Quantum 5 develops NBA player mics that can handle the hardwood bumps, bruises; protect players

By Dan Daley
SVG Audio Editor
Getting
up close and personal sound took a dramatic leap forward when Quantum5X
Systems hooked up the latest version of their PlayerMic with the NBA.
The original PlayerMic was a transmitter encased in an aluminum housing
with a hardwired lavalier microphone attracted to it. That kind of hard
metal casing worked fine for the full-body uniforms of baseball and
hockey. (Nicely padded uniforms in the latter case, as well.)
But
NBA players tend to be a bit more exposed, so to speak: shorts and tank-top
jerseys are the norm. Quantum5X developed the QTR-1000,
a microphone/transmitter package in which the “R” stands for “rubber,”
a friendlier substance for people who often take nasty spills on hardwood
floors.
“The
fact that basketball players’ uniforms have less fabric and almost
no padding, the falls on hard floors and the moisture issues were what
the NBA brought up to us when we discussed personal microphones for
their players,” says Allen Kool, president and CEO of Quantum5X Systems,
based in London, Ontario. “The rubber housing was the best solution
since it’s softer, moisture-proof, durable and flexible. It can absorb
the impact of a fall and keep working.”
The NBA’s personal microphones are a frequency-agile
transmitter coupled with a hard-wired Countryman EMW omnidirectional
lavalier with peak frequency response and a 3-pin XLR connector. The
moisture-resistant capsule has low noise characteristics, which Kool
says made it the perfect choice. “The other thing we had to consider
is the acoustical environment basketball is played in: it’s harsh,
loud and has lots of reflections,” Kool explains. “The EMW’s peaked
response tested best in situations where there is a high-noise environment
but little noise associated with the clothing it’s attached to.”
Quantum5X
Systems started beta-testing the QTR-1000 at the NBA All-Star game in
Houston two years ago. A revised version appeared at the game in Las
Vegas the following year. By the All-Star game, in New Orleans on Feb.
17, Kool says the unit had achieved perfection. “This microphone really
took viewers inside the action,” he says.
You’ve
heard theses personal sports mics before. ESPN had them on a player
during a regular season baseball games four times during the 2006 season
during its “Sunday Night Baseball Presented by Nextel” telecasts (the network first used the PlayerMic on then-Oakland catcher Ramon
Hernandez during a game at Seattle).
The baseball and hockey version
is Velcroed to the players’ uniforms or padding. The NBA’s version
started out being sewn into a pouch under the player’s armpit, but
it was quickly determined that this was the worst place for moisture
accumulation on the body as well as a poor RF reception site. Now the
transmitter is secured in a pouch sewn into the waistband of the player’s
shorts, invisible with the jersey draped over it. The microphone follows
the seam of the jersey and tops out at the shirt’s V-neck, held fast
by tape.
Next
up from Quantum5X Systems is the QTR-2000, a remote-controlled version
of the system that will let the mixer or A2 flip frequencies as the
RF situation changes during a game, as well as control the on/off function
and track battery level.