18 months after the break-up of Norwegian pop legends a-ha, spring 2012 has seen the release of frontman Morten Harket’s new solo album and a world tour. Taking in Belarus, Belgium, France, Germany, Russia, Switzerland, the UK and Harket’s native Norway – before heading to South America this autumn – the tour features a comprehensive Sennheiser microphone and monitoring specification.
“The key thing for me when working with Morten – and many other artists for that matter – is consistency,” says the tour’s production manager James Maillardet. “Once we have a system in place that works, I am always keen to replicate it as closely as possible everywhere we go. Being able to carry a full Sennheiser microphone kit and IEM system along with our backline means we can easily achieve the consistency that Morten demands.”
The tour’s microphone specification includes a Sennheiser SKM 5200-II with KK 105 S capsule for Harket’s lead vocal, e 935 for backing vocals, four MK 4s on guitars, with e 901s, e 902s, e 904s and e 914s on the drum kit. Wireless monitoring comprises six Sennheiser ew 300 IEM G2 systems.
Monitor engineer Kursten Smith started working with a-ha in on the band’s penultimate tour and has stayed on board with Harket ever since. “The microphone specification came about when I was working with Sherif El Barbari, who was FOH engineer on the a-ha tours,” he says. “It’s virtually the same, except we are using the MK 4s on the guitars. The KK 105 and Morten’s voice make a very good combination, the microphone helps the finer points of his vocal range to be heard, but without sacrificing any of its richness.”
“The KK 105 capsule is the perfect match for Morten’s voice,” confirms front-of-house engineer Gerard Albo, who is working with the singer for the first time. “I’d usually use an e 935 capsule, as I have with Amy Winehouse, Anastacia, Corinne Bailey Rae and others. I was always reluctant to use a condenser microphone on live vocals, for fear of it being too bright and open to excessive spill. But I am very impressed with the KK 105’s clarity, richness and consistent frequency response. Morten has a beautiful, powerful voice and great microphone technique and it sounds really good.”
The audio team are just as impressed with the wired microphones. “All the wired microphones are excellent and have clean, smooth characteristics. You don’t have to do too much EQing to them,” says Kursten. “The e 902 and e 904 sound ‘fat’ – they produce a great kick and tom sound. The e 914s sound great on overheads, producing a very smooth and detailed sound,” adds Gerard. “I also have my own HD 25 II headphones with the very handy coiled cable, which I use for reference. I have been using HD 25s for the last 12 years and I never mix a show or a live broadcast without them.”
Sennheiser is well known for not being a ‘passive’ supplier. The company is always quick to help where needed and make suggestions for improvements, as Harket’s audio team confirms.
“The support from Sennheiser is always fantastic,” says Kursten. “If I ever have any questions or problems I’m guaranteed a quick response from Pierre Morant, Sennheiser’s Global Relations Manager for EMEA. If I want to try different options, Pierre makes suggestions and manages to send things out to try quickly.”
“The support provided by Sennheiser has been second to none,” confirms Gerard. “The company’s support enables us to use first-class equipment and Pierre is always available to answer our demands. He even showed up in Paris with a new capsule for us to test… What else can you ask for?”
James concludes: “It is very reassuring to know that Sennheiser is always available to offer support, advice and whenever Morten has expressed a wish to experiment with another type of mic or capsule, the company has always been extremely accommodating.”