HOLLYWOOD, CALIFORNIA - MAY 2009: Now in its eighth season, "American Idol" continues its domination of the prime time television ratings with millions of fans across the country tuning in to FOX every Tuesday and Wednesday night to witness the fate of their favorite singing contestants. Show producers made a few changes to keep things fresh for performers and viewers alike this season, but there was only one change made to the Sennheiser microphones that cover the band and the singers - the usual black finish SKM 5200 handheld wireless vocal mics were replaced by new chrome-plated models.
"The show producers like the way the chrome mics look," explains the show's mixer, Randy Faustino. "But they're the same mic." Faustino has been using the SKM 5200 RF handheld in combination with the MD 5235 dynamic capsule ever since Sennheiser introduced it. Along with fellow television sound mixers Gerald "Butch" McKarge and J. Mark King he established Creative Sound Solutions in 2007 and the trio have since worked with Sennheiser mics on a variety of shows, including "The Next Great American Band," "Rock Star" and "Rock The Cradle!" After using the SKM 5200/MD 5235 combination on FOX's "Don't Forget the Lyrics," Faustino adopted it for "American Idol" in 2008. "I love that mic," he enthuses, "and the continual support I get from Dawn Birr, Sennheiser's product manager for professional products in Old Lyme and Thom Salisbury, their western regional sales manager located in Los Angeles. Their quick response time and technical input really takes some of the pressure off."
The Sennheiser RF vocal mics are very forgiving of the contestants, many of whom have not yet had an opportunity to perfect their technique, Faustino points out. "I've worked with people like Jeffrey Osborne, James Ingram, Patti Austin, Whitney Houston and Luther Vandross; people that have incredible mic technique. But overall the SKM 5200 is a really good mic, and it works for the contestants. They don't have great mic technique, but they're learning. If you go back to the first shows, you'll notice they get better as the weeks progress. Plus, they get notes from us - 'hey, pull back a little when you go into that scream!'"
"From a mixer's perspective, the vocal mic is a dream to work with because of its inherent warmth and presence," he continues. "My experience with Sennheiser microphones is that they sound really good out of the box, which is rare. In live work, as opposed to studio recording, it's often necessary to apply generous amounts of EQ in order to overcome the stage environment. "With these microphones you end up doing a lot less EQ and get a really nice sound."
Faustino uses a mix of Sennheiser evolution 600 and 900 series mics on the show's backing band, which is led by former Whitney Houston touring musical director Rickey Minor. Drum mics include an e 602 II on the kick and e 604s on the toms, with e 914 condensers on overheads and hi-hat. Guitar cabinets are miked with e 906 dynamic cardioids. Backing vocals are handled by wired e 935s, a model that Faustino also favors for his talkback mic. "You can just plug a 935 into a console and go, wow, that sounds good already," he says. "You start doing a little bit of EQ and you can really sweeten it up."
With the visual appeal being as important to show producers as the audio quality, Sennheiser vocal mics, especially the wireless handhelds, have a further advantage, he adds. "You'll notice we don't use the windscreen, but we don't have any problems with popping. We love that!"
ABOUT SENNHEISER ELECTRONIC CORPORATION Sennheiser is a world-leading manufacturer of microphones, headphones and wireless transmission systems. Established in 1945 in Wedemark, Germany, Sennheiser is now a global brand represented in 60 countries around the world with U.S. headquarters in Old Lyme, Connecticut. Sennheiser's pioneering excellence in technology has rewarded the company with numerous awards and accolades including an Emmy, a Grammy, and the Scientific and Engineering Award of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.
PHOTO CAPTION What becomes an Idol? Some would say Adam Lambert has it all... looks, swagger, style, and consistently awesome performances delivered through a chrome Sennheiser SKM 5200 wireless microphone with the dynamic MD 5235 capsule. PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images
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