Sennheiser has partnered with the global organization behind TED Talks to design and build a unique headset microphone for its featured speakers, and it debuted alongside a Sennheiser Digital 9000 wireless microphone system in support of TEDMonterey 2021 this past August in California, the first in-person TED conference since 2019.
Sennheiser was first approached by TED in 2018, which was seeking a headset mic upgrade. “We ran into many issues from both an audio and aesthetic perspective. The previous microphones were clunky and obtrusive,” explains Mina Sabet, Director of Production and Video Operations at TED. “I wanted to work with Sennheiser to create the perfect microphone for us that is beautiful, modern and sounds great, without taking away from the performance visually – and I wouldn’t take no for an answer because I knew they were the best in the business.”
On the project, Sabet collaborated with the team at Sennheiser, spearheaded by Volker Schmitt, Technical Application Engineering Manager for Pro Audio, to realize the new mic design, which employs elements some of the company’s top products, melding them together in a streamlined package. The short boom arm and tiny microphone leveraged the transducer from the MKE 1 to give it the same clarity and frequency response found in musical and broadcast applications, while the thin neckband provides added comfort for longer wears and the silver color supplies a modern aesthetic.
“The project with TED was outstanding and refreshing because Mina came in with a clear vision for the microphone. During the development phase, it was fantastic to have a partner so involved in the creative process,” says Schmitt. “Both Sennheiser and TED are all about pushing boundaries and delivering the best possible performance, so there was a lot of synergy in this partnership. We both maintain equally high standards for ourselves, so I am very proud of what we created together.”
“I feel a real affinity with Sennheiser because they allowed me to have such a big part in the design process. Volker really listened to what I was looking for, and we got everything we wanted out of the partnership,” Sabet adds.
While the debut of the new mics was delayed due to the pandemic, they finally took the TED stage for TEDMonterey 2021 in early August. The four-day conference featured 63 performers and speakers, with hundreds of attendees joining in-person and remotely. According to Sabet, “The energy at the conference was off the charts, everyone was so excited, and the content was fantastic. From a production standpoint, it was extremely smooth,” she continues, “the Sennheiser mics sounded crisp, sharp and looked perfect on all of the speakers. A few times, I even thought that the tech teams had forgotten to mic up the presenters because the headsets are so sleek and low-impact.”
The Digital 9000 wireless system provided four RF channels that worked with 15 beltpacks and was paired to all 50 headsets and 50 handheld microphones used throughout the event. According to Volker, “The Digital 9000 was an advantageous choice for TED thanks to its analog and digital outputs for audio, its Wireless Systems Manager software that enables the AV team to access live performance data, as well as its equidistant channel spacing allowing for easy set-up and frequency coordination without calculations.”