To provide top-notch sound for the high-profile 2021 Billboard Music Awards, ATK Audiotek recently deployed a range of HARMAN Professional sound reinforcement solutions for indoor and outdoor stages at the Microsoft Theatre.

Since 1990, the Billboard Music Awards show (BBMAs) has honored the music industry’s highest-charting artists, with this year featuring live performances by the Weeknd, Doja Cat, P!nk and Twenty One Pilots among many others. Following an audience-free ceremony in 2020, this year’s BBMAs welcomed a crowd of more than 500 in the plaza outside of the Microsoft Theater––one of the largest awards show audiences of the year thus far. Musical acts performed on a stage in front of the crowd, while nominees sat by the main awards stage nearby. Additionally, several performances took place inside the theater.

Dick Clark Productions wanted an impactful live audio system that did not require additional infrastructure and remained unseen on camera. ATK Audiotek expertly worked within these limitations, using innovative installation techniques and solutions by JBL Professional, Crown Audio and AKG Microphones to create a memorable show for both artists and fans.

“Our challenge outside was the fact that they didn’t want to put up any structures to hang speakers and lights from,” says Jeff Peterson, PA Designer, Project Manager and Front of House Mixer, ATK Audiotek. “We had to use the existing lighting towers that are already in the plaza, which limited the amount of weight that we could hang and how high we could hang it. The award stage was a 20-by-40’ rectangular platform with eight arches made of trusses. They didn’t want to see speakers hanging down in this really clean, artsy-looking space.”

For the outdoor stage, Peterson and the ATK installation team hung clusters of JBL VTX A8 loudspeakers on the lighting towers. The speakers’ lightweight design and high output allowed the team to place them high and far enough from the stage to stay out of the cameras’ view while still producing full, powerful sound with excellent coverage. JBL VTX S28 subwoofers provided crucial low-end support, while JBL VT4886 compact line array loudspeakers, featuring high directivity and optimized horizontal coverage, reinforced the sound for the first several rows in front of the stage. The result was a streamlined but dynamic system that reached the entire audience and delivered high-impact sound for a variety of genres.

Installing speakers for the award stage area required exceptional ingenuity due to the structural limitations and aesthetic requirements. Peterson decided that JBL AC26 two-way speakers were the best choice for the area due to their ultra-compact design, high output, and optimized frequency and phase response. To ensure that the sound system remained heard but unseen by the audience and cameras, the installation team mounted 12 AC26 speakers inside the trusses, which they wrapped in black fabric for concealment. 

For the indoor performances with a small audience inside the Microsoft Theater, ATK used the venue’s house PA system featuring JBL Vertec 4889 speakers, a staple of many mid-size and large concert venues. Constructed with cutting-edge technology and outfitted with three in diaphragm high-frequency compression drivers, these lightweight speakers provide reliably strong output in any kind of venue.

ATK powered the system with CrownVRack Series amplifiers, a highly customizable and user-friendly portable amplifier rack ideal for outdoor or live events. These amplifiers are also compatible with JBL’s Performance Manager software, which configures speaker networks and provides all the tools needed for calibration, running diagnostics and more in a simple and intuitive workflow. Finally, ATK provided AKG C414 condenser microphones for the overheads on the drums.

“The AC26 is a really good multipurpose box,” adds Peterson. “It’ll throw 30ft, it’s small and it’ll fit into a truss. And you don’t buy A8s without buying the VRacks; it all works together as a system. In general, it was a good show. Everything worked the way we wanted it to work.”

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