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Sennheiser Unstoppable Amid Extreme RF Congestion at NBA Halftime Show

Arlington, Texas – March 31, 2010: This year’s NBA All Star Game brought some 108,000 basketball fans to the “Texas-sized” Dallas Cowboys Stadium, a record-breaking number for the sport. Consistent with the high-profile spectacle of the event, which included several days of games and skills contests, the big game’s halftime show rivaled that of the Super Bowl, being broadcast to 215 countries in 44 languages. Columbian pop sensation Shakira and R&B superstar Alicia Keys delivered their stellar performances with “wired” fidelity and rock-solid reliability, over thirty channels of Sennheiser 5000 and 2000 Series wireless microphones and G2 and G3 monitoring systems. The Sennheiser gear ably navigated the RF space, which, like the stadium itself, was filled to capacity. In addition, a range of Sennheiser wired microphones handled the backline.

Cowboys Stadium is the largest domed stadium in the world, a fact that simultaneously impressed and intimidated Kevin Sanford, president of Wireless First, the company that provided the gear and RF coordination for the show. Sanford arrived nine days before the game itself to pave the way for hiccup-free wireless performance during all the entertainment phases of the big weekend, culminating with the halftime show. “The sheer size of the place and the distances we had to cover made this a very challenging job,” remarked Sanford. “In addition to the frequencies I was dealing with, there were something like three hundred other wireless channels in use! CNN, TNN, you name it, everyone was consuming wireless channels.” In addition to bringing his arsenal of Sennheiser gear that was used for both Alicia Keys and Shakira’s performances, Sanford relied on often easily-forgotten textbook advice: careful antenna placement that maintains height and line of sight between transmitter and receiver.

Alicia Keys sang into a Sennheiser SKM 5200 handheld transmitter with MD 5235 capsule. “Alicia really belts,” stated Kevin Glendinning, Keys’ monitor engineer. “She delivers a ton of sheer SPL, and the 5235 keeps up. It never sounds fatigued and never seems to get any saliva problems, which can actually be a big issue with other mics.” Glendinning also likes the capsule’s natural high-end, which helps him two ways. First, it lends itself to a nice ear mix in which the vocals are easy to mentally isolate. Second, it hits Keys’ preferred delay and reverb nicely, exciting them adequately without the need to crank the effects chain up in the mix.

Shakira sang into a Neumann KK 105 condenser capsule, again using a Sennheiser SKM 5200 handheld transmitter. The KK 105 uses the same transducer technology as the wired Neumann KMS 105, which brings Neumann’s cherished studio sound to the stage. “The sound of that mic is fantastic,” said Vish Wadi, Shakira’s monitor engineer. “I’ve been using that capsule since it came out; that was when the Sennheiser 5000 Series was top of the line. Now it sounds even better on a 5200 body.”

For Keys’ performance, Glendinning used the new Sennheiser ew 300 IEM G3 wireless personal monitors and new 2000 Series SR 2050 twin transmitter along with a number of G2 IEMS. Because numerous performers walked on and off stage, he had nearly double the number of receivers in operation, a logistical nicety that Sanford noted added complexity to an already overly complex situation. For Keys’ personal monitor mix, Glendinning went out of his digital Yamaha console to a Dolby D/A converter to optimize sound quality.

“In a challenging situation like this, I want as many ‘constants’ as possible,” said Sanford. “Unlike some of the other big names in wireless, Sennheiser never leaves me guessing. It always works the way it is supposed to. When there are so many things to worry about, as there were at the NBA All Star Game, it’s nice to have Sennheiser technology to rely on.” Glendinning, who defers to Sanford’s expertise in all things wireless, is glad to have Sennheiser’s Global Relations team at the ready to answer questions and address issues. “I can get someone helpful on the phone 24/7, no matter where I am,” said Glendinning. “Not only do I get my questions answered, I get them answered in simplified language I can understand and use.”

For all the wireless channels in play, it was reassuring that some things remained bound to the material world of wires. For Keys, who had a large supporting band, Glendinning used three Sennheiser e 602 dynamic mics, five classic Sennheiser MD 421 II dynamic mics, and seven TEC Award-winning Sennheiser e 904 dynamic mics with integrated rim clips. “We’ve got the 602 and 904s all over the place on all manner of percussion,” said Glendinning. “The 421s capture the bass rig, the Leslie speakers, and drums. Our deal with Sennheiser leaves us free to choose whatever mics from whatever manufacturers we choose, and the stage is still eighty percent Sennheiser! That says something.”