Nach Herstellerangaben sind die Wandler des HD 560S speziell auf Genauigkeit abgestimmt und sollen zuverlässige A/B-Vergleiche von Mixen, Quellen und Medienformaten ermöglichen. Der HD 560S soll exakt wiedergeben, wie ein Titel tatsächlich klingt. Dabei helfen seine offenen Ohrmuscheln, die eine natürliche Ausbreitung der Schallwellen ermöglichen sollen, während die angewinkelten Schallwandler, ähnlich wie in einem sorgfältig eingerichteten Tonstudio, eine optimale Hörposition erzeugen.
Mit einem angegebenen Frequenzgang von 6 Hz - 38 kHz, einer hohen Empfindlichkeit von 110 dB/1V und dem niedrigen Klirrfaktor (<0,05% bei 90 dB) soll eine ausdrucksstarke Dynamik und Klarheit, selbst bei hohem Schalldruck, garantiert werden.
Für ausgedehnte Hörsitzungen sind Kopfhörer erforderlich, die bequem sind oder – besser noch – sich anfühlen, als wären sie gar nicht da. Das offene, ohrumschließende Design der ultraleichten HD 560S mit Velours-Ohrpolstern erlaubt Lufzirkulation und berührt die Ohren des Trägers nicht einmal. So wird einem Hitzestau vorgebeugt und die Ohren des Hörers sollten stets kühl bleiben.
Trotz der Impedanz von 120 Ω sollen die Treiber äußerst effizient sein, sodass man den HD 560S mit praktisch jeder Audioquelle verwenden kann. Für maximale Vielseitigkeit ist er mit einem abnehmbaren 3-Meter-Kabel mit 6,3-mm-Buchse und einem 3,5-mm-Adapter mit einem flexiblen 15-cm-Kabel ausgestattet.
Der Sennheiser HD 560S ist ab dem 29. September für um 200 Euro erhältlich.
Dank der dynamischen 7-mm-Wandler von Sennheiser – die gleichen Treiber sind auch im Momentum True Wireless 2 verbaut – soll der CX 400BT True Wireless ein überragendes Klangbild liefern. Mit der Sennheiser Smart Control App ist es möglich, das Klangerlebnis über den Equalizer anzupassen. Der CX 400BT True Wireless unterstützt die Codecs SBC, AAC und aptX.
Die Touch-Oberfläche der Ohrhörer ist intuitiv und lässt sich individuell anpassen. So kann der Benutzer die Steuerung von Audio, Anrufen oder Sprachassistenten wie Google Assistant oder Apple Siri nach seinen Wünschen festlegen. Bei Telefongesprächen und beim Einsatz von Sprachassistenten werden Umgebungsgeräusche durch Mikrofone zur Geräuschreduktion herausgefiltert, sodass die Gespräche natürlich und kristallklar klingen sollen. Die Bluetooth 5.1-Kompatibilität soll für zuverlässige Verbindungen mit Mobilgeräten sorgen.
Mit seiner Akkulaufzeit von 7 Stunden, die unterwegs durch die mitgelieferte kompakte Transportbox auf bis zu 20 Stunden verlängert werden kann, soll der CX 400BT True Wireless ganztägiges Entertainment garantieren und dazu auch den notwendigen Tragekomfort bieten.
Für einen perfekten Sitz im Ohr, der die Kopfhörer sicher an ihrem Platz hält und Außengeräusche effektiv dämpft, stehen Adapter in vier verschiedenen Größen zur Auswahl. Der CX 400BT True Wireless ist ab sofort für um 200 Euro (UVP) in Schwarz und Weiß erhältlich.
Franklin, TN (August 20, 2020)—The podcast team at Ramsey Solutions, home of the widely syndicated radio program The Dave Ramsey Show, had a problem—or what the company’s can-do namesake would call an opportunity.
After experiencing rapid growth over six years with its lineup of eight recurring programs and a serialized podcast, the production team was strong…but it was also siloed.
“Before we knew it, we had a team of eight to ten engineers, [with] one producer solely dedicated to their show,” says Eric Cieslewicz, senior producer of podcasts at Ramsey Solutions, whose financial programming is aimed at helping listeners get out of debt and gain control of their money.
Production processes among the nine podcasts were working but far from uniform—something that the COVID-19 pandemic quickly exposed. Some producers were taking a manual approach to show editing, while others used automated processes to move along the workflow for each episode. Cieslewicz saw an immediate need to cross train the production team in order to maintain operation standards and security during unpredictable times.
“We’re trying to standardize our audio,” he says, including “creating a better template in Pro Tools [so] everything would funnel through the right plug-ins. We’ve learned a lot from needing to work across different shows where it’s not just one producer with their chosen software. We need producers to share the work [and] cover for each other.”
In 2014, the team at Ramsey Solutions recognized that while millions of people were tuning into The Dave Ramsey Show on terrestrial and satellite radio, listening habits were changing and the company needed to provide a friction-free experience for its audience.
“We see the value of diversifying and trying all of those things, because people have different touch points,” he says. “We’re [creating] life-change content. It’s empowering people to change their behavior [and] fill them with hope. So, we don’t want to just go off air. We think it’s important to show up daily, weekly.”
Today, some podcast content is first broadcast via radio, primarily The Dave Ramsey Show and The Ken Coleman Show, then uploaded to YouTube and audio streaming platforms. Each hour of The Dave Ramsey Show, for example, becomes an individual podcast episode, totaling 15 hours of new content each week.
The pandemic has also caused the podcast team to streamline and expand a process it established in 2015 when Ramsey Solutions published its first podcast. While most of the talent records through Sennheiser headset mics in the studio at the company headquarters in Franklin, Tennessee, the producers will often send a laptop-based mobile studio to high-profile guests instead of traveling or hiring a local tape syncher.
“We started sending a computer so we could control the quality of the audio,” he says. “And because we had control over that recording, the audience couldn’t tell [the difference]. We tested this out with EntreLeadership first, and the audience couldn’t tell if the person was in studio or not.”
Cieslewicz says they currently have a dozen mobile setups, each custom-built around a Microsoft tablet with a Neat Bumblebee desktop USB microphone and housed in a protective Pelican road case. When it’s time to record the segment, the remote guest logs onto the tablet and communicates with the producers and podcast host over SquadCast.
Financially, it makes sense over the long term for them to create these mobile studios they can deliver on demand, especially when gaining access to traditional recording studios can be unreliable and video conferencing platforms are dodgy. “When you get your huge, A-list celebrity you’ve been waiting to book,” he says, “you don’t want anything to go wrong.”
The next frontier for podcasts under the Ramsey Solutions umbrella is to expand its presence with video on YouTube, which commands a large share of podcast listeners. “Radio is crushing still,” he says. “It’s just [like] any audio product—it’s just exploding right now as people multitask. [But] it’s mind boggling how many people listen to podcasts on YouTube.”
Knowsley, UK (August 5, 2020)—Henrik Oppermann, creative director at immersive content specialist Sonosphere, has been building up the company’s immersive sound library by collecting everyday nature sounds in his native Hessen, Germany, using his new 3-D microphone rig.
“Being in lockdown in the countryside offered me a great opportunity to start capturing natural sounds and extremely fragile soundscapes,” he says. “The rig I’m using is very low noise, which works perfectly for capturing detailed ambiences; something like a forest in the early morning or at night oozes with a multitude of sounds.”
Oppermann’s rig consists of four Sennheiser MKH 800 Twin studio condenser microphones connected to a Sound Devices 888 portable mixer-recorder. Windshields, another important element of the rig, are Baby Ball Gag Windshield by Rycote.
“This type of set up works incredibly well for recording delicate ambiences without introducing any additional noise disruptions,” Oppermann explains. “I call it the quietest rig on Earth.”
The microphone arrangement is loosely based on the ESMA (Equal Segment Microphone Array) technique developed by Hyunkook Lee. This, together with the Sennheiser’s AMBEO cube, a larger set-up consisting of nine MKH 800 microphones, were the inspiration behind Oppermann’s rig.
“The externalization effect and depth when you render to binaural or multi-channel speaker systems is just beautiful and has a particularly wide soundstage. The detail you can capture is stunning and that’s what is so special about this rig — the purity of the sound is unprecedented,” says Oppermann.
This unusual microphone set up comes with a higher price tag than a standard rig, but the quality of recordings speaks for itself, according to Oppermann. “It took me a while to realize what you can do with it and how to post-produce immersive recordings. You need quite a bit of knowledge about 3-D sound in general and how it functions. But once you have done your post work, what comes out the other end is awe inspiring.”
Oppermann offers a final word of advice on how to capture nature’s wondrous sounds and translate them into real-life immersive listening experiences. “Do as much research as possible and try to get your hands on an Ambisonic microphone, or any kind of microphone rig that you can build yourself. It’s always a good idea to experiment as much as possible with different recording techniques so you are fully immersed in this world and are familiar with spatial sound. The rest will follow.”
Smuggled dinosaur bones? Scuba diving under a pyramid? Binaural audio recording onsite? It’s all part of the Overheard at National Geographic podcast’s third season. For the show’s production team, gathering field recordings from exotic locations and subjects is just another day at the office.
“It’s hard to be in the [National Geographic] office for five minutes without immediately seeing there are a million stories out there to tell,” says producer Brian Gutierrez. “You walk around, and there’s an archivist who’s recording old transcripts of Jacques Cousteau. There are people coming back from remote islands, [and] writing about volcanoes and earthquakes. It’s almost impossible to not tell this to other people in the way that we’ve been doing it on Overheard.”
Hosted by National Georgraphic writer and editor Peter Gwin and executive editor Amy Briggs, Overheard at National Geographic tags along with explorers, photographers and scientists who uncover unlikely and unheard stories from the edges of the world.
“The tone of the show,” Gutierrez says, “is, ‘Hey, the world’s a big, amazing, crazy place full of interesting, fascinating stuff I bet you didn’t know.”
Often, no one is closer to these tales than the journalists themselves. That’s why, after wrapping the first season of the podcast, the team began training them to capture audio so the podcast could piggyback on location stories the magazine and television channel produce.
“One of the learnings we took away from season one was, ‘How are we going to push the show further, and how can we think of ways to incorporate more of that field sound into the show?’” says Whitney Johnson, director of visuals and immersive experiences at National Geographic.
By outfitting journalists with handheld recorders like the Zoom H6 and Roland R-07, they’re able to bring back audio that puts listeners in the adventure right alongside them. Sometimes audio comes from more unlikely sources, such as a GoPro camera that captured underwater sounds used in the episode “Scuba Diving in a Pyramid.” But when they get the chance to go into the field themselves, the production team takes advantage of the opportunity.
“I went to a warehouse in Queens [New York] where a paleontologist had dinosaur fossils given to her by Homeland Security because they had been illegally shipped to the United States,” says Gutierrez. “Just following her with the recorder and letting her tell her story, I think brings you into the moment more than just being in the studio.”
Gutierrez embraced the challenge of creating a sense of place, even in a nondescript location like a warehouse. He pointed a shotgun microphone at a wall to get audio bounce-back when he interviewed the paleontologist, and used binaural omnidirectional condenser mics from Core Sound while walking through the spacious, Raiders of the Lost Ark-like trove.
“They’re these little microphones that are the size of medicine pills, and I clip them to the sides of my hat,” he says. “There’s this sort of 3D effect of being in a space, because the microphones are literally where your ears are.”
The hosts track their narration with Shure SM7B mics when they can record in the studio, but currently they both use a Zoom recorder and Sennheiser ME66 shotgun mic at their homes. Gutierrez works with two additional producers on each episode, which takes about six weeks from concept to completion.
Although the podcast plays off adventurous themes like the ones National Geographic magazine has explored for more than 130 years, the podcast creators set out to fulfill a different kind of mission in the audio medium.
“We were really interested in trying to develop a show that held on to the ethos of what makes a great National Geographic story—a commitment to really immersive storytelling and great characters—but [also what] was really appropriate for audio,” says Johnson. “We knew we were not trying to make the audio version of a magazine story, and that we had to create something that was unique and deliberately [a] podcast.”
San Juan, Puerto Rico (July 20, 2020)—Laying the foundation for its next phase of audio equipment upgrades, WKAQ, owned and operated by the Telemundo Group and the largest and longest-running television station in Puerto Rico, has implemented a Dante-enabled Sennheiser Digital 6000 wireless microphone system and facility-wide networked antenna installation.
“WKAQ wanted talent to be able to walk from Studio 1 all the way through the hallways and rear corridors to Studio 8 and have perfect, broadcast-quality coverage all the way,” says Sennheiser’s Andrew Kornstein, customer development and application engineering, Americas. “It was a very complex requirement. This is not just something that we have in the catalog.”
Conceived, installed, and commissioned by San Juan-based equipment provider AVL Group and custom-designed by Sennheiser, the new system provides wireless microphone coverage throughout the building’s eight television studios and outdoor production areas. Alexander Rojas, AVL Group’s vice president, reports that WKAQ-TV wanted to be able to access any production audio source in the building from any control room. Those sources can include the on-air talent, who sometimes move between studios. Now, with Sennheiser’s facility-wide coverage covering the studios, hallway, lobby and outdoor areas, Rojas says, “They don’t have to switch microphones, because the whole system is on a network.”
Further, with the new networked Sennheiser setup, each control room is no longer limited to the number of wireless microphone channels installed in the studio but can scale the system up if a production demands it. “It’s just a matter of audio routing,” says Rojas.
Following Kornstein’s initial site visits and consultation with AVL Group, Michel Morrisette, customer development and application engineering at Sennheiser’s Montreal office, drew up a system design to meet WKAQ’s requirements. In all, the networked antenna system comprises 20 Sennheiser A 2003-UHF passive directional antennas and six A 1031-U passive omni-directional antennas. An equipment rack centrally located in the main hallway interconnects the distributed antenna system and the wireless microphone receiver racks through a series of ASA 214 antenna splitters, ACA 3 antenna combiners and AB 3700 broadband antenna boosters. The racks also house custom connector panels designed and built by Morrisette.
AVL Group also delivered a total of 22 Sennheiser EM 6000 Dante two-channel digital receivers plus 14 SKM 6000 handheld transmitters topped by MMD 945 dynamic super-cardioid capsules to WKAQ. Thirty-two MKE 1 miniature clip-on lavalier microphones are paired with 29 SK 6000 pocket transmitters, with three SK 6212 mini-bodypack transmitters additionally available for female on-air talent. All of the equipment uses rechargeable batteries and Sennheiser’s L 6000 rack-mount chargers, says Rojas.
New York, NY (July 16, 2020)—On October 16, 1972, a Cessna carrying two U.S. Congressmen, an aide and a pilot disappeared on a flight from Anchorage, Alaska, bound for the state capital of Juneau. No wreckage was ever found despite a 39-day search by the government, the men were never heard from again and the case has never been solved.
Despite drifting from the headlines decades ago, investigative reporter Jon Walczak is still chasing leads for the long-shuttered case. Through his podcast Missing in Alaska, he aims to put every listener in the search with him. That mission begins with creative sound design.
“I really wanted something atmospheric, something to evoke Alaska or Arizona or wherever we are,” says Walczak, creator and narrator of the iHeartRadio podcast. “Or, if it’s a period in time, evoke the early ’70s with Watergate and Vietnam, or Alaska during the oil boom.”
From the first moments of the podcast, the audio production team drops listeners right into the story. An archival media report sets up the disappearance like a dispatch from a parallel world, carrying the distant, sepia-toned sonics of the time period. A portentous wind sweeps across the mix, and a subtle synth builds tension under Walczak’s storytelling.
“We really wanted to establish that tone from the get-go,” says supervising producer Paul Dechant. “[But] one of the tricks for us as the editors is finding that balance between what’s enough sound design, what’s enough music and where it is too much.”
The art of sound design is in making those choices. Producer Seth Nicholas Johnson is able to bounce among a number of audio sources that have their own characteristics, including interviews recorded in person, over the phone or via video conference, to create the soundscape.
“We definitely like the texture of all the different kinds of recordings that we have,” says Johnson. “We love to cut back and forth between things that have been recorded in the field and things that were recorded through Skype and archival recordings.”
Even though the production team had easy access to the deep iHeartRadio sound libraries, the environmental touches that connect listeners to place and setting in Missing in Alaska are the real deal. When they needed sounds to represent the idea of lowering a search boat into the water, for example, they would simply reference their own collection of curated audio.
“It’s like, ‘Okay, we’re building Alaska, we’re painting a picture of this three-day trip and this search, there’s no need to pretend that just a random soundscape of the ocean that I found online was the Pacific Ocean,’” says Johnson.
Dechant traveled with a Zoom H6 recorder and a Sennheiser shotgun mic for field interviews and sound-capture opportunities like the search boat. When they had the chance for a sit-down interview—which they did in Arizona, where they tracked down mobsters who have ties to the case—he relied on a Shure SM7b, the same microphone Walczak used to track his narration.
Walczak originally set out to record his narration at a studio in Atlanta, but he only made it three episodes into the series before the COVID-19 pandemic scuttled those plans and scattered the production team. The host went back to his home in New Orleans and set up a small table with a microphone in his closet and started recording there.
“The thing I like best about the production is that it’s very hard to tell the difference between the closet setup and the professional studio,” says Johnson. “A big part of it is the disrupted walls—having all the clothing and blankets at different angles shoots back the audio in uneven waves, so it makes it all perfect.”
Each episode takes about a week to put together after Walczak has scripted and recorded his narration. Dechant and Johnson have a tag-team style where they take turns leading production on an episode. They edit in Adobe Audition, since they were already familiar with the Adobe ecosystem from working in video, and lean on iZotope RX to reign in certain elements of the archival audio and interviews.
“There have definitely been some clips from the past where it’s like, ‘Oh no, this is hard to listen to. How are we going to clean this up?” explains Johnson. “[iZotope RX] is the main program we use for de-noising and reverb, but not sanitizing to the point that it sounds like a vocoder. Making sure it still has that grit and tape hiss. It’s an old recording; it should sound like an old recording.”
Walczak, a traditional journalist and writer, found the open-ended format of a podcast liberating. He’s not bound to a word count or the finality of a longform story. It also fits his larger mission, which is to actually solve the case. He maintains a spreadsheet of contacts that contains more than 500 entries, and he invites listeners who may have information related to the case to send tips.
“It’s just an absolutely overwhelming amount of information [involved in the case], and that gets to why I wanted help from the audience,” says Walczak. “The request for help, the idea to make it interactive, it’s not a gimmick.”
Wedemark, Germany (July 14, 2020)—Having closed its fiscal year in June, the family-owned Sennheiser Group has announced its financial results for 2019, and while sales were only slightly down overall for the year, the company is preparing for the worst. Citing the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on its consumer and professional businesses, as well as a slowdown in the headphone market, Sennheiser will cut roughly 650 employees by the end of 2022, with about 300 of those jobs in Germany.
Daniel Sennheiser, co-CEO of Sennheiser, noted in a statement, “In order to position the company for a successful future, we will adapt our organizational structure to the changing conditions and align it with the new requirements.” As a result, the company will be looking to make cuts in corporate functions such as Supply Chain and Operations. Aiming to enact the reduction in what it termed a “socially responsible manner,” Sennheiser will consider measures such as not filling open positions, a voluntary redundancy scheme and severance options in addition to offering partial and early retirement.
“We are a family-owned company and every single one of our employees is part of the team,” said Dr. Andreas Sennheiser, co-CEO. “Together we share a passion for audio. With this in mind, these have been very difficult decisions to make and it is important to us primarily to avoid redundancies and to find individual solutions together with employees.” He added, “We will continue to focus on our core competencies and further strengthen both our consumer and professional divisions by transferring operational responsibility completely to these two business areas.”
Sennheiser’s fiscal year 2019 saw the company grow in its professional division while it landed below expectations in the consumer business. In total, the Sennheiser Group generated turnover of $863 million—6.5 percent more than in 2018.
The company attributed much of its slide on the consumer side to the global headphone market, which has declined by 30 to 40 percent in recent months, largely due to physical retail outlets worldwide being closed or operated under shortened hours. Accordingly, sales of Sennheiser headphones also decreased to the same extent. In order to mitigate those effects, in March, the company introduced cost reductions and reduced working hours in Germany. Measures to reduce personnel costs and material costs were implemented to the same extent at Sennheiser’s international locations.
The effect of COVID-19 has also been felt in the company’s live sound microphone sales, as Daniel Sennheiser explained: “With the cancellation of live events all over the world, the entire event and music industry has been practically brought to a standstill and is only slowly getting back on track. The future of many rental companies, and other service providers is under threat. This is having a significant impact on sales of microphones, which will continue to be reflected in our business performance next year. Exceptions are studio microphones.”
In the fiscal year 2019, the professional division generated turnover of $414.4 million, an increase of 9.2 percent over the previous year. Growth was driven in particular by the product categories of live music, studio recording and business communication. The consumer division generated turnover of $448.7 million. Although turnover increased by 4.1 percent, that landed below the growth of the headphone market as a whole, despite the launch of new headphone models in the premium segment.
Playing to a hometown crowd continued to be Sennheiser’s forte when it came to sales—EMEA continued to be the region with the highest turnover in 2019 with $436.4 million, garnering an increase of 6.4 percent. In its home market Germany, Sennheiser was able to increase turnover by 1.8 percent. The APAC region recorded the highest increase in percentage terms with 10.6 percent. Growth was driven in particular by the markets in China, Japan and South Korea, while in the Americas region, turnover increased by $7.2 million, or 3.3 percent, year on year to $226.6 million.
With imminent job cuts and an expected continued downturn ahead, Sennheiser added that it fully intends to keep funding its R&D efforts going forward, including the development of its AMEBO immersive audio technology. “To create innovative audio experiences for our customers and to shape the future of the audio industry, we are continuously investing in our development activities, “ said Dr. Andreas Sennheiser. Sennheiser Group’s investments in 2019 increased by 4.1 percent to $71.8 million, which corresponds to 8.3 percent of turnover.
Philadelphia, PA—By the time the US half of Live Aid kicked off at noon on July 13, 1985, the UK edition [See Part 1] had already been rocking for five hours, but given everything that had happened before the show even started, it was as if they entire production had been running a marathon for days.
From there on out, performances would alternate between the UK show in London, and the US concert in Philadelphia’s JFK Stadium until the UK called it a day at 10 PM in London / 5 PM in Philly, with the US then continuing on until 11 PM. During the overlapping hours, broadcasters worldwide alternated performances between the shows, giving crews on each side of the Atlantic extra time to set up and tear down while the other continent’s acts were performing. However, just getting to that point was already an accomplishment for the live sound pros on hand, given that the entire gig had come on short notice.
“I think they were contemplating who’s gonna do the sound a week before,” recalls Roy Clair, co-founder of audio provider Clair Brothers (now Clair Global). “At that time, there were only two companies in America that could have done that show—us and Showco—and obviously sometimes it had a lot to do with how many of your groups were going to be on the bill. The promoter, Bill Graham, was open as to who was going to do the sound, but in the long run, it may have had to do with location, location, location, because we’re based in Pennsylvania. We’d like to think that it was because we were the best. I’m kidding, of course, but you know, it meant a lot to us, because it was a huge show, there were a lot of groups on the bill, Live Aid went well and we actually gained some momentum because of that show.”
It helped that the Clair team was familiar with JFK Stadium, having provided audio for a Peter Frampton/Lynyrd Skynyrd show there in 1977, but being picked as the sound vendor so late meant there was little time for the Clair team to prepare. “That is what we’re good at—getting a show together fast,” said Clair. Sound for 89,484 people? No problem.
A team of 12-15 pros from Clair loaded into the site three days before the show, and since there was little in the way of pro-grade audio equipment available commercially back then, virtually all of the sound gear was proprietary. That included roughly 120 Clair S-4 speakers and eight prototype P boxes, powered by Clair’s Phase Linear 700B amplifiers. All that PA was loaded into scaffolding on either side of the stage, with long-throw boxes placed 50 feet up in order to peg the stands on the far side of the stadium. When it comes to recalling the front of house mix position, memories and accounts vary, but there were up to six Clair CBA32 mixing consoles there, all summed into a Harrison SM-5 console used both as a matrix mixer and for media inputs from the White House, the Space Shuttle and other outside sources.
The Clair engineers weren’t the only audio folks who wound up on-site on short notice. While today he’s a veteran sound pro at Carnegie Hall, with 20 years of mixing Broadway shows under his belt, back in July 1985, Andrew Funk was a 23-year-old tech who had been working less than two weeks at the Manhattan office of German pro-audio manufacturer Sennheiser. Two days before the show, Funk was told to bring his classic Cadillac convertible to the office, load up the trunk with wireless microphones and test equipment, and take it all to directly to JFK Stadium. “When I pulled up in Philly, everybody was like, ‘Who is this guy in the convertible?’” he remembers.
Funk and Sennheiser sales support pro Tony Cafiero set up their wireless receivers—EM1036 Rack Frames—at stage left behind the stacks. Normally six of the bulky receivers would have taken up eight rack units, but with rack space at a premium, only a few frames got racked, and the rest were simply piled atop a case next to them.
“These days, everyone would have their own wireless handheld,” says Funk, “but back then, it was very much magic when it came to wireless mics. There was no such thing as RF coordinators, there was no frequency agility; everything was on a set frequency, so if you had trouble, you had to actually get another mic. It was the very infancy of wireless microphones.”
During the show, Funk’s job would be not only to babysit the receivers, but also hand-off the six SKM 4031 wireless handhelds to musicians and celebrities like the show’s host, actor Jack Nicholson, and then collect the mics when they came back offstage. The significance of the concert quickly became apparent to Funk: “We got set up and they immediately went into rehearsals with Mick Jagger and Tina Turner, so right off the bat, with headliners like that, I got a nice introduction to what the show was going to be like.”
Also taking up much of the stageside area were multiple monitor mix positions, which were centered around two Harrison SM-5 consoles and a Midas Pro4 desk. In order to speed up downtime between performances, the stage itself had a rotating center turntable; while an act performed out front, the next act’s gear was set up in back and then rotated 180 degrees to face the audience when it was time for the next performance. As a result, the two Harrison consoles, used for different halves of the turntable, were located on opposite wings of the stage and were looked after by Clair’s Dave Skaff and Rick Coberly, who were the respective desks’ system engineers and monitor engineers for acts that didn’t bring their own. Meanwhile, the Midas desk, used for front line duties like monitor mixes for presenters between acts, was overseen by Clair’s Henry Cohen (now senior RF systems design engineer at CP Communications).
As with any load-in, there were problems along the way, but a true potential showstopper happened less than 24 hours before showtime. Skaff, who after decades of mixing monitors for acts like U2 and Led Zeppelin’s 2007 reunion is now part of Clair Global’s engineering design and tour support teams, recalls, “The night before the show, the turntable motor broke—it just burnt up and it was too late to take it out. Between Bill Graham and [legendary stage designer] Michael Tait, they decided it would have to be manually turned—but how? Tait came up with a great solution where they cut pockets around the turntable and put in these metal ‘receivers’ [where you could put in] a Schedule 40 aluminum pipe and now you had something you could push on. Well, they put about 20 of those in and then Bill Graham made a call to the Philadelphia Eagles and they had 20 guys over there as quick as they could get them. The Philadelphia Eagles’ defensive line came in and turned the turntable all day—that was pretty wild. That was one of the ones that impressed me the most, that we could get anything done that we needed.”
Spinning on that turntable providing sound to the acts were a slew of Clair LP floor monitors, supplemented by flown S-4 loudspeakers at stageside. In-ear monitors, while commonplace today, were still in their infancy and wouldn’t go mainstream within live sound for another decade—but they were there at Live Aid.
Marty Garcia, founder of Future Sonics, was on tour with The Hooters, who had three top-40 hits that year. Given that the group was from Philadelphia, it was quickly tapped to be the first band of the day, which meant Garcia’s in-ear monitors—a wired pair worn by drummer David Uosikkinen—were seen around the world and by curious artists backstage for the first time. “I was just finishing up a whole bunch of custom ear monitors when The Hooters got added to Live Aid,” Garcia recalls. “I said [to Uosikkinen], ‘Let’s get you on ears for this—that way, you don’t have to worry about not having a soundcheck long enough to get what you need. I’ll dial it in with the monitor engineer.’”
The Hooters’ set was significant for Skaff, too, as he’d become friends with bassist Andy King over the years as they both paid their dues in the regional club scene with a band called Jack of Diamonds. “That didn’t go, he ended up in The Hooters and now they were opening up Live Aid. So the two of us standing on stage right before it started was like kind of a ‘pinch yourself’ moment. It was pretty cool.”
The stage itself was a hectic place, but the audio team kept everything moving onstage. Key to that team was patch master Kathy Sander, who kept the show on-time for 11 hours, ensuring that every mic and DI box was correctly patched not only for the show onsite, but also for the multitude of radio and TV broadcasters as well.
“As soon as somebody went on stage, I would hold my breath for about a minute,” she says. “If there were any microphones not working, that’s when you would hear that something needed to be addressed. Then I was already starting soundcheck for the next act in the back.”
Every artist wanted more than their allotted 17-minute set in front of 1.9 billion people watching worldwide, and with that plus celebrities introducing acts, endless crates of gear and massive egos to appease, the show was practically guaranteed to not run on time—and yet it did. “How the sound engineers coped with the amount of bands and changeovers on the day is beyond me,” recalls Midge Ure, co-founder of Live Aid. “The equipment, monitor and FOH boards, albeit the best available, were analogue so there were no preset patches or recall available. It was old-school ‘flying by the seat of your pants’ mixing.”
That kind of mixing was necessary, too, because even when the audio team knew what was happening next, there were still surprises—like R&B legend Patti LaBelle. “She came out and literally blew the console apart,” laughs Skaff. “Before she went on, we did as much as we could to turn the damn thing down and pad it down, and [late tour director/production manager] Mo Morrison said, ‘That ain’t gonna be enough.’ I’m like, ‘Why not? There’s no—’ and she just lit the desk up red! The whole stage was her voice, dialed up through all the monitors. It was like the voice of God was there that day, and it was Patti LaBelle!”
While MTV broadcast the entire show, ABC aired the final three hours live starting at 8PM, which meant that the concert had to be running on time to the split second, eight hours after it started. “England was running so far behind schedule that it didn’t quite work out the way ABC wanted it to, but we were on time—I was so proud of that,” says Sander.
It was no simple accomplishment, as bands wanted all their usual touring gear set up, regardless of whether they needed it for their set. “Bands wanted to have people be impressed by their gear and their performance, because this wasn’t just putting on a performance for charities—it was exposure,” says Sander. “So the TV people, they’d be looking at their screens, see a synthesizer that’s not being used at all, and then call up and say, ‘Hey, I don’t have the synth!’ That’s because they’re not playing it.”
The US show closed out with all the artists back onstage for a massive sing-along of the USA for Africa charity single, “We Are the World,” and that moment summed up the day for Sander: “The thing that I remember the most was running out to line up microphones across the front of stage, and then going over to the side, looking at my watch and it was just right at 11 o’clock which was our end time. I was so relieved because we hit it on time, and watching all those artists perform ‘We Are the World’ was awesome. And as soon as I realized that it was essentially over except for the rest of the song, I had a migraine. That’s how stressful it was. I recovered from that nicely, but it was just shocking to me.”
For Sennheiser’s Funk, the grand finale was his most memorable moment, too—because the show nearly ended in disaster. “During ‘We Are the World,’ all of our wireless mics are out there on the stage,” he says. “I’m off to the side at stage left behind the stacks and the two wireless racks are right next to me—one is in the case and the other one isn’t.
“All of a sudden, I start feeling water or something dripping from overhead. I look up and there’s this stage guy up on the scaffolding watching the show and he has this big can of beer. It’s the biggest can, too—like a Colt 45 or a Fosters. The can’s in his shorts and the thing’s pouring out directly into the wireless rack frames. The show’s going, the beer is pouring in, the wireless is going and I’m like, ‘Those mics are going to go dead on the final song of the night!’ I’m yelling up to the guy and there’s no way he can hear me over the show. Myself and Troy Clair from Clair Brothers start throwing things up at him to get his attention. Doesn’t work and the beer’s just pouring out. And you know what? The mics didn’t stop at all—even with the beer, they still worked, still made it to the end. I thought that was pretty cool.”
Whether good fortune, good German engineering or outright divine intervention, the result was a grand finale that’s remembered for all the right reasons, bringing to an end a momentous, landmark day that even 35 years later, all the production pros involved still see as a highlight of their careers.