For the third year in a row, “American Idol” has used the winning combination of Sennheiser's MD 5235 capsule along with the eye-catching, chrome-plated SKM 5200 handheld wireless microphone system. It has evolved into an icon among viewers, while delivering predictably outstanding sonic quality each night.
Randy Faustino of Creative Sound Solutions is the music mixer on “American Idol.” Among countless other audio duties, he is responsible for making the contestants, guests and backing musicians sound the very best they possibly can, each and every time they perform. Living up to such high expectations can be very challenging, but Faustino confirms that having Sennheiser at his side makes his job much smoother:
"Since I've started using Sennheiser all the way around, my job has been easier. I am thrilled--these microphones sound great on both male and female voices. Everything comes out airy and brilliant, and you can really hear the sonic nuances of the performance. Using the Sennheisers, I don't have to add a lot of high end, or take away a lot of low end as you might have to with other mics. They are very natural sounding, but also with rejection--there is not a lot of leakage on the stage."
Faustino also uses Sennheiser microphones on the instruments for the backing musicians, and has been particularly impressed with the drum sounds he has been able to get. "I've mixed front of house for 18 years in stadiums, on the road and for live television and am kind of known for my live kick drum sound. In the old days, I would have to try a whole arsenal of mics from every manufacturer to get the sound I was looking for. Now I just put up a Sennheiser e 602 and it works great--it’s a very tight, great sounding kick drum mic."
Quality Performance under Pressure
Sometimes it is easy to forget that American Idol is a live program, carrying with it daunting performance and technical challenges in every episode. What goes on behind the scenes before show time--particularly during sound checks--is critical to the show's overall success.
Faustino explains: "When guest artists come in, we set them up at 3:00 p.m. in the afternoon. We have one hour to get them up on stage, to light check them, and then do a live performance for the audience. If I'm lucky, I get three or four passes at a song before we go live in front of 24 million people. To me, that's really challenging. For some of the contestants, it can be the most important thing going on in their whole world."
One of the ways “American Idol” keeps it interesting and challenging for its contestants each week is by creating themed episodes. With guests like Elton John, Shania Twain, The Beach Boys, Melissa Etheridge and many, many others, Faustino has come to expect high quality performance from Sennheiser, no matter what the genre. "We do a lot of different acts," he observes. "Each week, it's a different theme and there are different guest artists. Whether they are country, R&B, rap or rock, these mics always sound great."
As the current “American Idol” season winds down to the final five, Faustino never loses sight of the big picture: "I love mixing and I love music, so it all touches me in one way or another. Even if a contestant is having a bad night, I feel for them and try to help them sound the best they can. Sennheiser plays an enormous role in helping me achieve this."