27/07/2012 Wedemark/Szeged

Hungary’s Szeged open-air festival enjoys a splendid musical production with the help of Sennheiser, Neumann and Audio Partner

2012 marks the 81st year of the open-air festival which takes place throughout July in Szeged, Hungary. The highlight of this year’s event was a musical production of Dr Jekyll & Mr Hyde where Sennheiser wireless and Neumann digital microphones played a significant role.

The production took place in Dóm Square, where the famous twin-towered Votive Church of Our Lady of Hungary provides a spectacular backdrop. The show was a real ‘team effort’, with Sennheiser’s Global Relations division and Neumann working closely with Audio Partner (Sennheiser’s Hungarian distributor), rental company Votec and sound designer Carsten Kümmel in planning and executing the sound.

In use for the actors were 22 Sennheiser HSP 2 condenser head mics combined with SK 2000 wireless transmitters and 11 EM 2050 receivers. Neumann ‘Solution D’ digital capsules were used on most of the production’s orchestra, including 12 KK 185 D, eight KK 143 D, six KK 184 D, six TLM 103 D microphones and four DMI-8 digital microphone interfaces.

Neumann’s ‘Solution-D’ range achieves high-quality digitisation of the audio signal within the microphone, maintaining noiseless quality and allowing level matching and other processing to be carried out in the digital realm. DSP functions integrated into the microphones can be configured and controlled remotely via the DMI-8 digital interface, including gain setting, pre-attenuation, low-cut, compressor/limiter, de-esser function and a peak limiter. The latter receives the output signal almost directly from the capsule, permitting the safe utilisation of the entire available dynamic range at all times.

“It was very interesting to use the digital microphones on the orchestra this year, there was a great improvement in the signal-to-noise ratio and overall sound quality,” says Carsten Kümmel. “The microphones make it possible to have ‘CD quality’ sound in the live environment. They allow me to place the microphones as if in a recording studio, using less of them, but at a bigger distance from the instrument. For a violin to sound really good, the mic really needs to be more than a metre away.

“The co-operation between Neumann and mixing console manufacturer Innovason also makes a big difference. It is amazing that I can remotely control all of the features of the microphones from their Eclipse console. I can also change the polar pattern of a microphone while the musician is playing. It really helps to get the best possible sound throughout the performance.”

One of the key parts of an orchestral performance is, as Carsten points out, right at the beginning. Here, again, the Neumann digital microphones make a big difference. “There is a magic moment shortly before an opera begins. The audience and orchestra are both very quiet. In the very short, but very important, moment as the conductor raises his baton, the orchestra microphones are all open,” he says.

“Because of the length of the audio lines, with analogue mics you will hear noise, due to the copper conductor and interference from nearby electrical equipment. But as digital mics transmit the audio signals in digits – and no other devices such as preamps or external A/D converters are involved that could add noise – it is as silent as if the orchestra is playing acoustically.”

Rental company Votec also took the opportunity to organise a technical workshop on the first day of the festival, showing the advantages of having a complete digital audio signal path from microphone right through to loudspeaker. Attendees included sound engineers from throughout Hungary and Russia, including Vladimir Ryabenko, head of sound at St Petersburg’s famous Marinsky Theatre.

“The workshop covered the entire digital workflow, including a presentation on Neumann digital microphones and Sennheiser wireless equipment as used on the show,” says Imre Selmeczi from Audio Partner. “Carsten also gave a presentation, which included examples of his work using digital microphone technology and an explanation of the system for Dr Jekyll & Mr Hyde. Afterwards we conducted an on-site demonstration in Dóm Square, where participants could experience the advantages of using digital microphones within an all-digital workflow, in terms of sound quality and controllability.”

The system performed perfectly and Carsten was very happy with the results. “Everything worked as expected and I was really happy with how the digital microphones performed,” he says. “A musical show like this is ideal for them, they make a real difference.”

Pierre Morant, global relations manager EMEA at Sennheiser, was also very pleased at how another close collaboration with Audio Partner delivered a superb result. “It was a great pleasure to be present at the Szeged open-air festival supporting Audio Partner,” he says. “This event was a fantastic success overall.”


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