Grammy gear: audio manufacturers on parade

While there are no Grammy Awards for best mixing console or most popular wireless system, that doesn’t stop the pro audio community from trumpeting their involvement in the annual telecast. To be sure, audio geeks worldwide take note of which equipment is in use on this high-profile event, so a bit of documentation is in order.

Note: Since 1994, The Recording Academy has bestowed the Technical Grammy Award upon deserving individuals and companies who have made outstanding technical contributions to the recording field. Considered a Technical Merit Award under the auspices of the Producers & Engineers Wing, this year’s honorees included the late engineer/producer Roger Nichols, and Celemony, developer of Melodyne audio editing software.

In general, Grammy gear is divided into two major categories. Most is required by the production itself, brought by trusted suppliers with a track record of excellence. Some equipment is required by the artists performing on the show, whether for performance reasons or endorsement commitments.

“We want the artist to come in and have their vision realized, with no favoritism toward any particular entity,” explained the show’s audio coordinator, Michael Abbott. “Obviously, every manufacturer would like to get a little more of their equipment represented. But, they know that is not our agenda, and we’ve got a mutual understanding amongst everybody nowadays.”

The music instruments, amplifiers, and vocal mics seen on the Grammy stage are, in general, those the artists use in concert. Further down the audio chain, equipment decisions are driven by the production team. Today’s premium wireless systems all sound good and tend to play well together, so all are welcome. Thus, the Grammy production team relies on a well-tuned antenna system and rigorous frequency coordination by RF specialist Soundtronics to ensure success, whether the artist’s choice is Shure, Sennheiser, Audio-Technica or AKG.

Sorting through the post-Grammy press releases, a number of interesting equipment choices were in play.

--Sound system provider ATK Audiotek used a total of six DiGiCo mixing consoles (one SD10 and five SD7s), linked by an Optocore digital audio network.

--In the Music Mix Mobile (M3) recording trucks, 5.1 surround monitoring was done on Genelec 8200 Series active DSP systems. M3 also mad a change in loudness monitoring this year, employing the Waves Audio WLM (Waves Loudness Meter (opens in new tab)) plug-in.

--All wireless IEMs used on the show were Shure PSM 1000 personal monitors. A total of 26 channels of the new system were employed.

--The main PA system in the Staples Center, supplied by ATK Audiotek, was a JBL VerTec system, comprised of four arrays of 12 VT4889 mains, augmented by two six-box arrays of VT4880A subwoofers and twelve VRX932 loudspeakers.

As usual, many of the instrument mics on the Grammys were provided by Audio-Technica, including AE5400s for backing vocals, horns, and rotary speaker cabinets, the ATM350 clip-on mics for strings and the AT4050 for overheads and guitar cabinets, among the 250-plus supplied. AKG notes that each of the three acoustic pianos used in the broadcast were miked with a trio of its C414 condenser microphones. Other mic choices of interest included a Heil RC35 element on a Shure transmitter used by Rihanna, a Shure Super 55 mic used by Taylor Swift, and a Crown CM311 headset mic used by Chris Brown.

Meanwhile, Shure was very pleased to point out that its classic hardwired mics were used for lead vocals on both Bruce Springsteen’s opening number (SM58) and Sir Paul McCartney’s closing medley (Beta 58).