Sugarland, the multi-award-winning country music duo comprising Jennifer Nettles and Kristian Bush, and their band have been touring around the U.S. throughout the summer with more than three-dozen channels of Sennheiser wireless vocal microphone, personal monitor and instrument systems.
The band’s live engineers are enthusiastic about Sennheiser’s exemplary sound quality and performance, of course, but it’s Sugarland’s use of the unique Command option on the SKM 5200 RF handheld vocal mics that has them most excited.
“It’s a cool feature that we all love,” comments monitor engineer Steve Ledet. The Command feature re-routes the SKM 5200’s capsule to a second output channel at the touch of a button. In Sugarland’s case, that Command channel is sent to all of the personal monitors, as well as to speakers at the FOH position, allowing Nettles and Bush to communicate privately with their musicians and crew.
“Jennifer uses it all the time,” Ledet enthuses. “For example, during stadium dates on this summer’s Kenny Chesney tour, she would be out on the thrust in front of 60,000 people and ask for more vocal, more snare drum, or more of Kristian’s guitar in her ears.
“If they’re running out of time in the set and they need to cut a song she can just tell the band in-between songs. Or she’ll be grabbing a drink of water and she’ll ask them to double up on the intro.”
He continues, “I have it cranked up so there’s no mistaking between her vocal and that. It really is invaluable, and the audience never knows that she’s dealing with anything.
“It’s the coolest thing ever as far as I’m concerned because she doesn’t have to look at me or wait for eye contact – she just talks. She has complete communication to me. All she has to do is push the button.” Andy Hujdich who oversees the 93 channels of onstage patching calls the new feature invaluable in terms of time saved when an on the fly patch is necessary.
Sugarland’s FOH engineer and production manager David Haskell, who formerly toured with Alabama, Keb’ Mo’, and Gretchen Wilson, runs down the list of Sennheiser wireless gear in use onstage.
“We’ve got tons of Sennheiser gear out on the road with us – every instrument, all ears, and all the vocal mics,” he says. Nettles and Bush each use the SKM 5200 outfitted with the MD 5235 dynamic capsule.
“Those microphones sound incredible,” he exclaims. Additionally, each of the five backing musicians supplies background vocals via an e 935 wired vocal mic.
“I also use MD 421s on both of our bass rigs, and as a low microphone on the Leslie,” says Haskell, who is a true fan of the mic model. “I’ve used those things for a hundred years on drums. I’d use a hundred of those things if I could find a spot to stick ‘em!”
Haskell has been thrilled with the performance of the new EM 3732 mic receivers that are paired with the SKM 5200s. “That thing is impeccable. I’ve never had those vocal mics drop out. We’ve even taken it to ‘Oprah’ with us, and places like that where RF is not simple.”
Ledet also notes how easy it was to learn the operation of the EM 3732. “I’ve never even seen a manual for that thing and it’s just a piece of cake to get around on and change frequencies. It does its own scanning, and to synch it takes about two seconds.
“That’s real convenient when something pops up all of a sudden; I can pretty quickly find an open frequency and get the mics tuned back in.”
Ledet additionally oversees a dozen ew 300 IEM G2 units. “I’m only using nine of them at a time,” he notes. “I’ve got seven band members, including the principals, my cue mix, and I use one for the guitar techs. We have the extras for guests. The IEMs operate in conjunction with AC2 combiners and A 5000-CP antennas.”
Guitar tech Steve Castro looks after ten channels of ew 372 G2 for Bush’s various wireless instruments, plus additional channels for Nettles’ acoustic guitars and for bass player Annie Clements.
Jill Hall, stage right guitar tech, handles two units for guitarists, Scott Patton and Thad Beaty. Despite there being just short of forty channels of Sennheiser wireless equipment onstage, says Haskell, “The RF has been like a rock.”