Microphones in Action

  • By Jim Evans

Microphones in Action

As live events and associated broadcasts return to something approaching pre-pandemic levels, Jim Evans reports on the activities of the industry’s microphone specialists and how they have adapted to the challenges created by the changes in the media landscape...

Sennheiser has now completed the transfer of its consumer electronics business to Sonova Holding and is set to focus solely on its professional audio solutions. Andreas Sennheiser, co-CEO of Sennheiser, comments: “From now on, we are looking forward to working even more closely with our customers in the professional sector and being even closer to the market. This is where we will leverage all of our knowledge and extensive expertise as one of the world’s leading companies in the audio industry.”

Describing the Sennheiser Group’s goals for the future, he adds: “As a family-owned company, we want to grow sustainably through our own efforts. To achieve this, we are investing significantly in our three business units.”

In the pro audio unit, the audio specialist plans to expand its range with complementary software solutions for optimal workflows. Sennheiser has identified growth opportunities in the markets for semi-professional applications, such as audio-for-video.

The Neumann.Berlin operation is to be expanded, with a strong focus on digital workflows and extended software and service solutions, as well as with new product offerings. Neumann’s new Miniature Clip Mic System will be available in spring 2022 and will be featured at this month’s NAB show in Las Vegas.

Neumann CEO Ralf Oehl believes that this new system marks the beginning of a new era: “We are proud that we have succeeded in redefining the potential of electret capsules. For the first time, they are more than just a compromise solution for technically demanding situations. With this product, we have created a new reference for sound that is truly natural, neutral and reliable - even in challenging technical or acoustic situations.”

Meanwhile, Sennheiser reports that at the recent star-studded Super Bowl LVI halftime show in Los Angeles, five out of six artists depended on Sennheiser’s Digital 6000 wireless microphone system.

Gary Trenda, Lead RF Technician for Professional Wireless Systems (PWS), worked with his team to deliver wireless audio for the entirety of Super Bowl LVI, including The Star-Spangled Banner, America, the Beautiful, the on-field referee microphones, the post-game, and the entire half-time show. “Of all the things our team is involved in, the half-time show is by far the most complex, and this is where the Sennheiser Digital 6000 series was used.”

With hundreds of frequencies routinely in use at such a high-profile event, Trenda and his team must make important decisions to attain the best possible performance in challenging conditions: “Very often you will see a fluctuation in the RF level, and with various systems turning on and off throughout the stadium you see a change in background noise level. In these cases, we find the Digital 6000 gives us excellent reliability in such a congested environment.”

Shure also had a major representation at LA’s SoFi Stadium. The line-up featured the Axient Digital Wireless System which flawlessly captured pristine, uninterrupted audio from the game’s most meaningful moments, including the pre-game show, key parts of the halftime performance and crucial fourth-quarter referee decisions.

“Shure Axient Digital microphones have been a key part of our Super Bowl wireless system for the last five years,” said Gary Trenda. “The PWS team deploys a Quadversity antenna system that gives us great coverage. Seeing five bars on the quality meter anywhere on the field gives us confidence in the Axient Digital system.”

As the rapid adoption of live streaming continues to grow in broadcast applications, speech intelligibility remains at the forefront of all productions. In recognition of the changes in the media landscape, DPA recently released a number of broadcast mic solutions, the 4466 CORE Omnidirectional and 4488 CORE Directional Headset Microphones, and the 4097 Micro Shotgun Microphone and Interview Kit.

“The pandemic has shown us the true importance of being quickly and easily adaptable to a rapidly changing media landscape,” says Anne Berggrein, Vice President, Marketing, DPA Microphones A/S. “These new offerings are a direct result of the innovation and forward-thinking response to the industry, and we are excited to call attention to the benefits they provide to the broadcast market.”

Based on the design of the company’s 6066 Subminiature Headsets, the new 4466 Core Omnidirectional and 4488 CORE Directional Headset Microphones feature the brand’s popular 5mm round microphone capsule. With a one-size-fits-all design and adjustable boom height and length, the 4466 and 4488 headsets accommodate all head shapes and sizes.

German production company Professional Sound Service (PSS) reshaped its business beyond traditional live sound reinforcement to offer hybrid and studio events out of necessity. PSS’s investment in Point Source Audio microphones - supplied by German distributor Mega Audio - helped propel its expansion technically and financially to prevail over the challenging business environment created by the Corona virus.

“Coronavirus has completely changed the way we work,” reflects Weimann. The addition of more gear has paid off for PSS: Their old rigging warehouse is now completely converted into a TV set studio with green screen or LED walls. This strategy has obviously saved us,” explains Weinman. “Customers that we used to visit on-site now come to us. But we have not only gained new customers, we have also gained know-how.”

This past month, Audio-Technica supported the host broadcaster of the Beijing Winter Olympics with “an exceptional number of microphones, headphones and associated accessories”.

For some 26 years, Audio-Technica has been providing audio acquisition solutions to the biennial global broadcasts that cover multiple sporting disciplines across many different and varied venues, played out over two weeks of intense physical action.

Camera positions are often set up with Audio-Technica’s shotgun microphones, at Beijing there are over 700, with the majority being BP4027 & BP4029 stereo models in order to deliver an enhanced soundscape.

Bringing the tactics, action and excitement of curling to the home is handled by over 50 channels of ATW-5000 Series wireless belt-pack microphone systems.

A long-running signature of the sports broadcasts is the detail of a venue’s ‘ambient’ sound, delivered in 5.1 surround, which relies on a combination of AT4050 mono and AT4050ST stereo large diaphragm microphones, often hung from high in venues, as well as the more recent introduction of a pair of stereo BP4025 microphones fitted to a custom windshield mount in a 4.0 setting. In total there are over 200 of these ambient microphones throughout the various competition sites.

U851R boundary microphones, in special ‘winter white’ colours, BP899 & BP898 lapel microphones hidden discreetly around the fields of play, and a healthy quantity of in-ear E-Series monitors and Mx-Series headphones help complete the extensive inventory delivered by Audio-Technica into the host city.

A relative newcomer to the microphone sector, Austrian Audio has come a long way in recent months. The Austrian manufacturer enjoyed record-breaking sales in 2021 thanks to “excellent co-operations” with distribution partners all over the world, like Group One Limited in the US. 

Bryan Bradley, President of Group One states: “This past year has been an adventure! We are proud to partner with Austrian Audio, and by leveraging both companies’ strengths, we have grown Austrian Audio into a serious competitor in the marketplace.”

Podcasters on the San Francisco-based Pantheon network are using the AKG Podcaster Essentials bundle to great effect, enjoying improved sound and ease of use from the AKG Lyra USB microphone and K371 headphones.

Pantheon Podcasts is a network of more than 70 music-focused shows, running the gamut from casual music exploration to history, production, banjo culture and much more. Pantheon founder and CEO Christian Swain notes, “Having the ability to quickly and inexpensively supply these shows with the AKG Podcaster Essentials kit is an excellent way to solve this problem when it arises. It also allows us to have a somewhat uniform raw audio signal for editing and enhancing the content when needed.

“We used to shy away from USB microphones, preferring a more traditional external XLR interface, but the AKG Lyra meets our needs and offers a cost savings. We have been very happy with the results and our hosts using this package are extremely happy to be able to up their audio quality.”

Finally, PreSonus Audio Electronics, now owned by the Fender Musical Instruments Corporation, has announced the global launch of two new products in the Revelator line - the Revelator Dynamic USB vocal microphone and Revelator io44 audio interface.

Like its sibling, the Revelator USB large diaphragm condenser microphone, the Revelator Dynamic mic offers easy-to-use presets that let recording vocalists quickly customise their sound and create a mix for studio recording, live streaming, and podcasting.

The Revelator Dynamic utilises the same custom-built, dynamic microphone capsule found in the fan-favourite PreSonus PD-70 broadcast microphone.