Sennheiser’s Volker Schmitt on the Digital 6000 Series

With the new range of wireless solutions now available from this month, we ask the manufacturer’s director of customer development and application engineering to tell us more about the system.

What were your main aims/objectives when coming up with the concept of the Digital 6000?

Our main objective was to create a high-end wireless microphone system with outstanding audio quality, rock-solid RF wireless transmission and significant amount of flexibility.

How does it fit in with the rest of the products in the Professional Wireless Range? And what are the main differences between this and the Digital 9000?

With Digital 6000, we have brought the key benefits of our benchmark Digital 9000 system to a two-channel receiver and associated handheld and bodypack transmitters. The 6000 series uses the same long-range mode and proprietary Sennheiser Digital Audio Codec as the Digital 9000, Sennheiser’s top-of-the-range wireless series.

The Digital 9000 has been meticulously developed for best UHF multi-channel performance – it is technologically the leading system on the market, featuring a High-Definition Mode for transmitting digital audio without any data compression at all, and a Long Range (LR) mode for congested RF environments. Digital 6000 takes the renowned Long Range mode and proprietary audio codec of Digital 9000 to applications that demand smaller, more flexible systems at a lower price point. The system operates with standard UHF antennas and can be used with a range of 17 Sennheiser and Neumann capsules, including 9000 series capsules – hence no additional investment is needed. This means that, for example, touring and rental companies can make best use of their existing equipment.

We had often heard from our customers that they had a project where they needed to provide eight channels for which they could use their existing Digital 9000 but they also wanted to offer two spare channels. In this scenario, Digital 6000 with its interoperability with Digital 9000 is an easy and quick solution.

If you had to pick out one standout feature of the new series, what would it be and why?

The most significant feature of the new series is the equal distance channel spacing where we use RF spectrum in a highly efficient way. Looking at the fact that we are losing RF spectrum due to the digital dividend – for instance the US where we can only operate in up to 694 MHz; Japan and Europe also have somewhat difficult RF landscapes – one of our key objectives was to get more channels into a given frequency range, which is the key feature in the new Digital 6000.

What was the biggest challenge that you faced during the design phase? It must have been a complicated job getting it all to fit in a single rack space unit?

To the second point, yes, that’s true. If we are looking into main challenges for Digital 6000, we had to find the right equilibrium between different features. For instance, with a wide array of switching bandwidth how would the team manage unwanted signals? How would they handle RF dynamic range? These kinds of things were on our mind when thinking about the various requirements of our customers and end users, as we wanted to accommodate as large an audience as possible.

Difficult RF environments are becoming more common all over the world. How is the Digital 6000 built to deal with these situations?

Spectrum efficiency is the absolute key for that. We will face these situations more and more and so we must ensure spectrum efficiency at all times.

Could you give us some examples of some applications that the 6000 would be ideally suited to?

Digital 6000 is an ideal choice for touring and rental companies because of its flexibility; theatre and musical productions; broadcasting; houses of worship and high-profile corporate customers.

How have you also ensured that its relatively easy to use, as that must have been another important factor to consider?

Ease of use is something that was very important to us when designing the system. Therefore, we had involved our customers and end users in the very early stage of the production process through focus groups and round tables in order to really understand their needs. By looking at their requirements, we designed the system accordingly.

And finally, although it is only now becoming available, have you had much of a response from users/customers to the new range so far?

The Digital 9000 has been running very successfully since its launch in 2012 with users including broadcasters TV 2 (Norway), WDR (Germany), BskyB (UK), BBC Northern Ireland, Al Jazeera; world-renowned artists like Adele, Ed Sheeran, Beyoncé, Drake, Lady Antebellum; theatres such as the Helsinki City Theatre, the UK’s Royal National Theatre; numerous rental companies and also some corporate customers. With Digital 6000, we are confident we will increase the number of artists, broadcasters, corporate users and houses of worship that rely on Sennheiser RF wireless still further.

To date, we have received a very positive response with the first pre-orders already in place. This is mainly due to keeping a close contact with our customers throughout, sharing early stage prototypes as well as pre-production units in order to gather their initial feedback.