Dream World Cup in 2014 – Germany are the world champions. The television broadcast is, however, initially somewhat less impressive than the performance of the German team, with the broadcaster producing one sound distortion after another. First of all, singer Jennifer Lopez can hardly be heard during the opening ceremony and then commentator Bela Rethy sounds like Zimmermann in 1954. Millions of German fans are annoyed and unleash all their frustration through the medium of Twitter.
Just one example of many to show how important sound quality is during live events. This is, of course, stating the obvious. Day after day, professionals are working behind the scenes to ensure that we are provided with sound of the appropriate quality. They do this, because the public’s expectations are continually rising. You only have to think of Dolby 5.1 and HD sound.
And the microphone – nowadays a radio microphone with no cable connections – is at the very centre of each and every sound transmission. Whether hand-held, incorporated into a headset, attached to a jacket lapel or hidden elsewhere, without the microphone, virtually nothing happens. Nowadays, most of the events and shows we know and love only work when the show host, contestants, musicians and actors are completely free to move around. The same goes for live “at-the-scene” reporting we see everyday on our television screens. Irrespective of the events covered by the reporters (national or local elections, for example), most of what we see and hear can only be brought to us by virtue of wireless technology. Wireless technology allows reporting teams to react quickly and flexibly.
And just as important as the radio microphone is the famous in-ear monitoring system (IEM). Musicians use it at big-stage venues to ensure they are playing (or singing) in time. Show hosts and journalists use it to receive editorial instructions, international guests use it to listen to interpreters located backstage.
The bigger the event, the better the sound quality needs to be and the greater the number of transmission paths required. Each and every radio microphone and in-ear device needs its own transmission frequency. To rule out any interference, each and every transmission channel must be carefully planned in advance by sound professionals. All this time and effort is only worthwhile, however, if the locally available free frequency spectrum is sufficiently large. In the absence of adequate free frequency spectrum, it is simply impossible to run the planned event. This is common knowledge to anyone in the industry and also, for example, to the International Olympic Committee (IOC), which now demands frequency guarantees from all nations applying to host the Olympic Games.
Listen to typical LTE interference here (mobile phone network interference on a wireless microphone channel):