Female Vocalist of the Year nominee Kelsea Ballerini

Broadcast live from Bridgestone Arena in Nashville, Tennessee, the 53rd Annual Country Music Association (CMA) Awards gathered the biggest names in country music for its regular round of appreciation and celebration. Throughout the evening, Sennheiser’s new Digital 6000 wireless system served both live and viewing audiences.

Early in the evening, Female Vocalist of the Year nominee Kelsea Ballerini took the stage to deliver a stripped-down version of ‘Homecoming Queen’, the leading single off of her latest album, using a crystal-encrusted Sennheiser SKM 6000 handheld transmitter, coupled with an MD 9235 capsule. ‘She loves that microphone, and we love it too,’ her FOH engineer, Chris Diener, says.

‘It is not only a great sounding mic but it is part of her look as well. We take it to intimate acoustic performances, to arenas and everything in between,’ he says. ‘We’ve been using the Digital 6000 now for two years,’ he says. ‘Before we began using it, we did a shoot-out among several systems. We had several wireless systems and capsules from every manufacturer, and we all settled unanimously on the Sennheiser. It was a true, triple blind listening test, and we never looked back. Every night we perform – whether it is an acoustic show or an arena thing – it just sounds great on her voice.

Lady Antebellum received a nomination for Vocal Group of the Year, and performed a mashup of Halsey’s ‘Graveyard’ and the band’s latest single, ‘What If I Never Get Over You’ as a four-part vocal, with a subtle guitar and piano accompaniment. ‘I feel like the off-axis response of the MMD 9235 capsule is really treating us well on this stage, and that we are able to attain really good isolation of Hillary [Scott], Charles [Kelley] and Dave’s [Haywood] vocals,’ says Brett ‘Scoop’ Blanden, who handles their FOH and broadcast. ‘Hillary is singing a pretty good distance from the microphone, and we are getting a good tonal response. Meantime, Charles and Dave sing closer to the mic – it is a good fit for all of them. I’ve kept all three of them on the same capsule to encourage the natural blending of their voices and harmonic structures.’

Blake SheltonCurrently, Lady Antebellum are using the Digital 6000 wireless system for ‘fly dates’ overseas, as well as on award shows such as the CMAs. ‘When the Digital 6000 came out, it was a game-changer for us,’ says monitor engineer Pete Bowman. ‘The system has always been solid for us RF-wise, and we never have to worry about drop-outs. Also we love the Dante output command channel. We are pretty reliant on that feature for our full shows.’

One of the most memorable performances of the evening came from Blake Shelton, who performed his ‘God’s Country’, which won Single of the Year. Shelton’s vocals were captured using an SMK 6000 handheld transmitter, coupled with an MMD 935 capsule. ‘We’ve been using the Digital 6000 on the road for about three years now and the RF is unbeatable,’ observes Brad Baisley, ‘We also love that capsule for Blake’s voice. He is on wedge monitors, and with wedges, it is a whole different ballgame to get the vocal loud enough without feedback. The MMD 935s work really well in this regard.’

Meantime, Shelton’s drums were captured using a combination of Sennheiser evolution wired microphones, explains drummer Tracy Broussard: ‘We use Sennheiser mics on the entire kit, and it has been fundamental to my drum sound. The mic performance provides consistency at both monitors and FOH, and I know whatever sound my drums have, they will be accurately represented in the house and in the broadcast.

At this year’s CMAs, Broussard also used Sennheiser’s new IE 500 Pro in-ear Monitors while on stage: ‘I want a natural sound, and the IE 500 Pros definitely represent that,’ he says. ‘I also like that they are a low profile in my ear – they are not bulky. Having natural sounding ear monitors like the IE 500 Pro, I can hear my drums exactly as they are meant to be heard so I can actually focus on what I am playing.’

Luke Combs picked up Male Vocalist of the Year, and also performed his hit ‘Beer Never Broke My Heart’ through an SKM 6000 transmitter coupled with a Neumann KK 205 capsule and an EM 6000 receiver. P!nk and Brandi Carlile made special appearances during the awards, each using the SKM 6000/EM 6000 pairing. P!nk sang through a Sennheiser MD 9235 capsule, while Carlile sang through a Neumann KK 205 capsule.

Tom Davis served as Audio Producer for the event, with Paul Sandweiss as Audio Coordinator. ATK/Audiotek provided the sound system with FOH mixers Patrick Baltzell (Production) and Rick Shimer (Music). The broadcast music mix was handled by New Jersey-based Music Mix Mobile, with co-music mixers Jay Vicari and John Harris; Mark King served as Broadcast Production Mixer. Stage monitoring was handled by Tom Pesa and Jason Spence, and James Stoffo served as RF Coordinator/Microphone Tech.  

‘It is always good to do these CMAs,’ Baisley concludes. ‘The whole team is impressive, from the backline, to the RF department, to Sennheiser’s support. In particular, ATK and its staff and engineers are among the best professionals in the business, and this show is always an enjoyable and fun experience.’ Baisley – and other artists using Sennheiser gear – have felt the company’s presence throughout the entire duration of the annual award show. ‘The Sennheiser Artist Relations Team has been here for almost a week and has taken care of everything we needed. We are all Sennheiser for this show, and it’s been great.’

More: www.sennheiser.com

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