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Church Sound: Solving Mysteries, Part 3—Sawdust In The Wind
The sound check began just as it always had, but a few days later, I would be armed with a vacuum cleaner.
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This article is provided by Behind The Mixer.

The third installment in this mystery series still has me shaking my head…

The sound check began just as it always had, but a few days later, I would be armed with a vacuum cleaner.

It seemed like every other sound check, but a few minutes into it, a microphone channel went out. More accurately, I stopped getting a signal from a vocal microphone. 

We had one microphone with a plug clip problem, and every now and then a singer would grab the microphone and the XLR cable would work loose. If only that was the case.

I muted the channel, ran up and re-seated the microphone. Then it was back to un-muting the microphone and trying again. Nothing. MUST BE A BAD CABLE!

Back to muting the channel and replacing the mic cable.[Chris, not so gracefully, runs to the production closet and grabs a different XLR cable]. Easy breezy solution? Ummm….no. The microphone was still dead. Bad microphone?

I swapped microphones on the stage so this “problem microphone” would go into a working cable. It worked. At this point, I figure the problem is anything from the stage jack to the snake cable to the mixing console.

This was a problem that I’d have to investigate later in the week. For now, I put that microphone into a different channel (and naturally different stage jack) and we continued on with the sound check.

I Wish I Had A Camera

Wednesday evening, I dropped by the church to sort out the problem. I ran a single vocal microphone through the jack and tested it in the system and I still did not hear a thing. So much for miracle fixes. 

At this point, all of the remaining areas which could be the problem were all “fixed” equipment. That is to say, everything in the signal path, from the stage jack to the mixer, was kept plugged in or wasn’t even accessible to unplug.

First stop, the stage jack. I popped the metal floor jack out of the floor and checked the connection…all looked good. And here’s where it got interesting…

I decided to check the snake head underneath the stage. Several years early, we had performed some upgrades on the audio system—new mixer, new rack equipment, new personal monitor system, and new floor jacks on the stage. 

The connection between the stage and the sound booth was via an audio snake with the snake head sitting directly under the stage and then cables being hard-wired to the jack on one end and then simply “plugged into snake head.”

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