into a wireless system to play live somewhere and it all goes away. That’s the biggest difference in what we offer—we’re on a tone quest, and others aren’t. They don’t have the dynamic range.
How is Line 6 different from other wireless companies?
Most traditional wireless companies are microphone companies who happen to make wireless mics. We’re a wireless company that’s making both instrument wireless and microphone wireless. So, we’ve taken a lot more care in developing the actual connection and preserving the tone of the original source.
When it comes to digital wireless, there are a few other players in the game, but we’re on our fourth generation while many are still on their first. So I see that other manufacturers are missing key things that end up showing up in their products as noise, inconsistency, unreliability, different things like that.
What problems does traditional analog technology usually suffer from?
With analog wireless, your audio signal actually travels through the air. So anything it bumps into, or any noise that’s collected, comes out on the other side.
There’s a ton of signal processing that occurs in the transmitter and receiver. Due to FCC regulations and other things, you have to compand (which means to compress/expand) your audio to get it across. The companding makes it sound rather spongy and almost feel delayed. If you want a compressor, you should buy a compressor. You don’t want your wireless to be your compressor.
When your audio finally gets to the receiver, it’s been played with a lot. Your signal looks similar to what it was before, but it’s definitely not exact. And that’s the problem, especially for guitarists and bassists. You want to be able to get out of it exactly what you put into it.
Finally, analog wireless traditionally has a real problem with low frequencies. The systems all cut them off in the 30-40Hz range. And that’s 3dB down already, so it’s a noticeable difference to your ear.
Look out for Part 2 of this series, where Guy Coker will discuss the key advantages of digital wireless, and more.