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Innovative DB-16 Functions As RF “Decongestant”

LAS VEGAS: Comedic magicians Penn & Teller are putting Professional Wireless Systems’ RF “Decongestant” wizardry to good effect for the latest permutation of their long-running live show. The Penn & Teller Theater in the Las Vegas Rio Hotel recently served as the PWS DB-16 beta site, and the real-world results of this innovative new filtered receive/multi-coupler have proved genuinely amazing.


Late last year Penn & Teller FOH Engineer/A-1, Wayne Willard, was coordinating a major upgrade of the popular prestidigitators’ wireless systems. “Even though we have only two cast members, one of whom (Teller) never speaks, we engage twenty mic/receiver sets over three band splits,” Willard explains. “Penn Jillette is double-mic’d with one transmitter in a low band split and one transmitter in a high band split. Penn plays a double mic’d upright bass and Teller plays a set of vibes outfitted with a wireless transmitter. The show also uses five handheld wireless mics for audience interaction, and a handheld mic for the pianist Mike Jones. “Our original gear had pretty much reached the end of its shelf-life,” he adds. “I was very concerned about the RF mysteries posed by the White Spaces debacle, particularly because the free spectrum in Vegas is extremely limited.”

Having worked with PWS Las Vegas-based associate Stephen Copeman on a large project at the MGM Grand Hotel and Casino, Willard consulted him on the P&T wireless upgrade. In an almost paranormal coincidence, he learned that PWS Project Manager Brooks Schroeder, Director of Manufactured Products Dave Shoman and RF Special Projects Designer John Garrido, were collaborating on a new filtered receive/multi-coupler to reduce noise and eliminate cascading. The Penn & Teller install presented an ideal beta site for the new DB-16 filtered receiver/multi-coupler.

PWS incorporated their DB-16 into the equipment package that included 8 Shure UR4D receivers, 16 UR2 hand held transmitters with SM58 Capsules, 14 Shure UR1 wireless bodypack transmitters, 2 Shure UR1M Lemos, and eighteen VT-500 TA4F miniature Lavalier mics.

With 1500 seats including mezzanine and balcony, the Penn & Teller Theatre has been drawing sell-out crowds to the Las Vegas Rio since 2002. And, while the teams’ greatest hits remain perennial attractions, they are constantly shaking things up to keep the show fresh. This also insures that the FOH crew keeps on its toes.

“We were immediately impressed with the PWS DB-16,” says Willard, who also serves as a Projects Coordinator for the MGM Grand’s Entertainment Projects department. “It’s made a huge difference in the security of our transmissions. The internal filters protect us from undesirable signals from other sources within our spectrum. We’ve experienced no frequency interruption and zero intermods by other sources even when we had the political conventions next door. The box worked and continues to work flawlessly since Day One. We feel totally protected.”

“We were pretty much delighted with the field reports,” Brooks Schroeder says. “The DB-16 performed flawlessly, and needed virtually no fine tuning on the operational side.” In fact, the only major change inspired by the P&T install was ergonomic rather than electronic. “Both Wayne and Stephen reported that they found it unwieldy to unplug the unit when they had to pack it up for road shows,” Schroeder explains. “We originally positioned the IEC power input on the (left) side of the box. We thought this innovative position would make it easier to reach. Unfortunately, the consensus of opinion was that it belonged in the traditional position on the back of the box. We made the adjustment and added a lock button to make sure it wouldn’t accidentally unplug. An easy fix,” he concludes. “Now – abracadabra – everyone is happy.”

Pictured (l-t-r) back stage at the Penn & Teller Theatre at The Las Vegas Rio are: PWS Project Manager Brooks Schroeder, Penn & Teller FOH Engineer/A-1, Wayne Willard and PWS Las Vegas-based associate Stephen Copeman.

Production Shot: Penn (left) & Teller


Founded in 1936 by a trio of Broadway stagehands, Masque Sound evolved into one of NYC’s most successful theatrical sound reinforcement, installation and design companies specializing in live concert, TV Broadcast, corporate, industrial, theatrical, house of worship and sports events. The firm’s 3rd generation owners Geoff and James Shearing also operate Florida-based Professional Wireless Systems, a leader in the development and implementation of wireless technology. The company’s 70,000 sq. ft. corporate headquarters and main assembly facility is located at 21 East Union Ave., East Rutherford, NJ, twenty minutes from mid-town Manhattan. (201) 939 8666, www.masquesound.com

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