Axient wireless mics and in-ear systems
CHICAGO, —From the opening production number to the evening’s final award to Kacey Musgraves for Album of the Year, Shure wireless systems were selected by the audio team and majority of artists performing on the 61st GRAMMY® Awards, broadcast live on CBS from the Staples Center in Los Angeles. The GRAMMY production team encouraged all artists to use microphones they are most comfortable with, knowing this freedom helps produce the best performances. The majority of the show’s 18 musical productions featured Axient® Digital wireless mics, demonstrating remarkable industry acceptance of this innovative product, introduced less than two years ago.
The 2019 GRAMMY broadcast was an ambitious affair, executed expertly by Audio Coordinator Michael Abbott’s team of veteran engineers and techs. Key suppliers included ATK Audiotek for sound system design and implementation. ATK again brought in Soundtronics RF expert Steve Vaughn to handle wireless system design and frequency coordination. The broadcast production mixer was Tom Holmes, working from music mixes by Eric Schilling and John Harris in the Music Mix Mobile remote trucks. Inside Staples Center, the FOH desks featured Mikael Stewart doing the production mix, with Ron Reaves mixing music for the live audience.
Notable performances included a tribute to MusiCares Person of the Year Dolly Parton, using an Axient Digital AD2 with SM58® mic capsule for a medley of classic country songs. Parton was joined on stage by Shure endorsing artists Kacey Musgraves (Beta 58A®), Maren Morris (SM58), and Little Big Town (Beta 87, Beta 58A, and SM58), all using custom white AD2 handhelds, plus Miley Cyrus and Katy Perry.
Another highlight was the night’s focus on the iconic Motown label. Shure endorser Jennifer Lopez used her customized Axient AXT200 with KSM8 to lead a tribute of Motown classics, along with Axient Digital users Smokey Robinson and Ne-Yo. Diana Ross used an AD2/KSM9 combination for her own stirring medley, while Chloe x Halle used the AD2/Beta 58A for their homage to the late, great Donny Hathaway. Another soulful performance was the trio of Andra Day, Fantasia, and Yolanda Adams singing “(You Make Me Feel Like A) Natural Woman,” all using AD2 handhelds.
Axient Digital was also the vocal wireless system of choice for country artists Dan + Shay singing their hit, “Tequila,” and for the duet medley by St. Vincent and Best New Artist winner Dua Lipa. Others opting for Axient Digital included Camila Cabello, Post Malone, Young Thug, J. Balvin, and Flea. For her electric performance of “Money,” Best Rap Album winner Cardi B used a Shure UR1 wireless bodypack.
First-time host Alicia Keys, widely praised for striking an inclusive, welcoming tone for the event, opted for her customary Shure UR2 handheld transmitter, both for stage announcements and for her unique twin piano performance, a personal cross-genre musical medley she summarized as “songs I wish I’d written.” Not only did Keys use Shure wireless mics and PSM® 1000 in-ear monitors, but even the grand pianos she used were miked by Shure, with dual Beta 181 condenser microphones inside.
In fact, the Beta 181 was the secret weapon inside all acoustic pianos on the GRAMMY stage this year. “The Beta 181 is our go-to mic for piano, both in the mix trucks and in the house,” notes music mixer Eric Schilling. “We get the clarity we need with well-defined low end. It just works!”
Shure products were also dominant in several other critical, though less visible, applications, including multiple wireless guitars and plenty of instrument microphones. Behind the scenes, monitor mix engineers Mike Parker and Tom Pesa used the industry-standard PSM 1000 personal monitor system for every wireless in-ear channel on stage. A total of 24 transmitter channels were used, feeding 106 P10R bodypack receivers. For hardwired in-ears, 12 P9HW and 24 P6HW systems were also on hand. To top it all off, the podium microphone was powered by two Shure UR1 bodypack transmitters.
With so much wireless in use, antenna system design and frequency coordination were critical to ensuring flawless operation. Burbank-based Soundtronics handled those perilous tasks, with Steve Vaughn overseeing the job.
“Once again, I have had the opportunity to test the new Shure Axient Digital and really push them to the limits,“ said Steve Vaughn of Soundtronics. “With almost a completely saturated RF spectrum, including IEMs, Backline RF and various other RF microphone manufacturers, I was able to really maximize each and every frequency available. And for the first time in a long time I was able to do the entire show without frequency sharing. Shure has proven to me that along with Wireless Workbench® (WWB) and the new Axient Digital that reliability and quality is still their priority and what we expect from a Shure product.“
The Shure Artist Relations team was also there to ensure all artist and production team needs were met. “The GRAMMY Awards are always a highlight event for us,” says Artist Relations Manager Cory Lorentz. “It’s a great opportunity to meet with musicians and engineers, and see how our equipment helps them realize their artistic vision. We want to congratulate everyone involved for another outstanding production, and to thank them for allowing us to be a part of their world.”
Tim Albright is the founder of AVNation and is the driving force behind the AVNation network. He carries the InfoComm CTS, a B.S. from Greenville College and is pursuing an M.S. in Mass Communications from Southern Illinois University at Edwardsville. When not steering the AVNation ship, Tim has spent his career designing systems for churches both large and small, Fortune 500 companies, and education facilities.