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What’s a Few Degrees on Game Day?








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No, this is not an article on Global Warming… we will address that in a different forum.

If you have ever seen a football game, college or pro, you have experienced this problem. The home team makes a last minute drive. With only seconds to play, they score and the stadium explodes. But wait…what’s that ? A flag on the play? After a conference on the field, the ref turns to face the pressbox. He turns on his wireless and starts to make the call. You hear the fist word and the rest of his announcement is lost in the howling reverberation of feedback!

It is a problem that is far too prevalent at all levels of athletic competition. Even at the Super Bowl where no expense is spared to ensure a flawless fan experience, audio feedback from official’s mics is commonplace. While football may be a game of inches, good game day audio may well be a game of degrees.

Like many stadium audio techs, I have been using Shure UHF wireless systems, most of which ship with the WL 185 cardioid lavaliere capsule. This can pose a problem when stadium systems feature a large percentage of their horsepower clustered around a large videoboard located in the endzone. Driver clusters are arrayed to cover most of the facility including the playing field.AUDIO 101…don’t stand in front of the mains with an open microphone. After several heated discussions with over-caffinated athletic department officials, I set out to solve this problem. A memo from the conference officials stating they would not consent to wearing a headset left me a little discouraged but not deterred in my quest. As usual, when I need advice I seek out friends who generally know more about the problem than I do…( see harrisonbros.com ) A seasoned audio pro said simply " you need a tighter pattern". He recommended trying the Shure WL 184 capsule. The Shure WL 185 cardioid has a angle of acceptance of approx. 130 degrees, while the WL 184 supercardioid has only 115 degrees. I was skeptical about how much difference 15 degrees could make, but for around $120 I thought it was worth a shot.

I was absolutely astounded at the difference. The WL 184 resulted in a significant increase in headroom and has all but eliminated ref mic feedback problems. While there is no cure for poor mic technique and refs who turn them off to talk and on when they are done, choosing the right microphone for your environment can make a world of difference. The Shure WL 184 has proven to be the mic of choice for this stadium audio guy…..more to come.

-Wes Hardison

Wes Hardison is an audio freelancer whose clients include the Athletic Department at The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

You can contact him here