11-07-2017

Jacob Krzywak

A building that was once used to generate electricity for the city of Dresden is now a venue for electrifying musical theatre performances: The State Operetta Dresden moved into its new home at the premises of the former central power station in December 2016. Sennheiser wireless systems are now providing perfect sound in the 700-seat auditorium. The State Operetta Dresden is the first German musical theatre to use Sennheiser’s ground-breaking Digital 6000 systems, investing in future-proof wireless microphone technology.

40 digital wireless channels

Since mid March 2017, the State Operetta Dresden has been using twenty EM 6000 two-channel receivers installed in a large 19” rack at the side of the stage. The equipment includes forty SK 6000 bodypack transmitters operated with visually unobtrusive Sennheiser MKE 1 clip-on microphones. In addition, there are eight SKM 6000 handheld transmitters fitted with Neumann KK 205 super-cardioid microphone heads. The Sennheiser EM 6000 receivers have a switching bandwidth of 244 MHz; at the State Operetta Dresden, the transmitters operate in the B1 to B4 frequency range.

The transmitters’ powerful lithium-ion battery packs are recharged in six L 6000 charging units. The slim 19” rack units are each equipped with four charger modules for BA 60 and BA 61 and can be remotely monitored via a network connection. An optimum overview is ensured by Sennheiser’s Wireless Systems Manager (WSM) software: The WSM user interface is displayed on two screens at the wireless console, with an additional display shown on a screen at the FOH consoles.

All 40 digital wireless channels are regularly used during performances. The two-channel receivers are linked with a total of six antennas via a splitter. Four Sennheiser directional antennas are located in the large hall (two on the stage, two in the auditorium); two more antennas are installed in the foyer and can be activated whenever required by a specially designed splitter that Sennheiser made specifically for the State Operetta. Frequency-selective antenna filters enable the EM 6000 receivers to be operated with conventional UHF antennas.

In the Sennheiser Digital 6000 system, the radio frequencies can be simply assigned to an equidistant frequency grid, thus making optimum use of the available spectrum bandwidth. Sennheiser’s sophisticated true-bit diversity technology evaluates the signal quality of the reception paths and ensures interference-free transmission even in difficult RF environments.

In addition to the new Digital 6000 systems, the State Operetta also uses eight channels of wireless monitoring. Four SR 2050 IEM two-channel transmitters are linked via an active combiner to an A 5000-CP circularly polarized antenna mounted close to the main stage.

Uncompromising sound quality

“The audio signal flow in the theatre is completely digital, from A/D conversion on stage right through to the power amplifiers,” explains master sound engineer Clemens Wannemacher, who has been Head of Audio Technology at the State Operetta Dresden for two years. In keeping with this principle, the new Sennheiser Digital 6000 systems are digitally connected via AES/EBU. The analogue outputs of the receivers on the other hand are linked with a matrix at which the audio outputs of the individual channels can be conveniently monitored with headphones. A mono sum of all voices can be heard at the rather old but nevertheless still perfectly functioning Sennheiser M8 professional mixing console.

Clemens Wannemacher is highly impressed by the outstanding sound quality of the Digital 6000 systems. For demonstration purposes, the master sound engineer likes to shake his bunch of keys against the metallic door handle and let them jangle right in front of the microphone capsule: “That is the ultimate stress test for the companders in wireless systems!” says Wannemacher with a cheeky grin. As the Digital 6000 systems do not require analogue compander circuitry, his “stress test” is passed with flying colours. The new Sennheiser wireless systems use the familiar long-range mode and the proprietary audio codec (SeDAC) from the top-of-the-range Digital 9000 series.

Clemens Wannemacher is particularly fond of the aesthetically designed SKM 6000 handheld transmitters: “We have fitted the transmitters with Neumann KK 205 capsule heads. This combination sounds far, far better than the handheld transmitter/capsule combinations previously used in our theatre,” the Head of Audio Technology confirms.

Practical features

In Dresden, the new Sennheiser Digital 6000 systems replaced an existing digital wireless system from a different manufacturer after only three years. The exchange was carried out in just a few hours during the ongoing performance season: “We took all of the old equipment out of the 19” rack, connected the Sennheiser systems and everything worked immediately,” Clemens Wannemacher recalls.

The master sound engineer has plenty more positive things to say about his practical experience with the new Digital 6000 systems: “Using the battery packs is extremely easy. So far, we have never needed to fully exploit the maximum operating period of well over six hours for the bodypack transmitters, and the chargers work perfectly. The display for the amount of battery life remaining has proven to be reliable and the WSM software ensures that we can always keep an eye on the battery capacities on the screen.”

Wannemacher is also full of praise for Sennheiser’s customer-focused service: “I’m very satisfied with the support provided by Sennheiser,” says the master sound engineer. “Only recently, we took part in the city’s ‘Long Night of the Theatres’ and the programme of events meant that we needed numerous additional battery packs. In spite of the very short notice given, the battery packs for the weekend were sent to us after a brief consultation and without any fuss, and I think that’s really great. And in all other respects too, Sennheiser is always ready to help – their support is unique!”

Technology at the highest level

For performances without electroacoustic amplification (operettas, opera plays), the mean reverberation period of the theatre auditorium is 1.4 seconds. When musicals are being performed, reverberation can be reduced by using movable cloth sails, curtains and inflatable membrane absorbers. The revolving stage makes it possible to achieve amazing scenery changes. The orchestra pit has generous dimensions and its design ensures that all instruments can be heard very well in the auditorium.

State-of-the-art audio technology of the highest quality completes the equipment of the new theatre. Sennheiser Digital 6000 wireless systems provide perfect sound in the auditorium and are proving to be a reliable partner for the wide range of musical and theatrical performances on offer at this venue, which is drawing considerable attention with its ambitious and highly attractive repertoire.

Sennheiser Digital 6000: on the safe side

Together with its predecessors, the State Operetta can look back on more than 240 years of tradition as a musical theatre, and its ensemble is continuing to passionately dedicate itself to the light-hearted and entertaining side of musical theatre at its new venue. “I’m sure that, even in these fast-moving times, we are on the safe side at least for the next ten years with our Digital 6000 systems,” says Clemens Wannemacher, referring to the continuous reductions in the wireless spectrum and such challenges as LTE and DVB-T2. No matter how the future may turn out, the Sennheiser Digital 6000 systems have been opening up new dimensions of audio experience since March 2017 and have helped to provide electrifying music moments at the sell-out performances of the State Operetta Dresden.