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QUEBEC CITY, CANADA – OCTOBER 2008: Directed by Frédéric Dubois and staged in the recently renovated Capitol, Quebec City’s oldest theatre, this new production of Les Misérables has broken new ground in terms of its simple and direct staging, high-end cast, and audio quality. With 32 live microphones on stage, nothing was left to chance and the new Sennheiser MKE 1 lavaliere mic proved an invaluable asset.

Richard Lachance, vice-president of international development at Solotech, oversees audio production and managed the selection of the required clip-on microphones and wireless systems for the show. According to Lachance, “One of the main sound challenges for Les Mis was that the audio had to be 5dB to 6dB louder than the average Broadway-type show, resulting in an average level of 88dB to 90dB SPL. And for such a small theatre like the Capitol, this was a real challenge. So, we turned to Sennheiser and their latest innovation, the MKE 1 lavaliere microphone.”

Lachance describes how a unique placement of the microphones made achieving a higher dB possible. “Due to their super-small size, we were able to attach the MKE 1 directly onto performers’ cheeks with make-up and skin tape, resulting in excellent gain before feedback.” In addition, the combination of the mic’s miniature size, make-up and skin tape made them virtually invisible to the audience.

“With a cast covering a wide range of ages along with different singing and speaking styles, the microphone had to showcase these differences. The actors could not all sound the same,” continued Lachance. “The MKE 1 did a beautiful job of rendering these subtle shades and characterizations. The sound was just crystal-clear. Musicians and critics alike paid notice. The entire production was performed in French and the intelligibility was a hundred percent. You could hear every word, every nuance.”

Despite the considerable potential for the microphones to sweat out in the demanding conditions posed by Les Misérables, especially by the very intense lighting system, Lachance was impressed with the MKE 1’s imperviousness to moisture. “We didn’t lose a single microphone to moisture even through many weeks of performances,” he said. “You always hope to get a certain number of performances out of a lav before replacement. To date, the MKE 1s have ‘out-sweat’ other brands and are still going strong!”

Lachance summed up his experiences with the MKE 1, “We knew we had a winner with the MKE 1 during the joint Montréal/Quebec rock opera production of ‘Starmania’ earlier this year, so we placed our order for forty pieces to be used for Les Mis. We used the new microphone with Sennheiser SK 5212 transmitters and EM 3732 receivers. Simply put, it is a fantastic microphone and an outstanding, rock-solid wireless system. I believe the MKE 1 to be the most interesting engineering breakthrough for the audio market in 2008. It sounds crystal-clear and natural, just like un-amplified opera singers but louder. Nobody could believe how clean and present the sound was, including the musicians.”

The Sennheiser MKE 1 omni-directional lavaliere microphone features an ultra-small 3.3 mm diameter capsule with a flexible, molded cable. Frequency response is 20 to 20kHz (2.5dB), with a sensitivity of 5 mV/Pa and an A-weighted self-noise of 27dB. The MKE 1 is fitted with a three-pin special plug for the SK 5212, SK 5012, SK 250, SK 50 and SK 3063 body-pack transmitters or available in a version with unterminated cable.

SENNHEISER 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.

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PHOTO CREDIT Francis Gaudreau