- Case Studies
September 3, 2013, Milford, NH – With nearly three and a half decades of singing under his belt, Kelly Hansen, lead vocalist of Foreigner, is no stranger to vocal microphones. As the band geared up for their latest tour, the Earthworks WL40V wireless capsule came along for the ride to deliver Hansen’s vocals to audiences around the globe.
Hansen explains, “Regarding microphones for live performance, I realized early on, that the natural profile of my voice didn’t really match with the Shure family of vocal mics. I started using an SM57, then moved on to an SM58. These Shure mics have a peak in the midrange which accentuated the midrange peak my own natural voice, resulting in a shrill sound. I needed a microphone with a smoother response that did not accentuate the midrange in my own voice. So I stopped using the Shure mics and started using a Sennheiser M421 and a variety of Beyerdynamic microphones from the M88 all the way up to their Opus line of wireless microphone systems, some of which had interchangeable mic capsules. As time went on, I was always looking for a better solution in a wireless handheld vocal microphone that would really make me happy and give me a condenser microphone sound on stage.”
After trying out several different wireless microphones capsules and wireless systems to no avail, Lorenzo Banda, monitor engineer for Foreigner, and Hansen were introduced to the Earthworks WL40V. Banda explains, “I had never used any Earthworks microphones until being endorsed by Lectrosonics, who introduced us to Earthworks and the WL40V microphone capsule. Earthworks sent us the WL40V, and when we tried it on the Lectrosonics wireless system we loved it.”
Hansen continues, “When it comes to wireless microphone capsules, it is really all about the sound. And that is what is really great about the Earthworks capsule. It has an open top, a flatter response and a nice bottom end that really sounds like a studio condenser microphone on stage (in a wireless form). The WL40V isn’t rolled off in a weird place that doesn’t give you any bottom support and it’s not peaky in the midrange like a Shure. It just has that flat warm sound with a natural openness in the top.”
Banda also put the SR40V, the wired predecessor to the WL40V, through its paces at sound check. Banda says, “In most stage situations, you get cymbal bleed like crazy, especially when you have a drummer who plays fairly hard. Even though the vocal mics were about 18 feet away from the drums, cymbal leakage was a problem. As soon as we switched to the Earthworks SR40V and WL40V the cymbal leakage almost went away. The rear rejection capabilities of the Earthworks microphones, in addition to their excellent vocal quality and the rich sound, just floored me.”
While touring, Hansen requires a studio quality mix in his headphones while he performs. “If you have an in-ear monitor system, you need a microphone to be way more precise, way more accurate and way more user friendly as far as proximity goes,” Hansen explains.
“Because I have an in-ear system like this, it really makes me feel like I’m in the studio, even when I am on stage,” Hansen continues. “I get all of the expressiveness I desire. In addition, I can sing close to the microphone or back away from it without using any compression, because I can hear every detail and every nuance of the microphone. This is really important to me as a vocalist. I have been singing for a long time, and I know how to use a microphone. I know what to do to get what I want out of a good microphone. But if the microphone is not willing to give it to me, then I can’t use it.”
Banda explains how the WL40V works with Hansen’s vocal style. “The confidence Kelly has with the Earthworks WL40V capsule allows him to do whatever he requires of it, and the capsule just puts it out for him. It becomes effortless for him to sing into the microphone,” Banda says. “With most microphones, you have to work harder or project harder to get what you want to come out of the microphone. In comparison, with the WL40V or other Earthworks vocal mics, you can whisper and be able to clearly hear your breath. This capsule is airy and transparent and so natural sounding that it makes it effortless to sing. When Kelly goes into the lower registers, you can hear the soft low end and every breath he takes on songs like “I Want to Know What Love Is.” Going from the low-mids up into the midrange, it is just amazing how clean the transition is. The EQ we use with the WL40V is very subtle as the microphone doesn’t need much help with respect to signal processing. The WL40V is just a sweet sounding microphone.”
Another major concern when going wireless is contending with RFI rich environments. “The WL40V is excellent with the Lectrosonics HH wireless microphone system,” says Hansen. “We have a lot of wireless on stage, vocals, guitars, etc. and sometimes we play in places with very heavy media environments with all sorts of radio frequency interference and other types of interference. Even in these very trying environments with a lot of RFI floating around, the combination of the WL40V and the Lectrosonics wireless system has been flawless.”
“The microphone capsule has to be able to put up with high SPL and I have to be able to drop the mic a few times without knocking it out” Hansen said