Thursday, March 22, 2012
New Horizons For Studiomaster At Prolight+Sound
Studiomaster is exhibiting the new Horizon 2012 in final production form for the first time at Prolight+Sound2012; introducing a new benchmark in power and portability, performance, quality, and value for money.
The Horizon 2012, resurrects the legend of the company’s world beating Horizon series mixers of the 1990s. A totally new design redefines the portable powered mixer and provides a new class of high build quality, high power and performance product. The mixer is unbelievable light weight and is carried on a single shoulder strap.
The new ergonomic form factor provides for the greatest possible strength and protection, and a fully professional control surface that is clear and uncluttered, while innovatively integrating a staggering 2000 watts of power from Class-D amplification. The design also incorporates a removable control cover and a retractable panel to angle the mixer at the best working position. Designed for the quickest possible set up and go, the mixer nevertheless offers a level of operational versatility and features that provides new sound reinforcement capabilities for portable PA.
The 12 input mixer can be used free standing or rackmounted. All mic/line input channels feature the famed VMS optical compressor, legendary Studiomaster 3-band EQ, with sweepable mid, and a total of four AUX sends. 60mm smooth faders, Mute, PFL buttons, and SIGNAL and PEAK LEDs complete the channel strip. Like the original Horizon powered mixers, a combined stereo and mic input channel effectively adds three more mic channels.
In line with standard Studiomaster practice, the custom designed twin FX features real studio quality reverbs and delays instead of the poor quality 128 program DSP found on so many powered mixers; the focus of the FX section is on enabling the user to achieve the desired effect with the highest quality and as quickly as possible. A 2-channel USB audio interface includes assignable signal source; playback from a computer can be routed to the main MIX output, or to a stereo channel giving access to EQ and auxiliaries. The output to the computer can be from the main MIX, to record a performance, or from the DSP effect sends to make use of plug-in FX.
Each amplifier channel supplies a colossal 1000 watts into 4 ohms using Class-D topology; stable into all loads with temperature & short circuit protection. Comprehensive three stage amp routing is selectable between normal stereo operation, split function (MIX to the left and Auxiliary to the right), or Monitor only. Stereo 9-band graphic equalisers feed the MIX output, which is routed to the amplifiers and the balanced XLR outputs. A second MIX2 output duplicates this signal.
Also located here is a switchable 2-way 150Hz 18dB/oct crossover. When selected, the main MIX only receives frequencies above 150Hz whilst the MIX 2 output gets everything below 150HZ – ideal for connecting additional subs to a system. An Amp Power switch reduces power in three stages down to 15%, providing high fader resolution in low volume applications. The new Horizon boasts two sets of led meters – one for the mixer and one for amplifier level.
Posted by Keith Clark on 03/22 at 10:49 AM
Wednesday, March 21, 2012
Soundcraft Announces ViSi iPad Remote For Digital Console Range; Chance To Win An iPad
Prolight & Sound 2012 marks the unveiling and preview of the new Soundcraft ViSi Remote iPad app, which enables a single iPad to control multiple consoles from the Soundcraft Vi Series and Soundcraft Si Compact range on one wireless network.
The Soundcraft ViSi Remote app allows users to roam around in a venue and not only adjust input channel levels and mutes, but also adjust aux send levels and matrix sends, and level and graphic EQ settings on bus outputs.
The app uses Harman HiQnet architecture to connect a network of consoles to a wireless router, which communicates with the iPad.
For even more flexibility, multiple iPads may be used on the same network, even on the same console, so that individual artists could control their own monitor sends, for example.
The Soundcraft ViSi remote is expected to be available from the iTunes store at the end of April 2012.
By pre-registering on the Soundcraft website, users will not only be informed immediately when the app goes live, but will be entered into a prize draw to win an Apple iPad. (conditions apply, see website here for details).
Tuesday, March 20, 2012
Church Sound: How To Power Your Mix With Musical Energy
The difference between a song with energy and one without is significant
Kent Morris said, “live music is about the energy.“
That’s so true. Where does that energy come from? How do you control it? And why can it sometimes be so hard to find?
All questions that will soon be answered.
Phil Coulter, on his Highland Cathedral album, has a song that’s dedicated to the drums. It starts out with a few lines of verse that highlights the importance of the drums since before the first lyrics were ever written. Drums have been giving energy to music for a long time. But they aren’t the only source.
Not all musical energy comes through the drums. For some people, they don’t like the drums at all.
Therefore, a great way to find out what’s best for powering your mix with musical energy is by learning where it comes from, how people respond to it, and how to maximize it in your mix.
Learning how to mix using musical energy comes primarily through:
Listening to powerful music and analyzing it. Listen to songs you think are powerful. These might be songs that inspire you, songs that you can’t help but sing or tap your foot. Listen to the songs and ask these questions:
—What instrument(s), if removed from the song, would drain the song of its power?
—What instruments could be taken out and the song still has energy?
—Is there anything in the vocal delivery that carries more energy than the instruments?
—Why does a vocal line create power when all the instruments stop playing (i.e., accapella on the 2nd chorus)?
Listening to live music (as in “be there” not as in “listing to a recording of live music.“) Ask yourself these questions;
—At what point could you not help but sing or sing louder?
—What instrument(s) gave the song power?
—What part of the mix arrangement gave power (ex. reducing instrument level and pushing vocals in a passage)?
—Don’t mistake your emotional feelings for energy in that if a song ends with an acappella chorus and everyone is singing and you are “feeling it,” then it’s not because of what’s happening but what happened prior to that point.
Knowing your audience. Not all audiences like the same type of music.
Drums for some, bass for others, and piano for other. Some might focus on the vocals.
These can all depend on the denomination, the average age, the preferred style for the church (think mandate).
You can’t promote energy through a bass line if your audience doesn’t like the sound.
Reacting to your audience. Much the same way you should control your mix volume based on your audience, you should do the same with your mix.
If you think maximizing the energy comes from pushing the volume but your audience sings softer, stops singing, or stops moving around, then you haven’t opted for the best way to maximize the energy.
There are a few ways you can bring energy through your mix:
Increase volume. This would be the easiest one to overdo. Raising the volume of the source(s) of energy can work but shouldn’t be the default method. Consider the others.
Make room in the mix. Clarify that instrument in the mix. Make the instrument/vocal stand out in the mix by cutting the frequencies of other instrument that share some of those frequencies. You can boost frequencies for that energized line but start with cutting others first.
Decrease volume. Decrease the volume of the other instruments/vocals that aren’t promoting that energy.
Remember your audience. If they aren’t the drum-energized crowd, then don’t think they will be energized by the drums. Look to a different instrument. A rhythm guitar is a good default but learn to experiment. It could be the shaker drives the song.
You can also work with the musicians. You don’t want to push a particular instrument if they want the focus to be on another instrument. Talk with them and see what they think gives power to their songs.
Using the above methods, you can bring more energy to your songs. The difference between a song with energy and one without is significant.
A song without that energy sounds uninspired. Give your mix energy!
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. He can even tell you the signs the sound guy is having a mental breakdown.
Friday, March 16, 2012
Audio Basics: Stage Monitoring Simplified
Sage advice on mixing monitors and the house simultaneously.
Encompassed in today’s live show are several individual shows, for example, light shows, laser shows and more.
It’s not uncommon for each of these independent shows to have its own set of engineers.
The focal point is the band/artist, and they’re the reason all of the other shows are taking place.
And, it should be pointed out that most of these “shows within the show” are presented for the audience.
Good engineers realize that the monitor mix is a show in itself. It’s the only show that the musicians get to hear, and it certainly is the mix that most affects their performance.
Big shows usually have a separate engineer for the monitor mix, but for average shows one valuable individual functions as both the front of house (FOH) and monitor engineer.
To accomplish a good monitor mix, you must understand your particular mixing console; we can, however, examine some basic principles that apply unilaterally.
While working your magic behind the FOH console, most people don’t realize the work you’re doing for the musicians.
The musicians also have to hear the performance, except they usually want to hear something totally different than the house mix.
In fact, many bands have members that each want (or even require) a different mix than another band member. That means multiple mixes, all running at the same time, which can present some challenges to the engineer, because all of these mixes cannot be monitored simultaneously.
Most consoles allow toggling between each of the mixes, allowing you to make changes to each individually. This, of course, depends on what features the console has and how you, as an engineer, decide to accomplish your monitor mix.
Let’s first take a look at some obstacles you may encounter in your equipment.
Snakes, Sends, & Returns
The snake, of course, is the multiple input cable that all of the instruments plug into on the stage. The cable then is plugged into the console to carry the signal from the stage to the mixing console.
The snake also has “returns,” which, as the name implies, route signal from the console back to the stage and musicians.
The amount of returns available will directly affect the amount of signal that can be routed back to the stage. For example, a 24 x 4 snake offers up to 24 pathways to the console from the stage, and four pathways back to the stage from the console.
With four return paths, the possible combinations of mixes are four independent mono mixes, two stereo mixes or one stereo mix and two mono mixes.
The more return paths, the more possibilities you have to run monitor mixes.
Bear in mind that these return paths also must carry the signal to the main loudspeakers.
Another limitation that can be encountered is the amount of pathways that a mixing console has to use as returns to the stage.
A 24 x 4 x 2 console has 24 inputs for instruments, four bus (or group) outputs, and a pair of outputs for the mains.
Bus or group outputs (sometimes called sub-outs) can be used as monitor return outputs.
Four-bus outputs would yield the same combination of possibilities as a four-return snake.
Obviously, more bus outputs equals more possibilities for this type of monitor mix.
Probably the method with the most possibilities is routing monitor mixes with the auxiliary sends. Like buses, auxiliary or aux sends can be used to route monitor mixes.
Although aux sends are used for routing signal to effects processors, they are very useful in running monitor mixes. For aux sends to be useful as monitor mixes, they must be able to be used in what is known as pre-fader mode.
There is usually a button next to the aux send pot on each channel that will allow you to switch between pre and post-fader modes. Keep in mind that for each mono return path, a separate amp at the other end for a power source is needed.
This snake doesn’t bite, it’s the lifeline between mixer and the stage.
Stereo requires a two-channel power amplifier, or a separate amp for the left and right sides.
Have you checked your equipment for features? To make it easier to describe some basic techniques, we need a typical scenario.
Let’s assume we have a 24-channel input console with four bus outputs and at least four auxiliary sends. Our console is also equipped with a stereo headphone output, so we can listen to each mix separately without listening to (or affecting) the house mix.
Most consoles possess this capability because it is necessary for the engineer to listen to alternate mixes during a performance.
Our snake has 24 channels with four return paths. Let’s also assume that we will be running a stereo house mix. To achieve a good monitor mix, there are several ways to get there. So, let’s take the trip.
Get On The Bus
Each channel has a feature that will allow assignment of its signal to a group or bus out. These assignment groups include the main L/R bus.
The main L/R group will be used to route signal from the console’s main output jacks on the back of the board through the snake’s first two returns. The faders on the console labeled “mains” or “L/R” (or something similar) will control the amount of signal.
The returns from the snake on the stage side will be routed to the stereo power amp (or amps) that powers the main front of house speakers. This way, the signal from the power amps takes the shortest path to the speakers.
In addition to the main L/R outputs, a four-bus console has four additional outputs that correspond to faders that control the signal routed to them.
The faders are typically labeled “bus 1,2,3,4” or “Sub out 1,2,3,4” etc.
Each channel has a switch, which allows you to assign its signal to a particular bus.
With this configuration, we could run a stereo monitor mix.
If we decided to do this, we would assign each channel to buses 1 and 2.
The output of bus 1 will be routed through the snake’s return 3, and the output of bus 2 output will be routed through return 4.
Remember we’re using returns 1 and 2 for the main house mix. Return 3 will be routed to the amp that powers the left side of the monitor mix and return 4 to the right side.
I only recommend doing a stereo monitor mix if in-ear monitors are to be used. Most applications require the use of on stage loudspeakers (monitors or wedges).
For this reason, it is a good idea to run a mono monitor mix. Monitors on stage would normally be too complex to run a stereo monitor mix. By assigning all of the instruments to bus 1, we can be sure that all of the stage speakers represent an overall mix for all of the musicians on stage.
Because we are only using bus 1 for this mix, we could then use bus 2 for some accent monitors on stage.
For example, if all of the musicians can hear the overall mix, we could assign only the vocals and other lead instruments to bus 2 and route that bus to spot monitors for singers (who like to hear themselves heavily in the monitor mix) as well as other lead instrumentalists who cue off of each other.
Make your assignments here.
If we had more returns in our snake we could even provide accent monitors for the bassist and drummer/percussionist, for example, by using buses 3 and 4.
One limitation of using buses for your monitor mix is that if you assign a particular channel to a bus, you might not be able to route that signal to another bus or at least not the bus you need.
Another limitation is that on some consoles, you cannot adjust the amount of signal that each channel contributes to each bus. That means that whenever the bus is assigned, the entire signal from that channel is routed to that bus assignment.
The amount of individual signal from each channel to the bus is determined by the position of the channel fader.
Many manufacturers design features that allow for more possibilities; however, that usually means more circuitry, hardware and board space for additional faders or pots.
More features means more expensive. This is a quick and easy way to run monitors, but there are other avenues that lead out of the console - the auxiliary send outputs (aux sends).
Working The Aux Sends
In addition to bus output jacks, mixing consoles also have output jacks that correspond to their auxiliary send pots.
Remember that our sample console has at least 4 auxiliary sends.
Each one of these channels has a level adjustment pot for each of the sends.
The console will almost certainly have an aux master section that will allow for control of the overall signal level of each aux output.
The aux 1 output jack should be routed to the snake’s return 3. Aux 2 out should be routed to the snake’s return 4.
We still need to use returns 1 and 2 for the house mix. By utilizing the aux sends, we can accomplish two mono mixes. Each of these mixes can contain any amount of each channel.
For example, if we want more of channel 9’s audio in the aux 1 mix, we simply turn up the aux 1 pot on channel 9.
By using the level adjustments for aux sends 1 and 2 on each channel, we can create a mix that is suitable for the lead instruments on aux 1 and a completely separate mix that is suitable for the rhythm section on aux 2.
One feature that our mixing console must incorporate is that ability to route the sends in “pre-fader” mode. In pre-fader mode the position of the volume faders on each channel has no effect on the level being sent down each of the aux sends.
Output jacks correspond to Aux sends, just be sure to double-check your patches!
This means that if we turn down the lead guitar in the house mix by lowering the channel’s volume fader, the monitor mix will not be changed. Once again, if our snake had more return paths, we could utilize additional sends for more on stage monitoring possibilities.
By assigning the aux mixes one at a time to the headphone outputs, you can make adjustments to each mix without affecting what the audience hears.
In addition, by routing the signal outputs of our effects processors to channel inputs, we can send some effects to each of the monitor mixes.
For example, by routing the outputs of a reverb processor to the inputs of channels 23 and 24 of our mixing console, we can send an adjustable level of reverb to each of the two monitor mixes by simply turning up sends 1 and 2 on those channels.
Be cautious of routing signal from channels 23 and 24 back to the inputs of the reverb unit as this will result in an electronic feedback loop.
If you use send 3 and 4 for the inputs to your effects processors while using channels 23 and 24 for your reverb returns, turning up sends 3 and/or 4 on these channels will create this kind of loop.
Using aux sends for monitor mixing is probably the best and most popular approach as it affords the engineer the most versatility and functionality.
Hopefully, this article will arm you with some of the knowledge critical in implementing some basic rules of audio. Always make sure you know the equipment you own and the equipment you intend to buy. Good luck, and have fun!
Scott Foulkrod is the Audiovisual Coordinator for the Houston Rockets in Houston, TX.
Thursday, March 15, 2012
In The Studio: Tips For Controlling Vocal Sibilance
Keeping the problem from becoming a musical distraction
Vocal sibilance is an unpleasant tonal harshness that can happen during consonant syllables (like S, T, and Z), caused by disproportionate audio dynamics in upper midrange frequencies. Sibilance is often centered between 5 kHz to 8 kHz, but can occur well above that frequency range.
This problem is usually caused by the actual vocal formant, but can also be exaggerated by microphone placement and technique. This article will discuss some ways to control vocal sibilance, and keep the problem from becoming a musical distraction.
Sibilance at the Source
(best read with sibilant whistle)
In phonetic terms, sibilance comes from a type of vocal formant called a fricative consonant. During these sorts of utterances, the airway (usually the mouth) is drastically constricted by two anatomical features, like the teeth, tongue, or palette.
This pressurization causes some amount of noise that forms the consonant sounds we would recognize from a phase like, “Sally sits sideways on the tennis trolley.” Sibilance is a very necessary feature of human speech, but when there’s (subjectively) too much noise created during these consonants, we get a very distracting harshness.
It isn’t really practical or productive to address micro-muscular vocal technique during a session, so your best bet to mitigate sibilance at the source is microphone selection and placement. Here are a few suggestions:
—Every vocalist is remarkably different, so don’t pre-suppose that anything you’ve tried before will or will not work again.
—Be sure to leave some space between your vocalist and the microphone. Twelve to eighteen inches would be a nice starting point.
—A pop filter won’t do anything to help with sibilance.
—Once you find a microphone and distance combination that helps, try angling the microphone downward 10 to 15 degrees to place the 0-degree axis toward the throat instead of the sibilant source.
Audio Dynamics Processing
Vocal sibilance is a phenomenon of disproportionate dynamics within an isolated frequency range. In other words, it is a problem of too much loudness contrast within a small frequency range of a waveform that has a dynamic profile of its own.
‘De-essing’ is the classic compressor technique used to address vocal sibilance through processing. In fact, de-essing is just one example of many uses for compression that is conditioned on a limited frequency band, or a modified harmonic profile.
De-esser Signal Flow
Audio dynamics processors like compressors and expanders contain two signal paths:
1) The audio path, which is subject to conditional gain reduction and;
2) The sidechain or ‘key’ path, which the gain reduction is conditioned on.
In short, gain reduction happens (or not) in the audio path based on the interaction between the sidechain signal and the detector settings (i.e. threshold and time constants). By placing an EQ in the sidechain path, we can further condition gain reduction on user definable frequency conditions.
The de-esser technique typically uses a narrow peak EQ in the sidechain path to boost the most offensive sibilant frequencies. This EQ exaggerates the dynamic difference between the sibilant band and the rest of the vocal waveform, making it much easier to achieve gain reduction during those consonants (and only then).
A pre-configured de-esser may provide an interface as simple as a compressor threshold and the peak EQ center frequency. These often work just fine. For more detailed control, one could patch an EQ into the sidechain of a relatively fast compressor, or use any number of compressor plug-ins that provide detailed EQ in the sidechain path.
There are lots of great techniques based on this signal flow, so spend some time with it. Frankly, de-essing is the least of what you can do by adding frequency conditions to your gain reduction.
When you’re recording a vocal performance that may have a sibilance problem, resist the urge to compress the signal in the channel path. Over-compression can exaggerate sibilance. Instead, try using a fader to level the vocal performance, or just record with an adequate amount of headroom.
The same applies to the mixing process. Once you’ve done your best to control vocal sibilance, try using a fader and automation to maintain a consistent vocal volume in the mix. If you simply must instantiate a compressor on every vocal track, keep the attack time slow (> 30ms), and the ratio low.
Finally, don’t listen too loudly when you mix. That’s good general advice, but quality control issues like sibilance highlight its importance. Try a control room volume of 78-83 dB(C) SPL. You might be surprised how much detail you’re suddenly able to hear.
Rob Schlette is chief mastering engineer and owner of Anthem Mastering (anthemmastering.com) in St. Louis, MO, which provides trusted specialized mastering services to music clients across North America.
Be sure to visit the Pro Audio Files for more great recording content. To comment or ask questions about this article go here.
Numark Now shipping N4 DJ Controller
Numark announces that N4, a four-channel DJ controller with built-in mixer, is now shipping to stores.
Featuring four decks of software control plus a mixer that can be used with or without a computer, N4 is designed for DJs who want powerful capability in a lightweight, portable package.
This complete four-channel controller has everything DJs need to perform at their highest level: large, touch-sensitive platters, four decks of software control with looping and effects controls, a USB audio interface and a comprehensive mixer section with EQ and gain.
N4 will come with both Serato DJ Intro software and a four-deck version of Virtual DJ LE.
N4 is designed for flexible control of virtually any music source. Its integrated DJ mixer allows DJs to bring music from any external device into their set, including turntables, CD players, MP3 players, even compatible phones. DJs are able to instantly switch from controlling four decks of software to controlling two decks of software plus two channels of external source. N4 employs ultra-high-resolution 14-bit MIDI that virtually eliminates latency, giving DJs the tight response they need.
With its ability to use time code, N4 sets a new standard for four-channel DJ controllers in its class. N4 gives DJs the ability to use their CD player or turntable to control DJ software by using either turntables with time-coded vinyl or CD players with time-coded CDs.*
“We created this controller with the mobile DJ in mind,” said Chris Roman, Numark Product Manager. “N4 is lightweight, full-featured and just looks incredible — that combination is unheard of at this price.”
N4 is now available from musical instrument retailers with an MSRP of $699 and an estimated street price of $499.
Posted by Keith Clark on 03/15 at 10:36 AM
Wednesday, March 14, 2012
Ashly Audio Enters The Commercial Sound Electronics Industry
With the introduction of the new TM-360 mixer/amplifier, Ashly Audio has entered the commercial sound electronics industry.
This is Ashly’s first product in this genre and heralds the company’s commitment to providing quality products to this growing segment of the audio marketplace.
The TM-360, is a 3-input, 60-watt mixer/amplifier that offers input and output flexibility coupled with energy efficiency. It has the capability to automatically switch into a stand-by mode if no audio input is received for 25 minutes, thus reducing the current draw.
The TM-360, along with other new products in this series, will be covered by Ashly’s five-year warranty.
“Our review of the commercial sound electronics market showed a lack of innovation and quality products,” explains John Sexton, Ashly Audio vice president of sales & marketing. “Many of the companies in this sector offer only a one-year or three-year warranty. The energy-efficient TM-360 delivers Ashly-level quality backed by our five-year warranty at a competitive price point.”
The TM-360 uses a Class D amplifier topology for added energy efficiency. Input options include selectable mic or line level, telephone, and dual RCA sum-to-mono. The transformer-isolated output offers a choice of Low-Z (4-ohm), 25-volt or 70-volt.
The 230-watt international version features Low-Z, 70-volt or 100-volt output options. There are two separate zone outputs – a one-watt output for driving a remote loudspeaker and a pre-amp output that can be used to drive a separate amplifier. Rear panel dip switches allow you to select the mix going to each zone. A front panel 1/8-inch mini-jack makes it easy to plug-in a back-up music source.
The TM-360 is in stock and available for immediate shipment. The rack-mount kit (model RMK-360) is available as an accessory.
Tuesday, March 13, 2012
Producer/Bassist Brent Milligan On The Road With Steven Curtis Chapman & PreSonus Studio One
Grammy-nominated producer and bassist Brent Milligan is on the road again, touring with multi-platinum singer-songwriter Steven Curtis Chapman in support of his current album, re:creation.
Milligan, a Baton Rouge native whose credits include Michael W. Smith, TobyMac, Backstreet Boys and a host of others, has been working with Chapman for a number of years as a band member, producer, and musical collaborator.
On the road, Milligan works with Chapman to lay down tunes and record unplugged-style videos on his laptop, using a PreSonus AudioBox 1818VSL recording system and Studio One 2 digital audio workstation. For Milligan, it’s a chance to capture some rare solo performances of Chapman’s songs while discovering the ins and outs of Studio One.
“We basically just lay down the performances wherever we can find a quiet space, whether it’s backstage, in a hotel room, whatever’s available,” says Milliigan. “I just set up a camera and a couple of mics, and we’re good to go. It’s pretty organic.”
Although his studio in Nashville is based around another popular DAW setup, Milligan says he has been developing a new affinity for Studio One. “Even though I’m still learning my way around the user interface, the more I do with Studio One, the more I like it,” he says. “What’s nice is that I can take any of the tracks I recorded in Studio One, open them in my home setup, and Studio One immediately recognizes my current studio hardware. I don’t have to hook up the 1818 to get it working, so if I want to do something to the track, like add a cello or sweeten something, I can get right into it without a whole lot of setting things up.”
Though he’s still relatively new to Studio One, Milligan says that so far, he likes what he sees. “I’ll admit I’ve been a bit resistant to change,” he says. “I’ve been working with my old DAW for many years, and I’m just used to where things are, used to the key commands, the file-management system, and I’m very fast with it. But the more I work in Studio One, the more I like it, and the more intuitive it becomes.”
Milligan is also not the first to remark that Studio One just seems to sound better. “I would always laugh when I’d hear other people saying that one DAW sounded better than another - I mean, bits are bits, after all,” he says. “But listening to the stuff I’ve recorded in Studio One and comparing it to tracks I’ve recorded on my other system, I can honestly say I hear a difference. I don’t know if they’re using a different summing algorithm or what, but it really does seem to sound better. It’s more detailed, more dynamic.”
Milligan says he’s looking forward to getting further into Studio One. “My next thing will be to do a full production in Studio One,” he says. “Thus far I’m really enjoying working with it.”
Church Sound: Mastering Signal Flow – Here it Comes And There it Goes
You can have a great grasp of how your system works when you know how audio signals are routed
Growing up in a one hundred year-old home, I learned how to fix plumbing problems.
One lesson was tracing all the pipes in the basement so I could tell which pipes had fresh water and which ones carried sewage.
You might say it was my first exposure to signal flow.
Signal flow is the flow of the audio signal from the sources of input to the places of output, from sound-to-loudspeaker, if you will.
Learning how to set up the stage, you see how the signal flows from an electric guitar to a pedal board to a DI box and then into a stage jack. Now you will see what happens to that signal once it gets to the sound booth.
Asking For Directions
An audio signal travels from the source towards some sort of output. For example, a singer’s voice is picked up by the microphone which, through a series of components, makes its way out to the house speakers. Consider this as the general directionality of the audio signal – from a source to a destination.
The sound booth is like a giant airport where signals are coming in and going out, from multiple sources to multiple destinations. Destinations can be house loudspeakers, floor monitors, recording software, and even church nursery loudspeakers. The primary component that takes care of all these transfers is the mixer.
Coming into the mixer, are a variety of sound sources which will all be assigned to the channels on the mixer. Naturally, you have your sources from the stage but you also have sources such as a computer, tape deck, CD player, and even audio feeds from video devices.
Once the signal is going to a channel, it tends to follow a general path that can vary slightly from one mixer to the next. From the signal input, it usually follows as such;
1) Gain control (controls how much of the signal you are letting into the system)
2) Insert loop (plugs in back of mixer for auxiliary effects)
3) High-pass filter (used to cut out frequencies below a fixed point)
5) Channel on/off or mute switch
7) Pan control (for stereo panning)
8) Out to groups (for control over multiple channels from one group channel)
9) Out to main fader control
Looking at the signal flow on the mixer channel, most extra on-board controls like compression and padding occur before the signal goes to the equalizer.
Also, signal to the auxiliary controls for the channel’s audio sends, such as for monitors, will be either before or after the fader depending on it the auxiliary control is set to send as pre-fade or post-fade.
Out Of The Mixer
The signal can travel out of the mixer in a variety of ways;
—Auxiliary sends. This could be for monitors, hallways loudspeakers, or however your system is set up.
—Tape deck. Yes, some mixers have separate send controls for tape decks. Really, they could be used for any device but yes, they might be marked on your mixer as “Tape controls.”
—Insert loops. These are at the channel level and are used to send the signal out to a processing unit like a reverb unit, and then return that sound back into the channel at the same point.
—Group ins/outs. You can send the specific group signal to a separate out. For example, a group could be used for additional signal processing like a compressor and therefore you can route the signal out to the unit and back in. Or, route it out for some other use.
—House loudspeakers. You gotta fill the room with sound!
The output signal can go directly to another processing device, like a reverb or compressor as I mentioned above. Or, it could be routed for your house loudspeakers. It’s here where you need to dive behind your components and start following some cables.
Audio signals can be routed a variety of ways. I’ve seen systems where the main out was first routed through a tape deck before going to the amplifier. Such routing is understandable considering the fact that you commonly want to record a service.
However, for more finite control, they could have routed the recording device to an auxiliary channel where the mix for the recorded media could have been different.
Note that the signal strength between components is considered to be at line level.
You should expect the mixer’s main output to go out to the house EQ, through any house compressor or limiter, and then to the mixer.
What To Do When The Volume Stops
Knowing how sound travels through the audio system, you can quickly find the source of audio problems. Take, for instance, an electric guitarist who has started playing during the sound check but you don’t hear them in the house mix. By tracking the audio signal from its source, you can investigate where the problem might be located.
For example, if you are getting a green light on the channel, you know you are getting a signal from them. Perhaps the gain is too low. Maybe you aren’t getting any signal light. Start at their guitar and make sure the signal is taking the right path to the sound booth. It could be a mistake as simple as improper cabling into a direct input box.
When The Sound Is Bad
Every time an audio signal goes from one component to another, you can pick up unwanted noise. This is called line noise. Regarding the signal flow coming from the stage, we need to look at something called the signal-to-noise ratio. In short, this ratio explains the quality of your sound.
For example, let’s say you have an acoustic guitar with an on-board amplifier. This gives the musician the ability to control the level of the signal from their guitar. If they don’t raise the on-board amp’s volume high enough, you could hear a large amount of noise in their signal. By increasing the volume on their guitar amp, they are improving / increasing the signal-to-noise ratio. This means when the signal is amplified, there is very little noise heard because the strongest signal is coming from the guitar.
The flow of the audio signals through your system can take different paths. There is an order to the mass of cables running to and fro. You can have a great grasp of how your system works when you know how your audio signals are routed.
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. He can even tell you the signs the sound guy is having a mental breakdown.
Monday, March 12, 2012
Informed Choices: Monitor Mix Approaches At The Console Level
Input from several engineers working in various genres
When it comes to maximizing their mix, streamlining workflow and meeting the needs of their artists, few monitor engineers are willing to say they’re doing anything entirely unique.
Still, every artist has different demands, and that informs choices made in monitor world.
We tracked down several engineers working in various genres to talk about the approaches they’ve developed to meet those demands, quickly and efficiently, at the console level.
Robert Bull, Nashville
Current Gig: Martina McBride
Other Artists: Amy Grant, Michael McDonald
For Bull, meeting the needs of his artist isn’t rocket science. “I try to keep everything as simple as possible and avoid doing anything tricky at the console level unless necessary. If we’re using the right microphone and the right preamp, my approach to the console is, ‘Hopefully, we’ll never have to talk about it.’”
The key to mixing McBride, he says, is to make the arena sound like one big mix: “Almost like using the room for reverb. We’re opening up for George Strait on a diamond shaped stage in the round. I’ve got 16 wedges out there. The main thing is output phasing, making sure everything hitting the right spot at the right time. If something’s feeding back, try moving the wedge, or throw one mix out of phase with another to see if that works.”
Robert Bull at a Yamaha PM5D. (click to enlarge)
Over his 15 years with McBride, Bull typically prefers to use an analog console, currently, the ATI Paragon. “It has output phase reverse right on the console, so even mid-show I’ll pop the outputs out of phase to achieve that level, also, the EQ is great and I can get around it fast in any situation. On the console, having an EQ on the output, and being able to get to that quickly, is important.”
His preference for analog also informs his preferred choice of digital desk, the Yamaha PM5D. “It’s as analog as it is digital in terms of work surface,” he notes. “Any time we’re doing a TV show, or fly gig I’m not taking my rig for, I’ll use that. It’s flexible, and when I select an input, I can see everything I need. If I need to get to something quick, I assign it to a user define button. It allows me to be as quick as I am on an analog console.”
Still, Bull maintains that the most important thing he does has nothing to do with the console. “It’s about the level of trust you have with the musicians. Honestly, getting in their heads is more important than what I do at the console. Once, I was working an orchestral show, an artist said, ‘I just can’t hear the note.’ I went to the conductor and asked, ‘Who has this note?’ He replied that it was the French horns, so we took a stem off that, and I told the artist, ‘four beats before you enter you’ll hear the horns get louder – That’s your note’.”
Michael Prowda, Baltimore
Current Gig: Radiohead
Other Artists: David Bowie, NIN, Soundgarden, John Legend
“There are two approaches to mixing monitors,” Prowda says, “the ‘taking it to a fine art’ approach, and the boxing gloves approach.” Although either method can result in satisfying shows, he prefers the former, particularly for Radiohead. With a dedicated monitor system for the band’s techs and a total of 90 inputs – a mix of in ears and wedges for vocals, bass, two drummers and two guitarists (two of whom play keyboards) – “It’s a wild gig,” he says.
To manage those inputs, Prowda created a bus structure to coincide with the input structure. “On the Avid VENUE Profile, eight of the 24 channels can be variable or fixed, groups or an aux send. Each drummer and guitar player is a bus. I also have a vocal bus, an electronics bus and so on. The inputs assigned to the buses can be post fader, so I’ll create a unity mix of the drums, or electronics, then, as I listen to the bus, I go to the faders to adjust levels rather than paging through four layers of input structure.”
He also applies processing to each group independently. “Instead of looking at my individual compression, I’ll do bus compression to keep it within a dynamic window, then, if I need to do extra work on the snare for example, I will.”
Michael Prowda at an Avid VENUE Profile. (click to enlarge)
Additionally, Prowda set up the Profile’s Personal Q system so the band’s six techs can control his console via individual mixers. “Essentially, they’re on their own, so I can focus on the band.” With 70-plus potential songs for the show, and only two weeks of rehearsal, speed was of the essence.
“They want the mixes up so they can rehearse, and I wanted to have a structure ASAP to create snapshots. I hadn’t done bus mixing since the analog days, but this was a perfect opportunity. I’m looking at the desk as a mixer within a mixer. I’ve used other consoles, but when you’re starting something new you want to be familiar with your work space, and on this one, everything I need access to is within line of sight to the performers.”
Dave Sinko, Nashville
Current Gig: Punch Brothers
Other Artists: Edgar Meyer, Sam Bush, Bela Fleck, Yo-Yo Ma
During Sinko’s five years with progressive bluegrass band Punch Brothers, he’s been mixing front of house, but uses an APB-DynaSonics ProRack rack-mount monitor board on stage so the band can mix their own in-ear monitors.
Originally, the band toured with only two Neumann U89s microphones for their five vocals, and clip on mics for their instruments – mandolin, guitar, fiddle, banjo and acoustic/electric bass. Since then, though, they’ve moved to individual vocal mics, added pickups to each instrument, and are still re-tooling their system to better reflect the sound of their February 2012 release, Who’s Feeling Young Now?
Dave Sinko at an APB-Dynasonics ProRack. (click to enlarge)
“Essentially, we took everything that sounds bad on the pickups, frequency range wise, and replaced it with what sounds good from the clip-on mics, minimizing anything that tends to cause feedback,” Sinko says, “particularly for outdoor gigs where the mains are too close to the stage.”
He and the band have also developed their own “tune in place” system. “Each instrument goes to dual channels on the APB console, through an A/B switch on their pedal boards, so when they switch to their B output it mutes their instrument everywhere but their own IEM.”
For mixing IEM, Sinko prefers an analog desk. With eight stereo mixes and a compact footprint, he believes the APB is the best choice, both sonically and for keeping the fly pack lean – in all, just six cases containing monitor rack/desk, house mixer/rack, instruments and IEMs.
Jamie Hickey, Glastonbury, UK
Current Gig: Tindersticks
Other Artists: Patrick Wolf, Reef, Kula Shaker
Tindersticks has always been a demanding gig, says Hickey: “For a start, there’s eight of them on stage, but at one point we had 14 with strings, horns and all manner of quiet instruments. The string players use a combination of IEM and wedges, and, to top it off, band members often change instruments and stage positions.”
Each band member has very specific preferences, but lead singer Stuart Staples’ mix is particularly challenging. “He wants to hear everything. It’s like doing a front of house mix; putting things like overheads and glockenspiel in his wedges.” But Hickey likes a challenge. “I do front of house as well, but I prefer monitors, and high maintenance artists are my preference, really.”
Keeping an ear on exactly what everyone is hearing on stage is his prime concern. To keep Staples sound consistent night after night, Hickey tours with four d&b M2 wedges – one pair for Staples, and one pair for listening wedges. For the remainder of the band, and his additional listening wedge, Hickey uses whatever the house provides.
James Hickey at an Allen & Heath iLive. (click to enlarge)
“I use an Allen & Heath iLive console and assign different wedge mixes to the PFL (pre-fade listen) outputs on the console. I have my center wedges coming out of PFL 1 and the other seven out of PFL 2. Whenever I select a mix, it routes the audio to the PFL output I need. Not a new idea, but the way the iLive auto-switches was something I hadn’t seen before – both PFL master faders remain at 0 dB and mutes the one you don’t need.”
Using his iPad or iPhone to tweak out the system is an advantage of mixing on iLive, although, when he first did so, it caused some confusion. “Almost as soon as the desk was out, Allen & Heath released an app for iPhone. I’d be doing my line checks during changeovers, and the guys thought I was texting my girlfriend, and the tour manager was like, ‘Can’t you wait? We’re in a hurry’.”
Hickey does miss the challenge of “the analog changeover,” adding, “45 inputs, 19 auxiliaries and 20-minute changeovers – that was a real rush. Now it’s like 20 minutes, that’s ages.”
Sean Sturge, New York City
Current Gig: Lil Wayne
Other Artists: Whitney Houston, Dr. Dre, Eminem, Jay-Z, 50 Cent
Sturge’s choice of the DiGiCo SD7 is based on dealing with a performance that includes numerous guest artists, his preference for an all-digital signal chain and big, accurate sound. Lil Wayne’s monitor system itself isn’t incredibly complex, he says. Essentially, there’s a five-piece band on IEM and a variety of wedges and fills for Lil Wayne – 8 d&b B2s, 8 J8s and 14 d&b M2s down front.
“But there’s a lot of different tracks, a lot of changes and guests, and each does a song with Wayne,” Sturge notes. “There’s different EQs, levels and effects. Some people like delay, some want Auto-Tune. I won’t say I do anything different, but I use all the tools the desk gives me as much as I can, and no outboard gear.”
Sean Sturge at a DiGiCo SD7. (click to enlarge)
It’s a fully automated and all digital show, from the transmitter for Lil Wayne’s Sennheiser SKM 5000 on out. “All of my outputs are AES. My amps are AES. You couldn’t do that two years ago, and not every desk can do it. And, overall, you can get levels you just couldn’t get in the past.”
Sturge also takes advantage of the Waves 8 software integrated into the DiGiCo. “Everything is on board. I call Wayne’s studio engineer, get his presets for the songs and have the same effects they use in the studio for each song in the show.”
Like Hickey, Sturge prefers the challenge of mixing monitors to font of house: “Because it’s way easier to please 10,000 people than five musicians.” Still, even a show as complex as Lil Wayne’s is far easier to do now than it was in the analog days, he adds, laughing: “I’m always afraid to do interviews because I’m like, ‘Man, they’re gonna start firing us, ‘cause this stuff is so easy now.’”
Karrie Keyes, Los Angeles
Current Gig: Pearl Jam
Other Artists: Red Hot Chili Peppers, Sonic Youth, Fugazi
Of all the engineers on our panel, Keyes, who’s worked with Pearl Jam since 1991, is the one who’s spent the longest getting to know her band’s needs.
“I wouldn’t say I’m doing anything that’s unique,” she says. “I am running the console pretty hot in terms of input gain and output level. The band had issues in past with other digital consoles, but when we switched to the Midas PRO6 they took to it immediately.” She’s since moved to a Midas PRO9 and says that the mix outs are pretty much full.
With the exception of drummer, Matt Cameron, the band uses a mixture of IEM, wedges and fills. “Matt relies solely on a drum fill and wears ear plugs,” Keyes explains. “There are extra mixes for guests and strings, and, in arenas, additional mixes behind the band for when they play to the back of the arena.”
In terms of outboard gear, Keyes uses the bare minimum. “No gates, no compressors, just two Lexicon PCM 60 reverbs.”
Karrie Keyes at a Midas PRO6 (she now uses a PRO9). (click to enlarge)
Her approach depends heavily on setting her console up as much like an analog desk as possible, and says that programming each song and every EQ and volume change simply isn’t viable. “The band has over 150 songs they pull from every night, and the set list changes so much that being able to do my cues manually is the fastest and best option.”
Having mixed the band for 20-plus years, she’s often able to anticipate the band’s needs, and says the PRO9’s POP Groups and VCAs have been helpful in creating a work surface that suits her needs more effectively. “The POP groups are a lifesaver. I set them up for each musician and I can access what they need fast without having to look for it, or taking my eyes of the band.”
Will Doyle, London
Current Gig: Arctic Monkeys
Doing monitors for this U.K.-based, indie-rock, four-piece doesn’t exactly stretch the capabilities of Doyle’s console of choice, the Soundcraft Vi6. As straight up as the band’s monitor system is – d&b M2 wedges, L-Acoustics ARCS and dV-SUBS as side fills, and three IEM mixes – Doyle’s incorporation of the Vi6’s VCAs into his user layer does helps streamline his workflow.
“I’ve only got a few cues during the show – not enough for me to start automating everything – but for the entire kit, for example, I can push one fader up, instead of nine,” he says, adding they he also mixes IEM for the band’s three techs.
Will Doyle at a Soundcraft Vi6. (click to enlarge)
The VCAs are ideal for keeping the relationship between the effects and dry vocals the same: “Another case of using one VCA fader instead of having to move two input faders. It means you can hide away channels you don’t change frequently on a different layer of the desk like overheads and reverbs, and group all the important stuff together on one user defined bank of faders. It’s also easier to snap back to normal levels after changing things for a certain song. Going back to 0 is quicker than trying to instantly go back to something a bit more specific like -12.”
Bottom line, like all the engineers we talked with, the prime objective that Doyle really wants to achieve with anything he’s doing at the console level is to free up more time to keep an eye on what the band needs, and it’s another reason he prefers the Vi6. “It feels like an analog console. I don’t like it when your hand’s moving a knob or fader at one side of the desk, and you’re looking at the screen a foot or two away and not at the band.”
Based in Toronto, Kevin Young is a freelance music and tech writer, professional musician and composer.
Posted by Keith Clark on 03/12 at 04:09 PM
Friday, March 09, 2012
IK Multimedia Releases DJ Rig: The Professional DJ Mixing App
IK Multimedia is pleased to announce the release of their first professional DJ Mixing app: DJ Rig — a full-featured, double-deck DJ mixing app for iPhone and iPod touch.
DJ Rig provides instant song-playing from the device’s music library, automatic tempo sync and beat match, sample-based pads and performance recording, plus an arsenal of high-quality DJ effects.
Together with the just announced iRig MIX, the mobile DJ mixer for iPhone, iPod touch and iPad, DJ Rig represents the most portable solution to DJ anytime and everywhere.
DJ Rig isn’t just another DJ mixing app. Instead, it’s an extremely intuitive, flexible and easy-to-use groove master program with powerful features and intelligent effects that will please even the most professional DJ.
Its dual-deck format is as traditional as it gets, but beyond that, there is a world of creative tools – from sync tools to creative effects – that will take DJ-ing on an iOS device to a completely new level that can be used by anyone, everywhere.
Sync Tempo AND Match Beats – Like No Other DJ App
While you can find BPM sync on other DJ apps, none are able to offer beat matching like DJ Rig. This feature allows the automatic synchronization of beats between two songs so the beats are matched and aligned. DJ Rig analyzes your songs and then builds a tempo and beat map so anybody can easily mix at the tap of a button and never miss a beat.
Effects Deck… Unlimited Sonic Possibilities
DJ Rig also features a robust real-time effects processing section that allows DJs to apply various effects to their source material. And with the XY touch interface, they’ll have full creative control of the effect parameters. DJs can choose from spatial effects like reverb, delay and flanger, various pass-through filter effects, distortion, resonance effects and a new stutter effect. Plus, all effects are automatically synched to the tempo.
DJ Rig also features an “on-the-fly” sampler that can capture and play sounds from built-in sound banks or for quick sampling of source audio for instant playback and looping. Sounds can be accessed from 9 virtual pads that access a high-quality, expandable sample library.
Scratching with CloneDeck
DJ Rig features the new turntable modeling technology called CloneDeck which provides an ultra-realistic turntable “scratching” feel and sound. CloneDeck provides the exact behavior you expect from a real DJ turntable … only in a convenient digital format.
Record and Share Your Mix
You can record your entire mix performances live with the built-in recorder and then export it to your computer.
X-Sync – Sync ANY External Audio Source
DJ Rig features an exclusive X-Sync function that enables the synchronization of music from ANY source — not just music on the iOS device— when used with the iRig MIX portable iOS DJ mixer. With X-Sync, you can connect and cue ANY audio source, and DJ Rig will automatically match the tempo and make seamless transitions.
-Landscape and portrait interfaces
-Direct access to iPod library and playlists with instant play
-Deck controls: Volume, Pitch, 3-Band Kill EQ, Headphones and Cross-fader
-Tempo controls for fine BPM adjustments
-3 cross-fader curves for customizing fades
-Drag and zoom of waveform display
-Auto-level detection and adjustment for the perfect balance between decks
-Cross-fade filter for fading between decks with bass or high filters for smooth and perfect transitions
-Customizable deck interface (available for in-app purchase)
-Multiple output configurations for virtually any audio setup
-Supports all major digital audio formats including MP3, AAC, WAV, AIFF
-Live recorder enables you to record full mixing gigs
-Export your mixes via file sharing
Mix & Scratch
-Beat Match – for the first time, a DJ iOS app that can align songs’ beats
-Fast BPM detection, beat analysis and beat map saving
-4 visual cue points per song (1 built-in plus 3 available as in app purchase)
-Automatic looping to create loops with beat-accurate tempo divisions
-Accurate scratching engine modeled on real deck behavior with CloneDeck™ technology for scratching with cut-to-the-beat
-X-Sync mode detects the BPM from an external audio sources in real-time and automatically syncs the tempo (when used with iRig MIX)
-Effects deck with 12 effects: Delay, Flanger, Crush, Filter High Pass, Filter Low Pass, Filter Band Pass, Compressor, Wah, Phaser, Fuzz, Reverb, Stutter (6 built-in plus 6 available for in-app purchase)
-XY touch interface
-All effects are BPM-synched
-Extra filter available
-On-the-fly sampler machine
-9 pads matrix with assignable pads on 4 instantaneous sound banks
-15 sound banks available (8 built-in plus 7 available for in-app purchase)
-Live sampling functionality
Pricing and availability: DJ Rig includes 6 high-quality DJ effects (Low pass, Band pass, High pass, Delay, Stutter, Phaser), and 8 built-in sound banks plus one adjustable cue point. These can be expanded with 6 more effects (Flanger, Comp, Fuzz, Reverb, Auto Wah, Crash), 7 extra sound banks, 3 more cue points plus digital deck interface, all available together through in-app purchase in the Pro bundle pack.
The DJ Rig app is already available on the iTunes App Store at the special introductory price of only $1.99/€1.59 for a limited time.
The Pro Bundle add-on expansion is available for only $4.99/€3.99 as an in-app purchase.
Posted by Keith Clark on 03/09 at 11:20 AM
Wednesday, March 07, 2012
Church Sound: Using Groups On Mixing Consoles
Some ideas that will get you thinking...
A group, sometimes called a subgroup, is basically another mix bus that you can send the output of channel faders to.
You could say that the Main Left and Right is a group—a stereo group typically. The signal comes into the input channels, the gain is set, it’s EQ’d and finally the output goes through the fader to a group; either the L&R main output—sometimes there’s a Mono option also—or you may have anywhere between 4-12 groups.
Most analog consoles over 16 channels have at least 4 groups. Larger desks often have 8, the biggest may have 12. Typically, these are mono groups, though most of the time the output of the group can be panned left or right so if you use two of them you can build a stereo group. Usually, the output of the group is fed to the L&R mix, though some boards offer group outputs as well. If there is a matrix mix on board, the inputs of the matrix are usually the groups (including L&R).
To send a channel to a group, you typically push a button somewhere in the channel strip to assign that channel to the group. To save button count, there are normally half as many buttons as there are groups (plus a L&R button). If you want to assign the channel to Group 1, you would push the 1/2 button and pan the channel hard left. To get to Group 2, same button, panned hard right.
Often, the groups automatically are assigned to the L&R mix. Sometimes you have to engage a switch to send it there. If you’re unsure, break out the manual (blow the dust off it first…). Normally you can pan the group if you want.
It’s important that you un-assign the channel from the L&R mix if you’re going to be using groups. Otherwise, you double the channel’s level at the L&R mix, risking overload, and negate the purpose of using groups. If you’ve been playing with groups and come in one day to find no signal coming out of a particular channel, check the group assign switches.
If you’re mixing to a mono or stereo system, it might seem like more work to use the groups; why not just send everything straight to the L&R mix? Well, you certainly can. However, if you have more than a few instruments on stage, or if you have a band plus a choir plus a number of people speaking each weekend, the use of groups can really make your life easier.
There are dozens of ways you can use groups and I won’t even begin to try to list them all in one post. I will present you a few examples of things I’ve tried which will hopefully give you some ideas. First up, consider a basic 4-group board such as a Mackie 1604VLZ (or the current 1642 VLZ3), a Yamaha MG32FX, or an Allen & Heath 2400 Series (an A&H GL2400 is shown directly below).
Four Group Option
With four groups, you can’t break things up too much. But you can make them useful. Consider this layout:
Group 1: Drums
Group 2: Guitars
Group 3: Keyboards
Group 4: Vocals
In this situation, you would assign all your drum mics to group 1, all your guitars to group 2, and so on. Anything that doesn’t fall into those categories gets sent straight to the L&R mix. The advantage of doing this is that you can now move entire sections of your mix around at once. If the drums are feeling too loud in the mix, you can pull them all back, while retaining the balance you’ve set up between the mics. Need some more keys? Push the group up and you’ll get both piano and synth, again, maintaing the relationship between them you set on the faders.
One other thing you can do is group compression. If you don’t have 32 channels of compression for every input channel (and with an analog board, you probably don’t), you can insert a comp on the group.
When I was mixing on a Soundcraft Series Two 32-channel desk with 6 channels of outboard comp, I typically had one patched in on my Vocals group. It’s not as ideal as compressing each singer individually, and you do need to be careful how much you compress (that’s another post), but a few dB of gain reduction on the vocal group can keep untrained singers from getting out of place in the mix. Remember, less is more here, and the upside of compressing everything as a group is also the downside; everything gets compressed. A few dB of group comp on the drums can really help glue that together in the mix as well.
An added benefit is that you can now shut the entire band off in the house by pulling down four faders. Note that the group faders will not affect aux sends, so if the channels faders are still up and the channels un-muted, sound will still come out of the monitors. That may or may not be what you want depending on your situation.
Eight Group Option
If your board offers eight groups (such as the Yamaha IM8-32 show directly above), you have some more flexibility. Here’s how we had our Series Two laid out:
Group 1: Speaking Mics
Group 2: Vocals
Group 3: Drums
Group 4: Guitars
Group 5: Keys
Group 6: Brass Section or Vocal Team (varied by week)
Group 7&8: Stereo for CD, iTunes and Video playback
With this type of set up, you can easily tweak the mix using just the groups. Once the overall mix balance is set up, adjustments can be made on the groups to highlight different sections of the band for different songs. Having mixed for a few more years since then, here’s how I may lay it out today:
Group 1: Kick & Bass
Group 2: Rest of Drums
Group 3: Guitars
Group 4: Keys
Group 5: Brass or Vocal Team
Group 6: BGVs
Group 7: Worship Leader(s)
Group 8: Drama mics
I would sent speaking mics to the main L&R mix, along with all playback. The reason for putting the kick and bass together is that those two form the foundation of the mix. Since they’re tied together musically, it makes sense to control them together. I wouldn’t try to group compress them, however. If you did, every time the kick would hit, the bass would drop down. Better to use individual comps or none at all.
If you have a matrix, breaking your band up to feed the matrix can be very useful. For example, let’s say you have some ceiling speakers in the lobby or a cry room. Sending the entire house mix to those speakers may cause distortion from all the low end, or the vocals may not be clear. But let’s feed it from a matrix that’s fed from the groups. In this case, you could lower the level of Group 1 and perhaps slightly bump the level of the vocals. If all your channels don’t end up in groups, you can start by sending the main L&R mix to the matrix, then supplement with additional groups to get the mix you need—“subtraction” happens by not adding a particular group to the matrix. Groups give you a lot of flexibility.
I could go on for another thousand words, but I’ll call it quits for now. Obviously, I’ve only scratched the surface of the use of groups, but my intention was not to be exhaustive, but suggest some ideas that will get you thinking.
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.
Posted by Keith Clark on 03/07 at 11:20 AM
Soundcraft Studer Names James Tunnicliffe As U.S. Field Support & Applications Engineer
Soundcraft Studer has appointed James Tunnicliffe to the position of field support and applications engineer, covering the eastern region of the United States, where he will be primarily responsible for providing service support and technical and operational training for the Studer product line as well as Soundcraft’s lineup of digital audio consoles.
Since September 2002, Tunnicliffe has worked for Euphonix as a field service engineer and product specialist. In these positions, he provided support for digital audio consoles in live, OB, broadcast post and music recording environments. Prior to his time with Euphonix, Tunnicliffe worked for Design FX Audio in Burbank, California and Westlake Audio in Hollywood.
“James Tunnicliffe is a perfect fit for the Soundcraft Studer team,” says Adrian Curtis, senior sales director, Harman Mixing Group. “He has a deep understanding of the markets we serve and brings a tremendous level of technical expertise to the position. We are delighted to welcome James to the Soundcraft Studer family.”
“I look forward to supporting Soundcraft Studer’s efforts in a variety of markets,” Tunnicliffe notes. “The Soundcraft and Studer brands are synonymous with quality and reliability, and my goal will be to put my experience towards strengthening these companies’ reputations and delivering the highest-quality service in the industry.”
Tuesday, February 28, 2012
Sometimes You Need To Able To Dance As Good As (Or Better) Than You Mix
What can we do to sort it out, meet needs, and help them put on the best performance possible?
The venue where I serve as technical director has recently had a number of touring acts come through.
With each tour, there are always special technical requirements that the artists need, particularly in these tight economic times where few of them are able to travel with everything they need.
The last three events, the venue was responsible for providing the entire house system, and for two of them, I served as the front of house engineer.
When a tour group comes to a venue they never know what they’re going to get. Yes, the rider said six separate wireless in-ear monitor systems, but the venue only has two and is unwilling to rent any more. Yes, the rider said the PA needs to hit peaks of 110 dBA, but the installed system can only hit 95 dBA. I know, I know…
I understand this type of thing happens all of the time on tours, and I also know it must be very frustrating for touring artists.
On the venue side, I’ve seen many riders that really don’t mean much at all because they’re not specific enough. Things like “concert quality sound system required” or “adequate monitors for the band” are so open to interpretation that it’s almost comical.
I’ve also seen riders that are rife with overkill, i.e., microphone requirements that include every exotic studio mic that you can think of, the latest, greatest stadium-caliber line arrays, and so on.
In light of all of this, what can we do to sort it out, meet needs, and help them put on the best performance possible?
Learn to dance.
I’ve found that every one of the tour groups that comes through has a certain dance. It usually starts during the pre-arrival check-in by the tour manager.
Good tour managers tell you exactly what they need, and are willing to negotiate on the items that you can’t provide without renting or that just aren’t feasible (such as, if your front of house mix position is on the front edge of the balcony, moving it to the main floor may not be feasible).
The ones that are either stubborn or incompetent (and I’ve dealt with a couple who were both) either can’t tell you what they need, or are completely inflexible in their demands.
This initial engagement with the tour manager usually provides a feel for the type of dance you’re going to need to perform.
Here are some dances I’ve done over the years:
Waltz. This tour came in with 18 people crammed in on one bus. Right from the very first contact, I could tell it would be a great event for all. The tour manager was very specific about the technical needs, but also understood some of the limitations that our venue imposed.
Upon arrival, the tour manager immediately came and shook my hand. He then went over all of the details of the day, handed me a schedule, and asked for my cell phone number. He went on to say it was going to take a couple of hours to load in, so he offered to call me when all of the back line gear was in place.
Needless to say it was a great (and very smooth) day. With the extra time, I was able to program some additional lighting looks that enhanced the concert.
Mosh Pit. This was the exact opposite of the waltz. The tour manager never contacted me in advance, and when he arrived, he expressed his frustration that we only had four subwoofers—not the twelve he was used to. Note that our room seats about 1,000, and this was a contemporary Christian band - not hip-hop. To top it off, they were doing what they were calling an “acoustic tour.”
This tour manager then demanded that that the front of house position be moved. I politely told him it was not possible, and mentioned that if he had called me earlier, perhaps we could have rented a console and snake and had it on the main floor. He was not amused and made a veiled threat to pack up and go home.
All day, I had to continue to push back on things that he wanted done, including removing the brick wall compression that our system hits at around 105 dBA (the system just can’t do more that and I was not going to let their inexperienced mix guy blow stuff up!) Needless to say, it was more of a fight than a dance, and unfortunately, the event suffered because of it.
The tone the tour manager set played out in the entire crew and musicians. People were almost at each other throats and the artists didn’t even look happy to perform.
Line Dance. Much like the waltz this event ran like clockwork. As I was the going to be the front of house engineer for the event, the tour manager had contacted me in advance and offered to forward some of their music so I would be familiar with it.
When they arrived, everyone made me feel part of the team. The artists went out of the way to introduce themselves and thank me for being there. The crew asked tons of questions about the set-up, and also came up with some good solutions based on our venue’s limitations.
The entire day everyone seemed in step with each other and performing the same moves. Of course, this turned into a great event, and everyone walked away pleased.
Now, I know there are a lot more “dances” out there, and each tour has its own particular version. To me, the key is figuring out the general dance that’s going to be done as quickly as possible, and then doing my best to anticipate its rhythm and movement. In other words, based on what I learn early in the process, to be well-prepared to meet needs, adapt, improvise, negotiate, and so on.
One thing I’ve found is that it’s almost impossible to get them to change their dance, so I need to be up to speed on all of the steps.
Gary Zandstra is a professional AV systems integrator with Parkway Electric and has been involved with sound at his church for more than 25 years.
Friday, February 24, 2012
System Of A Down Switches To Midas Digital Mixing System
Perhaps best known as the perennial front of house mixer for Tool, Alan “Big Nobby” Hopkinson spent most of 2011 on the road with System Of A Down. It was his first tour with the band, and his first behind a Midas digital mixing system – the PRO9.
“I’ve been a longstanding Midas user, but it’s always been an XL4 analog for me until now,” says Hopkinson. “I have used Midas digital previously though, as we have a PRO6 installed at Shepherd’s Bush Empire, probably the busiest 2,300-capacity theater in London. I have babysat many engineers on it there, and have seen many come in apprehensive and leave amazed. So I knew what I was getting into.”
With System Of A Down, Big Nobby used the PRO9 across Europe and North America, with occasional switches to a PRO6 as availability dictated. The most obvious difference from the XL4 was purely physical, with easier connectivity, remote routing, a much smaller footprint and lighter weight. The tour also carried the Klark Teknik DN9331 Rapide graphic EQ controller. “The Rapide is awesome,” he reports. “It lets me control the EQ on any channel or group. It’s great for delay towers and in-fills in large venues. Very easy to use, too.”
For dyed-in-the-wool analog engineers, the transition to digital is rarely fully satisfying. But such was not the case with the PRO9. “Look, I was dragged screaming into the digital domain. Frankly, I didn’t see the point when I already had exactly the sound I wanted,” Hopkinson explains. “The other digital consoles I’ve used couldn’t give me that. Poor sound, goes red in a heartbeat, and no balls at all. In my view, everyone got carried away with the digital movement, and people seemed to forget the main point: audio quality must be the prime objective.”
So he remained true to his roots, specifying Midas analog for his major tours over the past decade. “Look, there’s no denying that there are huge advantages to digital – in functionality, in flexibility, in footprint,” he continues. “But if you’re going to take on the XL4, you’d better have some serious currency to bring to the table, and the PRO Series does that. The sound is fat, with headroom for days and no overloading of the dreaded A/D converter. This is the first digital board that sounds as good as what it emulates. I can’t say fairer than that.”
With his desired sound quality now attainable in the digital domain, Hopkinson was free to explore and enjoy the many conveniences of the PRO Series architecture. “At Shepherd’s Bush, I loved Area B. When you’re babysitting, it lets you lend a hand without leaning over the engineer,” he states. “Out on tour, I used it a lot to start, but relied on it less as I got more familiar with all the options I had with POP Groups and VCA functions. I ‘m probably using the VCAs in a way POP Groups were designed for. Either way, I can pull up all the inputs and FX I need to address at once, so I don’t have to go searching through pages or layers.”
Another point of satisfaction was the PRO Series preamps and DSP effects. “Sonically, the inputs are pure Midas, and the processors sound great,” he reports. “I used the (Klark Teknik) DN780 reverb a lot; I have an analog version at home. But as an old analog guy, I must admit that I take certain comfort in having a couple of my favorite outboard units along for the ride. The fact that I can insert a Lexicon 480L into the PRO9 for old times’ sake, and it still sounds right, speaks volumes for the quality of the system.”
So while Alan Hopkinson – the engineer known as Big Nobby - remains an analog guy at heart, his experience with the PRO9 has convinced him that digital audio, done right, has been worth the wait. In fact, he’s using the PRO9 again as System Of A Down starts its 2012 world tour with February and March dates throughout Australia and New Zealand.