The Super Bowl is arguably the most wireless-intensive live event every year, with thousands of devices vying for clear spectrum. Leading up to the big game, the 2019 host city of Atlanta saw a wide range of football activities, concert events, broadcasting, and fan experiences. To ensure uninterrupted operation and outstanding sound quality across these events, Shure wireless systems were selected for game day, including the flagship Axient Digital wireless system and PSM 1000 in-ear monitors.
All RF usage was planned and managed by NFL Lead Frequency Coordinator Karl Voss. Primary audio supplier ATK Audiotek again brought in experts from Orlando-based Professional Wireless Systems (PWS) to meet the challenge of delivering pristine audio for the on-field entertainment. PWS handled Gladys Knight’s rendition of the U.S. National Anthem among other pregame festivities, plus the Maroon 5 halftime show and the referee’s critical microphone.
Professional Wireless Systems RF engineer, Gary Trenda, chose Shure wireless again, explaining, “It’s our second straight year using Axient Digital as our preferred system, which has several advantages in covering a football field. The Quadversity antenna system increases reliability and range. No matter where your transmitter is, you’re always closer to antennas than you would be with a regular diversity setup. That’s a huge advantage to us because the stage design and location are typically not yet finalized at the time when we are designing the RF distribution and specifying the wireless equipment.”
In the 30 minutes before kickoff, Axient Digital got the game broadcast off to a solid start. Activities like the Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year Award, presented to Chris Long of Philadelphia, by previous winner J.J. Watt of Houston, used an AD2 handheld transmitter with KSM8 mic element. Presentation of the colors used AD1 bodypack transmitters on the Sergeant and drummers in the color guard. Chloe x Halle then sang “America The Beautiful” using AD2/KSM9 handhelds, followed by the National Anthem, sung by Gladys Knight on the ADX2FD/KSM8 microphone, using Shure’s unique frequency diversity feature.
For the coin toss, referee John Parry was double-miked with twin Axient analog AXT100 bodypack transmitters, also in frequency diversity mode. Parry used the system for penalty calls throughout the game, so the referee’s mic was always under the microscope. Since changing to Axient analog several years ago, referee audio has been consistently tight.
“Shure frequency diversity feature offers big benefits,” Trenda said. “With two active frequencies operating simultaneously, we can avoid interference by switching seamlessly to the second channel. For the referee system, we extend that redundancy by using two microphones and even two receivers, one on house AC and the other plugged into a UPS battery backup system. That gives us two fully redundant audio paths, so it would take a pretty catastrophic failure to lose the referee audio.”
The halftime show was a Shure-driven event, with Adam Levine’s vocals delivered via an ADX2FD/SM58 microphone. In addition, Levine and Maroon 5 lead guitarist James Valentine used the new ADX1 bodypack systems for their guitars. The ADX series of Axient Digital incorporates Shure’s ShowLink system, which provides full remote control of all transmitter functions by the system operator. This backchannel command and control system was powered by three AD610 ShowLink Access Points, strategically placed around Mercedes-Benz Stadium.
“Throughout the day, PWS’ Cameron Stuckey was monitoring all the Shure wireless systems with the Wireless Workbench software,” Trenda said. “With Workbench and the AD610 Access Points, we can control all aspects of the ADX series transmitters. We can actually change frequencies, and adjust other functions remotely. This provides an extra measure of reliability and confidence that you need at an event like the Super Bowl.”
In fact, Shure products were spotted at a wide range of Super Bowl Week events. During the game, surround sound listeners enjoyed audio ambience from a range of Shure microphones, including VP88 stereo mics in mid-side mode with KSM313 ribbons, paired Beta 181 condenser mics, and roof-mounted KSM44A condensers in X-Y configuration, all strategically placed around the stadium by sound engineer Dave Grundtvig, to capture the crowd’s excitement.
During the week, 48 Axient Digital channels were deployed at Super Bowl press conferences by the NFL, the Rams, and the Patriots, plus Opening Night at State Farm Arena and at Super Bowl live fan events. Shure MX418 gooseneck microphones were spotted on podiums for speeches and interviews in the Georgia World Congress Center.
At the annual NFL Honors awards show on Saturday, ATK Audiotek provided 20 channels of Axient Digital, six channels of UHF-R wireless mics, and used PSM 1000 for all in-ear systems. Another highlight of the week was the first Bud Light Super Bowl Music Fest, where daily concert events included Bruno Mars on Axient Digital, Aerosmith on Axient analog, and Cardi B with her signature gold UHF-R handheld wireless transmitter.
Shure wireless systems were seen at official events around Atlanta leading up to Super Bowl Sunday, with hundreds of Axient Digital microphones and PSM 1000 in-ear systems in the most demanding situations. It all culminated on Sunday night, with another series of performances during the game itself.
“The Super Bowl requires a lot of preparation and specialized equipment, and Shure is a big part of that,” Trenda said. “Once again this year, we had no equipment issues at all during pregame or the halftime show, so it’s fair to say that Axient Digital with Quadversity is our preferred wireless. It’s a proven product that gives us the reliability required for a live broadcast event like the Super Bowl.”