The avant-garde architecture of the Musiktheater im Revier (MiR) caused a sensation when unveiled in 1959 in the ‘city of a thousand fires’ – the name referencing the former coal-mining district around Gelsenkirchen, Germany, where gas flames burned through the night. With its successful combination of tradition and modernity, MiR stages a wide variety of events spanning works from the classical opera repertoire, operettas, dance performances, musicals, world premieres and experimental formats. And since 2019, the theatre’s repertoire has been further extended by puppet performances.

The new Sennheiser Digital 6000 systems in use on Hello, Dolly!In early 2024, new wireless channels from the Sennheiser Digital 6000 series made their debut at MiR. Carsten Kirchmeier’s production of the musical comedy Hello, Dolly! used 20 Sennheiser EM 6000 Dante two-channel receivers, 40 SK 6212 ultra-light mini-bodypack transmitters and eight SKM 6000 handheld transmitters for the first time.

A 19-inch rack housing an ASA 3000 active antenna splitter and an ACA 3 antenna combiner is located in an ante-room close to the stage entrance. The same room also has a laptop with Sennheiser’s Wireless Systems Manager (WSM) software, providing a overview of not only the new Digital 6000 systems, but also the theatre’s analogue wireless equipment. This includes an EM 3732-II true diversity receiver (for two SKP 3000 plug-on transmitters), EM 2050 for the sound control room (announcements, lighting rehearsals, etc) and various SKM 5200 handheld transmitters and SK 5212-II bodypack transmitters. Twenty-four analogue wireless channels from the Sennheiser 3000 series are available in the smaller auditorium (Kleines Haus) and the foyer. Including those used for in-ear monitoring and audio description, MiR has more than 75 Sennheiser wireless channels.

The larger venue (Großes Haus) has several Sennheiser antennae throughout the auditorium. One of the special features is that A 5000-CP passive antennas with circular polarisation are not used for IEM purposes, but as receiver antennas for handheld and bodypack transmitters. Two A 5000-CP are installed in the proscenium arch, where two active AD 3700 directional antennae with integrated boosters are also located. For scenarios with a closed safety curtain, two A 3700 active broadband omnidirectional antennas (with integrated AB 3700 antenna boosters) are mounted on the rear wall of the larger auditorium. Other Sennheiser antennas are available for wireless in-ear monitoring and audio description. The battery packs of the handheld transmitters and the mini-bodypack transmitters are recharged in seven Sennheiser L 6000 intelligent charging stations.

‘We have an extremely high proportion of productions with electro-acoustic amplification– a hundred or more audio channels on the mixing console are not uncommon,’ explains Jörg Debbert, head of the sound engineering department. Debbert is part of a dedicated team of audio professionals, together with Dirk Lansing, Jan Wittkowski, Fabian Halseband and Max Kallien.

‘It used to take a huge amount of logistical effort to distribute the theatre’s existing wireless links according to the demands of each production and to supplement them with rented systems,’ Debbert continues. ‘The receivers were in mobile racks that we moved around the theatre as required. But it was often the case that we still weren’t able to meet the demand with our own systems, especially because we sometimes need 40 wireless channels in the large auditorium and ten or more channels in parallel in the smaller theatre. We are really pleased that this huge logistical effort is no longer necessary now – not to mention the costs we save by not having to pay for rented systems.

The heart of the Gelsenkirchen MiR is the large auditorium, the Großes HausIt was clear from the start that the new wireless channels were going to be digital: ‘Otherwise, you can’t handle frequency management properly nowadays,’ says Debbert. ‘Before we acquired the Digital 6000 systems, we looked at products from various suppliers but it was the Sennheiser systems that convinced us. In addition, it was easy to integrate them into our existing infrastructure, which, alongside analogue transmission channels from the Sennheiser 3000 series, also includes wireless in-ear monitoring systems from the Sennheiser 2000 series. We wanted to continue to use our existing equipment, so in order to conveniently manage the analogue and digital wireless channels together, the obvious solution was to couple them with the Wireless Systems Manager. Another advantage was that we have been working with rented Digital 6000 systems for years and our experience with them has been very positive.

‘One of the features that makes my everyday work easier is the threshold of the squelch level, which can be precisely specified in the current version,’ adds Wittkowski. ‘The WSM software then clearly signals which frequency ranges you should not use. During the performances, you can keep an eye on the software’s user interface. In fact, I hardly ever look at the receiver displays anymore. We rarely have problems with external interference. The only thing that happens sometimes is that productions bring their own wireless channels with them, and these have to be integrated into the existing set-up.’

With their Sennheiser Digital Audio Codec, the Digital 6000 systems achieve better sound quality and a greater dynamic range than conventional analogue wireless systems.

‘One of the soloists of our ensemble immediately noticed a positive difference in the sound when his voice was transmitted for the first time with one of the newly acquired SK 6212 bodypack transmitters during an ongoing production – even though he doesn’t hear his voice via in-ear systems during his performances,’ Debbert reports. ‘My personal impression is that the sound quality of the analogue 5000 series is almost on a par with that of the digital 6000 systems. However, when it comes to dynamic resolution, the digital solutions are clearly superior and you can notice that a conventional compander is no longer used.’

‘Even though a typical member of the audience might not notice such details, sound engineers with trained ears will hear the positive effect straight away,’ Lansing says. ‘In a blind comparison, I could clearly tell the difference between analogue and digital wireless transmission.’

The MiM sound team are in unanimous agreement about the ‘very long battery life’ of Digital 6000 systems. ‘A battery life of up to 14 hours means that we can easily rehearse in the morning and in the evening without having to replace or recharge the batteries in the meantime,’ says Wittkowski. ‘And we can also fully rely on the display for the remaining battery life in the Wireless Systems Manager.’

Max Kallien, Fabian Halseband, Per Witte, Jörg Debbert, Dirk Lansing, Jan WittkowskiDebbert likes the fMade in Germany quality seal and that the systems are manufactured in Wedemark. ‘Short communication channels are always an advantage, particularly in our industry – practicable solutions to special challenges can often be found more quickly.’

Support for the new wireless system integration has come from Per Witte (Business Development Manager Germany North - Professional Audio), who has worked with the Gelsenkirchen theatre sound department on behalf of Sennheiser for more than 20 years.

‘At the Musiktheater im Revier, a high level of audio expertise has been combined with our best digital wireless microphone technology. The equipment’s premiere on Hello, Dolly! was a huge success. For me personally, the Digital 6000 series is a jewel in the Sennheiser portfolio, because it is far superior to systems from other suppliers in terms of sound quality and frequency efficiency.’

The Musiktheater im Revier has its own opera ensemble, choir and contemporary dance ensemble, the MiR Dance Company, operated by Musiktheater im Revier GmbH. With around 300 employees, it presents around 300 events each year. For people with a visual impairment, MiR offers audio description for selected performances using Sennheiser EK 1039 Tourguide receivers.


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