NILES, IL, October 26, 2012 — In today’s environment of RF-intensive production, there is no room for error in system design, frequency coordination, and deployment. Major entertainment productions like live award shows are especially challenging. Companies like Soundtronics specialize in delivering flawless wireless performance in high-profile live performance and broadcast situations. In this no-holds-barred quest for perfection, Soundtronics has adopted Shure Axient wireless as a key tool.
Speaking from the Nokia Theater in Los Angeles while preparing for the September 23 Primetime Emmy Awards telecast on ABC, Soundtronics majority partner Dave Bellamy explained, “Our business model is to take the burden of wireless performance away from our clients and put it on our own shoulders. Our clients need to know that we will supply their event with the best that’s available anyplace on this planet. That’s one of the things we’re known for. It’s our philosophy, and our job, to provide whatever works best, and Axient fits that model. I’m definitely a fan.”
Soundtronics is much more than an equipment supplier. For high-profile gigs like the Emmys, GRAMMYs, and Oscars, they typically design and install the entire wireless system, including frequency coordination. Channel counts for such events routinely run well over 100, with RF for microphone and in-ear monitoring systems along with all communications and field production crews, requiring high levels of organization to prepare for the unexpected.
The thing Bellamy appreciates most about Axient is its frequency diversity. “It’s a unique concept, actually like a second layer of diversity, but implemented in a way that detects and avoids interference with the ability to switch seamlessly to a second frequency,” he notes. “It works extremely well, and there is literally nothing else that does that. That’s an enormously valuable feature to have.”
Shure Axient also impressed Soundtronics for other aspects of its design, such as its precision RF filtering. “The selectivity of the receiver is much better than anything we’ve seen to date,” notes Bellamy. “That means that interference that could affect other systems, like if a competing carrier signal pops up that would normally be considered to be too close, probably won’t affect Axient.”
This sort of devotion to excellence is standard procedure at Soundtronics, which has developed its own proprietary, patent-pending Phoenix antenna system, in its drive to maximize RF performance for its clients. “It’s actually multiple diversity systems in one, heavily bandpassed, and with antennas deployed throughout the facility,” explains Bellamy. “Our goal is to achieve transmitter line of sight to at least one antenna location, wherever that transmitter may be during the show. That allows us to dramatically lower the sensitivity of the system, which eliminates most of the effects of outside interference and interference from sources on stage like LEDs, moving lights, and others.”
Soundtronics has noted other operational advantages of Axient as well, including its sound quality. “At our office, we have a computer-controlled acoustic test chamber called the Profiler,” explains Bellamy. “It gives us the frequency response profile of every microphone we have, so we know they are right before we send them out. With Axient, we’ve noticed that the profile is slightly different than Shure’s earlier model. That alone doesn’t mean much, but I couple that with the reaction of people I respect, audio mixers and engineers, and that is my reference. Everybody I talk to says that Axient sounds better, and, in my world, that makes it better.”
Bellamy is also a fan of Axient’s rechargeable battery system. “It’s a giant step forward, and actually offers more reliability than alkalines, in terms of battery life but also because it tells you exactly how much time is left,” he says. “If you have 20 minutes left in the show, and your battery indicator is down to the last brick, that’s anxiety. But Axient tells me I have, say, 48 minutes left, and I know it’s accurate, so I can relax. You can also do a quick charge in the middle of the show if needed. It really opens up a lot of avenues in terms of how we manage our resources during a production.”
In fact, Dave Bellamy is so impressed with Axient that he describes it in historical context. “As I see it, there are three significant milestones in the evolution of wireless microphones, and the introduction of Shure Axient is one of them,” he says.
In 1947-49, the first practical wireless microphone was invented and successfully used, though it never became a successful commercial product. “Oddly enough, the gentleman who invented it didn’t apply for a patent because he was operating on an illegal frequency,” Bellamy notes. “So even when there was only one wireless system in operation any place in the world, there was already a frequency problem!”
The next two important events occurred around 1975-76. “First, John Nady introduced companding, while at about the same time, Sony introduced the first diversity system,” says Bellamy. “Taken together, those advances really formed the basis of most of the wireless we see today. And, it’s just my opinion, but the next most important year I can think of in this business was 2011, when Shure introduced the Axient system. It’s really that innovative.”Needless to say, Shure Axient has found a home in Soundtronics’ uncompromising quest for wireless perfection. “Our philosophy as a company is that profit is the byproduct of performance and productivity. The better we get at what we do, the more successful we can become. That’s why we developed the Phoenix antenna system, and why we like using Axient,” concludes Bellamy. “It gives us an extra layer of reliability that other systems don’t have, and increases our ability to provide seamless RF performance.”