Seal’s “Commitment� Extends to Sennheiser and Neumann

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OLD LYME, Conn. – October 13, 2010: Pop music superstar Seal is set to dominate airwaves and iTunes playlists the world over with his sixth studio album, Commitment, a collection of original soul-infused pop gems that pulse with the same spirit as the works that brought him to prominence in the mid-1990s. The three-time Grammy Award-winner teamed up with fifteen-time Grammy Award-winning producer David Foster not just to record the new songs, but to help shape them to their ultimate form, which was often quite far from the original seed.

Throughout the months-long creation and recording process, Seal relied on both a Neumann KMS 105 live vocal microphone and his personal vintage Neumann U 67, the former for recording scratch ideas with fidelity worthy of retention in the final mix and the latter for final takes. To promote the new album, Seal

is launching a promo tour that will have him crisscrossing Europe and then the U.S. during early fall. To convey Seal’s music with the force of conviction that it requires, the tour relies on a full complement of Sennheiser microphones and wireless personal monitors, including a Sennheiser SKM 5200 handheld wireless transmitter with a Neumann KK 105-S capsule for Seal’s vocals.

Most of the recording took place at Foster’s California residence, which has been converted into a high-end recording studio replete with different sonic textures, ranging from wet and splashy (e.g. the bathroom!) to refined and oaken (e.g. the master bedroom’s study alcove). To record quick vocal ideas in the control room, co-producer/engineer Jochem van der Saag and engineer David Russell gave Seal a Neumann KMS 105 live vocal condenser with a Neve 1073 DPD preamp monitored through a George Massenburg Labs 8200 parametric EQ and a Manley SLAM! compressor. “The KMS 105 is a great mic for this purpose because its sound is great enough to be used on the record when magic happens in the room, on the spot,� said van der Saag. “Of course that happened many times and the final mix contains quite a lot of the KMS 105. To my way of thinking, there is something very comfortable about the singer being in the same room with everyone else when the arrangement is coming together. With the KMS 105 there, we could get that vibe without the risk of losing one of Seal’s inspired ideas.�

“Everyone had a lot of creative freedom to explore ideas, both musically and sonically,� said Russell. “To make sure that we were going to capture the very best vocals for the album, we decided to have a blind shootout with five vocal mics.� The collection included Seal’s vintage Neumann U 67, which he has used on several of his previous albums. Only one of the mics qualified as “bad� for Seal’s voice, and among the remaining four it was a question of which was the very best. “Some were a little too boomy and Seal has a pretty boomy voice to begin with,� explained Russell. “We all agreed on one of the mics, which had the right overall balance, openness, and clarity. It turned out to be Seal’s U 67!�

Seal recorded his final vocal tracks in the bedroom study with the Neumann U 67. “I didn’t print any EQ or dynamics on the way in,� said van der Saag. “I personally like to leave the dynamics as natural as can be while recording because the digital domain allows for plenty of dynamic range and the potential to easily manipulate dynamics ‘manually’ with automation during mixdown. For parallel reasons, I avoid EQ on the way in as well.� In addition to the Neumann KMS 105 and U 67 for vocals, the engineers used a Neumann TLM 67 and Neumann KM 184 on acoustic guitars and KM 184s for drum overheads.

Seal’s live set benefits from that same high-end fidelity with microphones from Sennheiser and Neumann. Seal uses a Sennheiser SKM 5200 wireless handheld vocal mic with a Neumann KK 105-S capsule – the same capsule used to record the rough tracks on Commitment. “Seal’s vocals have a wonderful, full-bandwidth sound,� said FOH engineer John Robbins, who handled three tours for Steely Dan. “In addition to that, the wireless signal never drops out, even when I take it all the way to FOH to mess with it. I’ve been working with Seal for two years, and I’ve never had a wireless problem, nor have I ever had to break out the spare. That can be said of all the other Sennheiser and Neumann mics on stage as well. We have one pack of these mics for touring in North America and a second identical set for touring in Europe. We have no backups because these mics are so reliable we’ve never needed them. Despite being on the road all the time in conditions of extreme heat and humidity, the Sennheiser and Neumann products not only perform, they perform with studio-grade fidelity.� Sennheiser evolution series microphones, which are tailored to convey specific instruments with maximum effect, pick up all of Seal’s instrumentation.

Seal’s monitor engineer, Chris Lantz, was among the first engineers to use wireless personal monitors in the early 1990s with the Eagles. “Sennheiser quickly took the technological lead and has been setting the pace ever since,� he said. “We just switched over to the new ew 300 IEM G3 system, which, together with Sennheiser’s Wireless Systems Manager (WSM) software, makes my job much less stressful. The frequency scan feature is easy and robust and the ability to sync each unit automatically has reduced what used to be an hour-long set-up job to less than ten minutes! The band loves the sound, too; they’ve compared it to listening to a CD.� Lantz uses a pair of Sennheiser e 914 microphones for audience capture to inspire Seal and his band with the energy of his fans.

Lantz appreciates Sennheiser’s Global Relations support team, which helps him keep current with the latest gear for wireless reliability. “You get a lot of information in this industry by word of mouth or by blogs or whatever,� he said. “I’ve been impressed at how ready the folks at Sennheiser are to visit us to make sure everything is up to date and running optimally. They’ve taken the time to walk me through the concepts, the hardware, and the software so that all of the shows I do go off without a hitch.�