Mixer

Tuesday, July 07, 2015

Ridley High School Upgrades Auditorium With Community

Exploded cluster with Community I SERIES solves coverage and clarity issues that have been a problem for the school since 2001.

Ridley High School serves 2200 students in its facility near Philadelphia, which was recently upgraded with loudspeakers from Community Professional.

Ridley’s auditorium is well designed for dramatic performances and musicals with a large stage and modern technical and lighting systems.

Unfortunately, the original audio system was poorly designed and installed. Its loudspeakers were suspended above the acoustic clouds resulting in numerous dead spots, poor vocal clarity and muffled music quality.

In early 2015, after several unsuccessful repair attempts, the school asked Clear Sound of Yeadon, Pennsylvania to propose a system upgrade.

Clear Sound’s Chris Hughes designed a new loudspeaker system using three Community I SERIES model IP8-1152/96 loudspeakers suspended below the acoustic clouds and arranged in an exploded cluster configuration to cover the auditorium evenly. He biamped the loudspeakers with QSC amplifiers and provided a Biamp Nexia CS DSP system with remote controls located in the tech booth and at the stage.

The upgraded system includes an existing PreSonus digital mixer and a variety of wired and wireless microphones.

Hughes says the upgrade turned out very well. The system now has smooth coverage with no dead spots and the vocal clarity and musical quality are excellent. Although the original system included subwoofers, Hughes says the I SERIES loudspeakers have plenty of bass with no subwoofers needed.  He commented that the school recently presented its yearly musical, “Legally Blonde” and people were thrilled with the sound.

Community Professional

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Posted by House Editor on 07/07 at 08:09 AM
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Monday, July 06, 2015

Indie Film Tangerines Depends On Sound Devices

Six-channel portable production mixer with integrated recorder captures audio for movie filmed entirely on iPhone 5s.

When veteran sound mixer Irin Strauss was tasked with capturing audio for the indie films, Tangerine, he turned to the 664 production mixer by Sound Devices.

Tangerine is a comedy-drama about a woman who searches throughout Hollywood for the pimp who broke her heart and the girl with whom he cheated.

The film was shot on two Apple iPhone5s, requiring Strauss to choose highly compact, mobile equipment in order to keep up with the film crew. 

“For Tangerine, two cameramen were running around with phones, allowing us to quickly shoot in certain locations, almost undetected,” says Strauss.

“As the sound guy and the boom operator, I had the most to carry. Having the mixer and recorder in one machine proved invaluable for this project, as it was one less thing to carry.”

Armed with his Sound Devices 664, purchased from Gotham Sound, Strauss was able to keep up with the two iPhone 5 operators.

For the narrative dialogue, he put everything onto one track, with straight ISOs for everybody else, who were wired most of the time. He would also mix the boom and the wired tracks when necessary. 

“We weren’t really sure how things would pan out, shooting an entire film using just iPhones, and since the pace was so fast, there wasn’t time to create sound reports, so I really had to rely on the metadata from the 664,” says Strauss. “In addition, using the 664 made monitoring each individual track very easy and convenient.”

The smart phone camera setup also included Moondog Labs’ 1.33x anamorphic adapter and the FiLMiC Pro app. In addition to his 664, Strauss used a Lectrosonics SMV wireless system for his transmitters, along with Sanken COS-11D lavaliers. He employed a Schoeps CMIT5U shotgun microphone and, occasionally, a T-powered Schoeps CMC 4U for locations with low ceilings and little head room. 

“This was probably the most challenging project I have ever worked on, as it was not easy to keep up with two guys with iPhones,” says Strauss. “They would just grab their phones and start shooting. Since there weren’t any monitors, I had to make my best guess about what the shots were and how they aligned them. The 664 was really an excellent choice for this fast-paced production. It is a great piece of equipment.”

As a loyal Sound Devices user and customer since the company’s formation, Strauss adds, “from tech to customer service, the company has always been top notch; professional and a pleasure to work with.”

The 664 features six ultra-low noise, high dynamic range transformer-less preamps that accept mic- or line-level signals and include analog peak limiters, high-pass filters, input trim control and direct outputs on every channel. Direct outputs for input channels 1-6 can be switched to six line inputs (7-12)  for a total of 12 inputs.

The 664 records up to 16 tracks of 16- or 24-bit broadcast WAV files to SD and/or CompactFlash cards. All inputs and outputs are individually selectable for recording, enabling the mixer to record up to 12 ISO and four mix tracks. With its dual card slots, the 664 can record WAV or MP3 content to either or both cards simultaneously, with the added ability to assign different tracks to each memory card.

Sound Devices

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Posted by House Editor on 07/06 at 03:26 PM
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Friday, July 03, 2015

Soundcraft Offers Ui Series Digital Console Tutorial Videos (Video)

The videos include 10 chapters, providing an in-depth explanation of all basic and advanced features of the Ui Series consoles

Demonstrating its commitment to providing support and education for its customers, Harman’s Soundcraft has developed a brand-new series of tutorial videos for its Ui Series remote-controlled digital mixers.

The videos are viewable on the Soundcraft website or on Soundcraft’s YouTube page.

The Ui Series tutorial videos include 10 chapters, providing an in-depth explanation of all basic and advanced features of the Ui Series consoles, including: getting the console out of the box, powering up and connecting devices, mixing a show and recalling desk snapshots.

The Ui Series videos also detail what’s available on the mixer, how it can be used effectively at a gig and how to harness the available power with the user interface.

The Ui Series tutorial video chapters include:

Chapter 1: Unboxing and Getting Started

Chapter 2: WiFi and Ethernet Setup

Chapter 3: Overview of Main Fader Page

Chapter 4 (Part 1): Overview of Edit Mode – 4 Band Parametric EQ

Chapter 4 (Part 2): Overview of Edit Mode – Dynamics Processing

Chapter 4 (Part 3): Overview of Edit Mode – Aux Sends, FX Sends and Miscellaneous

Chapter 5 (Part 1): Overview of Auxes and Outputs

Chapter 5 (Part 2): More Me!

Chapter 6 (Part 1): Introduction to Advanced Processing

Chapter 6 (Part 2): In-Depth with DigiTech® Amp Modeling

Chapter 6 (Part 3): In-Depth dbx Automatic Feedback Suppression

Chapter 6 (Part 4): In-Depth Lexicon FX

Chapter 7: Setting up Subgroups, Mute Groups, and View Groups

Chapter 8: USB Playback and Recording

Chapter 9: Shows, Snapshots and Isolates

Chapter 10: Advanced Settings

“The Ui Series is a one-of-a-kind product, with a wealth of possibilities for our customers to unlock. But we also expect that our customers will have many questions when learning to operate such a unique product,” said Sean Karpowicz, product manager, Soundcraft.

“We believe the Ui Series tutorial videos will serve as interactive and engaging user guides that all customers can enjoy and get the most out of these new consoles.”


Soundcraft
Soundcraft’s YouTube page
Harman

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Posted by House Editor on 07/03 at 07:18 AM
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Thursday, July 02, 2015

Allen & Heath GLD Chrome On Tour With Howling

Front of house engineer, Tommy Williams, selects the digital console for recording and recall features to produce consistent performances.

Elemental techno band, Howling, recently purchased Allen & Heath’s new GLD-80 Chrome digital mixer to manage its audio requirements on tour.

The brainchild of singer/songwriter, Ry X, the band wanted A consistent mix at every gig, and has just completed a tour across Europe with the mixer.

“I’ve engineered for Ry X for a number of years, including his other projects, The Acid and Howling. Howling is an interesting band to mix – there are live elements and electronic elements, which need to be combined seamlessly with FX and processing to create a homogenous sound,” explains front of house engineer, Tommy Williams.

Ry X and Williams work together to constantly refine the set.

Williams makes a multi-track recording every night enabling him to recall that footage at the next gig. He uses Scenes to record songs in the set, and also recall FX parameters that alter within each song.

“There are lots of changes within the set, which Ry used to control on a pedal but it’s now my job to recall all those changes. That’s why it’s important we have the same desk every gig to do this seamlessly,” says Williams.

“What’s really great about the new GLD Chrome is the new plugins, including Space Echo and Stereo Tap Delay effects, and the new Compressors, offering a selection of new tools to get our hands on. When you dial them in it’s like using the real gear, and it feels like a more expensive desk because of the tactile nature of the faders and knobs,” he continues.

“What I’ve always liked about A&H products is it doesn’t feel like you’re working inside a computer. You feel like you’re controlling the mix - it’s a tool helping you.”

The band is also impressed that unlike most desks, they can fly with the GLD-80. As flightcased it weighs in just under 30kg.

Allen & Heath

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Posted by House Editor on 07/02 at 10:00 AM
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Pro Bass Player Improves Home Studio With ASP880 And iD22

Phil Mulford's 30-year career encompasses theatre, recording, touring and television - including six series of X-Factor and Britain’s Got Talent.

An Audient ASP880 and iD22, together with a MacPro, two screens and Dynaudio monitors is all that makes up the studio for bass player Phil Mulford, who’s found himself producing an album with some of his rather famous and talented friends.

His 30-year career encompassing theatre, recording, touring and television - including six series of X-Factor and Britain’s Got Talent - allows Mulford to draw from a deep well of professional experience.

The current album project comprises Jacqui Hicks on vocals (Shakatak), Simon Carter on keyboards (Jamiroquai, Nik Kershaw), Martin ‘Frosty’ Beedle on drums (Cutting Crew, Lifesigns) and Mulford himself on bass.

“We have played together for at least 15 years playing our favourite soul and pop covers,” he says. “I had the great idea of documenting it. It was meant to be a quick snapshot of us but it has taken on a life of its own and we are two years in so far….

“Having the Audient equipment has upped the quality, improving my monitoring and recording path in a big way,” he says, describing his set up as “very simple” and “small, but perfect for tracking.”

“I am using the iD22 as the main interface and the ASP880 as extra inputs. I can have up to 10 inputs for drums or patch keyboards in to arrange or write tunes while I work on my own. The two D.I inputs on the ASP880 are useful along with the impedance switching which is a real bonus.”

He describes how he employs the iD22: “I use outputs 3+4 to send to an outboard Lexicon reverb that works really well and patching and sending to outboard is easy using the iD22 control panel software. I can also set up three different mixes using all three outputs, 1+2, 3+4 and headphones. It means a drummer can have his own mix, I can have a bass mix without affecting the control room mix. These can be saved as setups and recalled from the software. I can also set up sub mixes A+B with zero latency and send these to selected outputs.”

With a launch gig for the album project already in the diary, Mulford has until early July to get it all through the system. “No pressure, then,” he laughs.

Outside of this project, Mulford still does recording sessions - quite a few from home, these days, which he puts down to “smaller budgets and better quality home studios”. He also plays with several visiting American ‘smooth jazz’ artists and is the resident bassist at the world premier production of The Commitments in the west end of London, where he is “...enjoying playing some great soul classics every night.”

Not bad for someone who started a band at 13 with two friends who played drums and guitar, and “...ended up with the bass by default.”

Mulford reckons that keeping it real is the only way to get on in this business. “Having a website and Facebook profile is not going to guarantee you work, so getting out and meeting other musicians is essential. I still go to quite a few gigs and bump into new faces all the time,” he says.

His advice to up-and-coming players? “Target the sort of work you want to do and meet other musicians.”

Audient

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Posted by House Editor on 07/02 at 07:30 AM
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Wednesday, July 01, 2015

API Honors Four Scholars With “Visionary Scholarship”

In order to qualify, applicants must attend a school with an API 1608, Legacy, Legacy Plus or Vision console.

This year marks API’s eighth annual Visionary Scholarship.

After much consideration and review, president Larry Droppa and a team of API representatives have awarded Justin Rhody, Jacob Rains, Anthony Soto, and Gibran Sponchiado with scholarships of $2,000 each to put towards their education in professional audio.

In order to qualify, applicants must attend a school with an API 1608, Legacy, Legacy Plus or Vision console.

The recipients are varied in experience, but united in their love for audio.

Soto is a second year audio engineering student at the New England School of Communications (now a part of Husson University). His submission is a track of Mes Amis’ upcoming album “Gypsy Jazz”. Soto worked primarily on NESCom’s API Vision console to complete this track.

Sponchiado is a second year MFA student, originally from Brazil. He is currently enrolled in the Recording Arts and technology program at Middle Tennessee State University. “One Kiss At a Time”, his submission to the scholarship, is a “pop/country ballad,” tracked on the 48 channel Vision console at MTSU’s “studio B”.

Rains, a senior at Middle Tennessee State University, also took advantage of the school’s API Vision. Rains took full advantage of the surround capabilities of the Vision while recording and producing “Mexican Standoff,” his scholarship submission. Rains is also a member of the Recording Industry department.

Rhody is in his junior year at SUNY Purchase, where he studies Studio Production. Rhody submitted a track titled “Never Come Down”, which he produced and co-engineered. Most of the tracking was done on site at SUNY Purchase, particularly using the school’s API 3124+ unit. Additional work was completed at what Rhody calls his “modest apartment studio”.

API managing director Gordon Smart, who was part of the judging panel, said this about this year’s applicants: “It’s extremely encouraging to see such a talented group of people going through these various audio programs. Students deserve to learn on the very best equipment, and we appreciate the fact that more and more schools are incorporating API consoles into their audio departments.”

API

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Posted by House Editor on 07/01 at 02:58 PM
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Mackie DL32R Supports Hip Hop Israel At International Competition

Front of house mix for the International Hip Hop Competition in San Diego was handled by a single Mackie DL32R mixer with iPad control.

Founded in 2002, Hip Hop International is dedicated to promoting the culture of street art, including hip hop and breakdance.

The group recently had their first opportunity to use the Mackie DL32R in a live performance environment.

Leading up to this year’s International Hip Hop Competition in San Diego, California, Hip Hop Israel recently sponsored the country’s preliminary competitions, taking over the largest sporting venue in the coastal city of Ashkelon. The event welcomed groups from all over Israel, with more than 2,000 participants vying for the grand prize and a chance to participate in the San Diego finals.

Sound for the event was provided by Tel Aviv-based Halilit, bringing in full PA and video systems to pump up the crowd. Despite hundreds of performers and dozens of sets, front of house mix was handled by a single Mackie DL32R rack-mounted digital mixer with iPad control.

“The DL32R made setup really easy for this event,” remarked Ilan Murad, Halilt professional division manager. “Everything connects right to the rack at the side of the stage - no need to run a multichannel snake into the audience. And our front of house mixer was able to wander all over the hall, to get the best sound across the entire audience.”

With so many competitors and so many different sets, the DL32R’s snapshot memory also came in handy. “We were able to adjust levels for each act’s tracks with a single touch,” says Morad. “It made changeovers really fast.”

The ability to record each set was an added plus, says Murad. “We were able to create videos of the event, and each set also has a great sounding mix. And every participant in the event received a special registration code for the new Halilt website for special promotions, including Mackie gear.”

Murad reports that the event was a runaway success, and the DL32R was part of the winning team. “With so many performers and so little time, the DL32R really helped to make our work that much easier.”

Mackie

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Posted by House Editor on 07/01 at 08:41 AM
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Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Sound Devices Announces SL-6 Powering And Wireless System Now Shipping

The optional SL-6 accessory streamlines linkage between the 688 and wireless by providing tighter integration for up to three dual-channel, slot-in receivers.

Sound Devices announces that the SL-6 powering and wireless system for its 688 mixer/recorder is now shipping.

The optional SL-6 accessory streamlines linkage between the 688 and wireless by providing tighter integration for up to three dual-channel, slot-in receivers. 

When combined with SuperSlot-compatible receivers, the SL-6 offers wireless receiver control and monitoring direct from the 688 mixer, in addition to its power and antenna distribution.

“Representing the next step in a production sound mixer’s approach to wireless audio and control, we are excited that this groundbreaking innovation is now available,” says Paul Isaacs, director of product management and design. 

“We look forward to hearing feedback from our customers in the field, as they start to deploy this new technology for a range of productions.”

The SL-6 easily attaches directly to the 688’s top panel. With its NP1 battery slot, USB charging port, two 12-V isolated outputs and two non-isolated direct battery outputs, the SL-6 is an ideal powering hub for peripheral devices. The SL-6 features Sound Devices’ SuperSlot technology, non-proprietary, open wireless control and interfacing standard. SuperSlot is the result of Sound Devices’ collaboration with a number of leading wireless manufacturers, including Lectrosonics, Sennheiser, Wisycom, and Audio Ltd.

A major evolution for Sound Devices’ mixer and recorder products, the 688 harnesses the best of Sound Devices’ 633, 664 and 788T units.

It comes equipped with such stand-out features as 12-channels of auto-mixing, known as MixAssist, 12-inputs, eight-outputs, digital mixing and routing, 192-kHz sampling, audio delay on both inputs and   outputs, PowerSafe and QuickBoot. 

Sound Devices

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Posted by House Editor on 06/30 at 01:05 PM
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DiGiCo SD Series Consoles Support Portuguese Golden Globes

Auditiv Audiovisuais relied on four DiGiCo SD series consoles to mix the audio for both the live and broadcast audiences.

Globos de Ouro - or the Golden Globes - is Portugal’s highest profile arts and entertainments awards ceremony, taking place annually at Lisbon’s Coliseu Dos Recreios.

2015 marked the awards 20th year, with the 24th May ceremony featuring four DiGiCo SD series consoles to mix the audio for both the live and broadcast audiences.

Although it shares a (translated) name, Globos de Ouro is unrelated to the Hollywood film and television awards, instead rewarding Portuguese achievement in a range of disciplines - from film and theatre to music, sport and fashion.

Working with television channel SIC, Sintra-based Auditiv Audiovisuais Lda has been the event’s audio contractor throughout its two decades and this year used DiGiCo SD series consoles for the first time.

“In previous years we have used our DiGiCo D-series consoles, but this year we upgraded our stock to SD consoles,” says Auditiv’s João Escada. “We purchased two SD10s, two SD5s and an SD9, plus two SD-Racks. All except the SD9 were used for Globos de Ouro.”

The ceremony features live music, with an orchestra and contemporary bands playing together. The front of house mix was taken care of by the two SD10s, one for the orchestra and the other for the other bands, musical stings and presenter/guest microphones.

“We were handling over 100 channels, plus 20 channels of ambient microphones just for the broadcast production. In all we had about 14 stereo auxes and 20 mono auxes,” says Escada. “We used one of the SD5s for monitors, while the master console was an SD5B, located in our mobile studio for the broadcast feed. The broadcast software and extra screens of the SD5B made it an excellent choice.”

He continues, “Everything was on an optical loop, with all the consoles sharing the two SD-Racks. One of the big advantages of the system was that analogue splitter noise is a now thing of the past. In addition, we could still use all the outputs for the monitor console, even with the broadcast SD5 as master.

“It was very easy to put the SD-Racks exactly where we needed them, the snapshots all worked perfectly and the send/receive tie lines was a very useful feature. It was a very successful show and we are already looking forward to next year.”

DiGiCo

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Posted by House Editor on 06/30 at 10:33 AM
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Trans World Radio Upgrades And Expands NETIA Radio-Assist Installations

TWR originally incorporated a Radio-Assist system to transition its Guam radio broadcast facility from analog to digital in 2000.

NETIA announces that Trans World Radio (TWR), the largest Christian media organization in the world, has upgraded its Guam radio station, KTWR, to version 8.2 of NETIA’s Radio-Assist digital audio software suite, including adding a new broadcast module.

TWR also has worked with NETIA to install an entirely new Radio-Assist system at its South Asia broadcast facilities, representing NETIA’s first deployment in that region.

“Although the existing Radio-Assist system at KTWR was very reliable, the upgrade to version 8.2 offers new features and functionality that better enable us to meet our listeners’ current needs,” said Douglas Gregson, systems administrator at TWR Pacific, KTWR Guam.

“With this upgrade in Guam and the new deployment in South Asia, we have the tools to expand our connectivity and improve quality control throughout Asia. Both of these capabilities are fundamental to our mission of providing outreach around the world.”

TWR has been a NETIA client since 2000, when the organization incorporated a Radio-Assist system to transition its Guam radio broadcast facility from analog to digital.

The NETIA software addresses the end-to-end operation of a radio facility, from acquisition to multiplatform broadcast. Users can manage ingest, editing, scheduling, broadcast, multicast, archiving, data security, and administration processes via a single integrated interface.

“We are proud to continue our partnership with TWR and pleased that the organization sees the value that NETIA solutions bring to modern broadcast operations,” said Peter Fong, Asia-Pacific sales manager at NETIA. “The extensive feature set in Radio-Assist 8.2 ensures that radio broadcasters such as TWR can offer both the services and quality expected by today’s media consumers.”

NETIA

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Posted by House Editor on 06/30 at 10:24 AM
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Monday, June 29, 2015

Bette Midler’s Divine Intervention Tour On The Road With L-Acoustics

Solotech specifies a K1/K2 system for a complex production requiring several compromises in system configuration.

On her first run since 1994, Bette Midler is out on the “Divine Intervention” tour, which began May 8 at the Hard Rock Live in Hollywood and finishes up July 19 at the O2 Arena in London, UK.

Tour sound provider Solotech designed a system composed primarily of L-Acoustics K1 and K2 enclosures that works with Midler’s complex stage design, as well as a pair of DiGiCo SD7 consoles for front of house and monitors that share a single SD-Rack.

“The show has some physical requirements that cause us to have to position some elements of the PA system in order to accommodate sightlines,” explains front of house engineer Steve Guest.

Because of the complexity of the production taking place on stage each night, the sound system has to be flown higher, and the left and right hangs of the system need to be positioned wider apart, than would be typical for these types of arena shows.

Guest says that he and system technician Frédéric Cantin use the time before and during sound checks to fine-tune the system in each new venue, using the wireless capability of L-Acoustics’ LA Network Manager and its toolset, including the Array Morphing tool for tonal balance adjustment.

“After I get the sound exactly as I want it at the front of house position, we can move to different seating areas and tune system to allow each area of the venue to experience what I experience as I mix the show,” says Guest, who has mixed Midler’s live shows in the past, including some during her 2008-2010 residency at Caesars Palace, as well as tours for artists including Janet Jackson, Ricky Martin, The Backstreet Boys and David Bowie. “I can’t put the boxes exactly where I’d want them on this show, but L-Acoustics gives me the tools to compensate for that.”

Cantin adds, “The great thing about the L-Acoustics enclosures is that they sound great right out of the box. They are very, very musical, and that helps us with challenging situations like these can be.”

The system is comprised, per side, of 14 K1 and four K2, as well as eight flown K1-SB and four SB28 floor subs, 16 additional K2 as side hangs, three coaxial 8XT and one 12XT front fills, three Kudo side fills, and three more 12XT for onstage monitors, all powered by 51 LA8 amplified controllers loaded into 17 LA-RAKs.

To illustrate, Toronto Star music editor Nick Krewen described Midler’s June 20 concert by writing, “Someone should track down Midler’s live sound engineer for the secret of making the Air Canada Centre sound so clear and pristine—it transformed a good show into a great show. If he can work that magic, he should be hired as a consultant to other acts visiting the venue, the sound was that crystalline.”

“It blows me away some nights,” Guest agrees. “I have a lot of experience with the V-DOSC system, but this is my first time with the K1 and K2 and they are incredible. I’ve always wanted to have the same kind of experience mixing a live concert that I have when mixing in the studio, and this is the closest I’ve ever come to that in an arena. What surprised me was the fidelity—what comes off that stage is what comes through the PA. It’s the best tool I’ve ever had in an arena environment—the software lets us predict how the system will be at its best in each venue.”

L-Acoustics
Solotech

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Posted by House Editor on 06/29 at 09:47 AM
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Church Sound: Finding Technical Team Members While Learning & Growing

This article is provided by Church Soundcheck.com.

 
I am often ask variants on this single question. What characteristics do you look for in a potential member for your sound team?

Should you look for a frustrated musician? A rocket scientist? A computer geek? A telephone lineman?

Maybe, or maybe not. Attitude is usually more important that pre-existing aptitude.

In this article, we’ll first examine how to identify the proper individuals to serve in your technical support ministry. We’ll also show you how to train them to achieve technical excellence.

A Servant’s Heart
After serving on the production staff at churches for nearly ten years, I’m here to testify you that you never want to choose a person based solely on their technical knowledge.

Instead, look for someone with a willing heart first. Then ask about their technical knowledge.

Why not look for technical knowledge first? While both are important, technical stuff is easy to teach over time.

Finding someone with a servant’s heart can be more difficult. It’s part of their core personality.

It also illustrates their relationship with God and predicts their ultimate utility within your tech support staff.

Serving in a church ministry requires a boatload of grace and more patience than many people have left at the end of a busy week. In some churches, it means working with difficult people every weekend.

The worship team and tech support team depend on each other’s gifts to be at full muster at the downbeat of the service. The process is much like preparing a weekly meal for all your worshipers.

The worship team and tech support team need to be in unity before, during and after the service. Being on the same page, spiritually, is the key ingredient to this recipe.

Staying F.A.T.
One principle I’ve relied on over the years is that anyone involved in tech support ministry needs to be F.A.T.— faithful, available, and teachable, in that order. Once they’ve joined the tech support team, these people must also be faithful to be there when they’ve promised to be there.

Most of our lives are too busy. Many people over-schedule our arrivals and departures to the nanosecond. But as a wise friend of mine once suggested, the only way we can be somewhere on time is to arrive there early.

The volunteer should also make themselves as available as is practical. To say they’re committed to the success of the ministry, but then to only make themselves available for one monthly service doesn’t work well in most situations.

Only operating a console one time a month isn’t often enough to become proficient at it. Would you climb on that airplane next weekend if you knew that the pilot only flies once a month? Granted, I’ve never heard of anyone dying from a bad mix, but you get my point.

There is another side of this issue, however. I’ve seen some volunteers make themselves too available, to the point that their relationship with their family starts to suffer. If you get your priorities out of line, your work in that ministry will.

Profiles & Personalities
These days, it’s common to find people who work in, on, or around computers, volunteering to serve in the tech support ministry.

Musicians who love all things electronic are another fertile source of tech support volunteers.

My friend, Blair McNair, worked on missiles while he was in the Navy.

At some point he started volunteering in the sound team at his local church.

Years later he became the Technical Director for Benny Hinn at Orlando Christian Center, and today designs sound systems for a living.

Most volunteers do something else for living. Your church may be blessed with a seasoned audio pro as the volunteer head of the sound team, but that’s not the norm.

This is why any successful volunteers must be clearly, consistently teachable.

This means to say that in the likely event that a particular volunteer doesn’t make his/her living in pro audio, they need to make a committee effort to learn the craft so they can reliably deliver technical excellence in every worship service.

I’m unconvinced that there is any one type of personality to look for. That’s because I don’t think we need assume that every sound team volunteer must be able to drive the FOH mixing desk.

The individual who typically seeks involvement in a tech support ministry has a detail-oriented personality. These folks make lists for everything.

I have a detail-oriented personality. Knowing that the guitarist is going to take a solo on the third chorus isn’t enough. I want to know what kind of sound he’s going to use, and how loud he will play. I want to know if he’s going to start out soft and build to a loud ending.

I must know if he’s going to use his own effects, or if I should plan on adding some echo effects on my own. Notice that I’m the audio guy, so I really don’t care what he’s wearing that day ­ that’s for the lighting guy or the programming director to think about.

Musical Background
This is one debate that has gone on for years and years. Should the person who will be driving the FOH mixing desk be a trained musician?

It’s easy for me to say yes, because I made my living as a player for twelve years, and I have a Bachelor of Music degree.

Clearly, someone who has experience as a player or a singer can be respected and accepted more readily by the players in the worship band simply because of the common bond and similar background.

But I do know of very capable mixers who have no formal music background, just a love of the music. I think this decision has to be a very individual one.

But I think we can agree that not everyone should be behind a console. Some can put together a great mix without even breaking a sweat. For others, it’s just not their gifting.

If the interest is there, however, the art of mixing can be learned. It’s not something they’ll grasp overnight, but time and practice and listening analytically are great teachers.

I’ve trained literally thousands of church music pastors, sound team volunteers and technical staff in my workshops. Of all of those people, I can only think of two individuals who just never seemed to get it.

Being a part of the church tech support team isn’t for everyone, but the majority of those who seem naturally drawn to the ministry seem capable of learning and managing the task.

Gifting & Getting The Job Done
Mixing sound is just one of the tasks that the sound ministry is charged with.

You could also find people who are thrilled to do a good job of running the tape duplicators after each service.

Others might enjoy fixing broken mic cables.

Still others might be happy setting up the stage every Saturday night.

Perhaps there’s a self-employed someone who could carve out some time to set the stage or run essential weekday errands.

Someone with a theatrical background might enjoy serving as a stage manager, a runner, or in some other role.

If your pastor has a daily or weekly radio program, someone must learn to use your nonlinear editing software to edit those programs.

If you identify all the tasks that need to be accomplished during a week, and then spread them out over a handful of people, you should find that the job can get done with excellence and without anyone getting overly stressed.

In a large church, you’ll find a trained individual at every post. The FOH desk, monitor desk, lighting desk, in the TV control room, at the video projection desk, all require trained technicians. Still, in the majority of churches, one person may serve all of those roles simultaneously.

The best idea is to cross-train everyone who becomes part of the tech support ministry. The lighting guy should at least be able to get sound out of the system, and the audio guy should at least be able to get the stage lights up and running if needed. (Editor’s note: Which one do you suspect will do a better job?)

People need a weekend off. People get sick. Cars break down in transit. Your staff needs to be prepared to help out as needed, in season and out of season.


Why Train The Team?
We must recognize that there’s a great disparity between the tech support team and the worship team in most churches.

Think about it. Every worship team member, who sings or plays, has inevitably studied music at sometime in his or her life.

Even if they are self-taught, they’ve invested their time and managed to learn how to play.

North American culture has given us easy access to musical training.

Most public schools have some form of music program.

I began to play music when I was in elementary school, played in various music groups all the way through college, and made my living playing in bands until I was thirty years old.

It was only after I got my music degree that I quit playing music for a living.

Even if we didn’t pursue music as our lifelong ambition, our studies helped us in numerous ways.

In contrast, the tools or programs to learn how to run sound, or the stage lights, or work with video hasn’t had the same kind of easy access, at least not until very recently.

After all, in school, I played a saxophone. I didn’t need a sound system. Maybe you played in the brass section, and they really didn’t need a sound system either.

So, is it fair to compare the talents of a stage full of trained musicians and singers with that of a beginning audio student? No, this is an unfair comparison or expectation.

In real life however, that is what many churches do every week. Predictably and unfortunately, some get frustrated and lose their cool in the process.

Training your crew also helps to strengthen their bond as friends and teammates. It can even enhance their self-esteem as individuals, giving them more confidence.

Where To Find Training
Churches all across the world are crying out for trained sound technicians. Strangely, only a very small percentage of these churches are willing to pay for that training. That’s one very clear reason you rarely see such training opportunities.

If you’re a eager student of audio, reasonably certain that you have your facts straight, and you believe you are ready to start training others, then do what all the rest of us who have trained others in audio have done.

Put together an outline to clearly and logically organize the materials and dig into the resource materials to gather your supporting information. Then gather up your courage and go for it.

I choose to organize the material according to signal flow. That’s an intentional approach. Understanding signal flow logic is key.

When I’m teaching someone to connect an amplifier, for example, and I see them connect the speaker cable first to the speaker, and then to the amp, I have them disconnect both ends and do it over again.

Obviously, this makes no difference to the signal itself and, because it’s an AC signal, it constantly reverses directions. In general, as you already know, audio signal flows directionally from the amplifier to the speaker.

One day, years after they’ve stopped calling me nasty names, they’re going to run into an exciting moment when five minutes before the downbeat of their Christmas Cantata, with 2,000 people out in the audience, their sound system stops working.

Suddenly, the success of the event falls squarely on their shoulders and rests in any audio team’s to troubleshoot and resolve the problem in a timely manner.

If the concept of signal flow logic is firmly ingrained into their thinking, they’ll be able to rest in their knowledge and resolve the problem quickly and efficiently.

Once, I had the great pleasure of visiting with Bill Johnson, Chief Audio Engineer for Kenneth Copeland Ministries.

As we were touring the facilities at Eagle Mountain Church, he shared with me that they require their tech support volunteers to attend a training session once a month.

Through a simple test, the audio team is divided into beginning, intermediate, and advanced groups.

The classes are taught by technical support staff. That is so cool.

Ultimately, it helps bring the entire crew onto the same page, and because it keeps everyone growing in their knowledge, so they can do an ever better job of supporting the technical needs of the worship services.

Source Knowledge
The Internet is overflowing with information about audio. Some of it is even correct. If you’ve been in audio for some time and you’re reasonably confident in your knowledge, then go ahead and explore.

Just be alert for the occasional piece of audio mythology. If you’re a beginning student, I encourage you to stick to the main information highway.

We strive to make our own ChurchSoundcheck.com a mythology free zone. Obviously, ProSoundWeb.com focuses on performance audio technology and works hard to ensure accuracy.

Believe it or not, you can trust comments that you may read posted on web sites by the major manufacturers. For example, you’ll find accurate, reliable information on sites by Rane, Crown, EAW, QSC, Allen & Heath, dbx, and others.

I also suggest looking at the training courses from Syn-Aud-Con.

Wake Up & Smell The Silicone
Finally, I’d like to leave you with a wakeup call. Have you stopped growing in your technical knowledge? Have you stayed on top of the DSP revolution in regard to digital consoles, or are you letting digital know-how pass you by?

Even worse, are you a know-it-all? Are you the type of individual who figures that they know all there is to know about audio, or lighting, or video?

Let me suggest to you that one day, in the not too distant future, you’re going to find yourself left in the digital dust of some young kid who just figured out how cool audio is, who has never even touched an analog audio console and been raised on digital.

There’s so much new stuff in play these days. It is impossible to stay on top of every technological change, in every equipment category, but that’s no reason to roll over and ignore the digital revolution.

It’s cool to learn from the past, to apply micing techniques learned from the masters, for example. It’s not cool to have been mixing at your church for the past thirty years and to walk up to a new console one day only to discover that you can’t even locate the ON switch.

If you’re not achieving the level of technical excellence that you aspire to each week, maybe it’s not the gear. A simple lack of knowledge could be standing between your audio education goals and the reality you live with.

Fortunately,, technical stuff can be taught and technical savvy learned, but you must work at it. Likewise, your volunteers and tech support staff must work at it.

Stay on task. Read. Study, study, study. Attend trade shows, workshops and seminars. Subscribe to trade magazines. Buy technical books. Read and study some more. After that, go teach someone else.

 
Curt Taipale heads up Church Soundcheck.com, a thriving community dedicated to helping technical worship personnel, and he also provides expert systems design and consulting services with Taipale Media Systems.

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Posted by admin on 06/29 at 09:20 AM
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Friday, June 26, 2015

Inspirmedia Productions Invests In Roland’s M-5000 Live Mixing Console

Longtime Roland user makes the move to higher channel count and interoperability with the new digital live console.

Lincoln, Nebraska-based A/V firm Inspirmedia has was originally founded 15 years ago, growing out of Phil Gimpo’s house of worship work.

Grimpo and his team provide live A/V for church services, youth conferences, concerts and corporate events; locally or nationwide.

A relatively steady element of the firm’s gear arsenal and consulting has been products from Roland Professional A/V division, including the Roland M-200i, M-400 and M-480 48-channel Live Mixing Consoles.

“I really dove in deep with Roland on those boards,” notes Grimpo. “Most jobs that I would spec, I’d say, ‘You should really consider the Roland board, and Roland’s complete ecosystem.’ We used both the M-400 and M-480 boards in my main church gig, and they are very user-friendly, and they could easily be reconfigured for different setups or applications without hassle. I really liked the workflow offered by these Roland products.” 

There was one main roadblock, however, that made Grimpo wish for something larger.

“I would say that our main limitation with those boards was channel count, even in smaller churches which had praise bands, so when I heard that the M-5000 Live Mixing Console was coming out, with up to 128 audio paths, I was immediately very excited.”

Grimpo called his rep and put in an order as soon as he could. “The M-5000 wasn’t officially available yet – there was no official pricing yet, even, when we put in our P.O. But our rep did his magic, and I believe we got one of the first production units, if not THE first, in the world.”

Grimpo and his team are often approached by attendees of these various events for advice. “Consulting work is a big part of what we do. People almost always come up to us after an event and wonder what it would take to put something like the rig we had just used, into their church. And I’m not a rep for any particular brand or product, but I know what works for the job, and I love getting people in front of different products to A/B them for themselves. Lately, I just cannot get enough people in front of this Roland M-5000 console. It’s been impressing everyone immediately.  I recently had a client ask if I had any boards other than Roland M-480. When I told him we had the Roland M-5000 he immediately reconsidered and is planning on using that for his event.”

The Roland M-5000 Live Mixing Console is the first product based on the O.H.R.C.A. platform, which opens a new generation of live sound solutions for audio professionals. “O.H.R.C.A.” stands for “Open, High Resolution, Configurable Architecture,” and the M-5000 reflects this by delivering freely definable audio paths, supporting multiple audio formats protocols and offering pristine 96 kHz sound quality throughout the system.

The Roland M-5000’s internal mix architecture is not fixed and can be freely defined for mixing channels, AUXs, Matrices, subgroup buses, and MIX-MINUS buses within a range of up to 128 audio paths, allowing users to create a console structure to suit the needs of the application.

The M-5000 has two built-in REAC ports, plus two expansion card slots with seven expansion card options including Dante, MADI, Waves SoundGrid, or more REAC ports, as well as audio embedded over video protocols. The back panel includes 16x16 analog I/O, 4x4 AES/EBU, a 16x16 USB audio interface, connection for control via an iPad connected or wireless, and control ports including footswitches, GP I/O, RS-232C and MIDI. All of this capability enables the console to see up to 300 inputs and 296 outputs, all at 96kHz and even more at 48kHz. 

Inspirmedia’s typical live production setup includes the Roland M-5000 at front of house, two S-2416 Digital Snake Stage Units for remote I/O and the R-1000 48-Track Recorder/Player for multi-channel recording and playback.

“It is hard to sum up what makes the M-5000 special,” Grimpo notes. “The ability, with the expansion cards, to interface with Dante, MADI, SoundGrid, etc., is very exciting and unprecedented as far as I am concerned. And if you compare it to products from other manufacturers, you notice several things. First, the M-5000 is far less ‘noisey’ compared to other boards, which is obvious with headphones. It looks better, and the visual interface is brighter and more readable and the workflow more intuitive. Getting around the board is really easy once you get the hang of it. And one of the things that I love about this board is it works with all of the existing Roland hardware that’s out there. It’s backwards-compatible and future-proof at the same time.”

Grimpo has big plans for the M-5000: “Corporate events, larger stadium gigs, worship conferences – the M-5000 is going to be a key part of our audio workflow moving forward.”

Roland Professional A/V

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Posted by House Editor on 06/26 at 03:53 PM
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Community Loudspeakers Selected For African Wildlife Attraction In Poland

Afrykarium has recreated threatened African ecosystems, using Community Professional for background and AV needs.

Afrykarium in Wroclaw, Poland is a unique attraction that shows the different ecosystems associated with some of Africa’s aquatic environments, with an acoustic atmosphere supported by loudspeakers from Community Professional.

Nineteen aquariums and pools, with a capacity of nearly 15 million litres of water, are incorporated into the large complex which combines a three story 9000 square metre building with 7500 square metres of external grounds.

Each zone is designed to represent an African region and combine the environment and wildlife of that area.

Regions included are the beaches and coral reefs of the Red Sea, the river Nile, the land of the Great Rift Valley, the Mozambique Channel, the beaches of the Namibia’s Skeleton Coast and the jungle of the Congo Basin.

Afrykarium is now home to a vast array of native African wildlife, living within their natural flora and fauna. In addition to serving as an attraction with great educational value, Afrykarium has recreated ecosystems threatened by human activities and supports many endangered species.

The sound systems throughout the Afrykarium complex were provided by Tommex Żebrowscy.

Marcin Zimny, commercial director of Tommex explained, “Afrykarium presented us with a wide range of requirements, including background music for the hospitality areas, AV for the conference facilities and an audible alarm system throughout. Most important, and key to the visitor’s experience, is the multi-zone sound effects system provided for the African regions. As this covered very large areas and would be subject to the climatic conditions of Africa, we chose Community loudspeakers for their proven all-weather capability and their audio performance which would recreate the effects naturally.”

The effects system consists of seven zones, controlled by a Dynacord P64 audio matrix, feeding DSA-8805 and 8405 power amplifiers fitted with IRIS-Net RCM-810control modules. Community W SERIES W2-228W loudspeakers are used to cover the large wide areas, combined with thirty compact, two-way, 5-inch D SERIES DS5 loudspeakers used to ensure an evenly distributed system throughout.

“The effects are stunning.” says Zimny. “Clear and accurate, the audio combines with the recreated environments to give a remarkable perception of the African regions. Afrykarium is a very unique experience and I’m really pleased that we’ve been able to provide a superb quality system for visitors to enjoy.”

Community Professional

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Posted by House Editor on 06/26 at 02:43 PM
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RE/P Files: The Grateful Dead, A Continual Development Of Concert Sound

PSW Top 20 presented by Renkus-Heinz

 
This article originally appeared in the June 1983 issue of Recording Engineer/Producer magazine.

The Grateful Dead have been playing their unique brand of improvisational, eclectic music going on 18 years now.

Though their records are modest sellers, and more or less ignored by radio and the “establishment” press, the Dead are consistently among the highest-grossing concert acts in the country.

What they do musically is improvisational, existential, and not always satisfactory; but since the beginning the Dead have been attended and experimented upon by forward-looking sound specialists, always seeking to improve the quality of their live sound.

Dan Healy has been mixing the Dead’s concerts since the band first took to the San Francisco clubs and ballrooms, and he says he’s never been bored.

To Healy, the Dead is “a vehicle that enables an aggregate of people to experiment with musical and technical ideas. It’s a workshop and a breadboard, as well as a dream and a treat. There’s no place in the world that I know of that would give me this much space to experiment and try new things and also to hear good music.”

The Dead’s own people have developed equipment and techniques to improve the state of the sound reinforcement art, and they have invited others to use Grateful Dead gigs as live testing grounds.

“We live on the scary side of technology, probably more than we ought to,” guitarist Bob Weir concedes. But you don’t learn much from maintaining the status quo, and the Dead have always encouraged experimentation and sought new knowledge in many areas.

Dan Healy

The Early Days
The first PA system Healy operated, at the Fillmore Auditorium in San Francisco, consisted of a 70-watt amp, two Altec 604s, and a two-input microphone mixer.

“And that was far out compared to what was there the week before,” he recalls. When Healy and his fellow soundmen started trying to put better systems together, they found that the hardware available was not very advanced.

“The first thing we did was go get tons of it, only to find that that was only a stopgap measure,” Healy remembers. “It was obvious that there was nothing you could get off the shelf that you could use. Furthermore, there were no answers to our questions in journals or texts; where the equipment ended, so did the literature and research. What we needed was past the point where R&D had taken sound equipment.” So they set out to find the answers for themselves.

Healy and the Grateful Dead became willing guinea pigs for John Meyer, then of McCune Sound; Ron Wickersham of Alembic; and others on the scene who were looking for ways to deliver music painlessly and efficiently at the often ridiculously high SPLs of the San Francisco sound and rock music in general.

“Those guys were long in the design and prototype area,” Healy explains, “and we were long in the criteria. We built a system and scrapped it, built another one and scrapped it. We never had a finished system, because by the time we’d get one near completion it was obsolete in our minds, and we already had a new one on the drawing boards.”

The concept of speaker synergy and phase coherency in particular was understood by the early Seventies, and several designers had come up with ways of implementing it. John Meyer and McCune Sound developed a three-way, tri-amped single-cabinet system with crossovers that reduced phase shift considerably. It was a significant improvement, but there was plenty of work yet to do.

While Meyer was in Switzerland studying every aspect of speaker design, acoustics and the electronics of sound, Healy and Alembic and the rest took off in other directions.

The Dead debuted a new system at San Francisco’s Cow Palace on March 23, 1974, in a concert dubbed “The Sound Test.” Bassist Phil Lesh calls it the “rocket gantry” and maintains that it was the best PA the Dead ever had.

“It was the ultimate derivation of cleanliness,” Healy explains. “No two things went through any one speaker. There was a separate system for the vocals and separate systems for each guitar, the piano, and the drums. You could get it amazingly loud, and it was staggeringly clean, cleaner than anything today. It still holds the record for harmonic and most especially intermodulation distortion.”

Healy calls this system’s theory of operation the “as above, so below theory. If you stack a bunch of speakers vertically and stand close to one, you hear the volume of that one speaker. If you move a little farther away, you hear two speakers; move away some more and you hear three. If you have a lot of them stacked up high, you can move quite a ways away and the volume stays the same.”

There was no mixing board in the house. Each musician controlled his own instrumental volume, because his speaker stack was its own PA system.

Guitarists Bob Weir and Jerry Garcia each had about 40 12-inch speakers in vertical columns, and bassist Lesh had a quadrophonic system. Vocals also were delivered to the band and the audience by the same speakers. Each singer had a pair of mikes, wired out of phase so that background sound arriving equally at both was canceled, while what was sung into one mike was passed on to the amplifier.

Healy recalls one unfortunate incident a year before the gantry system was officially unveiled, when some of these principles were tested at a concert in Stanford University’s basketball arena.

“We spent maybe $20,000 on amplifiers, crossovers, and stuff,” he recalls, “and we rebuilt a lot of Electro-Voice tweeters. We pink-noised the room from the booth and got it exactly flat. If you flatten a system from a hundred feet away, it’ll sound like a buzzsaw, and it did.

The Wall Of Sound, a.k.a. “The Sound Test System,” in action at the Hollywood Bowl, 1974. Photo by Richard Peshner.


“We started the show, and in the first two seconds every single one of those brand-new tweeters was smoked. We went through all those changes to put protection devices in, and they never worked, they blew long after the speakers were gone.”

There was no hope of replacing the 80 or more tweeters they’d blown, so Healy says they “opened up the tops of the crossovers, equalized a little bit and faked it.”

Healy points out philosophically that recovery from such catastrophes is “another thing that you learn after enough years. Recovery is your backup buddy.” He also notes that the years of experience make it much easier to estimate what will work and what won’t, so it’s easier to avoid disaster.

[This writer happened to have been in attendance at that Stanford concert. Although there were some rather long pauses while the equipment was worked on, the show itself was a good one, and a high time was had by all.]

It was economics that caused the “Sound Test” system to be dismantled. The gasoline crisis of the mid-Seventies made it unfeasible to truck tons of speakers, amplifiers and spares plus two complete stages which leapfrogged so that one could be set up before the PA arrived from the last gig.

“It began to eat us up after a while,” says Healy. “Remember that we were trying to take this across the country and interface with halls: set up the equipment, play a show for 20,000 people, tear it down, then show up the next day in another city and do it again for three weeks in a row, or a month, or six months.

“We were damn lucky,” he adds. “We got a tremendous amount of knowledge out of that system before it became such a burden that it started to distract from the music.”

Smaller Can Be Beautiful
When the Dead resumed touring in 1976, after a 21-month hiatus, PA technology had advanced sufficiently that it was no longer necessary to isolate each instrument and run it through a separate speaker system—not to mention the fact that it was economically impossible to truck those mountains of gear around.

“Efficiency comes down to the number of boxes that you have to carry, of weight in a semi-truck going down the highway,” Healy observes.

Not only was it impractical, but it was no longer necessary. In the intervening years, what Healy and the Dead wanted—a system that performed as well as the Wall of Sound,  but which was “one fourth the size and four times as efficient”—came into existence. “The system we have now is better than the ‘74 system, overall, even though the ‘74 system may have been better in certain ways.”

The Dead currently tour with a PA owned by Ultra Sound, using speaker systems and associated electronics by Meyer Sound Labs. “Meyer has been able to extend the low and high frequencies without hopelessly distorting the rest of the sound,” Healy notes. “That’s actually the main significance.” And by arranging the speaker cabinets to work together in a very precise way across the whole frequency spectrum, it takes fewer drivers to cover the desired area, and intelligibility is uniformly good nearly everywhere.

With the quality of the PA hardware firmly in hand, Healy says that the Dead’s concert setup these days goes through subtler changes and refinements.

Ultra Sound concert system for a Grateful Dead concert at the Oakland Auditorium, December 1981. Main flown speaker system is made up of Meyer Sound Laboratories MSL3 cabinets. Photo by Kurt Anderson.

One interesting development came to Healy almost by accident, and resulted in a very useful device to make his job easier.

“The vocal mike is the loudest one in the mix,” he explains, “and if it’s open on the stage it’s picking up drums or guitars from 15 feet away, and adding them in 15 milliseconds later—which is that many degrees of phase cancellation—and the net result is a washing-out of the mix. You can’t use audio amplitude to gate those mikes, because the guitars are frequently louder at the mike than the voice that’s standing right in front of it.

“So a certain amount of me always had to be on the watch for the singers so I could turn their mikes on,” he continues. “That was annoying, and it kept me from being able to listen on a more general level.

“The Paramount Theater in Portland, Oregon, has a balcony that’s right on top of the stage. I was looking down at the guitar players, and it all connected for me. I’m a musician myself, and I know that one of the most embarrassing things that happens when you’re playing rock ‘n’ roll is running into the mike and banging yourself on the lip or being a mile away from it when it’s time to sing.

“That night in Portland I realized that every musician has a kind of home base where he puts his foot in relation to the stand so he knows he’ll be right at the mike. It was duck soup: I got the kind of mats they use to open doors at the grocery store, then designed and built the electronics that gated the VCAs [to control the mike-preamp gain], and lo and behold, it worked!”

For keyboardist Brent Mydland, the situation wasn’t so simple. John Cutler, who works with the Dead in R&D as well as other capacities, designed a system around the sonar rangefinders used in Polaroid cameras. Using discrete logic rather than a full-blown microprocessor, Cutler came up with an automatic gate that opened the mike when Mydland’s head came within singing distance of either of his two mikes.

Detail of the right-hand cluster of MSL3s at the Oakland Auditorium in 1981. Photo by Kurt Anderson.

“It’s just one of those things that came about as a means to an end,” says Healy. “I built the floormat [device] just so I could be freed from switching on microphones.”

Rather than get involved in marketing a device like this, which Healy says is “not my business,” he just has a few extra circuit boards made. “If somebody comes by and wants to try it, we give them the cards and a parts list.”

Because every Grateful Dead gig is different—no songlist, plenty of room for instrumental improvisation, no pre-arranged sound cues to speak of—mixing for the band has never settled into a routine for Healy.

“Some nights they start out screaming and get softer, and some nights they start in one place and stay there,” he says. “There isn’t really any good or bad in it—it’s just a different night in a different way. From the start to the end of the show, it’s a continuous progression, figuring out how to spend the watts of audio power that you have in such a way that it’s pleasant and human.”

It’s been years since Healy went into a hall and pink-noised the sound system. “I leave my filter set flat, and I dial it in during the first couple of songs. After enough years of correlating what I see and hear, I know what frequencies, how much, and what to do with it.”

Test equipment is on hand for reference, but Healy prefers to rely on his ears. “You have a speedometer in your car, but you don’t have to use it - or even necessarily have it. You don’t need it to know how fast you’re going, but it’s there for reference: That’s how I use the SPL meter and the real-time analyzer.”

In the “hockey-hall-type spaces” the Dead play in these days, Healy likes to set up about 85 feet from the stage.

“In my opinion—and my opinion only, for that matter—the ideal combination of near-field and far-field is 85 feet. I don’t like to be far enough into the far field that it’s a distraction, but for me it’s important to hear what the audience hears. Healy considers himself the audience’s representative to the band, comparing notes with the musicians after shows, and telling them things they might not want to hear “if I feel I have to.”

He also encourages—within reason—those members of the Dead’s following who bring their recording gear to concerts.

“I’m sympathetic with the tapesters, because that’s what I used to be,” he says. “I remember buying my first stereo tape machine and my first two condenser microphones, sweating to make the payments, and going around to clubs and recording jazz. So I’ve sided with the tapesters, helped them and given them advice and turned them on to equipment.

Side stack of the Ultra Sound system at Ventura County Fairground, July 1982. Photo by David Gans.

“I learn a lot from hearing those tapes,” he continues. “The axiom that ‘microphones don’t lie’ is a true one. If you put a microphone up in the audience and pull a tape and it doesn’t sound good, you can’t say, ‘It was the microphone,’ or ‘It was the audience.’ You’ve got to accept the fact that it didn’t sound good. When you stick a mike up in the audience and the tape sounds cool, it’s probably because the sound was cool. So it’s significant to pay attention to the tapes.”

Even after 18 years of working with the Dead, Healy says he still enjoys going to work every day. “I’ve been doing it so long that I don’t even look at it as a job,” he explains. “It doesn’t get stale for me on any continuous basis. I react more to ‘Tonight was a good night,’ or ‘It wasn’t so good.’ I can have a bad night and go home discouraged and kicking the dog, grumble-grumbie, but I’m always ready to start again tomorrow.”

Additional Coverage
The Grateful Dead System At The Oakland Auditorium, December 1982

According to Howard Danchik of Ultra Sound, ‘‘The Dead’s system, as always, was run in stereo. The main speakers were flown, and comprised 12 MSL3s at each side of stage, plus a center cluster of eight (four lelt and four right channel), also above band.

“Suspended from the side clusters are three Meyer Sound Labs UPA cabinets, angled downward to fill in for those at the front of the audience. There are also four UPAs below the lip of the stage at the center (two left and two right) for the spectators at the very front-center, plus one UPA at the rear of each main cluster, pointed up and back for spectators in the balcony directly to the sides of the stage.

“Each MSL3 is driven by 650 watts RMS of amplification—225 to each 12-inch speaker (two per cabinet), and 200 to the four piezo tweeters. One MSL processor is used to drive all the MSL3s on each side; two (one per channel) to drive the center cluster; and two (one per channel) for the front and sidefill UP1As.

Diagram of the system in Oakland, 1982.


“The subwoofers were made up from eight MSL 652-R2 subwoofer road cabinets (two 18-inch drivers, front-mounted) on each side, stacked on their sides, four wide and two high. Each speaker is driven by 225 watts of Crest amplification. The processor takes a full bandwidth signal from the house mix, and extracts 80Hz and below for the subwoofers.

“Additional speaker systems included: for the lobby four UPAs (stereo, via Meyer processors); for the bars one UPA in each bar (mono, one processor each); the kitchen one UPA (mono, one processor); and the kids’ room a pair of Hard Truckers five inch cubes (mono, no processor).

“All power was provided by Crest amps, 225 W RMS per channel into 8 ohms. House mixer was a Jim Gamble custom board, 40-in/8 stereo submasters, wtth automatic built-in mono output The monitor mixer was a Gamble custom 40/16 console. House effects included a Lexicon 22/lX digital reverb and Super Prime Time; dbx Boom Box subharmonic synthesizer; a collection of vocal gates; and an autopanner, homemade by Dan Healy & company. Microphones included Shure SM78s for vocals, plus a new Neumann mike for Jerry Garcia, and Sennheiser 42ls, AKG C451s and C414s.’’

Editor’s Note: This is a series of articles from Recording Engineer/Producer (RE/P) magazine, which began publishing in 1970 under the direction of Publisher/Editor Martin Gallay. After a great run, RE/P ceased publishing in the early 1990s, yet its content is still much revered in the professional audio community. RE/P also published the first issues of Live Sound International magazine as a quarterly supplement, beginning in the late 1980s, and LSI has grown to a monthly publication that continues to thrive to this day.

Our sincere thanks to Mark Gander of JBL Professional for his considerable support on this archive project.

{extended}
Posted by House Editor on 06/26 at 11:47 AM
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