The Perfect Microphone for the Perfect Melody


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In the middle of her current tour, celebrated jazz singer Melody Gardot switched microphones. She now holds a Sennheiser Digital 9000 series wireless microphone in her hand. It was a big step into the future. Why so much faith in the equipment?

  • Author: Simon E. Fuchs
  • Photos: DJ Marketing Communication Ltd.
  • Video: DJ Marketing Communication Ltd.
  • Editing / Post Production DJ Marketing Communication Ltd.

One of the reasons behind jazz singer Melody Gardot’s perfect voice is to be found right in her hand. At only 350 grams, it is as light as a feather – but it changes everything. For the American star, Sennheiser’s Digital 9000 wireless microphone system is her choice for the current tour. Having a wireless microphone that delivers “perfect sound” is wonderful, she says.

Perfect Sound for Melody Gardot’s Soft Voice

Perfect sound, flexibility, a fantastic dynamic and the uncompressed transmission of the digital signal – the Digital 9000 offers all of that. Even more than for other artists, it is vital for Melody Gardot to feel comfortable on stage and to create space for her emotions. To achieve this, she relies on innovative technology from Sennheiser.

„For me as a vocalist, I love this microphone because it’s a perfect mirror“

For the 31-year-old singer, music was salvation and healing in one. She spent a year in the hospital after a serious cycling accident in 2003. Initially, she was unable to play piano as a result of head and spinal injuries. Her voice suddenly came to the forefront and she began singing lessons and music therapy. Slowly, she sang her way back to normal life and onto the world’s stages. During her first concert appearances after the accident, she required the help of electric stimulators to help manage the pain. Today, she seldom needs the treatment on stage anymore. It’s only in her voice where the pain and suffering resonates. It's what makes her songs richer in nuance.

They are nuances that the audience ought to be able to hear in the greatest fidelity possible. To make sure they do, Gardot and her team have put their trust in the latest Sennheiser technology, the wired digital mics from the Neumann Solution D range, the MKH-8000 series and the Digital 9000 wireless system from Sennheiser. In an immense show of faith, musicians and Gardot swapped out the microphones in the middle of the tour. Gardot tested the new wireless microphone for the first time in Paris. “The clarity is amazingly different,” she recalls. With seven musicians – drums, bass and saxophone – it is difficult to achieve a refined sound on stage. But this microphone can easily handle such challenging conditions. “I could feel the proximity as if I were in the studio,” she says. “It was almost like having a studio microphone but during a live set.” The technology is able to capture the natural sound of her voice and the instruments that surround her. “For me as a vocalist, I love this microphone because it’s a perfect mirror” for me, she says. At Gardot’s recent concerts, this authenticity and faith in the technology is palpable.

It’s a faith that Gardot also places in her technicians. A native of Canada, François has been in charge of the technology used by Melody Gardot for the past seven years. It would be hard to find someone who is as familiar with her voice as he is. He knows what works for her.

Clearer Sound, with No Interference or Quality Loss

A native of Canada, François has been in charge of the technology used by Melody Gardot for the past seven years. It would be hard to find someone who is as familiar with her voice as he is. He knows what works for her. One of his friends had praised the Digital 9000 system. “I wanted to test it and see if all the fantastic things I had heard about the system were true,” he says with a smile. The first time he finished setting it up and said “one, two, check” into the microphone, he could hardly believe his ears. The sound was clear and there was no interference or detectable quality loss. “My friend didn’t lie,” François says today.

„The clarity is amazingly different.“

Before each tour, François sits down with Gardot and his technician team to consider what new technological developments are available that could be useful this time. “When I come up with a crazy idea, my guys have usually already had it before me,” Gardot says. They decided to use digital mics for instruments for the first time and the wireless Digital 9000 system for Melody’s voice. The singer had used a wireless mic before, because freedom of movement on stage comes first and foremost for Gardot. She loves going out on stage with a wireless microphone. “When there’s a cord and I’m moving around a bit, there’s a danger I might slip and fall,” she says. And if she did, it might result in a lengthy interruption of her tour. Still, neither Gardot nor her technicians had been happy with the wireless mic technology they used before this. “We always had this 'tss-tss-tss' sound, which is particularly bad for a singer with a really soft voice like Melody,” François says. Gardot could also hear the sounds, and they bothered her.

Innovative Technology for an "Ultimate Sound Experience"

That interference disappeared once they began using the Digital 9000 system. François is thrilled. “The microphone is incredibly easy to use – it’s light and the frequency settings can be adjusted quickly.” The rest of the team shares his sentiment, including Mathieu, who operates the mixing console, and Devin, the keyboard player. They’re both big fans of the Digital 9000 system and the digital mics.

The first time he heard the digital microphone, it was the clarity and natural sound that stood out for Mathieu. “We could hear almost all of even the smallest details,” he says. Mathieu is well aware that artists have also noticed the difference in using the digital mics – especially those using an in-ear system, including the band’s guitarist and the keyboardist. What the musicians found especially appealing was its sophisticated dynamic and how the noise floor went down. Mathieu did have to do a bit of work to convince some musicians to use the digital mics. At first, a clarinetist didn’t want to swap out his microphone, but Mathieu persuaded him to at least try the wired digital D-01 from Neumann. “He started to play and he was shocked,” says Mathieu. “He had never heard the clarinet like this. It was the real sound.”

Keyboardist Devon Expects Perfect Equipment for Live Performances.

The new sound also surprised keyboardist Devin, who could immediately recognize the difference and the specific sound of the digital mics. “At first I thought we had a new mixing console,” he says. But the entire energy was coming from the microphone. “Everything sounded much closer, there was a much stronger dynamic, without irksome noise floor, he adds, going on to say that he expects perfection in the equipment he uses during live performances. As a musician, he says, he tries to create unforgettable experiences for the listener. The technology is there to help him do that and it should be invisible, working in the background without hitches.

Gardot also sees it as her responsibility to give concertgoers a one-of-a-kind show. “When I am standing on stage, I want people to feel emotions,” she says. One of her favorite things about standing behind the microphone is seeing people with a smile on their faces, because music has the power to make people happy. Gardot instills a renewed sense of vitality in people. “Life is rough sometimes,” she says. Gardot knows this from personal experience. But she also knows the wonderful possibilities of music. “Music totally changed my life and it enriches me every day,” the singer says.

Shape the Future of Audio – Melody Gardot Would Like a 10.1 System

For Gardot, there’s more to music than just stringing together comfortable sounds. It is both therapy and her purpose in life. Of course she’s concerned about the future of music. What will it look like? Some numbers pop into her head: “10.1.” She says it would be great if music could just swirl around you as 3D sound. “We listen in a stereo world. It’s almost as if we’re still living in a world of sound that is only two-dimensional,” Gardot says. Perhaps it will even be possible to listen to 3D sound with headphones in the future, she muses.