Some people watch The Super Bowl for the football, others for the commercials; I watch it for the sound. No other event demonstrates the current state-of-the-art for location audio better than the Super Bowl. This year’s event proved that there is no substitute for having enough hands on the mixing board.
I like to experience the Super Bowl on my large-room system which includes Dunlavy Signature SC VI speakers for the front left and right, and a specially-constructed Dunlavy SC IVA for the center, all driven by a Pass Labs X-150-3 three-channel amplifier. I’ve had these speakers since 1996, and although they were only $26,500 new I still find them competitive with many of the mega-priced super speaker systems I hear at CES.
This year’s event featured great sound during the game itself. Fox Sports included multiple microphones on principal players so that many of the hits and between-play banter were discernable in the mix. Occasionally a particular player’s audio was overly prominent – some of the grunts and less than savory bits of conversation threatened to bleed into the national airwaves, but not major gaffes occurred. I wish the same could have been said for the halftime entertainment.
The Black Eyed Peas show included stadium-sized special effects, such as the on-field dancers’ multi-colored lighted uniforms and high-definition Jumbotron graphics. But four lead singers plus musical cameos by Slash and Usher proved to be more balls than the sound engineers could juggle successfully.
The first sign of trouble came when Fergie sang her first lead solo part – her microphone was turned off. Only after half a phrase did the hands on the mixing board discover the right pot and, viola’ – sound. Fergie’s mic problems continued throughout the show with many of her leads buried instead of popping out of the mix.
Usher’s guest appearance had even more severe mic problems. You could hear, and see him adjusting his headset throughout his performance with little positive effect other than a temporary increase in volume followed by more thin midrangy vocals. To me it sounded as if the battery in his remote headset microphone was in the process of dying – at least the sonic effects duplicated what I’ve seen during battery failures – gradual loss of output coupled with EQ shifts. I wonder what Usher said off-stage when he finished his tune. I bet it was more than merely, thanks…
But other than the persistent microphone and balance issues – will i. am was consistently too loud and forward in the mix – the Black Eyed Peas sound was impressive. The bass, percussion, and backing tracks were all loud and clear, all the complex rhythmic textures came through beautifully. Even the balance between Slash’s guitar licks and the rest of the band was handled well.
Overall, the sound at the Super Bowl was very good. Next year’s broadcaster, NBC, will hopefully, do at least as well…