Drake decides on Digital 6000 for Billboard Music Awards

The T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas was packed for the recent 2017 Billboard Music Awards, which offered up a star-studded evening punctuated by performances from some of the music industry’s top contemporary talent – all on Sennheiser wireless systems.

Drake, Beyoncé, Blake Shelton, Camila Cabello, Miley Cyrus, Céline Dion, Bruno Mars and Nicki Minaj were among the artists to grace the stage with renditions of their hits while being backed by the firm’s equipment.

Nicki Minaj opened the show singing through a Sennheiser SKM 5200 transmitter, coupled with an ME 5005 capsule, for a medley that included her single No Frauds and a special guest appearance by Lil Wayne. After that, it was all digital – with former Fifth Harmony member Camila Cabello utilising her Sennheiser Digital 6000 series wireless for the live debut of her solo singles I Have Questions and Crying in the Club. Miley Cyrus performed her country-tinged comeback single Malibu live for the first time as well, through a Digital 9000.

Céline Dion then took to the stage to reprise her groundbreaking hit My Heart Will Go On, in honour of Titanic‘s 20th anniversary, using a Digital 6000 system. The Sennheiser digital trend continued as Bruno Mars delivered a passionate performance of his latest single Versace on the Floor on his own Digital 9000 wireless system.

But many will say Drake stole the show – not only for winning 13 awards on the night, including Artist of the Year, but also for delivering a marquee performance of his single Gyalchester from a stage in the middle of the fountains at the Bellagio hotel (pictured), with help from his new Sennheiser EM 6000 wireless receiver paired with an SKM 9000 transmitter and MD 9235 capsule

For Drake’s sound engineer Demetrius Moore, the sound and rejection of the MD 9235 combined with the durability of the SKM 9000 transmitter and the reliability of the EM 6000 receiver were the recipe for success for this unique staging, according to Sennheiser. “The wireless had to be reliable the way this was set up,” Moore said. “The man was out on an island in the middle of that fountain, so there was no way to get to him if something went wrong.”

Fortunately, Moore was already familiar with the performance of the EM 6000’s Long Range Transmission mode from his use of the Digital 9000 system – where this functionality originates from – having toured with Drake over the last two years on that system. “On tour Drake loves to perform in the crowd, 100 feet away or more at times, and we’ve never had an issue,” he explained. “In this case he came in all the way from the Bellagio loading dock to get to the stage and as soon as he was out the door we had signal.”

Past experience also made Moore confident that the SKM 9000 transmitters could hold up to some moisture amidst the roaring fountain. “We were using the SKM 9000 sticks on the Jungle tour, and in part of the show there would be a downpour of rain,” he recalled. “We never had a problem because the durability of the SKM 9000 is so good. Some mics will cut out if you drop them hard or something, but with these you just pick it up and keep going.”

With a second transmitter and capsule hidden on stage and a second transmitter on hand, Moore had plenty of redundancy even though he was confident he would not need it.

When it came to capsule selection for the event, off-axis rejection was a priority. “We did a test with the capsule to see how much sound from the water bursts it would pick up,” Moore continued. “The rejection was great. Nothing overpowered the vocals, not even the pyrotechnics.”

Moore also appreciates the mix-ready sound the MD 9235 provides on Drake’s voice: “It picks up the natural quality of his voice,” he said. “I’m not EQing a lot to get it. It’s a clean sound and even flat it sounds good.”


Photo: Ethan Miller/Getty Images