Shure's new Axient wireless microphones were widely used by headline stars at the opening and closing ceremonies during London's 2012 Olympics. Working together with the UK-based company Delta Sound, audio systems supply specialist Norwest favoured Shure from early on in the systems design process for the event. The games this summer marked Axient’s debut at an Olympic ceremony.
Norwest’s Chief RF Specialist Steve Caldwell heard about the new product line directly from connections at Shure's engineering team in the US, early in the product development process. Shortly thereafter, the Axient systems were written into the final draft of the London plan by Scott Willsallen, Audio Systems designer London 2012 Ceremonies and Bobby Aitken, sound designer London 2012 Ceremonies.
For 2012 Willsallen had to ensure that the Axient systems, which only became commercially available in the spring, would be suitable for use during summer 2012, given the intense media focus on the games. "I wasn't going to take any chances," explained Willsallen. "You don't get a second chance at an event like this one."
Caldwell's case for Axient centred on several features of the new systems, including audio quality, Frequency Diversity, and the unique rechargeable battery technology developed for Axient (also used in Shure's ULX-D digital wireless systems and PSM900/1000). “We used Shure KSM9s as the default standard mics on these systems, swapping to Beta 58s if the artists involved were a little bit more… shall we say… noisy! An Axient transmitter with a KSM9 sounds like you’re using a wired KSM9; it just sounds great. That's how it should be, of course, but it's quite a step!" commented Willsallen.
"With the Axient handhelds," explained Caldwell, "we can transmit on two frequencies at the same time, should we need to. We receive on two or maybe three receiver locations for each performer, for redundancy purposes. That has added so much confidence to the business of using handheld wireless mics. The technology that's gone into the rechargeables is also amazing. At any time, I can see over the network down to five-minute increments how much battery life is left in each of those transmitters; I've never been able to do that before. And the time readout on the rechargeable is so reliable. That saves money and time; we're not constantly throwing away AA batteries that are only half-used."
"It's sustainable too," added Willsallen. "This was flagged as the most sustainable Olympics yet, and to have something rechargeable that was that good was amazing. We would have used around 26,000 AA batteries otherwise, and they would have been no use to anybody afterwards, and gone straight into landfill."
Axient's efficient use of the available RF spectrum was also a key factor. Axient can operate over 20 wireless channels in a standard UK 8MHz TV channel.
Caldwell's Shure contacts extend to key members of the US-based Axient engineering and design team but all on-site support for Axient in London was handled by Shure Distribution UK (SDUK).
“The Olympic Games on your doorstep is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” commented Tuomo Tolonen, Applications & Product manager, SDUK. “Everyone involved with the production put on four amazing memorable shows and I am pleased we’ve been able to be a part of it and see Axient deliver on the largest show imaginable.”