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Rihanna Rocks Super Bowl Sound

While Super Bowl halftime shows in recent decades have been heard via temporary groundstacks, this year's edition did something different.

Rihanna’s halftime show at Super Bowl LVII was heard over an L-Acoustics K2 loudspeaker system. Photo: Johnny Keirle.
Rihanna’s halftime show at Super Bowl LVII was heard over an L-Acoustics K2 loudspeaker system. Photo: Johnny Keirle.

Glendale, AZ (February 24, 2023)—While Super Bowl LVII was one of the most evenly matched contests of recent memory, with the Kansas City Chiefs and Philadelphia Eagles going neck-and-neck virtually the entire game, the biggest draw for the annual event may have been the half-time show by Grammy Award-winner Rihanna. The 13-minute performance found the singer rolling through a best-of medley of her biggest hits, including “Umbrella,” “Work,” “Diamonds,” and “Run This Town,” as she and many of the 100-plus dancers accompanying her were suspended on mobile platforms in mid-air. Providing sound for the performance to the thousands in the stands proved to be a sizable challenge for the event’s audio team from ATK Audiotek, a Clair Global brand.

Ensuring Rihanna’s vocals could be heard, the singer opted to belt into a Sennheiser Digital 6000 wireless microphone system and a custom chrome SKM 6000 transmitter with an MD 9235 dynamic cardioid microphone capsule. Hearing those vocals meant that a sizable temporary PA system, created just for the event, had to be onsite as well, and while in the past that meant that ATK rolled out 76 loudspeakers on carts that ringed the field, that wasn’t possible this time.

“The NFL mandated that nothing be on the field this year, so that meant no carts,” said Kirk Powell, Engineer in Chief for ATK. Instead, the entire temporary sound system was flown. “Going in the air gave us more room, which meant more boxes—over 200 altogether, compared to the 76 boxes we could load on the carts—which meant more power and better, more complete coverage, even to the upper reaches of the bowl.”

ATK/Clair Takes On Super Bowl Audio Networking

The decision was made to make use of much of State Farm Stadium’s existing fixed L-Acoustics system installed in 2016, primarily comprising a total of 122 K2 and 32 K1-SB enclosures. ATK supplemented the installed system with six more identical arrays of 13 K2 over four K1-SB, three arrays per side suspended from the venue’s Brunel truss system, plus four sideline hangs of KS28 subs. They also flew two 10-enclosure arrays of L-Acoustics K2 plus a single sub hang of eight KS28 at each end zone. ATK’s system was powered by L-Acoustics LA12X amplified controllers, while LA8 amplified controllers drove the house system.

Additionally, eight subwoofers were also deployed for the lower bowl. Signal transport was over Dante to Focusrite RedNet D16Rs interfaces and from them to the LA12X amps over AES. The system was rounded out by a pair of DiGiCo Quantum338 audio consoles at FOH and an SD5 console used to mix monitors.

Returning to mix his fifth Super Bowl halftime show in a row, legendary FOH engineer Dave Natale tackled front-of-house for the performance. “It didn’t just sound great—it sounded great everywhere,” he said. “[ATK audio project manager, system designer, and pre-and post-game event mixer] Alex Guessard and I walked through the entire venue, from the 100 level to the 300 level and two levels of suites in between, and every seat sounded great. And that’s despite a challenging rigging situation that limited where they could place hangs, which were mostly along the sidelines.”