Sennheiser Goes Home a Winner at Grammy Awards
At the 57th Annual GRAMMY Awards held at Los Angeles’ Staples Center last week, audio manufacturer Sennheiser once again delivered reliable and detailed wireless audio to a host of world-class recording artists including Ed Sheeran, Sam Smith, Beyoncé, Madonna, Tony Bennett, Annie Lennox, Miranda Lambert and many others. Sennheiser user Sam Smith scooped up four GRAMMY Awards, including Record of the Year, Song of the Year, Best New Artist and Best Pop Vocal Album; Ed Sheeran performed a guitar-centric, stripped down version of his blockbuster ‘Thinking Out Loud’, singing through a Sennheiser SKM 2000/MD 9235 combination, and Beyoncé delivered the performance of a lifetime through the Sennheiser Digital 9000 wireless system.
‘Sacred Music’ and the Sennheiser Digital 9000
During a ceremony that featured no less than 23 live performances, Beyoncé’s powerful rendition of Thomas A. Dorsey’s ‘Take My Hand, Precious Lord’ — a traditional gospel hymn also sung by Mahalia Jackson at Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s funeral in 1968 — was the emotional pinnacle of the evening. Dressed in an angelic white gown and standing reverently amidst a choir of 12 men and a swooning church organ, Beyoncé’s vocal navigated effortlessly through the quiet valleys and explosive passages of the timeless hymn.
The Sennheiser Digital 9000 was successful in capturing every nuance of Beyoncé’s extraordinary range and vocal expression. “For this particular performance, she wanted to go for an old school vibe of singing in a church,” observes Stephen Curtin, Beyoncé’s FOH Engineer. “I had 100 percent confidence in the Digital 9000, since we just used it on Beyoncé and Jay Z’s stadium tour, where it was rock solid. People may not be aware of this, but Beyoncé’s GRAMMY performance was right in front of the P.A. system with SPLs reaching approximately 100 dB. We ran the vocals on top of all this without any issues at all. Having that kind of control is an entirely new experience in itself.”
At monitors, James Berry was pleased with the performance of the SKM 9000 transmitter and MD 9235 capsule combination: “The audio was pure and clean, and represented her vocal better than any other microphone out there. With the Digital 9000, you get out exactly what you put in — and this translates to in-ear monitors, the FOH mix and the broadcast world.” At FOH, Curtin appreciates the Digital 9000’s ultra-wide frequency spectrum and its ability to handle Beyoncés powerful, dynamic voice: “Distortion is just something we have never experienced with the SKM 9000, and with the digital HD transmission, you are not losing anything at all.”
Mixing Sam Smith: ‘Nothing Less than Perfection’
The audience was completely transfixed when Mary J. Blige joined Sam Smith on stage for an emotionally charged performance of his instant classic ‘Stay With Me’. Smith crooned through a Sennheiser SKM 2000 handheld transmitter coupled with an MMK 965 capsule, while Blige provided capable accompaniment singing through her Sennheiser SKM 5200 transmitter / Neumann KK 105 S capsule combination.
Simon Thomas, FOH Engineer for Sam Smith, has not been fazed by Smith’s spectacular rise to fame, or his success at the GRAMMYs. “I always had this feeling that Sam would go all the way, ever since I mixed his first American show in July of 2013,” he says. Thomas was extremely careful when selecting the right capsule for Smith’s voice, which has extraordinary range and power. “I chose the Sennheiser 965 capsule for its extremely smooth response. Also I needed a microphone that was going to be very sensitive in the quiet moments, yet could also take a good old spanking when we pushed it.”
In terms of reliability and RF performance, Thomas expects nothing less than perfection: “I have no tolerance for RF interference, since my attention has to be on mixing the show,” he says. “To be honest, I have been using Sennheiser transmitters and receivers for over a year and a half now and I can’t remember ever having a single RF issue.”
More to Love and Listen to at Grammys
Madonna’s performance of ‘Living For Love’ was highlighted with her singing through a Sennheiser SKM 5200 transmitter coupled with an MD 5005 capsule, along with a Sennheiser 2000 IEM wireless system for monitoring. Meanwhile, Annie Lennox put her special brand of sizzle on Howlin’ Wolf’s “I Put A Spell On You”, singing through a Neumann KMS 105 wired condenser microphone. Later in the evening, Tony Bennett and Lady Gaga turned on the charm with a playfully romantic performance of “Cheek To Cheek” — which saw them both singing through a Sennheiser SKM 5200 transmitter and Neumann KK 105 S capsule combination.
Over the course of the evening, hosts and presenters such as Smokey Robinson, Miley Cyrus, LL Cool J and others used Sennheiser SKM 5200 handheld transmitters both on and off stage, coupled with with Neumann KK 105 S capsules.
Sennheiser: Supporting the Home Team
In addition to having its products represented in the vast majority of GRAMMY performances, Sennheiser was also on the ground to support the event’s enclave of FOH engineers, monitor engineers, broadcast professionals and RF technicians. “We wanted to use the Digital 9000 for the Grammys, but the sound vendor that we normally source it from had it out on another project,” recalls Stephen Curtin. “We called up Sennheiser and asked if they could send a unit out, and before we knew it we had one on the ground with a complete microphone package. To be able to get a wireless system of that caliber so quickly was a great example of the support we received.”
Having reached over 25 million viewers through its broadcast over CBS, the GRAMMY Awards also set the social media sphere alight and was ranked the biggest social entertainment program of the 2014-2015 season by Nielsen Social, with over one million impressions.
Sennheiser Introduces SpeechLine Digital Wireless at ISE
In other Sennheiser news, at ISE 2015, Sennheiser unveiled SpeechLine Digital Wireless, the world’s first wireless digital microphone to be designed exclusively for speech applications. During the development process, Sennheiser consulted users, technicians and integrators, carried out its own research and applied its many years of audio expertise to design a completely new system that combines the key requirements of wireless speech microphones: SpeechLine Digital Wireless.
“Our aim was to develop the first microphone to be optimally designed for the spoken word and public speaking,” explained Kai Tossing, Portfolio Manager at Sennheiser Business Communication. “Therefore, we wanted to know exactly which features are the most important, not only for users but also for technicians and decision-makers, and we needed to find out what their special requirements are when it comes speech applications.”
The specialists at Sennheiser held detailed discussions with the focus groups and carried out intensive research. Their findings: the most important requirements placed on microphones for speech applications are easy installation and operation, a high level of reliability and future-proof technology. “In order to meet the needs of our customers, our engineers developed a completely new wireless microphone from scratch,” said Kai Tossing. Installation, operation and adjustment are easier than those of any other microphone. Once the microphone has been configured, users do not require any audio know-how – it is already built-in. This enables speakers to focus entirely on their speech during meetings, lectures or presentations instead of having to think about the microphone they are using.
The microphone also makes the technician’s job easier during the set-up process. SpeechLine Digital Wireless has an Automatic Frequency Management feature that automatically searches for free frequencies on-site, thus eliminating the need for time-consuming frequency planning in advance.
Integrated Audio Level Management automatically adapts the system to the application scenario and the speaker. As a result, the system ensures optimum speech intelligibility at all times. What is more, network integration enables the system status to be remote controlled and monitored at a glance at any time using the special app “Wireless System Remote” (WSR), AMX or Crestron – for example to show the current reception quality or the battery’s state of charge.
In order to ensure stable and high-quality wireless transmission at all times during a speech or presentation, Sennheiser’s developers attached great importance to the aspect of reliability. If wireless transmission is disturbed, Automatic Interference Management automatically and seamlessly switches the system to an alternative free frequency. The lithium-ion battery technology used in SpeechLine Digital Wireless provides a battery life of more than 15 hours. In addition to various flexible charging possibilities, the battery can also be conveniently recharged via USB if required, making it much easier to arrange several consecutive lectures. Optimum speech intelligibility is guaranteed at all times by various selectable sound profiles and sound processing algorithms, such as presets for bass-intensive male voices or high female voices.
Equipped for the future
Thanks to the system’s advanced 256-bit AES encryption, users can benefit from wireless communication at any time with maximum security. The system operates in the license-free, future-proof 1.9 GHz frequency band, and no registration is required.
SpeechLine Digital Wireless is available as a handheld or Lavalier microphone or as a headset. All three sets include a mobile transmitter unit – a handheld or a bodypack system, a battery as well as a receiver station that can easily be integrated.
The SpeechLine Digital Wireless sets and the app “Wireless System Remote” (WSR) will be available from June 2015 and also introduced at InfoComm 2015.