While a cappella music holds a decidedly niche position in popularity, its practitioners and fans are wholly devoted to the art of music without instruments.
One of the largest annual events dedicated to this art is A Cappellastock in Ogden, Utah, organized by acclaimed a capella group T Minus 5. Hosted by Nathan Osmond, this year’s edition also featured highly regarded acts Mosaic and Face.
“The event is held at the Ogden City Amphitheatre, with full-on production from top to bottom,” says Rick Low, technical director for A Cappellastock, and sales manager at Salt Lake City-based Poll Sound, which has provided audio through most of the event’s seven-year history.
“A cappella groups are usually booked into small university venues, but we go all out to give them the full rock star treatment.”
“That means Shure wireless mics and personal monitors, a high-end line array system, digital consoles – the works.”
In fact, Shure has been a sponsor of A Cappellastock throughout its seven-year history. Working through its area rep, Pro Tech Marketing, Shure provided ten UHF-R wireless mic systems and three PSM 900 IEM systems for the event.
“Poll Sound brings in our top performing wireless mics for this show, and Shure’s support means a lot,” notes Low.
“Counting spares, we needed 58 channels. This venue is tough for RF because we’ve got the city jail, the FBI, and a bunch of city and county government offices all sharing the same parking lot.”
Making things even more challenging was the mix of wireless gear: 20 channels of Shure UHF-R, 12 channels of Shure ULX-P, plus a mix of several brands of in-ear systems brought in by the artists.
“We just plugged everything into the Shure Wireless Workbench 5 software and it coordinated everything for us. I printed out the frequency recommendations, programmed all the systems, and we were ready to go,” Low reports.
A Cappellastock was also the ideal event to check out the new PSM 900 personal monitor system. “We’ve been using another brand at Poll Sound, so this was a great opportunity to compare systems head to head,” he reports.
“I had heard it was good, but what really surprised me about the PSM 900 was the difference in sound quality. Shure has taken in-ears to another level. The performers were amazed by the smoothness in the monitors. There is no question we will be adding some to our inventory.”
Unlike the mix of in-ear systems at the show, every wireless mic system was by Shure, with a full selection of KSM9, Beta 87A, Beta 58A, and SM58 elements available.
In general, Poll Sound assigned matched capsules for each group for ease of mixing, with one notable exception.
“We tried to standardize on a single condenser capsule for each group, typically the KSM9, which just sounds incredible,” says Low. “But most a cappella groups also include a vocal percussionist, and we’ve found that an SM58 capsule works best in that application.”
While it would be easily possible to do the show by sharing channels, event organizers T Minus 5 had their sights set on a grand finale that would bring every performer on stage simultaneously. “That meant 25 mics and 21 in-ear systems running simultaneously,” reports Low.
“In the past, working without Wireless Workbench, that part of the show was always a huge challenge, but this year, we had channels to spare. Knowing we were monitoring through Wireless Workbench took a lot of pressure off us. Our wireless tech, Bryce Stettler, monitored all the wireless live and it was solid all night. Everything worked flawlessly.”
While Poll Sound has been a Shure supporter for years, the 2010 A Cappellastock show reinforced the company’s commitment.
“With the recent change in FCC wireless rules, we really thought this would be a rough year for wireless. But what we found was almost the opposite. Shure’s Wireless Workbench software allowed us to run more channels with fewer problems, and the setup was fast and easy. I can’t say enough about how impressed I was.”
“Frankly, I wouldn’t want to do this show without Shure wireless. I’m sure it’s possible, but really, I can’t imagine anything easier to set up and sounding so great,” says Low.
“A Cappellastock has created a real buzz in the a cappella community, and Poll Sound is proud to be a part of it,” Low concludes.
“The artists get the rock star treatment from start to finish, from transportation and accommodations to the show itself. It’s really a class act, and a memorable experience for the performers. It’s an experience they talk about long afterwards, and Shure wireless is a big part of that buzz.”