NBA To Resume Use of Player Microphones

The National Basketball Association will resume wiring players for sound beginning late this month.

“We’re looking forward to getting the players back in the audio mix,” says Jim Budka, Turner Sports’ audio specialist. “It makes a huge difference in the shows.”

The NBA discontinued use of bodypack transmitters on players last season after reports that some players found the existing bodypack transmitters uncomfortable to wear during play. The resumption of sound from players comes with the delivery of a new bodypack system from Quantum5X, a Canadian company that provides specialized wireless microphone systems for live sports.

According to Paul Johnson, CEO of the London, ON-based manufacturer, the new PlayerMic sanctioned by the league is smaller than the existing Q5X QT-5000 RemoteMic that has been used for several seasons. Specifically, the new Q5X NBA PlayerMic will be about 35% shorter in overall length and have 50% less total volume that the previous version.

“The decision to develop this new PlayerMic was driven by the NBA’s desire to have even smaller mics for players so that it is virtually unnoticeable by the player when being worn and will have no interference with the player’s performance,” Johnson explains. “The NBA has made that decision to wait for the new size-reduced PlayerMic before miking players this season. This decision is driven by the NBA’s commitment to provide the smallest and best possible technology for the players and provide high-value entertainment for the viewing basketball audience.”

He adds that the new bodypack has been extensively tested, with most of the trials conducted by the Toronto Raptors and with participation by the NBA and Turner Sports. The new bodypack was originally scheduled to be introduced by Christmas, but additional testing has extended that schedule.

In addition, according to a source, sportswear supplier Adidas is manufacturing custom player jerseys with pockets sewn in on the opposite side of the player’s shooting arm.

Team coaches have remained miked for broadcasts. They will continue to use Zaxcomm TRX900AA microphones with MSA100 stereo adapter for two-channel operation. Antennas for the on-court microphones are placed on each basket and at each of the scorers’ tables.

Budka says the protocol for use of NBA on-player sound will remain the same as it has in past seasons. The audio from player microphones is sent directly to a router in the B unit of the remote-broadcast truck used for each game and then is reviewed by a league representative and, if approved for broadcast, is built into a package with video for replays during breaks in the game and further used for Turner Sports’ Inside the NBA shows.

The return of the player microphone is consistent with NBA Commissioner David Stern’s remarks supporting more audio from the court. Last January, reported Stern’s saying, “For my money, I’d like to see the audio track of our games be a little bit more robust, anyway. … If anything, there are going to be more [mics] around the game rather than fewer.”

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