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The 50th Annual Grammy Awards

Each year, the audio team for the annual Grammy Awards telecast looks to top itself, to introduce at least one new wrinkle to improve the viewer's audio

Each year, the audio team for the annual Grammy Awards telecast looks to top itself, to introduce at least one new wrinkle to improve the viewer’s audio experience. When high-def picture raised its head at the turn of the century, 5.1 sound came with it. When dual stages became the norm and the number of acts reached more than 20, tag-team music mixing was introduced. When the time crunch became nearly unmanageable, a mirror to the XM Productions/Effanel L7 truck environment was built on-site and Digidesign D-Command consoles/Genelec monitor systems were installed.

A TV audio dream team. Front, from left: Randy Ezratty, VP XM Productions; Maureen Droney, executive director, P&E Wing of Recording Academy; Eric Schilling, music mixer; Leslie Ann Jones, Recording Academy, house sound supervisor; Ron Reaves, front-of-house engineer. Rear, from left: Glenn Lorbecki, P&E Wing co-chair; John Cossette, executive producer; John Harris, music mixer; Hank Neuberger, audio supervisor; Rickey Minor, musical director; and Phil Ramone, broadcast supervisor.

Photos: Courtesy of the Recording Academy/by Alexander Wymann/Wireimage ©2008

This year, for the first time at the Grammys and the first time on any show of this size/magnitude, only a 5.1 signal was sent from the Staples Center (L.A.) to the satellite and down to CBS New York, where the down-conversion to stereo was handled automatically. An identical Dolby chain was built on-site, but only for monitoring. There was no separate “stereo mix.”

“We looked ahead to February 2009, when they turn off the analog transmission lines in this country,” explains Hank Neuberger, audio supervisor for the telecast. “We see it coming, where stations will only be passing 5.1 channels of audio around. It just makes sense, and our friends at Dolby have made it possible to do with confidence.”

The core Grammy audio crew has been intact for a number of years now and has won Emmys and TEC Awards. The music mix was once again handled by John Harris (his 16th Grammy Award show) and Eric Schilling (his fourth) in the XM Productions/Effanel L7 truck, operated by lead engineer Joel Singer. Phil Ramone sat in the main NEP Supershooter and served as executive audio producer (“I have a button that says ‘more bass, less bass,’” he jokes), while Ron Reaves again mixed front of house and Michael Abbott wrangled all audio systems and personnel as audio coordinator. For Mix‘s tribute to the 50th anniversary — including production videos — visit

Videos taken from the production track at this year’s Grammy Awards