Jessie J Alive with Sennheiser

Complementing Jessie J’s Alive tour was equipment and crew which included monitor engineer Andy ‘Baggy’ Robinson, Karl ‘Snake’ Newton at front of house, and a raft of Sennheiser and Neumann products.

The choice of microphone for both lead and backing vocals was a combination of Sennheiser 5200 transmitters with MD 5235 capsules; eight in total, two of which were gold-plated for Jessie J’s use. Sennheiser EM 3732 mk II receivers and an ASA 3000 active wideband antenna splitter were also deployed and monitoring was via Sennheiser 2000 Series in ears.

“We use this mic combination because the 5235 is, quite simply, the best sounding capsule and the receivers are great,” said Baggy. “Jessie was already using this mic when I joined the tour, but we then upgraded the backing vocals, and it makes a perceptible difference.

“We use Sennheiser in ear monitoring because it’s miles ahead of anything else in terms of both RF and sound quality. The new engineer mode gives me a lot of control – I can hear exactly what Jessie is hearing on the stage and make any adjustments I need to quickly and easily – and Sennheiser’s Wireless System Management (WSM) software makes frequency planning really easy. At the beginning of the tour, I was sent a list of frequencies by Theo Holloway, who did wireless management for us, so I knew what frequencies were available at what venue right from the start.

“Having everything pre-planned makes things very simple. I use WSM when I arrive and then zap all my packs. Scanning is via aerial, so I don’t need to use a scope, which is great, I love it.”

“We’re using Sennheiser because I think it’s the best RF you can get,” concurred Snake, who said that, in general, a wireless system would not be his first choice. “This particular combination really suits Jessie’s voice, which is very dynamic – she can go from a whisper to a scream in three seconds flat – and it handles the whole thing extremely well, especially the top end. In fact, the sound quality is as near to a wired mic as it could be, without it actually being on a cable. People like a glassy top end on vocals these days, so the 5200/5235 combination is the easy choice.”

Snake was using Neumann KH310s for local monitoring for the first time.

“I read a review in one of the industry magazines and they said the KH310s were very good,” he recalled. “I know that Sennheiser distributes Neumann, so I had a word with Mark [Saunders, Sennheiser UK artist relations] and he gave me a demo. Once I had them set them up, I just didn’t let them go again! It was an instant purchase.

“I really like the fact the KH310s are un-ported, so they go right down to the bottom of the range very accurately. There are some bits of show where I use a plugin called Low Air. It’s actually an effect for post production and is used in a lot in films – when you hear an explosion and somehow the whole cinema seems to shake, Low Air is generally responsible.

“In Jessie’s show, there’s a section where you don’t actually hear the subsonic parts of the song, so much as feel them. The KH310s seem to be able to reproduce that, not at the same SPL as a PA of course, but they handle it really well.

“The mid-range is also sweet, but for me the low end extension is true and translates to the PA. For example, we did pre production in LH2 and they have a problem with low end, so it can be difficult to judge what you’re doing. When I was building the sessions, it was very important to have a reference that went down to the very bottom octave. The KH310s do, very, very nicely.”

As a final point, both Baggy and Snake highlighted the importance of Sennheiser UK’s support.

“Mark and Tim [Sherratt, engineering & technical services manager] are amazing,” said Baggy. “Tim came to production rehearsals and made sure I was doing everything right and Mark is always there if I need him.”

“Sennheiser’s support is great,” concluded Snake. “Sometimes mics get dropped. Mark fixes anything we break within 24 hours.”