Shure Axient shines on ACM Awards broadcast

On April 1, CBS broadcast the 47th Annual Academy of Country Music Awards show live from Las Vegas. Hosted by country legends Reba McIntire and Blake Shelton, the show boasted two venues and a dazzling array of 24 musical performances, most of which involved Shure wireless systems.

With literally hundreds of wireless frequencies in use, system design and frequency coordination were critical factors in the success of the telecast. Wireless systems were supplied by ATK Audiotek, while system design and frequency coordination were handled by RF guru Dave Bellamy of Las Vegas-based Soundtronics.

“We want all the artists to be comfortable in their performance, so the top systems from all the major microphone brands are available, including Shure, Sennheiser and Audio-Technica,” notes production mixer Mark King. “As always, Dave Bellamy did an outstanding job of designing and tuning an antenna system, and coordinates all wireless, including mics, in-ears, and IFBs. He ran point on all of that and made sure that we were clean as a whistle on-air.”

In addition to the Shure UHF-R system that has been ubiquitous at high-profile events for the past several years, the production included four channels of the new Shure Axient wireless system.

“My main job is handling the broadcast mix, but I also did mix a couple of artists, Chris Young and Sara Evans, who were singing to track,” King notes. “They both used the Axient system with an SM58 capsule and, quite frankly, I was really impressed with it.”

While Axient is acclaimed for its extensive range of technology features, including spectrum management, frequency diversity, transmitter remote control, and power management, it was the sound quality that impressed King. The use of the classic SM58 capsule gave him an apples-to-apples comparison of the system’s sound quality.

“One of the main goals of any of any wireless is to sound as close to a hard-wired microphone as possible. The SM58 is a sound that everybody knows, and the Axient system, it sounded so much like a wired ‘58, it was really refreshing,” he reports. “The other thing that impressed me about the system is that it’s very, very quiet. In fact, when I went to preview the Axient channel during commercial break, the noise floor was so low that I had to have somebody talk into it to confirm that it was actually turned on. Sonically, it’s just a beautiful system.”

As an independent broadcast mixer based in Los Angeles, Mark King is always on the lookout for production tools that will help ensure worry-free success in the high-stakes field of live TV. He notes that the state of the art in high-end wireless microphones has advanced to the point where the number and type of systems in use is no longer a huge issue, so long as production pros like Soundtronics and ATK Audiotek are in your corner. But once the basics of stable operation are in place, it all comes back to sound quality.

“There were a wide variety of wireless systems on the show in order to compare and contrast,” King notes. “They all sound good, and the whole show was flawless from a wireless perspective. But sonically, I think the Axient stood out quite obviously from the rest. When you put an old, familiar technology like a 58 on an Axient system, it’s kind of reborn. Shure has really stepped it up with this new system, and this sets the bar very, very high. I have to applaud them.”