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Roundup: Sound Reinforcement & More At The 51st Annual GRAMMY Awards

Several manufacturers had audio equipment playing key roles at the 2009 GRAMMY Awards show at the Staples Center; here, we provide a collection of information received to date on "who was using what/where/why." Also be sure to check out our Photo Gallery for a wide range of system and performance images from the show.

By PSW Staff February 20, 2009

Legendary blues artists B.B. King and Buddy Guy performing live at the 51st Annual GRAMMY Awards in Los Angeles.

ATK AudioTek of Valencia, California, supplied live audio production for the recent 51st Annual Grammy Awards at the Staples Center arena in downtown Los Angeles, with a live performance bill featuring considerably more nominees and performers than in the past.

Of particular note, more than 50 wireless microphone systems were in use, with frequency coordination provided by Dave Bellamy of Burbank-based Soundtronics Wireless. House Audio Mixer Ron Reaves notes that “there were absolutely no RF failures that I was aware of. If there were any issues, from out front we didn’t notice them. The performances went on without a problem.”

Yet Reaves also points out, “We probably averaged 30 to 40 inputs per act. In each case, a majority of the mics were hardwired. Vocals were still dominated by RF microphones, but in my opinion, we’re starting to see a trend emerge on these shows where there’s a little more wire than in the past. Maybe we’re trying to condition ourselves to changing conditions within the spectrum, but clearly anything at this event that didn’t have to be mobile was stuck on a wire.”

ATK AudioTek deployed four Yamaha PM1D digital consoles for both monitor and house mixes, with several JBL VERTEC large-format line arrays providing coverage to the large audience.

“The need for these shows to be flawless is what drives Audiotek to obsess on the details and not compromise on the quality of equipment and people that operate behind the scenes,” states Mike Stahl, President, ATK AudioTek.

Reaves was the helm of one of the four Yamaha PM1Ds, with the others manned by Mike Parker, Tom Pesa, and Mikael Stewart, who offers that “Yamaha PM1D consoles are totally reliable, flexible and accepted as an industry standard. There is no room or time for error. Changes come up to the last minute as was demonstrated with the Al Green-Justin Timberlake performance.”

Reaves adds, “This job is just a joy. In spite of all the enormous logistics and grueling schedule, I had the pleasure of mixing for 23 of the hottest acts on the planet. This was a big moment for them, too. Nobody phones it in for the GRAMMYS.”

New York-based XM Productions/Effanel Music were onsite with their L7 remote truck to create the music mix, facilitated by Music Mixers John Harris and Eric Schilling. The broadcast audio was supervised by Phil Ramone and Hank Neuberger, leading members of the Producers & Engineers Wing of The Recording Academy.

GRAMMY Notes From Audio-Technica…
Artists who performed using Audio-Technica’s Artist Elite 5000 Series UHF wireless system, with the AEW-T5400 handheld microphone/transmitter and AEW-R5200 true diversity frequency-agile dual receiver, included Taylor Swift, Estelle, Lil Wayne, Stevie Wonder, Boyz II Men, Al Green, and Jamie Foxx, Duke Fakir and Ne-Yo in a tribute to the Four Tops.

Audio-Technica endorser Kenny Chesney used a wired A-T AE3300 cardioid condenser handheld microphone, and Thom Yorke of Radiohead used the AE5400 cardioid condenser microphone. Justin Timberlake performed using A-T’s wireless AEW-T4100 cardioid dynamic microphone/transmitter.

The backline mic complement of A-T wired microphones included AE5400 cardioid condenser handheld microphone for backing vocals; AT4050 multi-pattern condenser microphone for guitar cabinet and overheads; AT4040 cardioid condenser microphone for overheads; AE5100 cardioid condenser instrument microphone for ride cymbal, hi-hat, and percussion; ATM250 hypercardioid dynamic instrument microphone for Leslie cabinet and guitar cabinet; BP4025 X/Y stereo field recording microphone for percussion; AE2500 dual-element cardioid instrument microphone for kick drum; AT4047/SV cardioid condenser microphone for guitar cabinet; ATM450 cardioid condenser instrument microphone for ride cymbal; and ATM350 cardioid condenser clip-on microphone for horns, congas and strings.

Michael Abbott, Audio Coordinator for the GRAMMY Awards, states,“live broadcasts of this magnitude are immensely challenging, and we have been lucky to have Audio-Technica as a continuing partner in helping make the Grammys happen. Our engineers need a wide range of consistent and dependable microphones that enable them to capture each artist’s individual character, and A-T delivers exactly what we need.”

GRAMMY Notes From Shure…
Opening the show this year with Get on Your Boots, a track from their forthcoming album, U2 set the tempo for live performances at this year’s ceremonies with Bono stepping into the spotlight using a Shure UHF-R wireless microphone equipped with an SM58 capsule. UHF-R systems, with a combination of SM58 and KSM9 handheld transmitters, where also chosen by a lengthy list of performing artists including Jennifer Hudson, Coldplay, Kid Rock, Carrie Underwood, John Mayer, B.B. King, Buddy Guy, Keith Urban, M.I.A., T.I., Kanye West, and Jay-Z.

“There are few shows I know of that have a capacity for this amount of RF usage going on at one time,” notes Audio Coordinator Abbott, the point person in charge of all things sound-related this year. “Dave Bellamy and I talked about which mics we wanted to apply where on the show, and the thing about Shure is it’s always my ace-in-the-hole. I know that because of the product design and engineering that I’m able to maximize more Shure mics out there than possibly any other.”

Shure’s venerable hardwired SM58 also found a place in front of Alison Krauss and Robert Plant (whose album Raising Sand won five awards before the night was out) and was the choice of Stevie Wonder. In addition, Paul McCartney used a Beta 58 for his performance.

GRAMMY Notes From Sennheiser/Neumann…
UK singer/songwriter Adele, GRAMMY Award winner this year as Best New Artist and Best Female Pop Vocal Performance, also was on hand to perform her chart-topping single Chasing Pavements using a Neumann KMS 105 nickel-plated wired vocal microphone.

Also performing on the telecast were the Jonas Brothers, who joined Stevie Wonder for spirited renditions of their own song Burnin’ Up, and his classic, Superstition, with the help of Sennheiser SKM 5200 RF handheld vocal mics outfitted with MD 5235 capsules and wired evolution e 935s for background vocals. Miley Cyrus made use of the same combination vocal mic for her duet with Taylor Swift on the former American Idol contestant’s Fifteen. Sixteen channels of Sennheiser ew 300 G2 in-ear monitor systems were also used throughout the telecast.

An array of Sennheiser and Neumann wired microphones were featured onstage, with more than 40 evolution series e 602 II and two dozen e 604 wired mics for drums and percussion, as well as eight each of MKH 8040 and MKH 416 model shotgun mics available for the production, together with Neumann TLM 103, TLM 49 and KM 184 instrument mics. Sennheiser e 906 and MD 421 II and Neumann KM 184 microphones were also featured.

Music Mixer John Harris noted, “Every kick drum and floor tom at the Grammys was mic’ed with a Sennheiser evolution 602. In my opinion, it’s the ‘punchiest’ drum microphone out there, and the best microphone for close mic’ing moderate to large drums (kicks, toms, and the USC marching band bass drums) that I have ever used.

“For drum ambience and the horn section, I used the Sennheiser MKH 8040s. This mic delivers amazingly realistic sound. And due to its small size is quite easily placed – in a stereo pair, they are fantastic. I was also glad to have the Sennheiser MD 421s on U2’s rack toms. We need to go back to using them more as they are great mics.”

Check out the PSW GRAMMY Photo Gallery.


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