Shure Microphones, Wireless Systems Power Audio for Tony Awards and CMT Music Awards

Shure Microphones and wireless systems played a major role in the recent live broadcasts of the The 71st Tony Awards on CBS and the CMT Music Awards. 

Shure Wireless Delivers Flawless Performances at Tony Awards
The 71st Tony Awards was broadcast live from New York’s Radio City Music Hall Sunday, June 11, on CBS and the show’s audio and wireless needs were as challenging as ever. A veteran crew from Firehouse Productions (Red Hook, NY/Las Vegas, NV) was on hand to ensure that the live telecast’s audio was delivered without missing a beat. Among the 200 channels of wireless in use, 60 were microphones. Of those, 56 channels were Shure UHF-R combo systems.

Shure UHF-R wireless in use at Tony Awards 2017

“This is my seventh time as wireless coordinator for the Tony Awards, and our audio standards are high,” says Vinny Siniscal of Firehouse. “At the same time, it’s not my first rodeo, so I relied on Shure for every wireless channel I had a choice on, both wireless and in-ears. They came through flawlessly for us, as always.”

Most chanels were outfitted with bodypacks, including 32 UR1M micropack transmitters, ideal for costume ensemble numbers. The UR2 handhelds used for various host, presenter, and interview duties were outfitted with Beta 87C capsules.

The production’s in-ear monitoring needs were met by ten PSM 1000 systems, which Siniscal describes as “everybody’s go-to in-ear system these days.” Eight systems were used on stage, with 16 P10R diversity receivers available to performers. The other two systems were in the monitor mix truck, with one for the sound engineer, and another for the audio supervisors from the various plays as their songs were performed.

Frequency coordination tasks included backstage communications via intercom and two-way radios, plus frequency assignments for credentialed media. Locations requiring coverage ranged far from the stage, including the red carpet area, the audience, backstage halls, and the ninth floor rehearsal room, a total of seven diversity zones in all. To cover it all, Firehouse uses a custom antenna system with tuned distribution amplifiers for each zone, with Shure UA845-SWB antenna splitters assisting in the signal routing.

Kevin Spacey and Patti LuPone at THE 71st ANNUAL TONY AWARDS broadcast live from Radio City Music Hall in New York City on Sunday, June 11, 2017 (8:00-11:00 PM, live ET/delayed PT) on the CBS Television Network. (Photo by John Paul Filo/CBS via Getty Images)

The core frequency coordination was done with a combination of IAS software from Professional Wireless and Shure Wireless Workbench. “I use every tool at my disposal, and Wireless Workbench has been a real game-changer for us, especially for live wireless monitoring,” says Siniscal. “I set everything up in channel groups, so I’m only looking at what I need, and can check ahead by pulling up a tab to confirm all channels are good before the next number hits the stage. Yet I’m never more than one click away from my live view.”

The overall audio lead from Firehouse was Luis Espinal, with Sisse Jonassan assisting in the role of RF technician. The team shows up on Monday for set-up, working with the cast and crew through days of rehearsals to fine-tune the antenna system, eliminate dead zones, and adjust their systems to meet changing requirements as show time approaches.

For Firehouse Productions, the 2017 Tony Awards was a success. “Our job is to deliver flawless audio, and, once again, we didn’t have a single problem all night long, which I guess is why they keep asking us back,” says Siniscal. “Every year, the RF noise floor goes up a little, the spectrum is a bit more crowded, but these Shure systems remain rock solid for us. I’ve used them for over a decade now, and they’re always up to the task.”

Shure Wireless Powers Nashville’s CMA Fest and CMT Awards
This year, on each night of CMA Fest in Nashville (June 8-11), high-profile artists performed at Nissan Stadium, while the daylight hours featured free stages scattered throughout the downtown area, and the Xfinity Fan Fair X occupied the Music City Center convention facility. The unofficial start of it all, though, is the CMT Music Awards, presented Wednesday night in the Karl F. Dean Grand Ballroom at Music City Center and broadcast live on Country Music Television (CMT). In celebration of the event, an outdoor stage augmented the main ballroom performances.

Singer/songwriter Brett Young performs at Nissan Stadium during day 2 of the 2017 CMA Music Festival on June 9, 2017 in Nashville, Tennessee. (Photo by Mindy Small/FilmMagic)

Setting the tone for the week, the awards show was dominated by Shure microphones and wireless systems. While all performers were encouraged to use their favorite microphones, Audio Producer Tom Davis reports that 55 channels of Shure UHF-R wireless were in use, including UR2 handhelds for vocals and UR1 bodypacks for instruments and lavalier mics. In-ear monitors were powered by 24 channels of Shure PSM 1000 wireless systems.

The night’s big winner was Keith Urban, who took home four awards, including Video of the Year and Male Video of the Year for “Blue Ain’t Your Color,” Collaborative Video of the Year along with Carrie Underwood for “The Fighter,” as well as being named Social Superstar of the Year. Underwood also snagged multiple awards, adding Female Video of the Year award for her song, “Church Bells,” extending her record total to 17 CMT wins.

But as always, live performances were the show’s highlight, and Shure microphones were a common denominator for many of them. The opening tribute to Gregg Allman featured Darius Rucker and Lady Antebellum’s Charles Kelley on UR2/Beta 58 transmitters, while Miranda Lambert opted for the KSM8 for her stunning performance of “Pink Sunglasses.” The classic SM58® was spotted on lead vocals by Keith Urban, Brothers Osborne with Peter Frampton, The Chainsmokers, and Shure endorsers Luke Bryan and Kelsea Ballerini. Little Big Town employed their standard mix of SM58, Beta® 58, and Beta 87 capsules for a perfect vocal blend.

Kelsea Ballerini performs during the 2017 CMT Music awards at the Music City Center on June 7, 2017 in Nashville, Tennessee. (Photo by Tim Mosenfelder/WireImage)

Shure microphones were also a staple for the Nissan Stadium concerts at CMA Fest, where headlining performances by Trace Adkins, Miranda Lambert, and Luke Bryan used Shure Axient wireless on lead vocals. But it was the recently announced Axient Digital wireless that captured the most attention.

The next-generation upgrade to the acclaimed Axient Wireless Management Network was put to the test by Jason Glass, the event’s RF coordinator and President of Clean Wireless Audio, who coordinated 1,084 wireless frequencies over the course of the week. Glass was extremely impressed with the sound quality and reliability of Axient Digital under the difficult RF conditions at Nissan Stadium.

“Any new wireless we use has to play well with our distributed antenna system,” he reports. “When my tech walked the Axient Digital handhelds out, well past our furthest point where we would have any performers, with his hand cupped tightly around the antenna, the system would not drop out. It passed the test.”

With that approval in place, Axient Digital was used nightly by stadium co-host Kelsea Ballerini, with her preferred KSM9 mic element. It was also used for the national anthem performances by Brooke Eden (SM58) and Restless Heart (three Beta 58 capsules), and in performances by Shure endorser Brett Young (KSM9) and lead singer Matthew Ramsey with Old Dominion (Beta 58).

Singer-songwriter Miranda Lambert performs onstage during the 2017 CMT Music Awards at the Music City Center on June 7, 2017 in Nashville, Tennessee. (Photo by Kevin Mazur/WireImage)

As impressive as Axient Digital’s wireless quality was, Jason Glass may have been more impressed with its sound quality, saying, “I’ve used SM58 and Beta 58 on cables for 25 years of touring and mixing. I know what they sound like. The Axient Digital sound is absolutely like a cable. It was flawless.”

CMA Audio Producer Tom Davis of Seismic Sound, who worked the CMA Fest and CMT Awards shows, was in total agreement. “The level of support from Shure is always appreciated and consistent,” he says. “The new Axient Digital system performed flawlessly, and it sounds great. Better than a hard wire, which is no easy feat!”

Another key player who had a busy week was Ryan Smith of Shure Artist Relations, moving from event to event to ensure that everything was going smoothly for artists and engineers throughout the events. A fixture in the Nashville music community for nearly a decade, Smith was exhausted and energized by week’s end.

“It was an electrifying week in Nashville,” he reports. “Not only did we have tons of country music fans in town, we had a hockey team in the Stanley Cup playoffs. I met with many artists and their crews to show off Axient Digital, and they all were very impressed with this new advanced system. I look forward to these shows every year, and it’s always exciting to see so many Shure systems in use.”

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