A virtual press conference from Sound & Video Contractor

A look behind the scenes: the HMD 26 broadcast headset in a field trial

Randy Flick

Old Lyme, CT, 13 April 2010 – Sennheiser is a leading player in the broadcasting sector; for more than 50 years, the audio specialist has been developing professional broadcast technology in close cooperation with end users. For Sennheiser’s new HMD 26 broadcast headset, the company took advice and considered feedback from several experts in the field of broadcasting.

One of them is Randy Flick, senior audio for HBO Boxing and a top A1 in the sports industry. During the last month, Randy put the HMD 26 through its paces during a live HBO Boxing event at Mohegan Sun Casino in CT and also at an HBO PPV event at the new Dallas Cowboys Stadium. The aim was to measure the performance of the HMD 26 in a demanding, live broadcast environment.

Randy, how important are headsets in the broadcasting sector?
“Broadcast headsets are key to almost every sporting event that goes on in television, whether it is football, basketball, baseball, soccer, wrestling, racing, boxing, golf, you name it. There could be anywhere from three to a dozen or more announcers using headsets, especially in golf. Sometimes they are used off camera, and sometimes on.”

What attributes are important to you in a broadcast headset?
“The clarity and performance of the headset on the air is of the utmost importance. The announcer has to sound great on the air, and the headset has to be comfortable. If the announcer isn’t comfortable, it is going to be a long day for the entire audio team. The headset also has to be durable. When the announcer first sits down with his stats books, the media guides and everything else, half of the time that stuff lands on the headsets so they have to be able to withstand a lot of physical abuse.”

HMD 26

How long did your team use the HMD 26 and what impressed you about them?
“We used three HMD 26s for HBO Boxing for two weeks running, and I worked with two different announce teams. I was impressed with both the sonic performance of the HMD 26 as well as its comfort and durability.

Sennheiser’s HMD 26 sounds smoother and the overall frequency response is better compared to other headsets I’ve used. Lennox Lewis, the former World Heavyweight Champion boxer, is one of our announcers and has been on our team now for almost three years; I don’t think he’s ever sounded better. I’ve got a really wide range of announcers–some who project loudly and others with very soft voices. The HMD 26 can pick up the guys who don’t project so well and can also handle the high SPL of the guys who really get on it; this makes the audio mixer’s job so much easier.

The HMD 26 also delivers on clarity, intelligibility and isolation. On HBO Boxing, our announcers are always seated right at ringside where there is a very high SPL. They are getting a full mix including intricate stuff from the trainers and fight officials. They need to hear everything clearly, especially considering that the crowd is often just a few feet behind them.

Finally, I was impressed by how the headset cup felt on my head. One of my announcers described it as feeling like pillows on his head. I can’t describe it much better than that.”

Any final thoughts?
“I took a close look at the HMD 26s before I put them out there. If they weren’t appreciably better than what I was already using, and if they didn’t represent a significant step up in the broadcast, I would not have put them out there. The HMD 26s performed perfectly and I really liked the sound of them on the air. It’s a great headset and a substantial move forward in the design.”

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