Wednesday, March 04, 2015

The Vesuvius Effect

Way back in ‘79 (79 A.D, that is), when some of our pro audio industry veterans were just getting started, Mt. Vesuvius erupted, completely destroying the Roman cities of Pompeii and Herculaneum, and killing an estimated 16,000 people in the process. You’ve probably read about this in a history class or seen a documentary about it.

What you may not know is that Vesuvius, a stratovolcano in the Gulf of Naples, Italy, had erupted several times before, including several larger ones such as in 1800 B.C., where several Bronze Age settlements were wiped out. Minor eruptions happen every few decades (or centuries) and continue to this day.

And yet an estimated 3 million people currently live within its potential kill radius, despite the fact that it’s very likely to erupt in a big way again.

How is this possible? I call it the “Vesuvius Effect,” a.k.a., “It Can’t Happen To Me.” Part of our human nature, apparently.

Coming Eventualities
I recently received a call from an integrator looking to find a way to continue using old software with old hardware. As he described it, “The hardware still works fine, but we can’t get the software to run any more.” This was equipment we stopped making at Lectrosonics more than 10 years ago and had supported up until a few years ago when the 32/64 bit transition came around.

After that, it became very daunting to continue support due to the USB driver problems and other software issues. The only way to keep this particular customer’s gear running would be to use an old PC running an old OS. This against the backdrop that just recently, Microsoft dropped its support of Windows XP.

Still, I sympathized with him (and his customer) because this has happened to all of us, likely more than once: perfectly good hardware becomes obsolete when it can no longer be updated, accessed, set up, controlled, or monitored. What I couldn’t understand, though, was why no one in this scenario had budgeted for hardware upgrades over a reasonable time frame.

As we all know (or at least should know), most hardware today runs on software, and software requires fairly constant updating for minor issues. Then every few years, a major update is required. And as previously noted, sometimes there’s a significant shift or external change that causes a whole class of devices to be rendered obsolete.

But even the hardware itself can be a ticking time bomb, just waiting for the worst possible moment to fail. Take power amplifiers, for example – the power capacitors inside only last so long, with 10 to 12 years a good rule of thumb for major overhauls or replacement. Sure, it may seem that “power amps don’t have any moving parts and should last forever,” but unfortunately this isn’t true.

And if common sense (otherwise known as the manufacturer’s recommended replacement schedule) is ignored then it just might go “poof” right in the middle of a church service, a presidential debate or a big rock show. Not something any of us would want. (Although we might smile inwardly at the presidential debate one…)

RF Spectrum
So let’s get to an issue that is near and dear (or at least near) to our hearts: RF spectrum and wireless systems. Starting in the late 1990s, it came to pass that there would be a transition in television broadcasting from analog to digital.

A bit later, some of the spectrum available for entertainment wireless systems (the 700 MHz band) would be auctioned off by the U.S. government. There were numerous articles in trade magazines and on web sites offering advice from manufacturers about which bands to avoid.

As we got to 2007-8, the information campaign really ramped up, and manufacturers began shutting down U.S. sales of wireless gear operating in the 700 MHz band. Owners of this equipment were prompted to sell it or retire it since it would be become illegal to operate at some point (which ended up being June, 2010).

Further, manufacturers began offering rebate programs and service plans to help equipment owners, rental houses and users make the transition. In other words, it’s safe to say that basically everyone working with wireless systems knew (or should have known) that the volcano was going to explode, and even approximately when it was going to happen. Most heeded this advice but (too many) others did not.

Just this past December I was on a panel at IMFCON (International Music Festival Conference) talking about the importance of wireless frequency coordination. Someone in the audience asked why all of his wireless mic systems worked fine until show time, when they began taking strong interference. It turns out he was using 700 MHz equipment, and the LTE service in his area blew those systems off the air once the audience showed up with their smart phones.

RF Spectrum, Again
Now we’re faced with another spectrum auction. This time, we don’t know exactly how much spectrum will be taken, but the best guess is that it will be significant. Estimates range from 40 MHz to more than 100 MHz, starting at 698 MHz and down.

What does this mean for all of us? First, stay informed by reading articles and/or attending various panels/workshops on the subject. Next, plan accordingly. By all estimates I’ve seen, the main part of this transition will begin in 2016 and go through to some point in 2019.

My suggestion (with the caveat that my employer is a manufacturer of wireless systems) is to consider retiring the oldest equipment in your inventory that operates in the upper 600 MHz band, replaced by systems operating below 600 MHz.

In addition, consider a broader replacement plan in preparation to sell off or re-tune any equipment in the 600 MHz band. Newer gear from the quality manufacturers offers wider tuning bandwidth, better filtering and a host of other useful features.

In the bigger picture, the same goes for other types of equipment, along with training and preparedness – don’t let old gear, old software or old ideas be the cause of new problems. Regardless of the specific issue at hand, a big part of the job is staying on top of things that can (and often will) affect our work, even if they seem far off in the future.

In other words, don’t get buried in the ash.

Karl Winkler is director of business development at Lectrosonics and has worked in professional audio for more than 20 years.

Posted by Keith Clark on 03/04 at 03:16 PM
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Tuesday, March 03, 2015

Same But Different: Working Corporate Events

Corporate events require a slightly different skill-set (and mind-set) than band and festival gigs.

There’s a lot of waiting for people to make changes, hand-holding of clients who worry about everything, waiting for more changes, communicating changes to the crew (only to find out that things have changed again), calming clients who are now terrified the changes will ruin their show – and of course, some audio thrown in for good measure.

Things to remember about corporate events:

• There will be changes.
• The CEO and corporate officers will be treated as gods or rock stars, depending on the culture of the company.
• Catering and décor are more important than audio – until the CEO can’t be heard in the back of the room.
• There will be changes.

My company works a lot of “corporates,” so here are some key things we’ve learned over the years that make these unique gigs a bit easier, and that have even saved a show or two along the way.

Power. With all the computers and digital consoles at front of house and monitor world, stable power is a must, so all mission critical gear plugs into uninterruptable power supplies (UPS). If the venue power or a generator goes out, we have time to save any work and do a proper shutdown of the computers and desks. If there’s a brown-out during the show, the consoles won’t need to reboot. And if we’re the production provider, we supply UPS units for client computers as well.

Spares and backups. While responsible audio professionals carry extra microphones and cables for every show (right?), higher stakes events require bringing extra everything. For example, we bring a backup/utility mixer to all corporate events, making sure it can accommodate the important inputs and is large enough to get us through the gig in case the main desk goes down.

Safety recordings. Regardless if a primary recording is being done or the video folks are recording the event, it’s good practice to do a back-up. It’s pretty easy to record to USB if you have a fairly late-model digital (and even analog) console. We’ve had more than one client over the years need the back-up recording because the main was damaged or lost in transit.

VOG (“voice of god”) mic. No matter the event size, we always have a board mic ready to go because inevitably the event planner will ask us to make an announcement. It’s also a safety issue. Once at a large event the fire alarm sounded and the person at the podium didn’t know what to say or do, so I turned off the podium mic and used the VOG mic to provide instruction to the attendees. 

Music. While the majority of the events we work are scripted, and music cues have been picked and provided to us, there have been occasions when the client assumes we’re like a DJ and have thousands of songs on hand. (Well, we do now.) My laptop is full of tunes, including royalty-free tracks of all styles and lengths, from short stings (quick music phrases) to full length songs. Royalty-free tracks are essential because many of these events are video recorded and music rights would have to be retained. We also have pre-made set lists for walk-in/walk-out and dinner music. 

Editing. A basic computer editing program comes in handy for advance and on-site prep of tracks, such as where they start and for length. It’s a lot easier to just cue up a prepped track and press play instead of having to do “heads and tails” with each cut.

Playback. We made the switch to computer playback a few years ago and use a program called Sports Sounds Pro as our main playback unit. It lets us set up cues as onscreen buttons that can be clicked on or assign cues to the keyboard. Also, Instant Replay by 360 Systems is a popular stand-alone machine for playback in the corporate market.

Multiple computers. We carry at least three laptops to gigs and all are set up and loaded with the same programs and music to insure there’s always an optimized back-up. We also carry an iPad loaded with console remote control apps. 

RF scanner. With all of the changes in the air(waves), frequency monitoring and coordination is a must. We use an RF Explorer, a stand-alone unit that can also connect to a computer that provides coordination programs, to help us avoid wireless system interference.

Focus On The Money
A primary focus at corporate events is the “money” channels, such as the podium mic and/or main presenter’s wireless. We spend extra time getting money mics sounding great and rung out so there’s zero percent chance of feedback. Many of the people using these mics aren’t profession presenters and lack an understanding of mic technique (some haven’t even used a mic before.)

Counsel presenters not to do this…

So prior to the event, we speak with everybody who’ll be using the podium and explain that unless they’re unusually tall or extremely short, they won’t need to adjust the mic, and to just speak toward it. In addition, we post a note on the podium stating the same thing. (We also speak with wireless users about proper mic technique.)

Placing a “confidence” monitor at the podium or small monitors onstage helps presenters hear themselves. Veteran presenters and performers understand that what they’re hearing on stage from the back of the PA sounds nothing like the output coming from the front, but amateurs think it’s what the audience is hearing and it can distract them. 

Often, corporate events have a lot of playback cues, so we keep those channels all on the same console layer. A desk that offers either a “user” layer that can accommodate all of these inputs (and possibly outputs) on a single layer, or that allows moving channels around between the layers, is a good choice. It puts everything at your fingertips, lessening the chance of missing a cue.

Routing Options
Signal routing is another primary focus. Even smaller events might need console feeds to the mains, delays, front fills, stage and backstage monitors, recording and video.

A console with plenty of routing options, including a matrix, is highly recommended. The matrix comes in handy for a variety of sends, including mix-minus feeds for specific facets of the mix.

For example, we work in a lot of wide ballrooms that require front fills because the mains are so far apart that the audience in the first few rows might be out of the coverage pattern. Depending on the PA configuration, just need a little of the presenter’s voice in the front fills might be needed to help with intelligibility, not necessarily any music or subs. So using a matrix, we can create a mix specifically for those fills.

The ballroom spaces that usually host these events present some coverage challenges. Due to limitations in height and distance, the mains can easily be too loud up front while coverage is insufficient beginning at the mid-point all the way to the back.

This means distribution via plenty of delay loudspeakers to enhance clarity and to bolster coverage to the entire listening area. Again, a matrix makes it easy to create mixes and mix-minus feeds optimized for the various zones.

Another staple of corporates is Q&A mics, placed in the aisles on stands, handed to audience members by “mic wrangers,” or simply passed from person to person.

Smaller digital consoles like the Soundcraft Si Compact 24 can provide a good deal of flexibility for corporate events. (Credit: Warner Audio Visual)

The presenters and the audience need to hear these mics, but if one ranges near a loudspeaker, feedback can happen. A mix-minus feed of that mic, routed to all loudspeakers except the one in close proximity, reduces the chance of a problem.

Gates are also useful with Q&A mics. When there are two or more of them in the aisles, it’s sometimes not clear who will be speaking first. So I gate all of the mics until a person speaks and then manually mute or drop the fader on the mics not being used. A leveler also helps get a more consistent vocal signal from these mics because again, a lot of the folks haven’t used a mic before.

Additional Aspects
Larger events often present an awards ceremony and a gala, and/or after-dinner entertainment. The performers may provide their own mix engineer and bring (or require) a separate console.

We typically route the second desk into the matrix or submaster inputs of our console, but if no other inputs are available, we might end up using channel inputs. Either way there may be some noise, so it’s a good idea to bring line-level transformers for the interface.

The main system may be equalized for speech and not very flat, so we give the second console (and operator) a “clean slate.” If we’re using an analog board, we simply bypass the outboard EQ. With a digital console we save a scene of the speech setting for later use and then flatten the system.

Another easy approach with a digital board is to route the main outputs to a matrix that feeds the PA, with all EQ for the outputs done on the stems that feed the matrix. The second console can be inserted into the same matrix, which has a flat output.

Something that comes up often is the need to “hack” a bunch of frequencies out of a wireless lav or podium mic so it won’t feedback in the live PA. It will sound fine in the room but somewhat lackluster on the recording if using the channel EQ to make the adjustments.

There are a few ways around this dilemma. If there are any spare channels on the console, our first choice is to assign these inputs to two separate channels. The first channel is sent to the main PA, and the second channel is sent to record, so that each can be equalized.

If there aren’t extra channels or there’s not a need to EQ the recording, an aux bus from the one channel can feed the recording, with the aux output EQ used to make adjustments. 

One last thing about working corporates – don’t forget to bring a small, dimmable desk lamp to help in reading the cue sheet or script during the show. 

Senior contributing editor Craig Leerman is the owner of Tech Works, a production company based in Las Vegas.

Posted by Keith Clark on 03/03 at 05:11 PM
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RF Relief: New Wireless Technology Makes An impact

The recent football extravaganza – Rose Bowl, Pro Bowl and Super Bowl – meant plenty of audio professionals were busy making sure the hundreds of thousands in attendance as well as the hundreds of millions viewing the broadcasts heard the proceedings.

One of the key things that makes it all work is communication, as in constant crew communication, and it’s the job of the intercom (comm) systems to make that happen.

Particularly in light of the current turbulence in the world of RF (radio frequency), that’s becoming more challenging, especially at large-scale events where dozens if not hundreds of entertainment and broadcast wireless systems (microphones and IEM) are also deployed.

Noted RF coordinator James Stoffo (a contributor to this publication) is also now the chief technology officer for RAD (Radio Active Designs), established to devise new wireless technology for the pro production marketplace.

The company’s first development, the UV-1G wireless intercom system, was deployed at all three bowl games, where Stoffo served as RF coordinator (Rose Bowl) and entertainment RF engineer (Pro Bowl and Super Bowl, working with audio provider ATK Audiotek).

We’ve previously presented an in-depth overview of the UV-1G here. In brief, FM wireless intercom systems usually require 300 kHz of radio band to function properly. The UV-1G, with proprietary Enhanced Narrow Band technology, occupies less than 30 kHz of the VHF band. Further, a single UV-1G system works with up to six belt packs per base station, and up to six base station links, for a total of 36 ISO channels between packs. 

“Our primary goal is spectral efficiency,” Stoffo explains. “We sought to vacate the UHF spectrum as much as possible, and as the FCC continues to auction off chunks of the UHF band, it becomes vital to have alternatives. More than half of the frequencies in use in productions are communications, so by switching to VHF, it leaves room for operation of other wireless devices.”

Another RAD UV-1G bass station, this one at the Pro Bowl.

At the Rose Bowl stadium in Pasadena – also proximate to Mount Wilson, where all of the TV transmitters for Los Angeles are located – two UV-1G base stations and 12 belt packs were deployed to handle all intercom operations, opening up bandwidth for wireless mic and IEM systems.

Further, this year’s Super Bowl halftime entertainment headlined by Katy Perry serves as a prime example of the need to keep lines of communication open. “Katy used five different live wireless mics, which was a little challenging when it came to coordinating,” Stoffo explains. “It’s not necessarily life and death, but when she was flying through the air at one point? That’s when it gets important.”

In addition, with the VHF band virtually empty, comm users get their own channel, eliminating issues that may occur when forced to “double-up” on UHF. “That is a safety issue,” Stoffo states. “If comm operators are sharing a channel and key up at the same time, they cancel each other out. These people not only interface about the production, they also relay information about hazardous situations and can be a point person in a medical emergency. So it’s vital these systems work.”

For the Pro Bowl and Super Bowl, both held at the University of Phoenix Stadium a week apart, eight UV-1G base stations and 50 RAD packs were utilized by the NFL, ESPN and ATK AudioTek. “The NFL was extremely pleased with the systems,” Stoffo concludes. “The original plan was to test them out as back-ups on the sidelines, but the interference was so tremendous that they put them right to use during the Pro Bowl – and didn’t think twice about firing them up again for the Super Bowl.”

Posted by Keith Clark on 03/03 at 11:10 AM
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Thursday, February 26, 2015

Sergio Mendes And will.i.am Have A (Governors) Ball With DPA Microphones

Duo performs at after-awards party using d:facto vocal microphones

The annual Governors Ball, held at the Ray Dolby Ballroom at the Hollywood & Highland Center after this year’s Academy Awards show in LA featured Grammy winner Sergio Mendes, who performed songs with special guest will.i.am using several DPA Microphones d:facto vocal microphones.

Selected by Mendes production manager John Baker, wired and wireless versions of the d:facto mics were used for vocals by Mendes, will.i.am and the three female singers who performed centerstage for their roughly 45-minute set. Baker also selected DPA’s d:vote 4099 Instrument mics for a variety of the band’s instruments.

“My goal was to spread the DPA mics all around because, to me, they are the best mics out there,” says Baker. “These mics really work best when I just let them do what they do—no EQ, very minimal compression—it’s almost counter-intuitive as an engineer. I was very excited for this performance, to see how the DPAs would work, and I’m so happy to have used them.”

Baker’s wife Keiko Takeda, Mendes’ long-time front engineer, mixed the Governors Ball. “Leading up to the event, I told Keiko about my experiences using DPA and how she wouldn’t have to process the mics very much to get a perfect sound,” says Baker. “She’s such a good sound engineer, so I was very interested to hear what she would think of the mics. She took my advice and the set sounded fantastic.

“It was very interesting to see how she worked with this new process and to hear how the mics performed. Keiko was definitely impressed as well. We’re now going to have a microphone custody battle should we have competing tour schedules.”

Since will.i.am tends to move more about the stage, Baker recognized that a wireless version would be the best solution for him. “There was the potential for other surprise guest artists showing up to perform with Sergio and Will, so I wanted to have the d:factos with the Shure wireless system on hand,” he continues. “I’m a total fan of the entire DPA line. Any opportunity I can get to open someone’s eyes to their sound, I’m ecstatic.

“The d:facto is really a perfect mic no matter what setup you use. The first time I ever used it, I thought ‘wow, those engineers at DPA sure have a sense of humor; they call it the d:facto-in other words, the fact or the truth. You literally just plug it in and let it do what it’s supposed to do.’ It’s really the premier microphone for vocals.”

When he’s not doing production work for Mendes, Baker worked as front of house engineer for The Al McKay All Stars, featuring Earth, Wind & Fire guitarist, songwriter and producer Al McKay, as well as The Jacksons, for which he also uses a large collection of DPA mics.

DPA Microphones

Posted by Keith Clark on 02/26 at 02:54 PM
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Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Canada’s Cold Water Cowboys Cast A Wide Wireless Net With Lectrosonics

Mark Barry, lead sound consultant for extreme reality television series, implemented 5-channel Venue system for the current season

Cold Water Cowboys, a Discovery Channel extreme reality television series that focuses on Canadian trawler crews fishing off the coast of Newfoundland that’s wrapping up its second season, has been using using Lectrosonics Digital Hybrid Wireless equipment since the beginning.

Mark Barry, lead sound consultant for the series, which is produced by Vancouver-based Paperny Entertainment, implemented a 5-channel Venue system for the current season, with plans to expand it for the future.

“All the shows I do are generally fairly tough sound environments; we do a lot of extreme shows,” says Barry, a BBC-trained freelance sound engineer who relocated to Vancouver from his native Ireland. Some of the ongoing reality TV series with which he is involved include Game of Homes, Highway Thru Hell, Yukon Gold and Klondike Trappers. Cold Water Cowboys was recently nominated for a Canadian Screen Award in the category of Best Factual Program or Series.

Key to the success of Cold Water Cowboys, which is filmed miles offshore out in the stormy North Atlantic, is Lectrosonics’ WM watertight belt-pack transmitter. “Everyone has a brand new WM Lectrosonics set up; we run the packs all day. And we run everyone on Countryman B6 lavalier microphones,” he reports.

Barry, who designed, bought and built all of the audio packages, installed the recording systems on each of four fishing boats at the end of April 2014 with assistance from Marco Dölle, a sound mixer based in Newfoundland who maintains the equipment during the season.

“We basically create a soundstage on the boat,” explains Barry. “We have a Venue rack with five receivers and we run 100-foot custom-made, low-loss cables to the top of the mast where we have ALP650 [LPDA “Shark Fin”] antennas pointing at the deck and out to the sides.” All of the RF equipment on each boat operates within the same frequency range: block 19, 21, 22 or 25.

In addition to the wireless mics on each five-man fishing crew, the recorder also captures a wired plant mic in the wheelhouse—“Because that’s generally where arguments or fights kick off,” says Barry—and another pointing at the deck. The CB radio, sea-to-land radio and the satellite phone are also recorded. “Everything goes back to a Sound Devices 664 recorder—which is also the timecode source for the cameras—in a very dry, safe spot, running off deck power, with a four-hour backup. We record 10 tracks, 24 hours a day,” he says. Each fishing trip typically lasts seven to 12 days.

At roughly 64 feet in length, the long liners only have room for two extra people—in the case of Cold Water Cowboys, the director/cameraman and the director of photography (DOP). “The director, who’s usually in the wheelhouse, has a UCR411a compact receiver on his camera. His five guys are pre-programmed into his 411, so if he wants to do a standup interview he just quickly changes to the guy’s frequency and he’s recording straight to camera,” says Barry. “We just send a broad spectrum average mix to the DOP.”

Those two camera hops are currently handled by another brand of wireless transmitter, but Barry has a new plan for the future: “We realized we can fit a sixth transmitter onto that boat without any issue, frequency-wise, so we’re going to transmit with Lectrosonics instead. We’re going to tune in the sixth frequency, which will be the mix, so that both cameras can individually select each person on the boat and also select a mix at any time.”

The flexibility of Lectrosonics wireless equipment has become central to the way that the reality TV shows on which he works are filmed, says Barry. “You can do a lot with what you send to cameras. But what you mix is not necessarily what you send to cameras. We’re doing so much more in our multitracking and our mixes and our sends, that two channels on a camera are now more of a guide track for post-production. We’re able to send sub-mixes here, there and everywhere, and that’s all just based off of tuning groups and frequency blocks.”

“A simple system design with the right gear, well-built to stand up to abuse is the key to this whole thing,” he says. “And then translating it all so it’s very streamlined all the way into post, as there is no point in recording something unless post can find it. The alignments have to work, swapping around channels and bouncing stuff around. You have to bring your big guns, and when they fire, it all looks very simple. And Lectrosonics is a major part of it.”


Posted by Keith Clark on 02/24 at 05:28 PM
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Thursday, February 19, 2015

MOTU Ultralite AVB Offers High-Quality Mobile Recording

The MOTU UltraLite AVB provides more I/O than previous models, with separate mic and guitar inputs, 8-channel ADAT optical, 6 x 8 balanced quarter-inch analog I/O and MIDI IN/OUT jacks.

MOTU is now shipping the UltraLite AVB, a compact 18-input, 18-output audio interface with DSP mixing, wireless control, AVB audio networking and best-in-class analog audio quality for on-the-go mobile audio recording.

The latest in MOTU’s award-winning UltraLite series, the UltraLite AVB provides more I/O than previous models, with separate mic and guitar inputs (two each), 8-channel ADAT optical (switchable to stereo TOSLink), 6 x 8 balanced quarter-inch analog I/O and MIDI IN/OUT jacks, all housed in a rugged aluminum alloy half-rack chassis that slides easily into a backpack.

The balanced analog outputs achieve a measured dynamic range of 117 dB, rivaling the audio quality of interfaces at much higher price points.

Expanded DSP doubles the available processing power for the redesigned console-style mixer, which provides 48 inputs, 12 stereo busses and 32-bit floating point effects processing, including modeled analog EQ, vintage compression and classic reverb. Matrix routing lets users quickly patch ins to outs, or split inputs to multiple destinations. Users can even use the UltraLite AVB as a stand-alone mixer and control everything wirelessly from innovative web app software running on their iPad™, iPhone™, tablet, smartphone and laptop.

“Like its predecessors, the UltraLite AVB delivers an impressive combination of superb audio quality and innovative features that truly set it apart from other mobile audio interfaces,” said Jim Cooper, MOTU Director of Marketing.

The UltraLite AVB connects to a computer through AVB Ethernet or audio class compliant hi-speed USB 2.0 (compatible with USB 3.0 and iOS) and records at sample rates up to 192 kHz.

Through AVB Ethernet, users can connect another MOTU AVB interface for more I/O — or connect to an expanded MOTU AVB network with multiple interfaces and computers.

The UltraLite AVB is now shipping. Price is $649 USD.


Posted by Julie Clark on 02/19 at 02:58 PM
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Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Whoa, You Can’t Do That!

One of the main causes of RF (radio frequency) interference is intermodulation products created by our own wireless equipment. In this piece, I will outline some of the common setup and handling errors that contribute to this problem.

First up is increased noise floor and intermodulation (intermod or IM) products due to transmitters being in very close proximity. If you work with a single band and just put mics up on stands every day, you might not encounter this.

But at festivals, broadcast events, churches and theatrical productions, there are situations where a number of active transmitters (i.e., microphones, belt packs) must be marshaled somewhere and handed out to talent at various intervals.

Figures 1A, 1B and 1C shows the effects of handling six handheld wireless microphones in different ways. (All data charted with an Invisible Waves X PC-based RF spectrum analyzer from Kaltman Creations.)

In Figure 1A, they’re on stands, about 4 feet apart. In Figure 1B, they’re lying side-by-side on the fader bay of a console. In Figure 1C, they’re back on stands, with the red trace showing IM and increased noise floor (the “after” result).

Figure 1A

We can clearly see that it goes from a very clean RF spectrum to a very noisy RF spectrum, and then back again. There are several ways to deal with this common problem:

—If laying the transmitters out on a table (or a road case), arrange them so that the antennas are pointing in opposite directions for each mic (one up, one down, etc.).

Figure 1B

—If this is something you encounter regularly, invest in some aluminum loaf pans and place the transmitters in them, with the antenna end in each pan.

—Monitor engineers who keep their lead vocal mic and the spare on the console should place them either windscreen-to-windscreen, or both facing the same way, so the antenna end of one is facing the windscreen of the next.

Figure 1C

The same problem occurs with in-ear monitoring systems, because out of necessity there are usually a number of transmitters in close proximity to each other. The trick here is to use antenna combiners, which have varying degrees of intermod suppression built into them.

Figures 2A and 2B shows a rack of six IEM systems with whip antennas fitted (Figure 2A) and then routed through an antenna combiner (Figure 2B). Note that Figure 2B is also the “after” shot and clearly shows all of the intermod products in red.

Figure 2A

Five of the IEM frequencies shown are on top of a weak DTV (digital television) channel, channel 34 in this case. This accounts for the 6 MHz wide “hump” that the five channels are sitting on. I didn’t program or coordinate any of the frequencies shown in these plots, but merely grabbed a couple of racks that had come back from a show and analyzed what was already programmed.

Figure 2B

Careful Arrangement
Antenna placement is key – in particular, it’s really important to keep transmit (Tx) and receive (Rx) antennas separated. This is because a Tx antenna in close proximity to an Rx antenna will desensitize it. This works in much the same way as the human eye or ear: if you’re trying to look at a dim object like a distant star, and there’s a bright light shining in your eyes, they’re desensitized by the bright light. So an IEM antenna right next to a mic antenna is going to make that antenna less sensitive to a mic on the far side of the stage.

What to do? Assuming you’re using cardioid directional antennas (a.k.a., “paddles,” “shark fins,” helical, circular-polar, etc.), place the Rx antennas behind the Tx antennas. This seems counterintuitive in that the receive antennas are being placed farther away (slightly) from the transmitters, but it puts them in the “null” area of the Tx antennas and therefore the area of least interference.

Power Focus
Time and again I see techs use the “high power” setting on any transmitter that happens to have one. But with RF, we usually don’t benefit from having more power than needed.

All that’s needed is enough. It’s analogous to digital audio in that going over the maximum input level (0 dBFS) does not do anything positive, just harsh clipping and overloading.

What more power does get us is more intermod products and more desensitized antennas, which leads to more interference and drop-outs as well as more reasons to think more power is needed to make the system work.

In my experience, the only time the high power setting on a transmitter is needed is when it’s known for sure that the transmitter is going to be a long distance from the antennas. An example is an anthem mic set up in the middle of a football field.

Figure 3 shows the before and after effects of having a Telex BTR-800 base station at “high” and “low” (“norm”) power. Note the red lines showing the intermod products.

Figure 3

Note also that this is from a unit that has been modified to have separate antenna outputs for Tx-A and Tx-B, and that these have in turn been put through an antenna combiner (which suppresses some of the IM products). A stock unit would generate much more IM in the high power mode, and more than what is shown here in the normal power mode.

Nothing To Gain
The same holds true for antenna gain, which exists solely to overcome signal losses in cables. Using higher gain on an antenna does not help to “pull” Tx signal out of the air. What it does do is make the antenna more sensitive to everything, including off-air DTV and low-level intermod products generated by the normal interaction between wireless transmitters. In other words, it raises the noise floor.

To avoid having to use excess antenna gain, utilize quality cable (this is a whole separate topic), keep cable runs as short as possible, and use a cable loss calculator to determine exactly how much gain is needed and then choose the closest gain setting on the antenna.

In summation:

1) Improper handling and placement of transmitters can generate a considerable amount of IM products and raise the overall noise floor. This wastes precious bandwidth.

2) Antenna placement, especially in respect to orientation of Rx and Tx antennas,  is critical for successful outcomes.

3) High Tx power and high Rx gain settings are not helpful unless the specific situation absolutely calls for one or both.

Ike Zimbel has worked in pro audio for 35-plus years, and during that time he has served as a wireless technician and coordinator, live engineer, studio technician, audio supervisor for TV broadcasts, and has also managed manufacturing and production companies. He runs Zimbel Audio Productions (zimbelaudio.com) in Toronto, specializing in wireless frequency coordination and equipment repair/modifications.


Posted by Keith Clark on 02/17 at 04:32 PM
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Monday, February 16, 2015

Riedel Deploys Tailor-Made Radio Package For Panorama Berlin

Approach included more than 100 mobile radios and 20 headsets supporting security, traffic management, and event organization and access

Bringing advanced radio communications technology to the catwalk, Riedel Communications partnered with facility management provider Gegenbauer to a reliable communications package for Panorama Berlin (Germany), a leading trade show during Berlin Fashion Week.

For the recent three-day event, the two companies supplied a custom solution with more than 100 mobile radios and 20 headsets supporting security, traffic management, and event organization and access.

“Fashion Week Berlin is considered the summit for the German fashion scene,” says Ralf Strotmeier, head of communications for Panorama Fashion Fair Berlin GmbH. “During such a large event, detailed coordination among the different trades is critical. Without a reliable infrastructure, a smooth event is inconceivable. The TETRA technology provided by Riedel and Gegenbauer, along with technical support and consultation, was instrumental in making the event a complete success.”

Throughout Panorama Berlin, dedicated TETRA radio cells provided the network for digital Motorola radios. Compared with conventional radio solutions, the TETRA-based solution delivered by Riedel and Gegenbauer offered crucial advantages, including high audio quality, flexible and extensive group-call possibilities, and seamless transitions across TETRA cells for uninterrupted communications. The simultaneous transfer of data and language and encoding of communication rounded out the functionality.

“Owing to our extensive experience in delivering elegant radio solutions for high-profile live events, we are well-positioned to offer coordinated solutions to organizers of fairs, trade shows, and other large events that demand flexible, reliable communications,” says Marcel Gericke, radio and intercom specialist at Riedel Communications. “It was a pleasure working with Gegenbauer to help make Panorama Berlin a success.”

Riedel Communications

Posted by Keith Clark on 02/16 at 07:02 AM
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Thursday, February 12, 2015

Shure Wireless Systems And MIcs Play Big Role At 57th Annual Grammy Awards

All in-ear monitoring systems were Shure PSM1000, with 24 channels split between two stages

Shure wireless microphone systems, wired mics, and in-ear monitoring systems were a near-constant presence at last Sunday’s 57th Grammy Awards at the Staples Center in downtown Los Angeles, which features 23 live musical performances.

As usual, musicians were permitted to use their preferred microphones for their performances. Although artists brought their own custom earphones, all in-ear monitoring systems were Shure PSM1000, with 24 channels split between two stages, marking the fourth consecutive year that the Grammy production team chose Shure personal monitors exclusively.

Both Shure Axient and UHF-R wireless systems were also in use. AC/DC selected Axient for lead vocals and Angus Young’s guitar, with backing vocals on UHF-R systems with Beta 58A capsules.

Axient handheld systems were also selected by Sir Paul McCartney (Beta 58A), Adam Levine (SM58), Juanes (Beta 58A), and Pharrell Williams.

“We tried the Axient systems in rehearsals and were very happy with the way they sounded on both guitars and vocals,” said “Pab” Boothroyd, front of house engineer for AC/DC and Paul McCartney. “Requesting them for our Grammy performances was an easy choice.”

Shure UHF-R systems, which have a long history of GRAMMY success, were used by Sir Tom Jones, John Mayer, Usher, Eric Church, Rihanna, and Common. In addition, the podium microphones were powered by Shure UR1 bodypacks, eliminating the need to run cables across the stage.

Not all vocals were wireless. The Beta 58A was the microphone of choice for Hozier, while the classic SM58 was selected for Brandy Clark’s performance with Dwight Yoakum, for Sia’s theatrical performance, and backing vocals on several numbers.

Another first for this year’s event was the use of Shure Beta 181 microphones on acoustic pianos. The move was suggested by co-broadcast music mixer Eric Schilling and front of house music mixer Ron Reaves, who says, “It’s the best piano sound ever, and they were the only piano mics we used on the show.”

Schilling adds, “After Ron tried them out on the Latin Grammy Awards, we both agreed that we wanted to use the Beta 181 in all the pianos on this show. They have such a pleasing top end and great rejection. There was very little we had to do to them.”

Along with Shilling and Reaves, audio coordinator Michael Abbott’s crew included production mixer Thomas Holmes, co-broadcast music mixer John Harris, and front of house production mixer Mikael Stewart of ATK Audiotek. The team also included monitor mixers Michael Parker and Tom Pesa, with Dave Bellamy of Soundtronics handling the challenge of RF coordination.


Posted by Keith Clark on 02/12 at 04:59 PM
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Let’s Go Small: Application Of Miniature Microphones

Taking advantage of significant technology advances when it comes to deploying modern miniature mics...

What are generally categorized as “miniature” microphones come in three basic configurations: lavalier, headworn and suspended. As someone who does a lot of corporate shows and events, I’ve got quite a bit experience with all three types.

Lavalier mics (“lavs”) can be attached to clothing (usually via a clip) or hidden in costumes, hats and even hair (usually for theatrical performances) to pick up vocals without being visually distracting. They come in wired versions but are far more commonly are plugged into wireless transmitters that allow the person talking or actor/singer freedom of movement.

Broadcasters typically prefer lavs with an omnidirectional pattern, but in live audio we tend to prefer a more directional pattern (cardioid and hypercardioid) to help keep feedback at bay. Lavs used to be more limited in frequency range, optimized for speech and not capable of handling very high sound pressure levels, but many modern models handle wide frequency ranges and high SPL, making them a viable choice for loud singers (think opera) as well as certain instruments.

For speech, it’s great to easily clip a lav to a presenter, but there can be drawbacks, particularly in terms of positioning. Even if the mic is secured in the mid-center of the person talking (i.e., attached to a tie), there can be off-axis issues when turning the head. This effect is compounded even more if the mic is positioned on one side (i.e., on a lapel).

Audio-Technica BP896 MicroPoint lavalier mics in black and beige.

Deploying a model with a wider pattern can help, but it will be more prone to feedback. Positioning the mic farther away from the head to widen the pickup area can also help, but there’s potential to lose too much gain (and again, increased potential for feedback if you boost too much). It’s a tricky balancing act to get it right, and no two people are the same.

Another issue can be clothing noise. Some fabrics can bunch up and rub on the mic as the wearer moves about. Other problems can be caused when a layer of clothing (like a scarf) covers the mic element, generating noise and muffling the voice.

I’ve found that the biggest key is educating and directing wearers. Emphasize that they turn their body (not just their head) in the direction in which they want to face, and after checking for garments that rustle or obscure the mic, let them know about it as well. Also be sure there’s some slack in the cable so if they twist or turn, it won’t yank the mic from its position.

Theatrical users have almost eliminated these issues by placing lavs on performers’ heads – at the hairline pointing down at the mouth, on the sides near the ear pointed toward the mouth, and even hidden in beards. Sometimes lavs can be attached to a pair of glasses or a hat that doesn’t get removed during the scene. All of these options ensure the mic is always in the same relative position to the mouth, meaning that pickup stays consistent. 

Making Headway
Unfortunately a lot of other applications don’t afford us with enough time to hide a lav on the heads of our presenters, and besides, most of them don’t want us attaching things to their hair or face. And that’s where purpose-designed headworn mics come into the picture. 

While a lav hidden in an actor’s hair is certainly headworn, the term actually refers to a type of mic that is positioned from the ear. If the mic mounts around a single ear, it’s called an earset or ear-worn model, and it if uses both ears for support, it’s referred to as a headset or dual-ear model.

Both types use a small boom to position the mic element in proximity to the mouth. Boom lengths vary; some place the element very close to the mouth while others put it a couple/few inches away from the ear. In general, the closer the element is to the source, the better (and more consistent) the gain will be.

Mounting issues are pretty much eliminated, and there no clothing noise generated. Many manufacturers offer models in a few colors to better blend in with particular skin tones.

The main issues I run into with headworn mics have to do with the fit and the cable run. Most models allow for ample adjustment and flexible booms that can position the mic optimally, but it’s important take the time to actually fit and adjust the support system to the wearer’s head or the mic can slip out of position during use. A minute of attention on a snug fit can save a lot of headaches later.

Point Source Audio SERIES8 available in both earset and headset styles.

Cables typically exit on the side and include small clips to guide it to the back of the garment, where it can then run down to a wireless transmitter.

Problems arise when there’s not enough slack between the mic and the clips. The mic can get pulled out of position when the wearer turns his/her head, or worse, the cable can get pulled from the mic.

Some models come with replaceable cables because damage is common when dealing with these relatively fragile wires, but the best solution is to always leave enough slack while verifying wearers have freedom of movement before they hit the stage.

Solving Problems
Suspended mics (a.k.a., choir or chorus mics) have gotten a lot smaller in recent years, to the point of being almost invisible when suspended above a performance area.

They can also be hidden in scenery and props to provide additional pick-up in dead coverage areas on a stage. While primarily for vocal ensembles, they can also be effective with orchestras, hung over the top for additional capture when the stage is too crowded for additional mics.

Speaking of instruments, miniature mics can come in very handy, especially when you don’t want to see the mic or it would get in the way.

A simple approach I use at times is to clip a lav to the musician with the element pointed at the instrument. This has worked well for me with hand percussion, a bongo player, and even a violinist who didn’t want a mic clipped to her expensive fiddle while also refusing to stay near stand-mounted mic. I outfitted her with headset mic and pointed it at the violin. It sounded quite good and there was plenty of pickup.

The DPA d:screet necklace microphone is a very fast and flexible miniature option.

I’ve also used this method with flute players, including one with poor mic technique and lots of wind noise getting into the mic. With the element pointed at the head end of the flute, most of the noise was eliminated while a nice tone was captured.

Miniature mics can be directly attached to some instruments if the element will handle the SPL. I’ve mounted lavs on guitar, upright bass, cello, autoharp, and even a metal shaker for a percussionist. Use easy release tape like blue painters tape or board tape, and be sure to ask the permission of the owner before attaching anything to an instrument.

A few years ago I worked with a cool traditional bluegrass band that wanted the look of a single mic typical of performances in that genre, but they weren’t getting the desired sonic result.

The solution was attaching lavs to the mandolin, upright bass, and the shirts of the guitar and fiddle players. They attained a much better sound, maintained the “single mic” look, and as a bonus I had more control of the mix. 

With older vintage mics that look great but aren’t sonically usable anymore, I remove the components and mount rubber suspension for attaching lavs inside. It works surprisingly well, and provides the ability to swap in different pickup patterns.

In fact, I’ve rented some of these mics for movie production, and the dialog captured during the filming is used in the final product, not replaced by additional dialog recording (ADR) in post-production.

Lavs also make great back-up mics. One of my favorite tricks is to tape a lav just below the head of a podium mic, making sure we’re still going to receive audio even if the primary mic fails. Plus, it’s a more attractive solution than deploying two podium mics.

Sometimes I use a lav with a wider pickup pattern for added flexibility, depending on who’s at the podium. It can also be used as the recording feed mic.

The new Countryman I2 is a lav-type mic specifically designed for instruments.

Another approach is attaching lavs as back-ups on singers. One “diva” I worked with a while back had horrible mic technique, and she wasn’t about to change. (Thus the diva reference.)

However, I was able to talk her into also wearing a lav, so I could utilize the two sources together to get a more consistent signal. Not perfect, but way better than what we started with. I’ve also placed lavs on singers and used them just for recording in case there’s a glitch with the main handheld wireless.

A colleague owns a studio and sometimes tapes a lav onto the booth window, using it as a recording boundary mic. I’ve heard the results and it works well for certain sessions.

Recently my company handled production for a meeting here in Las Vegas and one of the participants was stuck at his office back East because of snow. As a result, he needed to call in for his portion of the presentation, and while the hotel property had a conference unit, it didn’t have an audio output that could be used with the PA. So I placed a lav on the unit’s built-in loudspeaker, applied some EQ, and it ended up sounding a whole lot better than a lousy phone line while also being invisible.

There’s a lot of great technology when it comes to modern miniature mics, so don’t hesitate to “think small” the next you’ve got a problem to solve.

Senior contributing editor Craig Leerman is the owner of Tech Works, a production company based in Las Vegas.

Posted by Keith Clark on 02/12 at 03:17 PM
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Max Francis Named Sales Associate For Lectrosonics

Providing in-house sales support for both dealers and end-users as well as traveling with area managers to support customers

Max Francis has joined Lectrosonics as a sales associate, where he is providing in-house sales support for both dealers and end-users as well as traveling with area sales managers to support customers. 

“We’re delighted to add Max to our staff and look forward to the expertise and energy he will bring to Lectrosonics,” states Gordon Moore, CTS, vice president of sales at Lectrosonics.

Francis joins Lectrosonics after a 10-year career in professional audio and film, working as a musician, engineer and technical equipment consultant as well as in acquisitions.

As a music engineer he worked with a number of musicians, including James Newton, and on projects for several artists with the Brooklyn Academy record label. In the film industry, he served as an ADR engineer for international releases such as “Terminator 4” and “Crash” (season one).

“I’m very excited to join the Lectrosonics family,” Francis says. “I look forward to working with this company that has such an excellent reputation in the audio world.”


Posted by Keith Clark on 02/12 at 01:22 PM
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Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Listen Technologies Introduces iDSP IR Receiver For Assistive Listening

IR (infrared) version joins the previously introduced iDSP RF receivers

At the ISE 2015 show in Amsterdam, Listen Technologies (stand 3-C89) has expanded its iDSP (Intelligent Digital Signal Processing) assistive listening offerings with a new IR (infrared) version, joining the previously introduced iDSP RF 72 MHz receivers (LR-4200-072 Intelligent DSP RF receiver and LR-5200-072 Advanced Intelligent DSP RF receiver).

The new iDSP IR receiver offers precise clarity with a stated 20 dB less hiss than comparable products. The integrated neck loop/lanyard improves the experience for people who have hearing aids and cochlear implants with telecoils.

iDSP IR receivers are very small, making them easier for venues to store, charge, and distribute; it also makes it easier for end users to wear and operate. Additionally, iDSP IR receivers use the same battery technology as a smartphone, eliminating the cost and hassle of traditional AA alkaline batteries.

iDSP IR is easy to care for, store and distribute. Additionally, since the iDSP IR receiver comes with an integrated neck loop/lanyard (making it compliant with the legislative requirement to provide neck loops for hearing aids with telecoils), the complication and guesswork are taken out of achieving legislative compliance.

In addition, the iDSP IR is easy for end users to check out from venues and it’s also easy to operate and wear. The integrated neck loop/lanyard provides a similar function as an installed hearing loop, without the loop, for users who have telecoils. Also, iDSP IR receivers can be programmed with unique display names, like theater, chapel, classroom or more.

System components include the charging tray, which can be mounted in several ways; charging case; optional cable management system; earphones (with leatherette cushions, or hard plastic, solving certain sanitary issues); log book; free setup/inventory software; and signage.

Listen Technologies

Posted by Keith Clark on 02/11 at 12:20 PM
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Monday, February 09, 2015

Gaither Vocal Band Touring With Shure Digital Wireless & KSM9 Vocal Microphones

Wireless systems provide lead audio engineer Eddy Houk with efficient RF performance as well as network control

Popular southern gospel group the Gaither Vocal Band , winners of two Grammy Awards and 17 Gospel Music Association Dove Awards, is now utilizing Shure digital wireless and vocal microphones for live performances.

With changes in FCC wireless audio regulations and growing channel congestion, the band’s lead audio engineer, Eddy Houk from Majestic Productions, started a search for reliable wireless systems that would support advanced frequency management.

With a touring show featuring 10 artists and numerous wireless audio channels to manage, Houk chose Shure ULX-D Digital Wireless systems, which are designed to provide efficient RF performance and network control. Houk and his team also now have the luxury of doing frequency planning the day before shows and can better manage frequency selections.

“Since transitioning to Shure ULX-D Wireless, our RF dropouts have been essentially nonexistent now. We have more confidence in the technology and have noticed an overall improved sound clarity,” Houk states.

Shure ULX-D Digital Wireless intelligent hardware offers 24-bit audio clarity, and the system’s ability to complete automatic scans and select the cleanest frequencies available helps Houk determine the best audio delivery configurations at each tour stop. For the intricate tour set-up, 20 channels of ULX-D Digital Wireless supports up to 17 active transmitters in one 6 MHz TV channel.

The artists performing on the Gaither Concert Tour are also equipped with Shure KSM9 handheld vocal microphones. With switchable supercardioid and cardioid polar pattern options, the artists have full control to select the setting they prefer.

Houk adds, “The KSM9s perform great in the tour venues, and the artists love them for live performances.”

Gaither Vocal Band

Posted by Keith Clark on 02/09 at 07:43 AM
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Friday, February 06, 2015

Countryman E6 Earset Microphones A Sound Design Key For Last Chance Productions

Sound clarity, lightweight design, and durability characterize theatre group’s experience

For Last Chance Productions, a touring musical theatre company based in Seattle, E6 earset microphones from Countryman Associates are a staple, selected for their ability to deliver quality audio despite a wide range of theatrical sound challenges.

Since producer Chance Newman founded Last Chance Productions in 2009, the company has performed a steady stream of musical shows for audiences throughout the Pacific Northwest and beyond. He reports that, presently, the company utilizes 12 Countryman E6 earsets in conjunction with AKG PT450 wireless microphone systems.

“We’re currently staging Evil Dead: The Musical,” Newman says. “This is a Canadian rock musical stage play based on the cult classic film series. Critics have praised the show and one critic for The New York Times said the musical ‘wants to be the next The Rocky Horror Show, and it just may succeed.’ It’s a lot of hard work, but also a lot of fun and very entertaining.

“We’ve also used our E6 mics in other productions such as Mel Brooks’ Young Frankenstein and Trey Parker’s Cannibal! the Musical as well as original productions. In every case, our Countryman mics have performed exceptionally well under some very challenging circumstances.”

Those challenges include a lot of action, airbrush makeup, and perhaps most daunting, squirting stage blood. “Through all of this,” Newman notes, “the E6 delivers perfect clarity of sound. Voices sound very natural and the ability of the audience to understand the dialog is excellent. Perhaps even more important is the durability of the Countryman mics. Moisture—of any form—can be the kiss of death to electronic equipment, but our E6 mics have proven to be remarkably robust. The high quality sound and protective mic caps make the E6 essential equipment for us. We simply would never use any other mic.”

Newman also stresssd the importance of proper fitting, “Aside from audio quality, there is nothing more important than a secure, comfortable fit. As a theatrical group, we simply can’t have mics that fit poorly and are uncomfortable because the distraction would be intolerable. Our actors need to be able to focus on the creative task at hand and, for this, the E6 microphones are terrific.

“They’re light, comfortable, and once fitted, they remain securely in place—enabling the talent to focus on the show. The Countryman E6 mics are so subtle that the actors forget they are wearing them and so do the audience, and this, of course, is the goal.”

Countryman Associates

Posted by Keith Clark on 02/06 at 01:30 PM
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Thursday, February 05, 2015

Sennheiser Celebrating 70th Anniversary This Year

Remains a family-owned and operated enterprise that's headed by a third generation of the Sennheiser family

This year Sennheiser is celebrating its 70th anniversary, remaining a family-owned and operated enterprise that’s headed by a third generation of the Sennheiser family: today’s CEOs, Daniel Sennheiser and his brother Dr. Andreas Sennheiser, are the grandchildren of the company’s founder, Prof. Dr. Fritz Sennheiser.

The list of product innovations from Sennheiser is extensive. The company has made a significant impact on the evolution of audio technology over the past seven decades, from the world’s very first open headphones, the HD 414, to present-day technologies such as the Digital 9000 wireless microphone system and MobileConnect, an inclusive audio-streaming solution for people with sight and hearing impairments.

The company has earned numerous patents and awards – including an Emmy, a Grammy, a Scientific and Engineering Award of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, and the Engineering Emmy‘s Philo T. Farnsworth Award. “In the past, our products have surprised and amazed the audio world over and over again. Why? Because they have gone beyond the common standard. As a result, nobody anticipated them,” says co-CEO Dr. Andreas Sennheiser.

Right to left: Prof. Dr. Jörg Sennheiser, Alannah Sennheiser, Daniel Sennheiser, Prof. Dr. Fritz Sennheiser, Dr. Andreas Sennheiser, and Karin Sennheiser.

The Beginnings
The company was founded on June 1, 1945 as Laboratorium Wennebostel – or “Labor W” for short – by electrical engineer Prof. Dr. Fritz Sennheiser in Wennebostel, near Hanover, Germany. Initially, the young enterprise produced tube volt meters. They sold well, but Fritz Sennheiser had higher ambitions, with the the lab developing a constant stream of new solutions and the product range gradually expanding over the years.

In 1947, Sennheiser launched its first microphone developed in-house. The first “shotgun” microphone followed in 1956, and a year later the company was producing 100 different types of products. In early 1958, Labor W was renamed Sennheiser electronic – the inception of a brand that ten years later would spark a worldwide boom by developing and producing the first open headphones.

Second & Third Generation
In May 1982, Sennheiser saw its first change of generations. Prof. Dr. Jörg Sennheiser, son of Prof. Dr. Fritz Sennheiser, was appointed managing director, while his father became a limited partner. Over the years, Prof. Dr. Jörg Sennheiser gradually modernized and inter–nationalized the company’s structure, turning Sennheiser into a GmbH & Co. KG.

Prof. Dr. Jörg Sennheiser, Prof. Dr. Fritz Sennheiser.

Leading developments across various areas of acoustics, and new sales locations worldwide, followed with momentum. Sennheiser opened an additional production plant in Tullamore, Ireland, and a branch office for research and development in the U.S. An additional plant followed in Albuquerque, New Mexico, and a joint venture with Denmark’s William Demant Holding was initiated, forging a path for the founding of Sennheiser Communications A/S in 2003.

In July 2013, Daniel Sennheiser and Dr. Andreas Sennheiser, the sons of Prof. Dr. Jörg Sennheiser, took over as the CEOs of Sennheiser electronic GmbH & Co. KG. Both share their grandfather and father’s entrepreneurial ambition of aiming to shape the audio sector through a dynamic culture of innovation and a passion for excellence.

Thanks to this spirit, Labor W, a start-up based in a half-timbered house in Wennebostel, has grown to become a global player, sustaining a continual increase in turnover over the decades. Today, Sennheiser has more than 2,700 employees, with around half of them based in Germany. In 2013, the family company, whose management board still regards independence as a core value, generated turnover of €590.4 million.

Dr. Andreas Sennheiser (left), Daniel Sennheiser.

The Future
As an innovation-driven company, Sennheiser plans to continue playing a key role in shaping the future of audio. The foundations for this have already been laid with its new Innovation Campus, built on the company site in Germany.

“Here, as at our worldwide innovation centers, we will work in cross-functional teams that bring together our breadth of expertise to shape unique solutions, such as ones to individualize audio content even more,” co-CEO Daniel Sennheiser explains. “In the future, we will align our product development even more closely to customers’ true needs, wherever they arise – on live stages, at professional studio productions, in offices, or simply while listening to music and relaxing – while always striving to achieve acoustic perfection.”

With adaptable and increasingly smart products, Sennheiser will keep on developing and delivering future solutions that redefine audio technology.

Check out a cool animated history of the company here.



Posted by Keith Clark on 02/05 at 01:05 PM
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