Microphones Get Lots of Attention

By Dan Daley on December 20, 2018

Last week’s two-day SVG Summit covered a lot of ground, from IP production and workflow to cloud virtualization and the latest on spectrum activity. But, if there was one area that showed a major burst of activity, it was microphones. The show featured several announcements concerning new products and new owners, as well as a look at an ambitious microphone-array system that could have significant impact on how sound is captured from the field of play in the immersive era.

Soft Power
Two wireless receiver products focused on pliant form factors made their debut at the Summit.

Designed specifically for use by NHL officials, Quantum5X’s new RefMicHD is a model QT5100 transmitter with the on/off switch physically integrated into the transmitter’s form factor. Previously, the NHL had been using the QT256 transmitter along with a separate on/off element. The RefMicHD combines all of those functions into a single unit. It underwent trials during regular-season games last season.

Compatible with receivers from both Shure and Lectrosonics, RefMicHD kits are now assigned to each of the league’s 31 arenas, with the system’s electronics installed in a dedicated rack at each.

“The PlayerMic is in use by the NBA and MLB,” said Q5X CEO Paul Johnson, “but this is the first time we’ve had our receivers used on both the player and the officials’ sides.”

Also at the show, Zaxcom, which also specializes in advanced wireless transmitters for the broadcast-sports industry, introduced the ZMT3-Flex wireless transmitter, which uses a form factor and materials that bend and conform to and with the athletes wearing them.

Constructed of a soft yet durable silicon rubber, the ZMT3-Flex provides an elevated level of safety for the professional athlete. The design also features rounded corners, is extremely thin at only 0.4 in. (1.02 cm), and weighs only 3 oz. (85 g).

The ZMT3-Flex can transmit a fully encrypted digital audio signal while simultaneously recording the audio internally and is capable of transmitting audio from a single mono microphone or dual microphones in stereo through two microdot inputs. The lossless internal recording simultaneously provides a catalog of all audio, whether transmitted or not, to a microSD card with timecode. The ZMT3-Flex is also equipped with Zaxcom High Density (ZHD) modulation, which increases the number of available channels at a location, an especially important feature as RF spectrum continues to contract.

“Zaxcom has always been part of the sports and entertainment industry and wanted to develop something that boosted functionally while maximizing player safety,” said Zaxcom President Glenn Sanders.

Consolidation Continues
Also announced at the show, DPA Microphones has been acquired by RCF Group, which acquired loudspeaker manufacturer EAW earlier this year. RCF has manufactured microphones and loudspeakers since 1949 at its facilities in Italy, becoming one of the first European OEM suppliers for international brands. RCF’s PA systems are in leading sports venues, including Bridgestone Arena in Nashville, home to the NHL Predators.

With a history extending back six decades, DPA Microphones has specialized in miniature and flexible microphone and mounts for theatrical and other markets. In 2017, the Danish manufacturer used the AES Show in New York to introduce its CORE microphone-amplifier technology, with which it intended to achieve deeper penetration into broadcast-sports audio.

“We’ve had good market share in sports broadcast, especially in Europe, where our shotgun and lavalier microphones are used by sports broadcasters like Sky Sports in the UK and TV2 in Denmark,” Christopher Spahr, VP, sales and marketing, U.S., told SVG at the time, adding that both ESPN and Fox Sports also use its lavalier and headset mic elements.

Coming Full Circle
During the DTV Audio Group meeting, Sennheiser revealed a development effort around beamforming microphone arrays that have 31 of its MKH 8070 long shotgun microphones installed in a circular array that would theoretically provide seamless coverage of a large area, such as a soccer pitch. Sennheiser’s Brian Glasscock explained that the initiative is aimed at the incipient immersive-audio market, specifically to capture audio as objects from the field. The circular design avoids off-axis spots in field coverage and will increase low-frequency response and directivity, he said.

At 1.5 meters in diameter, the prototype is somewhat ungainly, but Glasscock said it can be reduced by at least a third in the very near future.

Microphones made some major — and major-league — strides forward at the Summit, demonstrating that a lot of people are indeed listening.