Super Bowl LVIII: For the First Time, Game and Halftime Show Will Deploy the Same Sound System

The sound will be bigger and bassier than ever

When Super Bowl LVIII kicks off on Sunday (broadcast on CBS, streamed on Paramount+, Slimed on Nickelodeon), viewers at home and fans in the stands will hear the game’s sound through the same PA system that will amplify eight-time Grammy Award-winner Usher’s halftime performance. It’s the first time the same temporarily installed music PA system will be used as the sound for both the game’s play and the entertainment performances.

ATK Audiotek, acquired by Clair Global in 2021, has designed and managed the halftime show’s sound system for 26 years, usually rolling onto the field a separate music-PA system loaded on eight carts. This dedicated system would also be connected to the venue’s installed PA system, which would be used as delay speakers to cover the upper reaches of seating, becoming an extension of the temporary music system for entertainment applications.

Multiple-Grammy winner Usher says he has been preparing for his Super Bowl Halftime Show moment for 30 years.

Last year, however, the roll-out grass field at State Farm Stadium in Glendale, AZ, prevented use of the carts: it couldn’t be moved fast enough to accommodate the quick change necessary to assemble the performance stage midfield. For the first time, then, ATK had to fly the music system, but it still adhered to the practice of connecting with the stadium’s existing installed sound system for delay speakers.

This year, Allegiant Stadium has the same kind of roll-out field, again preventing the use of speakers on carts. In this case, though, ATK will fly an entirely new temporary L-Acoustics K2 system, and it will be used for both the halftime music show and the game’s announcements and other sound elements.

“We’re flying the entire PA again, except this year we’re not augmenting the house system,” says Kirk Powell, engineer in chief, ATK, who is working his 22nd Super Bowl production. “Last year, we augmented what already existed; we just added clusters to the existing system. This year, we flew a completely separate PA system for the first time.”

The existing house PA, a JBL VLA system, will be available for emergency paging needs, he adds.

Implementing the temporary sound system had its own challenges, due largely to Allegiant Stadium’s roofing, which is made of thin ETFE material. “It’s a cable-type ceiling, so you’re limited in where you can put clusters and things of that nature,” Powell explains, adding, “The rigging and cable management was also a challenge, as was amplifier placement.”

Hip-Hop Takeover Continues

In the fourth year of the NFL’s multi-year deal with rap mogul Jay-Z and his Roc Nation production company, Usher’s show at Allegiant follows Rihanna’s appearance at State Farm Stadium; the 2021 show at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa featuring The Weeknd; the 2022 show with Dr. Dre, Snoop Dogg, Mary J. Blige, Kendrick Lamar, and Eminem; and the 2020 appearances of Shakira and Jennifer Lopez, with guest appearances by Bad Bunny, J Balvin, and Emme Muñiz at Miami Gardens (a show that earned a Primetime Emmy and four nominations).

As the line-ups suggest, the shows have provided for progressively larger numbers of subwoofers to accommodate the bass-heavy rap and hip-hop genres. That includes 16 L-Acoustics K1 extended-low-frequency boxes and 48 KS28 subs all flown, buttressed by a complement of 16 Clair Cohesion 218 subs on the field. They’ll join a system comprising 212 K2 boxes flown from the roof rigging and managed by System Engineer Chris Daniels. Signal distribution will be over a Dante network using Focusrite RedNet D64, D16R, and A16R interfaces. Shure Axient Digital will be the main wireless-microphone system on the field, managed by Cameron Stuckey, RF engineer, Professional Wireless Services.

Quick Switch From Game to Music

Although the system is larger than last year’s, mainly on the low end, the fact that it will already be in place will help smooth the switch to music for the halftime show. However, it still requires a team of 100-plus temporary audio-team workers to make the system transitions precise. The team will be supporting the core ATK team of Powell, show mixers Alex Guessard and Dave Natale working on a pair of DiGiCo Quantum338 consoles, monitor mixer Tom Pesa on an SD5, and game-sound mixer Jack Bowling on the stadium’s installed Yamaha PM3 desk. All are Super Bowl Halftime Show veterans.

The sound system got its first use at Monday’s Opening Night event at the stadium, Powell says, where hundreds of media folks interviewed Super Bowl players and coaches in their only public appearance in Las Vegas before Super Bowl Sunday. It was also the only time the two teams would be together in one location prior to taking the field for the Big Game.

He notes that deployment of the NFL OnePass app will allow fans in the stands to tune into any of the dozen podiums in simultaneous use on the field, even as only one of the podiums at any given time could be pumped through the PA system: “That’s just one more cool way that sound is being used for the Super Bowl. It’s another way that fans are engaged.”

And viewers can expect a rather sharp halftime show by a performer who’s in the middle of his second Las Vegas residency, who says he has studied what has become the ultimate gig in the ongoing convergence between sports and entertainment.

“I’ve watched every performer, analyzing how they maximized those 12 minutes,” Usher told Billboard this week, citing Michael Jackson’s 1993 performance as the halftime show’s inflection point. “But, you know, your moment is your moment. And this is a moment I’ve prepared for during the last 30 years.”

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