Broadway is widely recognized as maintaining the "gold standard" when it comes to live sound production quality; its sound designers routinely specify Sennheiser and Neumann microphones and wireless equipment for their unrivalled sonic performance on both the stage and in the orchestra pit. For LEAP OF FAITH, Sound Designer John Shivers and Associate Sound Designer/Mixer David Patridge specified Neumann digital mics on the brass and woodwind sections of the orchestra, which were then fed into a Neumann DMI before reaching the DiGiCo SD7 digital console.
LEAP OF FAITH has two separate orchestra pits, both of which use the digital microphones. The pit below the stage and directly in front of the audience contain the woodwind section, which uses four Neumann KM 184 Ds as overheads and four TLM 103 Ds in a low position, approximately 15 inches off the floor and resting at a 120-degree angle towards the instrument. The other pit was situated below and to the rear of the stage and contained the brass section, which was miked with four TLM 103 Ds in a low position similar to that of the woodwinds.
"We had already specified the analog versions of these microphones when Masque Sound brought up the possibility of our using digital microphones on this show," Shivers recalls. "We jumped at the chance to use them since I am always interested in increasing the overall sound quality of the production. We didn't get a chance to A/B these against their analog counterparts in a controlled environment, but my sense is that there is an increased clarity and transparency to these microphones."
"These microphones exhibit an open, detailed sound," Patridge adds. "I think additional clarity is evident in the high frequency range and the microphones themselves require less EQ. As for the noise floor, it is non-existent: these microphones are absolutely pristine."
According to Patridge, the benefits of using Neumann digital mics in the theater extend well beyond just the pristine sound, since many parameters such as shelving, padding and even polar patterns can be remote controlled from the FOH position*: "The pit can be a difficult area to access, and during sound checks I often have to send somebody in there to ensure there is no shelving or padding on the mics," he observes. "With the Neumann digital mics, I can control all these settings from software interface on the console, which saves time and gives my production team one less thing to worry about."
Shivers agrees that being able to control the microphones from a remote location is beneficial: "If a musician is playing particularly loud, having the ability to go to a control panel and adjust the padding could be very helpful. Also, having the capability to remotely switch to a hyper-cardioid from a cardioid pattern could give you a tighter sound and more rejection without having to move the microphone position. But for me, the audio quality is always most important."
Prior to its official opening on Broadway on April 26th, LEAP OF FAITH was in previews for three straight weeks, during which time the Neumann digital microphones were put through their paces. "We were very impressed with how they sounded right out of the box," Shivers says. "We knew from the reputation of the company that it would be an improved product, and now we can assuredly say that it is. The quality of these microphones is of a very, very high standard and I would love to use them again."
*(available in the Neumann D-01 microphone, which features 15-switchable polar patterns at the click of a mouse).
Greg Thymium of the LEAP OF FAITH woodwinds section plays into Neumann TLM 103 D digital microphone in the low position and a Neumann KM 184 D digital microphone in the overhead position (photo: Cheryl Fleming).
The Neumann KM 184 D is among the digital microphones currently being used in the LEAP OF FAITH musical production on Broadway (photo: Cheryl Fleming).
The Neumann TLM 103 D digital microphone was used in the low position on both woodwinds and brass during LEAP OF FAITH.