Shure’s Axient Digital Dominates The Stage At 2018 ACM Awards

Broadcast live from the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas, the 2018 Academy of Country Music (ACM) Awards featured themes of return and remembrance. Host Reba McEntire made her return to the podium after several years away, flashback performance pairings recalled country hits of 25 years ago, and the event returned to Las Vegas just six months after the mass shooting at last year’s Route 91 Harvest Festival.

As always, dick clark productions assembled a superb audio team to deliver the live event to the packed house and the CBS national television audience. ATK Audiotek was the primary supplier of backline and wireless equipment, while Soundtronics provided wireless antenna system design and infrastructure. Wireless for the telecast included 24 channels of Shure Axient Digital, 10 channels of UHF-R, and 22 channels of PSM 1000, as the team’s default RF systems for microphones and in-ear monitors.

The broadcast mix featured returning music mix engineers Eric Schilling and Biff Dawes sending live performance mixes to broadcast Production Mixer J. Mark King. Inside the arena, the FOH mix was handled by Jeff Peterson, with Steve Anderson as house announce mixer. On stage, artists received their personal mixes from monitor engineers Mike Parker and Tom Pesa.

Steve Vaughn of Soundtronics handled the role of RF coordinator in the notoriously difficult Las Vegas environment. As always, artists were encouraged to use their preferred wireless microphones, with many choosing Shure’s new Axient Digital. In-ear mixes were delivered by nearly 100 PSM 1000 bodypacks, with Vaughn using Shure Wireless Workbench to keep track of it all.

“Axient Digital is a vital tool for the new wireless landscape,” says Vaughn. “It allowed me to use more systems in a hostile RF environment in conjunction with analog wireless systems. Using my laptop, I was able to monitor and make changes, on the fly, to any of the units connected to Shure’s Wireless Workbench software. Overall, Axient Digital performed at a very high level, in a hostile RF environment, for some of the top country artists in the business.”

Among the notable performances powered by Axient Digital were throwback duets by McEntire—in her original and notorious red dress from 1993—singing “Does He Love You” with Kelly Clarkson, as well as Alan Jackson doing “Chattahoochee” with Jon Pardi. Toby Keith used Axient Digital for his “Should’ve Been a Cowboy” throwback with Blake Shelton. Shure UHF-R systems were selected for Carrie Underwood’s highly anticipated return to the stage, and for Maren Morris’ performance of “Rich.”

But for everyone else, it was a wireless night, with Axient Digital used for live performances by Keith Urban with Julia Michaels, Luke Bryan, Little Big Town, Dan + Shay, Dierks Bentley, Darius Rucker, Kenny Chesney, Chris Young, Thomas Rhett, and Kane Brown with Lauren Alaina.

“Shure wireless continues to be the requested front runner on this show,” says King. “Axient Digital proved to be a welcome addition, delivering exceptional sound quality as well as solid RF stability.”

Ryan Smith, Shure’s Artist Relations manager based in Nashville, was in Las Vegas for the event and was pleased to see the next generation of country music embracing Shure technology, both old and new. For their performance of “Drinking Problem,” Best New Vocal Duo or Group winner Midland opted for classic wired SM58s to deliver their trademark four-part harmonies. Axient Digital mics were used by Best New Female Vocalist Alaina (AD2/SM58) and Best New Male Vocalist Brett Young (AD2/KSM9). Both artists also used PSM 1000 in-ear systems.

“Year after year, it’s a pleasure to work with the audio crews on the ACM Awards broadcast,” says Smith. “We are thankful and honored that, like so many artists and engineers in country music, they continue to put their trust in Shure wireless.”

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