August 20, 2013, Milford, NH – With nearly three and a half decades of singing under his belt, Kelly Hansen, lead vocalist of Foreigner, is no stranger to vocal microphones. As the band geared up for their latest tour, the Earthworks WL40V wireless capsule came along for the ride to deliver Hansen’s vocals to audiences around the globe.
Hansen explains, “Regarding microphones for live performance, I realized early on, that the natural profile of my voice didn’t really match with the Shure family of vocal mics. I started using an SM57, then moved on to an SM58. These Shure mics have a peak in the midrange which accentuated the midrange peak my own natural voice, resulting in a shrill sound. I needed a microphone with a smoother response that did not accentuate the midrange in my own voice. So I stopped using the Shure mics and started using a Sennheiser M421 and a variety of Beyerdynamic microphones from the M88 all the way up to their Opus line of wireless microphone systems, some of which had interchangeable mic capsules.”
Hansen continues, “Due to some changes in distribution and management at Beyerdynamic, I needed to find a new solution with regard to a good wireless handheld vocal microphone that would really make me happy and give me a condenser microphone sound on stage.”
After trying out several different wireless microphones capsules and wireless systems to no avail, Lorenzo Banda, monitor engineer for Foreigner, and Hansen were introduced to the Earthworks WL40V. Banda explains, “I had never used any Earthworks microphones until the time we started being endorsed by Lectrosonics and they introduced us to Earthworks and the WL40V microphone capsule. Earthworks sent us some of their microphone capsules to try out. We tried out the Earthworks WL40V on the Lectrosonics wireless system and we loved it.”
For Hansen, it was all about finding the right sound. “When it comes to wireless microphone capsules, it is really all about the sound. And that is what is really great about the Earthworks capsule. It has an open top, a flatter response and a nice bottom end that really sounds like a studio condenser microphone on stage, in a wireless form. The WL40V isn’t rolled off in a weird place that doesn’t give you any bottom support and it’s not peaky in the midrange like a Shure. It just has that flat warm sound with a natural openness in the top.”
Banda also put the SR40V, the wired predecessor to the WL40V, through its paces at sound check. Banda says, “In most stage situations, you get cymbal bleed like crazy, especially when you have a drummer who plays fairly hard. Even though the vocal mics were about 18 feet away from the drums, we were still getting all sorts of cymbal leakage. As soon as we switched to the Earthworks SR40V and WL40V the cymbal leakage almost went away. The rear rejection capabilities of the Earthworks microphones, in addition to their excellent vocal quality and the rich sound it had just floored me.”
While touring, Hansen uses in-ear monitors to get himself a studio quality mix in his headphones while he performs. “If you have an in-ear monitor system, you need a microphone to be way more precise, way more accurate and way more user friendly as far as proximity goes,” Hansen explains. “These things are really important when you have a closed, in-ear monitor system.”
“Because I have an in-ear system like this, it really makes me feel like I’m in the studio, even when I am on stage,” Hansen continues. “I get all of the expressiveness I desire. In addition, I can sing close to the microphone or back away from it without using any compression, because I can hear every detail and every nuance of the microphone. This is really important to me as a vocalist. I have been singing for a long time, and I know how to use a microphone. I know what to do to get what I want out of a good microphone. But if the microphone is not willing to give it to me, then I can’t use it.”
Banda explains how the WL40V works with Hansen’s vocal style. “The confidence Kelly has with the Earthworks WL40V capsule that allows him to do whatever he requires of it, and the capsule just puts it out for him. It becomes effortless for him to sing into the microphone,” Banda says. “With most microphones, you have to work harder or project harder to get what you want to come out of the microphone. In comparison, with the WL40V or other Earthworks vocal mics, you can whisper and be able to clearly hear your breath. This capsule is airy and transparent and so natural sounding that it makes it effortless to sing. When Kelly goes into the lower registers, you can hear the soft low end and every breath he takes on songs like “I Want to Know What Love Is.” Going from the low-mids up into the midrange, it is just amazing how clean the transition is. The EQ we use with the WL40V is very subtle as the microphone doesn’t need much help with respect to signal processing. The WL40V is just a sweet sounding microphone.”
Another major concern when going wireless is contending with RFI rich environments. “The WL40V is excellent with the Lectrosonics HH wireless microphone system,” says Hansen. “We have a lot of wireless on stage, vocals, guitars, etc. and sometimes we play in places with very heavy media environments with all sorts of radio frequency interference and other types of interference. Even in these very trying environments with a lot of RFI floating around, the combination of the WL40V and the Lectrosonics wireless system has been flawless.”
Hansen recounts one experience in particular, “I was in the middle of a football stadium and I didn’t have a single dropout from my microphone system. It worked perfectly. Other wireless microphone systems typically have problems in these RFI rich environments.”
Durability was an equally important consideration for Hansen when it came to selecting a wireless microphone. “The microphone capsule has to be able to put up with high SPL and I have to be able to drop the mic a few times without knocking it out” Hansen said. “I don’t drop a microphone on purpose, but sometimes it happens and the WL40V seems to be pretty bullet-proof in this respect.”
Hansen describes his most recent experience with the WL40V on stage. “We just got back from Germany, where we did a live acoustic show, which we recorded for SWR2 in Germany. On this recording, I use my Earthworks WL40V capsule for my vocals. I could have used a Telefunken M251 for this recording, but instead, I chose to use my Earthworks WL40V microphone capsule. Maybe the sound would have been really cool on the M251, but when you put the Earthworks capsule on a good wireless system, that makes it portable. So even though we are sitting down, doing an acoustic show, I could stand up and walk to the audience and say, come on, everybody sing along. There is no way this could have happened if I was using a Telefunken M251 studio microphone. I want to thank Earthworks for giving me such a great mic to work with!”
Before getting back on the road, Banda offered this closing thought on his experience working with Earthworks. “Earthworks as a company, has been amazing to work with,” Banda says. “We are so appreciative of everything they do for us. Everyone there really bends over backwards for us in providing what we need, whenever we need it.”
To learn more about Foreigner and their current tour, visit the band online at www.foreigneronline.com.