Audio Masterclass Recording Studio Tips

How waterproof is your microphone?

Rihanna performs live in a rainstorm. She gets wet. And so does her microphone...
How waterproof is your microphone?
By David Mellor, Course Director of Audio Masterclass

X Factor (UK) bosses must have been rather pleased with themselves when they snagged Rihanna to perform live on the results show of Sunday November 26. Singing Diamonds, she amply demonstrated why she is a star and the other performers merely talent-show contestants.

What was most interesting however was the staging. She performed on a square platform and around the perimeter of the square, rain seemed to fall.

At first I thought it was a clever effect but, no, it was real rain. Well, real water. Aside from wondering where it was all draining off to, I noted that Rihanna stayed perfectly dry in the center of the platform. Well, she's a star.

But towards the end of the song, the rain became increasingly heavy, probably contributing to the floods that are plaguing many parts of the UK at the moment. And yes - Rihanna got wet. Very wet. Soaked.

Well I'm sure Rihanna gets wet every morning in the shower, so although it might have been uncomfortable, she's not going to come to any harm. As long as the water was warm and she doesn't get a chill.

But the microphone...

The microphone got wet too. Any microphone getting wet would make me worry, but this was a wireless microphone. There's even more to be worried about, and I bet quite a few people were quaking in their boots, techies and bosses alike.

Now one could of course say that the Shure Beta 58a, which the mic seemed to be (someone correct me if I'm wrong please), is VERY robust. Indeed, it won't be the rats that take over the Earth when an asteroid strikes and wipes out humanity - it will be the Shure Beta 58a's.

Even so, I would imagine that some preparation went into the performance, including possibly...

  • Waterproofing the microphone
  • Having a synced pre-recorded vocal track on standby to revert to if the mic failed or became crackly
  • Having a wet-suited diver (or maybe even Dermot!) ready to jump in with a replacement mic.

However it was achieved, the result was without fault.

But there's another question...

What happens to this mic now?

I for one wouldn't want to trust a mic that I knew to have gotten wet at some point in its history, particularly a wireless mic.

So unless this particular mic has had some spectacularly trustworthy waterproofing, I suspect that it has reached the parting of the ways and will never perform with Rihanna again. Perhaps it will be junked (which is the best option, after being smashed with a mallet first). Perhaps it will be given to a poor aspiring sound engineer in Barbados (Rihanna is Barbadian). Perhaps it will be dried off and quietly shipped back to the hire company from whence it came, without a word being spoken about what happened to it.

Oh, and if you happened to be searching for a wireless microphone on Ebay anytime soon, watch out!

If you enjoyed this post in Audio Masterclass Recording Studio Tips you will probably also enjoy our Music Production and Sound Engineering Course. Learn more about Audio Masterclass courses here...