Sennheiser Digital 6000 wireless systems were deployed at the 65th Annual GRAMMY Awards broadcast live from the Crypto.com Arena in Los Angeles in early February 5 in support of Beyoncé (who won her 32nd GRAMMY) as well as performances by Brandi Carlile along with rappers Salt-N-Pepa, Rakim and Public Enemy’s Chuck D and Flavor Flav during the grand finale commemorating 50 years of hip-hop.
Carlile performed her song “Broken Horses” with a custom gold Sennheiser SKM 6000 handheld transmitter/Neumann KK 205 condenser capsule combination and an assortment of Sennheiser evolution series wired background vocal and backline microphones. She collected GRAMMYs for Best Rock Performance, Best Americana Album and Best Rock Song on the day. Rounding out the Sennheiser performances on the night was Steve Lacy, who won Progressive R&B Album of the Year.
According to Sean Quackenbush, Carlile’s front-of-house engineer for the past eight years, the SKM 6000/KK 205 combination has become a mainstay for the artist. “The Neumann KK 205 capsule is so high definition and gives you this hi-fi tone,” he says. “It works well with her; she has so much power behind her vocal. I really liked the idea of the Digital 6000 wireless with the Neumann capsule when it was introduced and, honestly, it has been a great solution over the years. We just work out whatever frequency band we will be in and it works seamlessly.”
To Carlile’s left and right on stage, the Hanseroth twins — guitarist Tim and bassist Phil — were also on SKM 6000 transmitters topped with MMD 935 dynamic vocal mic capsules. “We also had Lucius — Jess Wolfe and Holly Laessig — singing backgrounds for us using 935s on 6000 transmitters, to keep it uniform. We got one really great sound across the board for background mics,” Quackenbush says.
“Tim, our lead guitarist, always gets a vintage gold Sennheiser MD 409, because the way the midrange works with his tone is just amazing,” he continues. “Then we have an e 906 for Brandi, because that mic works with her guitar tone. She does more of a straight-ahead, Malcolm Young rhythm part, and the two of them together just make the guitar sound sing so nicely. Most of what you hear on our guitars are the MD 409 and the 906. We always have that combo and it sounds great.”
Brandon Blackwell, Steve Lacy’s engineer, has owned four channels of Digital 6000 since 2018 and he cites the digital outputs on the EM 6000 receiver. adding, “Steve’s microphone sounds more forward in the mix when using the digital outputs. There is also little to no noise floor, which is nice for the most important input in the mix.”
Blackwell prefers the MD 9235 in combination with Lacy’s SKM 6000: “I enjoy the MD 9235 because there is a high-end shelf in the frequency response that adds air and crispness to Steve’s vocal. With other capsules I find that when I boost the high-end frequencies it can sound unnatural. With the MD 9235 capsule, the high-end is already there so I like to control it with a dynamic equalizer or dynamic compressor. And the off-axis rejection really helped with feedback management while mixing monitors for Thundercat, who utilizes a stereo wedge mix. The MD 9235 does a great job of isolating the vocal and decreasing the amount of crowd noise and room reflections that enter the capsule.”
As for wired microphones, Blackwell says, “I decided to go away from my normal mic choices. Collaborating with the MD and drummer Rico Nichols, I was looking for a vintage sound on the drums, especially the toms, and decided that the MD 421-II would be the best choice to reproduce the vintage drum sounds of the 1960s and 1970s.”
Broadcast music mixers Eric Schilling and John Harris alternated between artists in the running order as they worked in their separate remote trucks (Schilling mixed Carlile; Harris mixed Lacy) but are in-sync when it comes to microphone choices. “We see Sennheiser mics used mostly on guitars, horns and drums,” says Schilling, “On horns we had the MD 421-II, which is also my go-to mic on saxes. They are just very reliable, and I know exactly what they are going to do.”
He adds, “If somebody is on a Sennheiser it is generally going to have a more open sound and I won’t have to EQ the midrange and top end. The 6000 gives me a very airy top end that I really like compared to a lot of other wireless mic systems.”
Schilling, who has mixed Carlile on three GRAMMY telecasts, continues. “What’s good about the Neumann KK 205 is that it sounds great whether she is singing softly or loudly. The capsule is a very good fit for her voice, and I didn’t have to struggle to find where I wanted to put her voice or the guitars in the balance.”
“The e 602 is an awesome mic; I love it,” Harris adds. Like Schilling, he favors the 602 on kick drum, floor toms and tympani. “And anything that is meant to be a big sound that you want to really control, as well,” he says. “It makes the bottom end of drum sets come alive. I will use the 602 both inside and outside the drum. Inside, it gives you a nice smack. I know exactly what I am going to get with the 602.”
In his truck at the telecast, Harris monitored his mixes on Sennheiser HD 820 headphones. “I trust my HD 820s implicitly,” he says. “And in an environment like a truck, the closed-back design is perfect, because people come in and out of the room and it can be distracting. The HD 820s gives me the spacious sound but in a closed-back design so I can focus.”
“Each year, it is a privilege for us to provide support for such a wide range of talented artists on music’s biggest night,” concludes Tim Moore, relations manager, Sennheiser. “At this year’s GRAMMY Awards, we are thrilled that our Digital 6000 wireless system, and the entire ecosystem of Sennheiser products, were the choice of so many accomplished and decorated artists.”