New York City – November 21, 2013 – Audio specialist Sennheiser announced that The Lion King, Broadway's fifth longest running musical, is now using its HMDC 26-II broadcast headsets to ensure intelligible communications among key stage personnel, including the stage manager and spot operator. The headsets, which provide a critical function prior to, during and after performances, are used to call operational cues to spotlight operators and many others involved in the production.
The success of The Lion King is celebrated well beyond Broadway, where it has captured many awards including a Tony for Best Musical directly following its opening in 1997. The production, which is now considered an indelible part of Broadway's musical fabric, originally debuted at the New Amsterdam Theatre in 1997 and moved to the Minskoff Theater in 2006 where it has been ever since.
"We purchased the Sennheiser HMDC 26-II headsets for two primary reasons," says Alain Van Achte, head of sound department at Lion King. "First, by using these headsets, our entire team can hear the calling and direction better. The second reason was to protect the hearing of the staff, particularly the spot operators who are perched up near the speaker clusters. They are in such close proximity to the sound system that the safety factor became very important."
The HMDC 26-II headsets are primarily designed for use in live sound and broadcast applications in extremely noisy environments. The headset is extremely lightweight, features outstanding passive noise attenuation and Sennheiser's patented NoiseGard active noise reduction technology.
Head Follow Spot Operator Doug Graf, who receives calls from the stage manager and then gives instructions to other spot operators, says that the new headsets dramatically increased both hearing and speech intelligibility. "The HMDC 26-II comes in especially handy when I am in directly on my spotlight perch front of the [speaker] clusters," he says. "I noticed that I could turn the volume down and leave it at a comfortable level. When the volume is quieter, I can still hear all the dialog on stage from the show feed and it allows me to focus even more on the task at hand."
Graf particularly appreciates the NoiseGard noise cancellation feature: "This really blocks out all the low end and boominess of the sound," he observes. "There is a scene called 'The Stampede' where there is a ton of low end being pumped through the house subwoofers — the Sennheisers cancel all of this out so I can keep hearing the dialog clearly."
With eight full performances per week, form factor and comfort become critical, says Follow Spot Operator Brendan Nolan: "When you are doing 2-1/2 hour shows almost every day, and on some days doing two shows, you will take your headphones off and really feel it on your ears. But not with these headsets — they are very lightweight. Also, the fact that you can flip up one of the ear cups is great in case you need to hear something going on right around you."
Van Achte recalls a recent special event at the Minskoff Theater when he donned the HMDC 26-IIs: "The crowd was incredibly loud and boisterous and it was a full house. It reminded me of a celebration during Mardi Gras in New Orleans," he says. "There was no way that I could sustain that decibel level for two hours, so I called back for the sound crew to bring me one of the new Sennheiser headsets. I put them on, and they really saved the day for me because I was able to hear everything. I actually mixed the entire show on them, and it proved to me how well the product works."
Van Achte considers the purchase of the new Sennheiser HMDC 26-II as an investment in quality: "There was no second guessing about purchasing them," he added. "They were a little more expensive than other headsets, but Sennheiser backs them with a two year warranty and we know they are willing to stand behind them."
Sennheiser is a world-leading manufacturer of microphones, headphones and wireless transmission systems. Established in 1945 in Wedemark, Germany, Sennheiser is now a global brand represented in 60 countries around the world with U.S. headquarters in Old Lyme, Connecticut. Sennheiser's pioneering excellence in technology has rewarded the company with numerous awards and accolades including an Emmy, a Grammy, and the Scientific and Engineering Award of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.
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1) Alain Van Achte, head of sound department at Lion King, donning a pair of Sennheiser HMDC 26-IIs
2) Follow Spot Operator Brendan Nolan in his perch, wearing the Sennheiser HMDC 26-II headsets and operating the main spotlight.
3) The Sennheiser HMDC 26-II is designed to excel in extremely noisy broadcast and live sound environments.