FCC hits microphone maker with fine over interference

A Pyle PDWM1800, as it was listed on the Lowe's website, was one of several models that infringed, according to the FCC.
A Pyle PDWM1800, as it was listed on the Lowe’s website, was one of several models that infringed, according to the FCC. (Photo courtesy Sound Around/Pyle USA, Graphic by The Desk)

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has imposed a $685,000 fine against a New York-based maker of wireless microphones, alleging the devices did not comply with federal law and, in some cases, interfered with frequencies used by aviators.

The issue involves 32 different models of microphones manufactured and sold by Sound Around, Inc. under the Pyle USA brand name. Some microphones are still available for purchase through retailers like Lowe’s and B&H Photo, according to a review of those websites by The Desk on Monday.

The FCC said it began warning Sound Around about the issue as far back as 2011 when the agency’s Spectrum Enforcement Division contacted company executives about the problematic devices. At the time, the FCC was concerned about only two models of Pyle wireless microphones

Regulators said Sound Around not only ignored the problem, but added to it by making and selling more wireless microphones that did not comply with FCC regulations. Starting in 2016, the FCC began regular contact with Sound Around about the problem. The company was never fully forthcoming with its responses, the FCC said, and occasionally misled regulators about how the microphones were being marketed and used.

In one instance, Sound Around produced documentation that it said proved a particular wireless microphone operated within the 174.2 MHz to 215.8 MHz frequency range, the FCC said. Three months later, it provided different documents that claimed the microphone actually operated in the 224.9 MHz to 268.6 MHz range. After the FCC followed up with the company, Sound Around reportedly said it could not determine the frequencies on which the microphone operated, the agency said.

All told, the FCC ultimately came to the conclusion that Sound Around could not provide adequate documentation concerning the wireless frequencies associated with 32 wireless microphones. Two of those microphones were later shown to operate on frequencies that were set aside for use in aviation, which “had the potential to cause harmful interference to a critical public safety radio service.”

In April 2020, the FCC proposed a fine of $685,338 over the issue. Three months later, Sound Around filed a response urging regulators to cancel the fine because it felt the agency lacked evidence that anyone actually purchased the problematic microphones from its website, noting that their listing was for “informational value” only. Sound Around also said some problematic microphones were delisted from its website.

On Monday, the FCC formally rejected all of Sound Around’s claims, saying it was absurd to suggest that the wireless microphones were not purchased from the company’s retail website when they were readily offered for sale there.

Sound Around has been ordered to pay the fine within 30 days.