Beyoncé is currently out on a world tour, “The Beyoncé Experience Tour,” where the vocalist and her hand-picked, all-girl band perform a suite of Destiny’s Child classics and more than a few surprises in a stage show that features 38 Sennheiser wireless channels.
The engineering team comprises James Berry running monitors for the band, Ramon Morales handling monitors for Beyoncé and Horace Ward at front of house.
The tour will travel with 38 primary wireless channels and, in a different frequency range, 38 backup wireless channels. It falls on the shoulders of Berry to coordinate frequencies night after night, but his task has been greatly simplified by two Sennheiser NET 1 systems. He says, “We’re the biggest rig to use NET 1 so far, and it’s working fabulously. I keep all of the wireless racks below stage, out of sight and out of mind. Then I hook up my laptop to NET 1 and instantly see everything: RF status, battery levels. Finding frequencies is easy. I synch everything up in NET 1, hit a few buttons and everything takes care of itself. No more digging through tiny menu pages for an hour!”
Sixteen of the wireless channels are devoted to personal monitor systems: 11 in stereo and five in mono. Beyoncé has a Sennheiser EK 300 IEM G2 monitoring receiver, as do the rest of the bandmembers. Eleven of the channels provide wireless instrument support for guitar, bass and horns, using Sennheiser SK 500 G2 bodypack transmitters. The remaining channels cover Beyoncé’s vocal microphone and those of her backup singers and guest vocalists. An impressive bank of Sennheiser EM 3032-U and EM 550 G2 true-diversity receivers with Sennheiser A 5000-CP antennas and AC 3000 combiners round out the system.
“Sennheiser’s relations team has been a real lifesaver,” says Berry. “They make things happen, they get us the right gear and they’re always there to help.”
“The last several tours that I have been involved with have used Sennheiser wireless exclusively,” adds Morales. “I always use Sennheiser personal monitors because of their frequency flexibility. With other brands, I would only have a fixed number of RF channels within a frequency range to work with. In stark contrast, the Sennheiser G2s give me the ability to stay within the presets or move anywhere within the frequency range.”
Beyoncé is singing through a nickel Sennheiser SKM 5200 transmitter outfitted with a Neumann KK 105-S capsule. “The KK 105-S is an absolutely stunning microphone,” comments Ward. “Sennheiser’s partnership with Neumann makes for a great product. The KK 105-S is beautifully smooth and captures every nuance of a talented vocalist’s performance.”
Morales agrees: “There’s nothing that compares with the Sennheiser/Neumann combo. The SKM 5200 is a great transmitter and the KK 105-S is a great mic. In addition, it’s an easy mic to mix for personal monitors because it’s so transparent and clean. It cuts through the mix effortlessly.”
Ward specified Sennheiser SKM 935 G2 microphones for the backup and guest vocalists because they sound excellent even under less-than-ideal conditions. “The Sennheiser SKM 935 is a great choice for backup singers and ideal for guest rappers,” he says. “Most rappers want to crush the mic, meaning they cup the capsule. The frequency response of most microphones gets pretty crazy under such conditions, but the SKM 935 holds together without a problem.”
Ward’s FOH mixing technique relies heavily on his Digidesign VENUE system, recording every performance to Pro Tools by taking inputs from the preamps onstage. During the day after a performance, while he waits for his full system to be set up for that night’s show, he does his “homework” using the playback as “inputs” and a pair of Klein + Hummel O 300 monitors, an O 900 subwoofer, a Klein + Hummel Pro A 2000 power amplifier and a Pro M 68 bass manager for monitoring. This process, known as “virtual soundcheck,” allows him to tweak out imperfections from the previous night’s mix.