Monday, March 04, 2013
Church Sound: Basic Mixer And Common System Connections
Getting a host of complex devices to work together as a system
Sound systems can be confusing because they’re made up of complex devices that need to work together to deliver the desired results.
Some of the questions I’ll answer here include:
How do I hook up a mixer to the rest of the system? What jacks are best to use?
How do I use graphic equalizers?
What are compressors used for?
How do I use groups?
How do I set up monitor mixes?
How do I set up the mixer to add effects?
Here we go… And note that all of the topics addressed in this article are illustrated in Figure 1, below.
1) What jacks should I use to connect the mixer to my sound system?
Connect each mic to the stage box (snake).
Connect each snake XLR connector to each mic input XLR connector.
Connect the mixer master or main output to your graphic equalizer input, and connect the graphic output to your house power-amp input. If you’re not using a graphic equalizer for the house speakers, connect the mixer master outputs to the inputs of the power amp that drives the house speakers.
If you are recording a board mix of the service or show, connect the mixer REC OUT or TAPE OUT connectors to the recorder line inputs.
Figure 1. Mixer connections.
2) Why would I put a graphic equalizer between the mixer and power amps? Isn’t that what the mixer EQ is for?
Mixer EQ affects the sound of each individual instrument and voice, while the graphic EQ affects the sound of the complete mix.
The graphic equalizer is used the flatten the frequency response of the house speakers and room so that the entire sound system is accurate or hi-fi.
One way to set a graphic EQ is to play some reference CDs alternately through high-quality headphones and through the house loudspeakers.
Adjust the graphic-EQ sliders to make the loudspeakers sound like the headphones in their bass-midrange-treble balance.
Here’s another way to set a graphic equalizer:
A. Obtain a measurement microphone, which is an omnidirectional condenser mic with a flat frequency response. Put the mic in the center of the audience area.
B. Plug the mic into a real-time analyzer (RTA) set to display 1/3-octave bands.
C. Play pink noise through one set of house loudspeakers (one combination of woofer, midrange and tweeter drivers).
D. On the graphic equalizer, pull down the frequencies that are the highest on the RTA display.
E. Try to get a flat spectrum (equal level in each frequency band) up to 1 kHz, then let the spectrum roll off gradually to about 10 dB down at 10 kHz. This is called a “house curve.”
It’s also common to use a graphic EQ between the mixer’s monitor send (aux out) jack and the power amp that drives the monitor speakers.
That EQ is used to reduce the levels of frequencies that feed back. You also can use the graphic EQ to reduce the bassy sound in the monitors caused by microphone proximity effect (the bass boost that occurs when directional mics are used up close).
The monitor signal from the board is pre-EQ, so turning down the bass (low frequencies) on the mic channel does not turn down the bass in the monitor speakers.
That’s where a graphic EQ can help: turn down frequencies a few dB below 200 Hz or so. Then the monitor speakers won’t sound too bassy and muddy.
3) What’s a compressor for? How do I connect it to a mixer?
A compressor is used to reduce the dynamic range of whatever signal you pass through it. For example, a lead vocalist might suddenly sing a very loud note, blasting the listeners.
The compressor is an automatic volume control - it turns down loud notes so they don’t get too loud. If this isn’t a problem in your venue, you don’t need a compressor.
You insert a compressor in-line with one of the mic channels. Find the mic channel on the back of the mixer, and connect its insert send to the compressor input. Connect the compressor output to the insert return on the same mixer channel.
If there is only one insert jack per channel, the tip of the jack is send and the ring of the jack is return, so use a stereo phone plug at the mixer going into two plugs (in and out) at the compressor.
4) Would I use grouping to combine several channels into one—say, for a monitor for just the vocalists?
The groups are for the house speakers, not the monitor speakers. You might assign all the vocal mics to Group 1 (also called Subgroup 1 or Submix 1).
Then you can control the overall level of the vocals with just the Group 1 fader. Start with the group fader and master fader about 3/4 up (at unity gain, or 0 dB).
You don’t have to use groups, but some people find it convenient.
If you don’t use groups, just assign each mic channel to the stereo mix bus (the master stereo output of the console), and turn down all the group faders because they are not being used.
To confuse things, some consoles use Group 1 and Group 2 as the main stereo output channels. Other consoles have groups plus a separate stereo master output channel.
5) How do I set up monitor mixes?
The aux knobs in your mixer can be used either for monitor mixes or for controlling the amount of effects on each input channel. First decide which aux channel you want to use for a monitor mix.
You might use several aux channels (aux 1, aux 2, aux 3) to create separate monitor mixes for different performers. Each aux number is a separate monitor mix, feeding a separate monitor power-amp channel, feeding a separate monitor speaker.
Let’s start with just one monitor mix.
Suppose that you’ll create a monitor mix with all the aux 1 knobs. On the back of your mixer, connect the aux 1 send connector to the graphic equalizer (if any) used for the monitor speakers, and connect the graphic equalizer output to your monitor power-amp input.
If you’re not using a graphic EQ with your monitor speakers, connect the aux 1 send to the monitor power-amp input.
Set all the monitor aux knobs to pre-fader so that the fader for each channel does not affect the monitor level.
What if you need several different monitor mixes? You might use all the aux 1 knobs to set up a monitor mix for the vocalists. Connect aux 1 out to the power-amp channel for the vocalists’ monitor speakers.
Then use all the aux 2 knobs to set up a monitor mix for the drummer. Connect aux 2 out to the power-amp channel for the drummer’s monitor speaker. Use aux 3 for the piano player, and so on.
For example, let’s say the vocalists need to hear only the piano and vocals in their monitor speakers. You would use all the aux 1 knobs across the console to set up a monitor mix for the vocalists. Turn up the piano channel’s aux 1 knob about halfway.
Turn up the vocal channels’ aux 1 knobs about halfway. Turn up the aux 1 master knob (if any) about halfway. Make sure the vocalists can hear the monitor mix, and adjust it according to what they want. Turn up the aux knobs slowly and stay below the feedback point.
Similarly, suppose the drummer needs to hear only the piano and bass. You might use all the aux 2 knobs across the console to set up a monitor mix for the drummer. Turn up the piano channel’s aux 2 knob about halfway.
Turn up the bass channel’s aux 2 knob about halfway. Turn up the aux 2 master knob (if any) about halfway. Make sure the drummer can hear the monitor mix, and adjust it according to what the drummer wants.
6) How do I set up the mixer to add effects?
As we said earlier, the aux knobs in your mixer can be used either for monitor mixes or for controlling the amount of effects on each input channel. First decide which aux channel you want to use for effects.
Suppose aux 4 is your effects channel On the back of your mixer, connect the aux 4 send connector to the input of your effects device. Connect the output of the effects device to the Bus In or Effects Return connector on your mixer.
Another option is to connect the effects outputs to the line inputs of two extra input channel strips on your mixer, and have those be the effects-return level controls.
Set the effects-send (aux 4) knobs to post-fader so that the fader level also controls the amount of effects. Set the dry/wet mix control on the effects unit all the way to wet (100% effect).
For each input channel (vocal or instrument), use the aux 4 knob to set the amount of effects you want to hear on that vocal or instrument. Note that some mixers have effects built in so you don’t need to make any effects connections.
AES and SynAudCon member Bruce Bartlett is a recording engineer, audio journalist, and microphone engineer (http://www.bartlettmics.com). His latest books are Practical Recording Techniques (6th Edition) and Recording Music On Location.
Allen & Heath Releases GLD Remote iPad App For GLD-80 Digital Console
Offers control of high-pass filters, gates, parametric and graphic EQ, compressors, input/output delays, and more
Allen & Heath has announced the release of GLD Remote, the digital mixing system controller unveiled at NAMM 2013, providing a suite of mixing controls for remote wireless applications using the iPad or the iPad Mini.
GLD Remote connects to the GLD-80 mixer on a wireless network and gives the user instant access to any of the mixers channel faders and mutes, DCA faders and mutes, image controls, aux sends and assignments as well as channel input and output processing, mic-pre control and full metering.
Whereas most other apps on the market offer limited control over the channel processing, GLD Remote gives control of high-pass filters, gates, parametric and graphic EQ, compressors and input/output delays.
Other unique features for system setup include a real time analyser (RTA) to ring out monitors and EQ the PA, the facility to name and color channel strips, custom layers with drag ‘n drop strip setup to suit any application, and a mix view where monitor engineers can keep both master levels and contributions under control in a single screen.
Additionally, GLD Remote provides channel PFL control to enable the engineer to remotely listen to feeds using a wireless monitor system.
Allen & Heath R&D director Rob Clark states: “GLD Remote unlocks comprehensive wireless control of processing and mixes resident in the GLD-80, ranging from monitor mix stage setup, venue roaming and PA tweaking, and secondary control applications for fixed installs.
“During set up, engineers can walk around a venue and individually mute or apply level, processing and delay changes to the PA, and discreetly mix from anywhere in the venue during the show, while monitor engineers will appreciate being able to balance monitors from the musician’s position on the stage.”
GLD Remote is available now as a free download here.
PreSonus Offering Free PRM1 Reference Mic With Purchase Of StudioLive 24.4.2
Company celebrating new Universal Control 1.7 with integrated Smaart audio analysis and optimization software
PreSonus is celebrating the release of Universal Control 1.7 with integrated Rational Acoustics Smaart audio analysis and optimization software by offering a free PRM1 precision reference microphone with the purchase of a StudioLive 24.4.2 digital mixer.
The offer runs from March 1 to May 31, 2013. The PRM1 mic normally lists for $99, U.S.
Smaart Measurement Technology provides a spectrograph and real-time analyzer (RTA) that lets the user see, graphically, what’s going on with the mix, fostering quick fixes of frequency problems and squelch feedback.
The new Universal Control 1.7 adds three Smaart wizards that make it easy to view the frequency response of a venue, quickly calculate and set delay-system timing, and verify output connectivity.
Use of these new wizards requires a reference or “measurement,” microphone like the PRM1—an omnidirectional mic with a flat frequency response for capturing the sound in the room as accurately as possible.
The offer is valid at all U.S. PreSonus dealers and at dealers in several other nations. Customers outside of the U.S. should check with their local dealers to find out whether they are participating. Go here for more specific info.
Argosy Desks Add To Ambiance And Ergonomics At Ibiza’s Sonic Vista Studios
Argosy’s studio furniture has added to the ergonomics and comfortable studio vibe at Sonic Vista Studios.
At Sonic Vista Studios, the residential mixing, mastering and recording facility is in a 400-year old villa with breathtaking views of the sea, Argosy’s studio furniture has added to the ergonomics and comfortable studio vibe. Sonic Vista Studios features an Argosy Dual 15-803 Workstation and a customized 50 Series for Avid Control|24 in The Suite, the largest control room at the facility.
“When artists come into the room they feel special. The two Argosy desks — and also the ambiance of the room, of course — play a key part in the vibe; they feel connected to the room,” says L. Henry Sarmiento II, studio executive, owner and mixer.
Sonic Vista Studios regularly attracts a roster of A-list musical talent to write, record and relax at the high-end residential facility located in the hills of Ibiza overlooking the Mediterranean Sea.
Artists who have worked at the studio include Lady Gaga and Red One, 50 Cent, The Ting Tings, Kelis, and Swedish House Mafia, to name just a few. Carly Rae Jepsen and co-writer Red Foo (LFMAO) worked on her current hit, “This Kiss,” at Sonic Vista, as did Akon and David Guetta, who collaborated on “Play Hard,” a top 40 hit around the world.
The Argosy Dual 15-803 is the centerpiece of The Suite, housing a selection of digital and analog equipment conducive to the music production process in its two 19-inch rack bays, including pieces by Avid/Digidesign, Apogee, SSL, Waves, Alesis, Millennia Media, GML, and Manley.
Sarmiento purchased the Dual15 workstation for its ergonomics and design, he says. “I’m very detail-oriented when it comes to design and how it works with my body. Being in a studio is not the healthiest environment—I’m in a chair all day—and health is wealth. So it’s about how the design is going to work for the engineer or artist or client in the studio. For me, that’s the first reason I chose it, and will always choose Argosy.”
Argosy’s contribution to the working ambiance of a studio should also not be underestimated, Sarmiento believes. “Obviously we’re not dealing with large format mixing consoles any more. So there’s a psychological aspect when people come into the studio and see the Argosy workstation layout — everyone says, ‘Wow, who makes that?’”
As Sarmiento relates, Lady Gaga felt so inspired by the room that she elected to record her vocals seated at the Dual 15-803 while working on her hit single, “Alejandro.”
“She wanted to sit right next to the screen, at the workstation, with her laptop. She was sitting in the chair on the left wing of the 803, so I set the mic up, and she sang it right there. That Argosy has heard a lot of great stuff; if only it could talk!”
A second desk in The Suite, a 50 Series for the Digidesign Control|24, has been specially customized by Argosy. “I updated to the Avid Artist Mix for faders and put my Control|24 in Studio B, so I got Argosy to customize two racks to fit perfectly into the desk instead. Since the desk for the Control|24 has a deeper front bay area, it’s a really cool design with extra space for a keyboard,” he observes.
Sarmiento has been particularly impressed with Argosy’s customer service. “This company really, really cares about their clients; I respect that a lot. At the end of the day if you’re buying something and investing money in something for your workplace, you want to make sure that you have the right people at the other end supporting you on your mission to make great music. Argosy ties that great service together with their great products.”
Good support is to be expected when purchasing something costing a couple of thousand dollars, but the level of customer service was no less impressive when Sarmiento placed a small order, he says. “I received an email later to check that the order had arrived in time and that everything was fine — and we’re talking about $10 screws! That impresses me and makes me feel valued as a client.”
Many people say that older records “feel” better. They also complain that much of today’s music seems “sterile.”
I believe a big part of this is because these days so much music is made in sequencers or by bands playing individual parts rather than together.
As a result you lose the dynamics that I feel are important in music.
Live music played by a group of musicians (even if the drummer is playing to a click track) will rush and lay back. Good musicians will all move together if they are able to hear each other clearly enough and are sensitive enough to actually listen to each other.
Although it’s crucial for drummers and bass players to move together, it’s also important for the entire band to follow along and speed up/slow down as well.
I recently recorded a jazz band live and was editing together different takes. The different takes all felt great, but they didn’t always work well when cut together. The reason was that one take may have been a little bit rushed and another a little laid back.
But since the musicians were all good and listening to each other, each take felt tight. Even within a single part of the song if the drummer was laying back the rest of the band did as well. The result was that all of the parts hit together. The down beats hit together, and the melodic elements were properly supported by the rhythms being played.
When the producer asked me to move some sections from take to take, I felt differences in how the tracks felt. One edit went from a rushed solo section to a laid back head section (repeat of the main melody). I thought the contrast may have been too much, but the producer actually liked how the band seemed to relax back and fall into the head together.
He also asked me to move some individual solo parts from one take to another. This did not work well. Since the musicians were leaning forward or back together, moving individual parts from one take to another meant a laid back solo was now being played over a pushing rhythm track. It did not sound tight and professional.
Even when I moved some vocals a mere 8 measures within a single take, the feeling was totally different and it did not work. I had to make sure that each solo part (and even vocal) was heard with the music that it was performed with.
Although some people may prefer for each part to be played tight to a click track (especially to make it easier to move parts around), there is something human in how musicians move together. I believe that music played by a group has an element of communication between the musicians that listeners can pick up on and even ride along with.
Sequenced music is sometimes created with that push and pull intentially left in. On Jamaica Boys albums, the great Lenny White used to play the drum machine buttons live and never quantized the parts because he wanted to keep the machine sounds feeling “live” (yay Lenny).
It is possible to create sequenced music that feels human, but only by allowing the imperfections to happen and grooving along with them.
So now that we have the band moving together, what about their volume? Most of the songs I like have parts that are soft and parts that are loud. These changes in volume are most effective when the entire band is performing with the same sensitivity. The band should “whisper” together, and should “shout” together.
Live musicians will also change their volumes during the course of a song based on their roles at each part of the arrangement. When a guitarist stops playing rhythm and begins to solo, he should play louder. Likewise when he resumes playing rhythm, he should drop his volume so he does not overpower whatever instrument has taken over the lead position.
Dynamics are not limited to a band’s rhythmic dynamics (how they push and pull) or volume dynamics (how loud they all get at certain sections either together or individually).
Individual instruments have their own dynamics that are as expressive and important as group dynamics. When an instrument is played softly it will have a different tone than when it is played loudly.
Also, individual notes played at different parts of an instrument (such as the exact same “A” note played on different strings and fret positions on a guitar) will have a different tone. Good musicians know their instrument well, and will play different variations of the same note to elicit more emotion and expression.
Volume is another dynamic that good musicians will take advantage of. A soft instrument will elicit the same feeling of intimacy that a whispered voice will, and make a listener feel that they need to “lean in” and listen more carefully. This forced involvement can make the difference between someone “getting into” a song or not caring about it.
Opening Up The Mix
It’s been said that black and white photos can be more compelling than color because the viewer must participate more. In the same way, when you “lean in” to listen to a musical part more carefully, you participate more and the part becomes more compelling.
Mixes can be crowded in many ways. The song arrangement can be crowded if there are too many elements playing similar parts that are different enough to cause musical clashes or smudges.
Spatial crowding can occur if there are too many parts clashing within the same areas of the stereo image. Frequency crowding can occur if there are clashing sounds with similar tones (such as a screeching sax and vocal).
It is important to create differentiation between different parts, especially in songs with crowded arrangements. Spatial differentiation is achieved by placing instruments into different positions within the stereo image, or by having some parts moving rather than stay in one place.
Frequency differentiation can be achieved by EQing sounds to emphasize more of their differences rather than similarities. For example, both a kick drum and a bass will have very low sounds, but the kick will also have a sharp attack that will cut through the sound of the bass, and the bass will have a sustained roundness that will continue between kick hits.
Changing instrument volumes is an important process to consider when trying to create mixes with clarity, within which all of the instruments can be clearly heard and felt according to their functions.
Some mix engineers try to create differentiation by equalizing each sound to fit into a narrow frequency range. This works, but results in mixes that are significantly less expressive than mixes that contain full sounding instruments that move forward or back in the stereo image, either taking over the image or creating space for other instruments to take over.
Static changes to sound are changes that remain the same throughout an entire mix (“set it and forget it”). Dynamic changes are changes that are adjusted to different settings through the course of the mix. Anything can be dynamic, and almost every mix involves increasing and decreasing channel output volumes, panning or even if the channel output is turned on or off (“muted”).
The most commonly dynamic element is channel output volume. Channel output volume is usually accessed by a sliding fader rather than by a rotary knob. During a song as the volume of a channel is increased and decreased, the channel fader will move up and down. During a song as a channel is turned on or off, the mute switch will open and close.
These changes can be done by hand, but then they need to be performed every time that mix is played. As a result, in the days when changes had to be performed by hand it was not unusual to see many people crowded over a console, each with a specific job to do at a certain part of the song.
For example, when the singer says the word “baby” perhaps one person would turn a knob to make the voice sound different than it sounded for every other word. Perhaps when the song ended there was one instrument that kept playing that had to have its channel turned off (muted) every time the song reached the end.
Many consoles allow you to record the changes that you make to knobs or faders and play the changes back. This automation allows you to make changes to a channel along with the music only once and have them play back so you are free to change another track. For example, you can mute a vocal track when the singer coughed while recording, and have the Automation automatically perform the mute for you whenever the song is playing.
Automation is usually used for volume faders or send knobs, but many effects allow you to automate settings as well.
Bruce A. Miller is an acclaimed recording engineer who operates an independent recording studio and the BAM Audio School website.
Radial Launches The Voco-Loco Vocal Preamp And Effects Loop
Enables vocalists to add guitar effects like delay, reverb or distortion to the voice using a simple footswitch
Radial Engineering has announced the Voco-Loco, a combination microphone preamp and effects loop insert that enables vocalists to add guitar effects like delay, reverb or distortion to the voice using a simple footswitch.
The design begins with a high-performance preamp section that delivers over 60 dB of gain, more than enough to adapt to virtually any microphone via standard XLR input. And with a built-in 48V phantom power generator, condenser mics can also be used.
Radial’s unique Accustate level control automatically sets the gain and sensitivity via a dual wafer potentiometer for improved signal-to-noise. A simple two band shelving EQ lets the vocalist add bass or accentuate the highs to enhance.
The signal then feeds an effects loop that has been optimized for guitar pedals via standard 1/4-inch guitar jacks. Separate send and receive level controls let you adjust the levels going to the pedals to reduce distortion and optimize the signal path.
A tone control on the return path can then be used to tame overly bright pedals for a smoother more natural tone while the wet/dry blend control enables the artist to mix in as much of the effect as desired. The Voco-Loco’s output is fully balanced and able to drive a typical mixing console input.
Two footswitches are top mounted. The right hand footswitch is used to turn on or off the effects loops while the left-hand footswitch can be used to either mute the Voco-Loco output to turn off the mic when not in use or be assigned as an on-off switch for the loop, bypassing the wet/dry function. You could, for instance, create a weird telephone effect with all of the sound passing through a distortion pedal or toggle the signal so that a blend of the unprocessed voice plus some reverb can be heard together.
A 180-degree polarity reverse switch ensures the pedals are in phase with the original signal when the wet/dry blend is in use.
Radial sales manager Roc Bubel states: “We have been enjoying tremendous success with both our stand-alone and 500 series EXTC effects insert module. The EXTC makes it easy to interface unbalanced hi-Z guitar pedals with balanced lo-Z pro audio devices.
“And with so many fun pedals now available on the market, we felt it would be cool to enable live vocal performers to get into the fun. The Voco-Loco lets you turn on or off a series of pedals with a simple foot stomp - right on stage. This is particularly beneficial for bands that do not have a full-time sound engineer as the vocalist can set up the effects and turn them on or off just like a guitarist does when playing a solo.”
Measuring 5 x 7 inches (12.7cm x 17.8cm), the Voco-Loco is compact to fit on pedalboards. It comes equipped with an external 15VDC supply.
CADAC Appoints LIFT Distribution As New U.S. Distributor
Result of demand for CADAC compact analog and digital consoles and the requirement to service them
CADAC has appointed Seattle-based LIFT Distribution to distribute its full production console range into the professional audio retail, installer and sound-hire channels in the U.S.
LIFT Distribution joins with Broadway sound specialist RF Pro in distributing CADAC in the U.S. RF Pro’s Tom Bensen has a long and renowned association with the company, and remains responsible for the sale of made-to-order console systems into the musical theatre, and large scale sound touring and event sectors.
The appointment of LIFT Distribution is the direct result of demand for the latest CADAC compact analog and digital consoles, and the requirement to service these via a general trade distributor, addressing the wider professional audio market.
CADAC sales manager Ben Millson explains, “Good independent audio distributors in the US are hard to come by, and LIFT Distribution represented a unique opportunity in that they are owner operators, widely experienced in the audio engineering sector, and not already carrying a console brand. They are also distributors for KV2 Audio, a product I have personal experience with and I know how good it is; so there is a natural synergy with CADAC.
“With the teams’ extensive business and engineering background, and experience in live sound sector, they were very aware of CADAC’s heritage and reputation,” Millson continues. “We initially approached them to service a number of direct sales enquiries we had received for our new consoles. At the same time they took an S-Type, LIVE1 and CDC Four for their evaluation and were suitably impressed.“
LIFT Distribution is a relatively new venture, specializing in the distribution and installation of broadcast and live performance technology. The company was founded in September 2011 by joint MDs Steve Palermo and Dave Christenson.
Palermo is founder and owner of LIFT AV, a successful Pacific Northwest dealer and systems design/install company. Christenson is founder of Audio Agent and 3dB Creative, a pro audio sales and marketing agency, prior to which he held senior management positions at Loud Technologies, Solid State Logic and Euphonix.
LIFT’s distribution center provides CADAC with full sales, warehousing, service and back office support across the US, and the results of the appointment are already apparent.
“Sales of the LIVE1 in particular are showing an immediate growth,” says Millson. “We also have upcoming reviews of the both the LIVE1 and CDC Four in US pro audio magazines, as well as advertising, so we are getting behind this agreement with a coordinated promotion campaign.”
Christenson states, “The sound quality of CADAC consoles is legendary. The brand is an important part of the British large-format console legacy and continues to represent the highest quality and value in the industry. Given the initial demand we’re seeing for the affordable LIVE1 Series in particular, it’s clear that CADAC has successfully evolved to meet the needs of today’s market. We’re extremely pleased to be associated with them.”
The CADAC name has been synonymous with top quality mixing consoles since 1968, from its earliest designs for recording studios and broadcast applications, through to the latest live sound reinforcement consoles. The company’s reputation for unparalleled audio quality and intuitive operation is matched by continuous enhancement and development, using the highest quality components together with innovative electronic and mechanical designs. The CADAC J-Type Live Production Console remains the industry-standard choice for leading musical productions, featuring on Broadway, the West End and around the world on long-running hits including Mamma Mia!, Wicked, Jersey Boys, and Disney’s Lion King. CADAC is headquartered in Luton, where all CADAC products are designed. For more information on the CADAC line-up, visit
About Soundking Group Company Ltd
The Soundking Group Company Limited has been established for more than 20 years, and is headquartered in Ningbo, close to Shanghai. One of China’s leading audio manufacturers, Soundking Group has an extensive range of innovative, market-leading products and was a major supplier for the Beijing Olympic Games in 2008. For more information go to http://www.soundking.com
About LIFT Distribution
LIFT Distribution is the exclusive North American distributor for leading live performance technology such as KV2 Audio and Cadac Holdings. In addition to products, parts and customer support, the company has comprehensive systems design and build capabilities to assist with projects of any scale. Products are available for purchase directly or through an exclusive, value-added dealer network. For more information, please visit: http://www.liftdistribution.com
Don’t let your backing vocal mixing be an afterthought. Backing vocals can define the quality of your mix.
Looking back at my last 20 years of mixing, I’ve seen worship teams with anywhere from one to five backing vocalists. Backing vocalists can sing in different ways for supporting the song and/or the lead vocalist. Let’s get down to mixing…
Before jumping into the top seven, let’s first look at where backing vocals can sit in the mix:
—Behind the lead vocalist as a means of supporting the verses or chorus. They’re singing the same words but aren’t as loud as the lead singer. They might only sing the chorus or specific parts, but they are in a supportive roll for adding depth to the mix.
—Counter melody. Much like supporting the chorus, they might be singing a different melodic line.
—In place of the lead singer. In this case, the backing vocalists take over during a chorus and the lead singer doesn’t sing. Did I mention song arrangement is an important part of performing music?
In mixing backing vocalists, you need to consider their role (arrangement) in the song and their placement in the mix so their role can be fulfilled.
The Big 7
1) Less volume. Most of the time, the backing vocalists are supporting the lead singer. You don’t have four lead singers, you have a lead and three backing singers. While there are instances of multiple leads, that’s another story.
Therefore, their volume needs to be less than the lead. How much less? I can’t assign a magic dB number but I’ll say it should be noticeable.
2) Roll off some of their high frequencies. As well as reducing their volume for lead support, you want to place them in a reduced frequency range, just as you would any instrument in your mix. You don’t want to cut out their highs completely, but by using a shelving EQ on their highs, you can make the lead stand out.
Remember, backing vocals should be blended together while not sounding like a doubling of the lead singer.
3) Back off the lows. Again with a shelf filter so they aren’t clogging up the instruments while at the same time, not sounding too flat.
4) Separate and blend with reverb. First, use a different type of reverb than the lead vocal. The lead vocal would be good with a short reverb time while the backing vocals can be blended together with a longer reverb like a Hall reverb.
5) Compress them. They will be fitting in the mix in a very tight space and you don’t want a backing vocalist to suddenly sound louder than the others…especially the lead singer. Use a higher compression ratio if necessary, especially if you have one singer who really likes to belt them out.
6) Actively mix them. Blending is more than setting the initial volume levels, setting the EQ, and putting on some reverb. Place the backing vocalists into a group and control all of their volumes with one fader. Then, you can easily cut or boost their volume so they are always in the right relationship in the mix.
If the lead singer lets the backing vocalists take over for the chorus, then you can easily boost their volume. You can also boost their vocals at a point in the song when a verse has a punched up line that stands out. This is where it helps to listen to professional recordings of the same songs during the week.
7) Blend the vocalists together. You aren’t creating three distinct sounds for the three backing vocalists. You are creating a single sound. Cut and boost frequencies so they sound as one.
Looking beyond the highs and lows, consider these frequencies as a place to start:
The Take Away
All vocalists on the stage shouldn’t be singing at the same volume level. They shouldn’t all sound distinct. Backing vocalists can be used in multiple ways depending on the song arrangement. They aren’t used to sound like a duplicate of the lead singer.
Consider the group as an instrument when in one song, they are a blended rhythm guitar, and in another song, they are the highlighted lead instrument.
Ready to learn and laugh? Chris Huff writes about the world of church audio at Behind The Mixer. He covers everything from audio fundamentals to dealing with musicians, and can even tell you the signs the sound guy is having a mental breakdown. To view the original article and to make comments, go here.
GC Pro Offers Neve Genesys Console With New EQ Option
Also offering special pricing on a fixed configuration of the console for a limited time
Guitar Center Professional (GC Pro) and AMS Neve have announced a new EQ option, 88R-style four-band EQ, for the Neve Genesys digitally controlled analog recording console that incorporates digital workstation control.
This new EQ option is an alternative to the classic 1084 EQ option currently available. Exclusively distributed in the U.S. by GC Pro, the Genesys was designed to address the new realities of the modern professional audio industry for music and post production, while building on Neve’s 50 years of technical heritage.
Genesys consoles are the only console available offering genuine 1073 mic pre transformers.
In addition, GC Pro is offering a special price on a fixed configuration of Genesys console: $75,000 for a limited time, until the end of March 2013. This represents a discount of more than 25 percent.
Specially-priced Genesys configuration:
—24-fader/48 input console (in a sub-fitted 32-fader frame) —24 channels fitted with 1073 mic preamps —24 channels fitted with the new EQ option —8 channels of dynamics —Motorized faders, with Encore automation software. —Total Recall software
Everyone wants to go digital for their audio mixing. Whether this is necessarily a good idea for every church is a topic we’ll tackle later.
For now, we’re going to look at three mixers that look like perfect fits for the small- to mid-sized church (200-800 seats or so). Two of these three mixers are fairly new—the Behringer X32 and the Roland M-200i. Meanwhile, the PreSonus StudioLIve 24.4.2 has been around a little bit longer and has a dedicated user base.
But how do they compare? Let’s find out. Note, this is a feature comparison only. At some point, I hope to get all three of them together for a sound comparison, but we’re going to operate under the assumption that they all sound good enough for this application.
In this series, I’m not looking to call a winner. I’m simply running through the feature set of each desk. The reality is that each of these will be right for someone, but it’s unlikely that each will be right for everybody.
Also note that these listings are done in chronological order and do not indicate any preferences. (The M-200i is the latest to be released, preceded by the X32 and then the StudioLive 24.4.2.)
With that said, let’s get on with it.
To start off, we’ll consider the work surface as that is how we’ll be interacting with the mixer most of the time.
M-200i: 16 motorized faders (configurable for input, output mixes, DCAs and user layers) plus 1 motorized master
The lack of motorized faders are a deal-breaker for some, especially if you’re using the iPad app (which is rather good). Once you make any changes on the iPad, you have to use a “fader locate” mode to position the faders on the surface to match the current levels.
The M-200i is a small mixer; it’s able to be rack-mounted. As such, the control surface does not have a ton of controls on it. Each channel has dedicated mute, solo and select buttons; there are 8 buttons for selecting sends on fader mode (pressing 2 of them will select the matrix mixes); there are 8 user defined keys; 5 layer keys; about 20 buttons for selecting various operating sections and controlling the small LCD display, and a single encoder.
Though small, it’s easy to see and the navigation isn’t too hard. Each channel also has a 5-segment meter, while a larger meter keeps track of the L&R output. While sparse, it’s laid out well, and it is very easy to get around on.
The X32 is a larger mixer, so it has more dedicated controls. Each channel strip has the mute, solo and select buttons plus a color-coded (user assignable) digital scribble strip and a 5-segment meter. Three (3) buttons and 2 encoders adjust compression settings; a pair each of buttons and encoders control the gate; 3 encoders and 6 buttons mange EQ (4 of the buttons select the band you’re working on); 4 encoders and buttons allow for easy aux mixing, and a handful of other buttons and rotaries manage other tasks.
They also included user-definable rotaries with digital scribble strips to manage often adjusted parameters (reverb time, for example). You also have 6 UDKs. And we can’t forget the iPhone rest. The X32 also comes with a 7-inch color LCD (non-touch) with some encoders and buttons to navigate the interface. It’s a little busy, but not terribly so. I’ve played with it at trade shows and it’s not hard at all to get around on.
The StudioLive 24.4.2 is in between size-wise. The oddest thing about all the StudioLive mixers is the Fat Channel. Using 24 encoders and a bunch of buttons, you can adjust the EQ, dynamics and aux sends of any selected channel. It’s odd because the layout is horizontal and the EQ display is not anything like what we’re used to. I’ve mixed on them and it takes a while to become used to what you’re looking at. I give them points for creative packaging, but I’m not really crazy about it.
However, the StudioLive is the only one to offer a dedicated gain knob for each channel. The other two have one gain knob and you select channels to activate. Because so many of the functions on the StudioLive are multifunction, the surface is littered with buttons. The display is small and the interface is clumsy to navigate. It’s actually much more useful when attached to a computer running the editor software. Like an 01V from Yamaha, I wouldn’t want to mix without PC or (preferably) Mac control.
These mixers are more or less comparable in terms of channel count. Sort of.
The M-200i can mix up to 32 channels at a time, from a possible maximum of 64 inputs. The mixer has 16 recallable mic pres on the surface, plus another 8 line inputs. With the REAC port, you can additional stage racks for up to 40 additional inputs. In addition to the L&R outputs on XLR, you have an additional 10 assignable analog outs (6 XLR, 4 TRS) plus a 2-channel AES out.
Of course adding a stage box will add an additional 8-16 outs, depending on configuration. You can record via a USB-B connector on the back, or by plugging into the Ethernet jack and using Sonar (up to 40 channels).
The X32 has 32 “Midas Inspired” recallable mic preamps on board, along with another 6 line ins. You get 2 AES50 ports that will give you another 48 inputs and outputs. What’s interesting about this is that you could use Klark Teknik mic pres (which cost more than the X32). I mean, if you wanted to. For output connections, you get 16 analog outs (XLR), plus a stereo control room output set, and an AES stereo pair. They also include an additional 6 Aux outs on TRS.
A FireWire or USB interface port will give you 32 x 32 channels of recording and playback. According to the website, you can access up to 168 possible sources and destinations if you plug in everything. Thought that might be overkill for a board that can mix 32 of those 168 sources…
The StudioLive 24.4.2 looks a lot more like an analog console from the back. You have 24 non-recallable mic pres, each with a corresponding insert jack and a line input. You also get a pair of stereo aux inputs on TRS, Tape in and out on RCAs. On the output side, you get 10 aux outs on TRS, a main L&R on XLR, TRS and S/PDIF (and a mono for good measure). Via FireWire, two consoles can cascade together. Note that when this is done, you lose the ability to record. Which is kind of a bummer. It should also be noted that doing this does double your channel count to 48, but you gain no mix buses. Finally, two FireWire 400 jacks provide 32 channels of recording and 26 channels of playback.
Managing inputs is one thing; but how many ways can you combine them? That’s the real measure of a console. And this is where they start to diverge a little bit.
The M-200i goes a “big console” route with 8 mix buses and 4 matrix mixes. That’s a total of 12, which is not really the big leagues, but the matrix is nice. Each matrix can take input from any input channel or aux mix, so they can be used like auxes if you want. Of course you have the 2 channel main bus, and 8 DCAs (which aren’t really mixes but are darn handy). All of the mix buses has EQ and dynamics available.
The X32 sees those 12 mix buses and raises it 4. In addition to LCR (3 main) outputs, it also has 16 mix buses (which can act like auxes or groups) plus another 6 matrix mixes.
Like the M-200i, the mix buses have EQ and dynamics, however, the X32 boasts a 6 band PEQ, instead of the 4-band of the M200i. You also get 8 DCAs.
The StudioLive 24.4.2 offers 10 aux buses and 4 subgroups. In this way, it is much more like an analog console. You get graphic EQs on the auxes, but it doesn’t appear to have dynamics.
One of the big benefits of digital is the ability to do away with racks and racks of outboard gear that’s necessary with analog mixers. Each of these desks have a set of built-in effects, not to mention compression, gating and EQ on every channel.
Now, we’re not going to talk about the quality of the effects here; this is a feature comparison only. Generally speaking, the quality of the effects in smaller boards is not as good as it is in larger ones. It’s just a question of a price point, really. You can’t expect to get the super-high quality sound of a $1,500 effects unit in a console that costs $3,000, give or take. Still, each console gives you some built-in options.
The M-200i has 4 effects “racks” and a somewhat limited selection of built in effects. I’m not sure what the final spec is yet, but when I tried to load more than 1 stereo reverb, I got a dialog telling me that only 1 stereo reverb can run at a time. That leaves the other racks open for, well, not much other than simple delays and not so useful effects like flangers, phasers and choruses. I’d much prefer more reverbs.
You can also use the 4 effects racks as 31-band EQs (in addition to the 4 dedicated 31-bands). This is where limited DSP starts to come into play; you can only do so much with the DSP in a $3,500 console. It’s a bit of a limitation, but keep in mind the overall price point of this mixer; it’s amazing it does what it does.
The X32 really beefs up on the effects rack with 8 true-stereo processors (or 16 mono). However, it can run just 4 stereo reverbs at once. Reverb really burns up the DSP, so you can see everyone has to be careful what they allow. You can, however, run 4 reverbs with 8 GEQs at once. So that’s nice. Behringer also lets you download effects from their website.
The StudioLive 24.4.2 includes 2 FX engines with 50 preset effects to choose from. Each effect has a variety of parameters that can be edited, saved and recalled. You also get four dual-channel 31-band EQs that can be put on any of the outputs; subgroups, auxes and mains.
PreSonus also recently introduced Smaart acoustic measurement software built into the console to help you set those EQs up properly. One thing I like about the StudioLive is that you don’t have to burn an aux to use the FX. Each FX engine has it’s own “aux.” So that’s nice.
We’re getting through it all, but there is one key component (and probably another minor one) left; iPad control. Each of these consoles can be controlled via iPad, but the way they go about it is quite different. Next time, we’ll look to see how each implements remote mixing.
Mike Sessler is the Technical Director at Coast Hills Community Church in Aliso Viejo, CA. He has been involved in live production for over 20 years and is the author of the blog Church Tech Arts. He also hosts a weekly podcast called Church Tech Weekly on the TechArtsNetwork.
It can be a dangerous job and it's critical to take appropriate precautions
We don’t often think of concert and event production as being a dangerous profession, but far too many accidents and injuries - and sometimes even deaths - occur each year in our chosen profession.
Most of these accidents are caused by human error and can be avoided if we simply pay attention to what we’re doing and follow basic safety rules. Here are a few things (and more) to keep in mind:
Always wear eye protection when using tools or working in an area where others are using tools. We only get one set of eyes in our lifetime.
Our ears are our livelihood, so hearing protection is a must.
Wear gloves when loading in/out, and especially when working with ropes, aircraft cables, or chain.
Remember to lift with your legs, not your back! And get help when moving heavy and/or bulky items.
Wear closed-toe footwear at gigs. Even better, go with steel toe boots.
Make sure electrical power is off before connecting or disconnecting power and/or feeder cables.
For feeders, always connect ground wires first, then neutral wires, and finally, hot legs. Disconnect in reverse order (hot legs, neutral, ground).
Protect power cords from damage and avoid creating trip hazards with cable covers or ramps, or by using a cable bridge and running cables overhead, out of harm’s way.
When using a portable generator, make sure that a ground rod is in place and connected properly to the generator.
Keep a first aid kit in your vehicles, and one at the event site. Now is a good time to check your kits and restock any supplies.
Never block a fire exit with equipment or cases.
Check fire extinguishers to make sure they’re in good operating condition. Repair, recharge or replace them as needed.
Be sure all portable ladders are set up correctly and are stable before using.
Wear a correctly sized harness when working off the ground or operating lifts. Now is a good time to check harnesses and lanyards to make sure they’re in good condition.
Always tie off with lanyards when working off the ground. Wearing a harness does no good if you’re not tied off to a good anchor.
And check anchor points before relying on them with your life!
Only qualified people should design rigging systems or perform rigging.
That said, anybody who sees any problem with rigging (or any other safety issue for that matter) can call “stop” and point out the issue so it can be addressed and corrected to avoid an accident or injury.
Only properly trained and certified persons should operate lifts and material handling equipment like fork trucks. Be especially careful when operating machines around people.
Many machines have dead spots where the operator’s vision is hindered. Use a spotter to help guide machines when needed.
And when working outside, always check for overhead power lines before raising a load, ladder, or lift!
Stay hydrated when working, especially when outside in the summer heat.
Drink plenty of water throughout the day, and drink it even before you even feel thirsty, because by the time the feeling of thirst kicks in, your body might already be low on fluids.
Pay attention (to yourself and others) for signs of heat cramps, heat exhaustion, and heat stroke. Again, stay hydrated, take plenty of breaks, and cool off periodically in the shade or inside to avoid heat induced problems.
Don’t forget the most important safety equipment that we possess: our brains!
Get a good night’s rest so you can be fresh and alert at the gig the next day. Drowsiness and inattention to details cause of a lot of accidents and injuries on shows.
And finally, if you see something unsafe on any event you are working, stop and make sure the problem is corrected, even if the problem is not audio related.
Even though many different trades work on a show, we’re all a team and safety is everybody’s job.
Craig Leerman is senior contributing editor for Live Sound International, and has worked in professional audio for more than 25 years. He is also the owner of Tech Works, a regional production company based in Las Vegas that focuses on live corporate events.
Here’s an excerpt from The Mixing Engineer’s Handbook, Second Edition, available here.
Most great mixers think in three dimensions. They think “Tall, Deep and Wide,” which means to make sure that all the frequencies are represented, make sure the mix has depth, then make sure it has some stereo dimension as well.
The “Tall” dimension (which is called “Frequency Range”) is the result of knowing what sounds right as a result of having a reference point. This reference point can come from being an assistant engineer and listening to what other first engineers do, or simply by comparing your mix to some CDs, records or files that you’re very familiar with and consider to be of high fidelity.
Essentially, what you’re trying to accomplish is to make sure that all the frequencies are properly represented. Usually that means that all of the sparkly, tinkly highs and fat, powerful lows are there. Sometimes some mids need to be cut or other frequencies need to be added, but regardless what you add or subtract, Clarity is what you aim for.
Again, experience with elements that sound good really helps as a reference point.
The Effects or “Deep” dimension is achieved by introducing new ambience elements into the mix. This is usually done with reverbs and delays (and offshoots like flanging and chorusing) but room mics, overheads and even leakage play an equally big part as well.
The panning or “Wide” dimension achieved by placing a sound element in a sound field in such a way as to make a more interesting soundscape, and so that each element is heard more clearly.
But before we can talk about how to make a great mix, it’s good to be aware of the signs of one that isn’t that great. Does your mix have any of these characteristics?
Signs Of An Amateur Mix
No Contrast – The same musical textures are used throughout the entire song.
A Frequent Lack Of A Focal Point – There are holes between lyrics where nothing is brought forward in the mix to hold the listener’s attention.
Mixes That Are Noisy – Clicks, hums, extraneous noises, count-offs, and sometimes lip-smacks and breaths are all things that the listener finds distracting.
Mixes That Lack Clarity And Punch – Instruments aren’t distinct, and low-end frequencies are either too weak or too big.
Mixes That Sound Distant And Are Devoid Of Any Feeling Of Intimacy – The mix sounds distant because too much reverb or overuse of other effects.
Inconsistent Levels – Instrument levels that vary from balanced to too soft or too loud. Certain lyrics that can’t be distinguished.
Dull And Uninteresting Sounds – Generic, dated or frequently-heard sounds are used. There’s a difference between using something because it’s hip and new and using it because everyone else is using it.
So you’ve seen what comprises a bad mix. What makes a good one? First of all, let’s look at the elements that a great mix must have.
The 6 Elements Of A Mix
Every piece of modern music, meaning Rock, Pop, R&B, Rap, Country, New Age, Swing, Drum and Bass, Trance and every other genre having a strong backbeat, has six main elements to a great mix.
Balance – The volume level relationship between musical elements
Frequency Range – Having all frequencies properly represented
Panorama – Placing a musical element in the soundfield
Dimension – Adding ambience to a musical element
Dynamics – Controlling the volume envelope of a track or instrument
Interest – Making the mix special
Many mixers have only four or five of these when doing a mix, but all of these elements MUST be present for a GREAT mix, as they are all equally important.
In music that requires simply recreating an unaltered acoustic event (Classical or Jazz or any live concert recording), it’s possible that only the first four elements are needed to have a mix be considered great, but Dynamics and Interest have evolved to become extremely important elements as modern music has evolved.
Go here to acquire a copy of The Mixing Engineer’s Handbook, Second Edition.
Bobby Owsinski is an author, producer, music industry veteran and technical consultant who has written numerous books covering all aspects of audio recording. For more information be sure to check out his website and blog.
Monterey Style: Capturing Diverse Sounds At A Top Jazz Festival
Concentrating on the source of the audio itself – the musicians’ instruments and how they are captured
The annual Monterey Jazz Festival is a three-day extravaganza where tens of thousands of music fans enjoy a variety of jazz acts on several stages throughout the grounds.
The most recent edition of the festival (the 55th), held late last year, saw stages ranging from two informal outdoor venues featuring simple audio systems in the entry courtyard and the concessions area to the 6,500-seat Jimmy Lyons arena with a concert stage, flown loudspeaker arrays, and full front-of-house and monitor stations.
Venerable sound company McCune Audio of San Francisco provided audio support for the festival, as it has for many years.
While delivering excellent sound reinforcement to the audience is a prime responsibility, it is equally as important to concentrate on the source of the audio itself – the musicians’ instruments and how they are captured.
This involves the selection of appropriate microphones for each instrument based on their frequency and dynamic ranges, maintaining sufficient isolation among the instruments, mixing the outputs of electronic and acoustic instruments, and balancing the stage requirements of the musicians with the house systems that present the results to hundreds or thousands of listeners.
I attended the festival to see first-hand how the sound team handles this highly improvisational musical form, and will focus on some of the equipment and techniques that bring the artists’ music to the audience – and that give the artists the intimacy to interact with each other musically on the concert stage.
The Tierney Sutton Band on the Night Club Stage at the 55th Monterey Jazz Festival. (click to enlarge)
Mixing On The Fly
A reality of festival shows is that a number of acts, each with differing instrumentation and requirements, come to the stage with only a short break in between to place equipment and set up and confirm the miking, DIs, monitor mixes, and feeds to the front-of-house console.
Some elements are pre-set with stage plots, equipment riders, moveable drum risers in the wings, discussions with the musicians and their technical staff, and pre-show sound checks when time permits – but many decisions must be made on the fly.
At the Arena Stage, when the curtains close and setup begins for the next act, front-of-house engineer Nick Malgieri had several useful ways to monitor the action. Two side-stage cameras were focused on the setup area, and fed to a video monitor at the FOH position.
Arena Stage house engineer Nick Malgieri at his DiGiCo SD10. (click to enlarge)
With the visuals, he was able to know where musicians and microphones= were placed, and how the audio capture was being set. Via the intercom system, he was able to talk with the stage techs and be informed of any changes.
The mains were Meyer Sound MILO line arrays, tuned to a flat frequency response, and Malgieri also had a replica of this system at FOH, allowing him to pre-mix the next act on his DiGiCo SD10 console as the mics were placed and tested. He monitored through a pair of Meyer UPM-1 loudspeakers, equivalently tuned, set up so that the audio response of the mains and his monitors can translate back and forth. Malgieri notes that this method is “a huge tool” because he’s not able to sound check all of the acts.
Another technique, explains Marian Colbeck, house engineer at the Garden Stage, is to set up the console with a “festival patch.”
From left to right across the console, groups of channels are designated and labeled for particular instruments for the duration of the event. Drums, bass, piano/keys, guitars, lead vocals, backing vocals, horns, and so on each have specific channels to patch into.
If a particular act does not have a certain instrument, or fewer than the allotted channels, then those channels are skipped. For the big bands, with multiple mics for the saxes, trumpets, trombones, and other brass, channel sections on the right side of the console are reserved.
Veteran stage technician Brian Alexander specializes in piano, having worked extensively with Chick Corea and several other artists, and he spent the show at the Arena Stage.
On the subject of compromise in audio capture decisions, he points out a “contention” between audience sound and artist sound – a tradeoff between the aesthetics that are most pleasing to the musician and their sound and what can be delivered to the main loudspeakers (and thus the audience) given the stage setup, the venue acoustics, and the interactions with the other instruments on stage.
Alexander adds that it is all about balancing needs by making the artist comfortable while providing sufficient level, quality, and isolation to the individual instruments. With TV screens and broadcast becoming a norm for live shows, visual sight lines for the TV producers are an additional consideration for miking.
“It’s a strange, interesting world behind the curtains, requiring multi-tasking people who can make something happen right now,” he notes.
The piano is a central instrument to many of the acts performing at the festival, and its sound helps define the jazz genre. Two intertwining goals of piano miking are to capture the natural timbre and range of the piano while minimizing bleed from other instruments into those microphones.
Interior photo of the piano miking at the Arena Stage. (click to enlarge)
At the festival, a combination of closely placed omni mics, ambient cardioid condenser mics, and soundboard pickups are used either by themselves or in tandem to achieve sufficient level along with adequate isolation to the piano.
The Arena Stage piano was miked in such a fashion. Four AKG C 414 side-fire condenser mics were used, with one pair mounted on either side of the soundboard with the microphone’s diaphragm pointing downward and in toward the center of the soundboard, capturing the lower and higher strings.
The second pair was mounted on the propped-open lid, affixed to the upper bracing, again angled down toward the soundboard on the low and high side; these more distant mics were to provide ambience when stage levels were low enough to prevent significant bleed.
Two DPA 4060 miniature omni condensers were positioned on ribs of the soundboard “harp” approximately six inches from the key hammers, and about a foot in from the low and high sides of the piano. The mic elements were pointed up toward the lid. An AMT M40 piano boundary mic system was placed through one of the holes in the harp onto the soundboard, and secured with tape to both hold it in place and prevent any rattle or buzz. The closely placed AMT provides isolation and the ability to raise the level on the piano when bleed-through with the other mics is too great or sufficient gain is not able to be achieved with them.
Rounding out the piano miking, a pair of Shoepps MK4 cardioid condensers on external tripod stands outside of the piano provides “air” when stage levels permit. All of the cables and connectors from the mics within the piano are run together in a bundle, and are clearly labeled so that the particular miking combination for each act can be selected and run to the monitor and main consoles.
Malgieri explains that the choice of mics used with any given act is a judgment call based on the orchestration and physical setup of the band. He prefers using omni mics and studio miking techniques when possible, but if a drum kit is nearby, then a “sliding scale compromise” comes into play.
The other end of the spectrum, when using overhead mics is impossible, is to deploy the AMT pickup along with any other closely placed mics, and to high-pass the condensers at 1 kHz to 2 kHz for “crispness” and mix it with the DI feed from the AMT system’s preamp.
In this case he is likely to use the fundamentals from the AMT, with the DPA 4060s or the AKG C 414s adding the top.
Move & Groove
McCune’s favorite mic for capturing solo horns is the Shure KSM27, and these microphones were used at most of the stages. The typical positioning is one to two feet in front of the instrument, and the engineers noted that they’re especially useful for players with plenty of volume and projection.
The player is free to “move and groove” from this distance without any appreciable change in audio response or proximity effect. The mic’s cardioid pattern and good isolation, plus its “natural sound,” were given as reasons for the choice.
When miking horn sections at the festival, mics were either placed one per player or “split chairs” when the sections were large – such as having five players share three mics. Several big bands played the Garden and Dizzy’s Den Stages, requiring a significant quantity of microphones.
Esperanza Spalding and band on the Arena Stage, providing a view of some of the mic approaches. (click to enlarge)
Sennheiser MD 421s were used for saxophones and sometimes for trumpets and other horns (run either flat or with the highs slightly rolled off ), with Shure SM57s as the “workhorse instrument mic” for trumpets and trombones, and the occasional Electro-Voice RE-20 for lower frequency brass. A KSM27 was typically placed up front for soloists.
At the Garden Stage, which is outdoors, the majority of the mics are high-passed at 80 Hz, mainly to minimize wind noise. As one engineer told me, “with 40 open mics, if anything will be a problem it will be the low end.” Also, the channels are generally run closer to flat outdoors, since without the reflective surfaces and potential room resonances there is less need for corrective EQ.
Drum miking trended toward simplicity at the smaller stages, with the kick and snare individually miked and a pair of overhead condensers capturing the cymbals and toms. The AKG D 112 was predominantly used on kick, although an Audix D6 was also observed for one act. Snares were typically miked with the SM57, while overheads ranged from C 414s to Shure SM81s and KSM27s or KSM32s.
On the larger Arena Stage, additional mics were used on individual toms in some cases, using small condensers with short goosenecks clipped to the rims and aimed toward the outer edge of the drum heads. Melody Gardot’s drummer deployed a C 414 on a stand angled at about 30 degrees and about 6 inches away to capture the snare; the percussionist used a set of Audix percussion mics to capture his wide variety of instruments.
To reproduce the acoustic bass, either a bridge-mounted pickup is used (already installed on the instrument by the artist) through a DI, or a small microphone is placed under the bridge. Malgieri favors the DPA 4060 omni mic for this purpose, and considers it his “Swiss Army knife” for concealed, closely miked applications.
For Gardot’s act on the Arena Stage, the bassist used a bridge pickup run through his SWR amp, and the speaker was miked with an AKG D 112. At the Garden Stage, when possible, the instrument pickup was supplemented with a mic on the instrument, or on the amp’s speaker.
There was nothing unusual about guitar miking; typically it was handled with an SM57 on the guitar amp, aimed toward the outer edge of the speaker cone. No acoustic guitars were observed at the festival other than a nylon-string guitar using a bridge pickup and DI played for one tune at the arena stage, and most were semi-hollow body electrics.
Engineers mixed a wide variety of acts, ranging from quiet duos to big bands, and each with their own styles, stage levels, and requirements. For example, trumpeter Christian Scott and his band appeared on the Night Club stage, with instrumentation including drums, acoustic bass, acoustic piano, electric guitar, and trumpet.
During the majority of the sound check, the band leader went out into the audience seats to call his preferences as each instrument was dialed in, and the combo played. According to house engineer Mark Speen, the artist preferred to push the bass frequencies up a bit to provide a more visceral feel. The music itself had plenty of drive, and levels were close to that of a rock act.
The electric guitar was played through an onstage amp with an SM57 aimed toward the center of the speaker and run with only slight EQ. For the piano, miked with a pair of KSM27 overheads and an ATM25 “in the hole,” the high mids were pushed to “shine above the guitar a little.” A slight pan was also used to separate the instruments since their frequency ranges overlapped.
The Eddie Palmieri Salsa Orchestra on the Arena Stage, with all acoustic instruments getting dedicated mics. (click to enlarge)
The bass had a bridge pickup which was routed to the console through a Countryman passive DI, while the drum kit was captured with a D 112 on kick, an AKG dynamic on the snare, and a pair of Shure SM81 pencil condensers for overheads. Scott supplied his own CAD E100 mic for his trumpet.
At the same stage earlier in the day, a duo consisting of guitarist Mimi Fox and flautist Ali Ryerson had a simple setup consisting of an SM58 on the flute and an SM57 on the guitar amp. The resulting musical rapport was extraordinary, and the sound was great.
Later, Tierney Sutton and her long-term band brought yet another musical flavor with acoustic piano, acousticelectric bass, drums, and vocals. The same piano and miking as with Scott’s band was taken, but with more emphasis placed on the overhead mics. A DI to the console captured the bass, and the drums featured an Audix D6 kick mic, SM57 for snares, and pencil condenser overheads.
Sutton, seated on a stool, sang through a KSM9, with a pair of floor monitors bringing the band to her. Behind her, the band was arranged on a diagonal so that they had visual contact, with the bassist sandwiched between the piano and drums.
Same stage, same day, different acts – each with widely varying instrumentation and dynamics.
Gary Parks has served as marketing manager and wireless product manager for Clear-Com Intercom Systems, and also handled RF planning software sales with EDX Wireless in addition to doing loudspeaker and wireless product management at Electro-Voice.
Making Musical Decisions When It Comes To Stage Volume
Being part of the progression of how the music reaches an audience and how it is made on stage.
Stage volume, stage volume, stage volume.
I think if I have said it once, I have said it a million times. But about four months ago, while in a rehearsal, I had been preaching in-ears, in-ears, in-ears, and then BANG it hit me.
Sometimes they do play better without the in-ears!
I want to be able to do the best possible mix, but sometimes, as audio engineers we can stifle the creativeness and enthusiasm on stage by the constraints that we try to push upon our artists. Luckily, this particular band is very cool and we have a great relationship.
It is very nice to be reminded that when you can get along with the band, they can get along with you.
We had played numerous shows since I finally came down off my audio high horse and realized that I was inhibiting the creativeness of the band.
After listening to board tapes from the in-ear days and the “post” in-ear days, I can hear a noticeable difference in the playing and the enthusiasm.
I mentioned it to the players and they think I am funny, because I think about such weird things.
However, I have gotten them to admit that in-ears aren’t their favorite thing.
Don’t get me wrong, I totally believe in hearing conservation, and think that in-ears have their place in live audio.
I by no means want anyone to think that I am saying that using ears is the wrong thing to do. I am, however, saying that as audio engineers, we sometimes get caught up in the “technical” and forget about the musical.
Just like the technical side of things, there are many things that go into making music.
To me one of the most important is your level of comfort with your surroundings, defined in this situation as your band mates and crew.
The road is a wonderful place, but the wrong atmosphere presented by any of our surroundings can ruin it. I think as techs we should be aware of the situations that we put our artists in.
Over the years I have found that the limited time that we have to make our artists feel comfortable with us as people and technicians is very important. We have a very short period to make it happen in the live audio field.
Sorry to burst the bubble, but I think as technicians we forget that it is our job to not only be a professional, but make sure that anything that might be going on throughout the day doesn’t affect our work. Yup, there it is, I finally said it!
I had finally figured it out, and my artists have never been happier. Getting mad, not listening and most of all, not allowing the artist to have any creative input is truly a suicide attempt.
Don’t get me wrong, you don’t always have to agree with everyone, but you must at least hear them out for them to respect you enough to try that crazy idea you have about moving their guitar amp off stage.
Artists are an interesting breed, and most of the time don’t care what the technical reason is for an issue, they just want to know that you can handle it.
Most of the creativeness can be drained from an artist if you are unwilling to listen to suggestions and ideas they might have.
I think I have had good and bad relationships with artist because of my lack of listening. Isn’t it funny that we are supposed to use our ears for mixing but somehow we forget to leave them open for suggestion and requests?
Stage volume disagreements seem to be at the root of all evil in a lot of situations. The manner in which we react or don’t react to the stage volume issue could make or break a career.
I think we all could take a course in “professional banter” and learn a thing or two. I can’t tell you how many times I have seen engineers scream at the Guitar player to turn down or used some “cute” way to get their attention and then TOLD them to turn down.
I think one of the things artists and performers respect most is when you go to them to let them know the concerns you have about the problem you are having.
I truly believe that explaining the cause of the problem, and then what the result will be, in a polite yet professional manner, is the quickest way to move down the road so that we all can have a better day.
Any artist or performer worth a grain of salt will at least hear you out.
Don’t get me wrong - that doesn’t mean they are going to always agree with you, but most will have the common courtesy to at least consider the problem.
When faced with the consequences, I think you find that most will choose the best path for all involved.
With all of this said, please don’t forget that you are a large part of the progression of how the music reaches an audience and how it is made on stage. Please don’t let the “I’m the engineer” philosophy get in the way of being an asset to the performers.
Roland Systems Group Unveils M-200i 32-Channel iPad Controlled V-Mixer (Bumped: Includes Video)
Fuses iPad control with the capabilities of a professional digital mixing console
Roland Systems Group has introduced the M-200i, a compact mixer offering the flexibility and mobility of iPad control fused with the capabilities of a professional digital mixing console. (Check out video coverage of the new M-200i below.)
The iPad app is fully functional on all key aspects of the M-200i mixing and control parameters. It contains the typical preamp control, pan, high pass filters, and extensive PEQ and GEQ control, as well as the ability to store and recall scenes, adjust compressors and gates, sends on faders, effect editing and many other controls. This enables complete remote control of a mix from any location in the room.
Wirelessly connect using a router plugged into the LAN port on the M-200i or use the Roland Wireless Connect adapter (WNA1100-RL) plugged into a USB port. Additionally, an iPad can be connected by using a multi-pin iPad cable included with the M-200i that not only provides wired connectivity but also charges the iPad.
The physical console features a 32-channel architecture with 17 motorized faders, 8 aux, 4 matrix, 8 DCAs, 24 physical inputs and 14 outputs (expandable to 64 x 54).
In addition to the physical inputs, the M-200i can mix in audio sources from the USB port (flash key). If an iPad isn’t available, the console is fully controllable via the built in LCD screen along with buttons to navigate all the mixing parameters in the M-200i.
An intuitive and precise feature is touch and turn that allows the user to touch a particular parameter on the iPad and control it with a physical knob on the console.
The M-200i also includes a Roland Ethernet Audio Communication (REAC) port that opens the door to powerful expandability options including multi-channel playback/recording, additional remote physical inputs, and personal mixing system.
The REAC port can expand the number of physical inputs by connecting one of the popular Digital Snakes heads such as the S-1608 a 16-input, 8-output box connected via a single, inexpensive Cat5e/6 cable. In addition, the REAC port can provides live multi-channel recording using Cakewalks SONAR Producer.
The Roland M-200i also supports the M-48 personal mixing system.
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