Steve Winwood continues to enjoy as prolific and collaborative a career as any musician could hope for. Over the past forty years, Winwood has worked with blues legends Muddy Waters, B.B. King and Bo Diddley, rock icons Eric Clapton, Jimi Hendrix and Joe Cocker, and even pop idol Christina Aguilera, among many, many others. His solo releases, including 2008's "Nine Lives," have enjoyed commercial success and critical acclaim. Together, his collaborations and celebrated solo efforts have the now sixty year-old Winwood touring and recording as vigorously as ever! Winwood (pictured below) relies on a Neumann KMS 105 vocal microphone for both his live engagements and his studio work, and he and his band upgraded their wireless personal monitoring systems to Sennheiser ew 300 IEM G2s for their recent tour of North America with Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers.
"We first heard the Neumann KMS 105 many years ago during soundcheck at the Ryman Auditorium in Nashville," recalled James Towler, who wears the many hats of FOH engineer, studio engineer and tour manager for Winwood. "They had one there and let us try it. We were all awestruck by the sudden clarity of Steve's vocals. Even the spill coming down the side of the stage was crystalline - just brilliant! We went out and bought four of them straightaway."
Of course, an awesome live vocal microphone must do more than simply sound superb, it must be robust to the rigors of the road and have sufficient off-axis rejection to prevent feedback and spill from other instruments. In both regards, Towler claims the KMS 105 excels. In fact, he suggested they bring the microphone into the studio because Winwood tracks live with his band. The fidelity and rejection that made it so valuable on stage served perfectly in the studio as well.
"Almost all the vocals on 'Nine Lives' were cut live in the studio with Steve on the KMS 105 and a pair of Neumann U 87s on his Hammond," remarked Towler. "We captured a fantastic, natural sound with plenty of isolation on the vocals."
On tour, everybody but Winwood's drummer uses Sennheiser ew 300 IEM G2 wireless personal monitors. Apart from improved fidelity and stereo separation, which all the musicians noticed and appreciated, Towler was grateful for the robust wireless performance of the units. "We're in arenas one day, casinos the next, and festivals the day after that. We're in a lot of dirty RF environments, and we're almost always playing with several other bands who all have wireless systems of their own. You can see that the potential for problems is tremendous, yet we go in night after night without a single glitch. I use the scanning feature to find open frequencies, lock in, and that's it. It takes the headache out of it."
Winwood and his band are now heading off to Europe for a string of headlining gigs though October and November.