As Boxing Coverage Goes Beyond the Ring, RF and Intercoms Are Key for Audio
Soundtronics Wireless Las Vegas keeps wireless sound for boxing loud and clear
HBO, the platform that created modern pay-per-view for some of boxing’s biggest battles, said farewell to the sport last September after 45 years as the broadcaster for many of the main bouts in professional pugilism. Since then, others have picked up some of the slack, including Showtime with Championship Boxing and ShoBox: The Next Generation and, more recently, subscription video-streaming service DAZN, which has carried events from Matchroom Boxing USA and Viacom-owned mixed-martial-arts promoter Bellator.
Soundtronics Wireless Las Vegas has partnered with both for close-up audio, underscoring the fact that, for boxing on television, the ring is only part of the picture.
From Locker Room to Ring
“We have to cover a lot of ground for boxing now; it’s not just about what’s going on in the ring,” says Jason Waufle, principal, Soundtronics Wireless Las Vegas, and its RF and comms technician. “That’s on top of having to deal with all the changes from RF reallocation and how each city we work from has different RF requirements.”
He notes that intercoms have taken on new importance for both reasons lately. Wireless comms are increasingly necessary to cover the locker rooms and the televised and streamed walks as the boxers make their way to the ring, part of the pageantry and drama of the sport. And the multiple locker rooms expand where wireless partyline needs to reach.
“Doing that has become easier, as more venues now have Cat 5 and fiber infrastructure in place. We can plug into the house patch panels for our antenna systems,” says Waufle. “Before that, we were mostly analog over traditional BNC cabling, on which you’d lose roughly 3 dB for every 150 ft. of cabling. That’s not a problem on Cat 5.”
In the wake of RF reallocation, Soundtronics Wireless — which also manages wireless audio for other broadcast events, including the Grammy Awards, American Idol, NFL on Fox, and the Academy of Country Music Awards — has been deploying Shure’s Axient Digital wireless microphone system’s G57 package, which uses the 470.175-615.575 MHz range.
In addition, the company also relies on Pliant Technologies’ CrewCom wireless intercom system, which operates in both 900 MHz and 2.4 GHz bands. On Showtime Championship Boxing, it deploys 16 four-channel beltpacks, with a total of six radio transceivers (RTs) to cover three separate zones: three RTs inside the main arena bowl, two RTs in the locker room, and one RT near the broadcast truck or production office for full coverage of all users throughout the facility.
“When we started researching all of the new communications systems available,” says Waufle, “we knew we needed a system that was small, incredibly reliable for travel, priced well, could handle at least 18-24 RF beltpacks, and worked in large stadium-like venues without RF multipath or reflection issues all over the country. CrewCom fit that description better than any other wireless intercom system on the market today.
“The other main benefits of using CrewCom,” he continues, “is the easy Cat 5 loop through radio transceivers, simple interface with other systems, and the six-beltpack-per-RT capacity, which allows for fewer antennas needed per zone. The system also has four-button beltpacks and internal iso channels built into each button, which allows a total of eight different channels on a single beltpack. CrewCom’s use of Cat 5 cables comes with a lot of additional benefits in terms of housing patch panels, ease of cable runs, cost, and covering a large area during events.”
Soundtronics Wireless has been sticking with the 900 MHz range in larger cities in the West, where T-Mobile, the most active user of the recently reallocated spectrum, has been lighting up its recently acquired bandwidth.
“A lot of arenas can create phase issues for other comms systems that operate in the 1.9 DECT band, and the 2.4 options also operate in the same space as some house Wi-Fi systems,” says Waufle. “Boxing takes place mostly in arenas, so that’s something we have to be especially aware of. We like to be the people who say yes when a client asks if something can be done, so it’s been great having systems like CrewCom that we can rely on for wireless as that environment becomes trickier to navigate.”