Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Shure ULX-D Digital Wireless Chosen For New Memphis Salvation Army Kroc Center

100,000-square-foot recreation, education, worship, and arts center needed flexible, reliable wireless solution

The Salvation Army Ray & Joan Kroc Corps Community Center of Memphis opened its doors earlier this year, complete with a 300-seat theater, fitness center, church, meeting rooms, classroom facilities, and a unique “Challenge Center” designed to promote teamwork and collaboration among young people of diverse backgrounds.

A facility that services multiple activities simultaneously, the new venue required an intelligent wireless microphone system that could support 34 channels of audio seamlessly across a number of different rooms, and under this criteria, Shure ULX-D digital wireless systems were the choice.

With the help of Memphis Audio, a local full service design/build audio company, Kevin Lipe, AV manager for the Salvation Army Kroc Center of Memphis, made the decision to use ULX-D Digital Wireless Systems to meet the venue’s needs.

Not only did ULX-D fulfill the channel and sound quality requirements, but it offered digital networking capabilities for system longevity. The Kroc Center is outfitted with single ULX-D receivers, as well as four ULXD4Q quad channel receivers integrated with Dante digital audio networking in the center’s chapel.

“For our operators—who range from aerobic teachers to volunteers—ease of use was crucial,” says Lipe. “Likewise, being able to sync the gear throughout the venue and move equipment seamlessly from room to room was important to ensure we can act ‘on the fly’ and better serve the 20,000 people who visit the center monthly.

“One bonus feature that has had a dramatic impact on how we operate is the system’s rechargeable technology,” he continues. “We didn’t originally seek out a system with rechargeable batteries, but it has saved us a significant amount of money and, with drop in cradles conveniently located throughout the center, our equipment is always ready for action.”

Matt Britt, audio systems engineer at Memphis Audio, adds, “Due to the lack of companding circuits and the fully digital signal path, it’s the cleanest sound I’ve heard from a wireless system. Additionally, we recommended Shure ULX-D because we knew Wireless Workbench 6 would be helpful in monitoring and managing frequencies from a central location. The sleek physical appearance and intuitive software did not disappoint.”


Posted by Keith Clark on 11/27 at 11:56 AM
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Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Sennheiser Petitions FCC To Compensate Owners Of Wireless Microphone Equipment

As spectrum faces second repacking, pending spectrum auction jeopardizes future use of wireless systems operating in 600 MHz range

Sennheiser has announced that it has recently filed comments with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) in light of the pending spectrum auction scheduled to take place in 2014.

The government auction, which jeopardizes the future use of wireless microphones and monitors operating in the 600 MHz range, will force many U.S. based content creators — including live production, broadcast, and film professionals — to attempt to stage their shows using little more than half of the currently available UHF spectrum.

In the document filed on November 4, 2013, Sennheiser argues that the winners of the spectrum auction should compensate owners of wireless microphone equipment that will be rendered obsolete as a direct result of the planned spectrum repacking.

Currently, the FCC has not announced any plans to compensate wireless microphone owners, who play a critical role in U.S. content creation and who will have to make significant investments in new equipment for the second time within a few years.

“Wireless microphones are an essential ingredient of content creation in the United States,” states Joe Ciaudelli, spectrum affairs, Sennheiser Electronic Corp. “Currently, the United States is the number one content creator in the world when it comes to broadcasting, film production and live events. The A/V professionals that produce this content, which is enjoyed by both domestic and international consumers, depend on the 600 MHz frequency spectrum each day.

“Now they are being told that they must vacate this UHF space, and with no contingency or recourse to recover their equipment investments. This is grossly unfair, especially considering that this will be the second time this has occurred within a few years.

“This time mics and monitors won’t be able to simply be relocated into lower portions of the UHF because it is already packed with replacement mics for ones rendered obsolete by the 700 MHz reallocation. TV stations currently operating in 600 MHz will also be relocated to lower channels, exacerbating the congestion.”

Ciaudelli continues, “Not only does the pending spectrum repacking threaten to diminish U.S. leadership in content creation, it creates an unecessary hardship to many thousands of audio professionals by forcing them to reinvest in compliant equipment. While adverse effects of the spectrum repacking will inevitably occur, simple fairness says that the auction winners who will derive revenue from the auctioned spectrum should provide compensation.”

Currently, the vast majority of U.S.-based major film productions, television broadcasts and major concert events in the United States rely heavily on the 600 MHz frequency range. Eliminating access to this not only significantly increases congestion in the 500 MHz frequency range, but also places unprecedented technical demands on both the equipment and operators working in this space.

The FCC has also received letters of support for Sennheiser’s position from industry leading companies including Shure, Audio Technica, Lectrosonics, and CP Communications.  “We encourage others to write to the FCC as well,” states Ciaudelli.

Following is an excerpt from Sennheiser’s recent filing that illustrates the role wireless equipment plays in the U.S. commercial, political and economic arenas: 

“Wireless microphones are ubiquitous in all aspects of the entertainment business, in news reporting, in sports, and in U.S. commercial, civic, and religious life. They are essential to the production of virtually all non-studio broadcast events, and to nearly all studio-produced programs as well. These include team sports from local college broadcasts to the Super Bowl, the World Series, the Final Four, and the Stanley Cup; the Democratic and Republican political conventions; post-election national and local coverage; the Oscar, Emmy, and Grammy Awards shows; events such as the Olympics, NASCAR races, the Kentucky Derby, and major golf and tennis tournaments; and on-the-scene news reporting of all kinds, both local and national. These broadcasts routinely attract millions of viewers.

Motion-picture production, from Hollywood blockbusters with nine-digit budgets down to student work at the local community college, relies heavily on wireless microphones for clear, accurate audio. Live events, from Broadway productions to stadium-sized outdoor concerts, need wireless microphones to reach the back row. Presenters in auditoriums, lecture halls, and houses of worship find them indispensable.”

(*) Stephen E. Siwek, Copyright Industries in the U.S. Economy: The 2011 Report at 15 and Appendix A (Economists Incorporated 2011). Available at http://www.ei.com/downloadables/2011CopyrightSiwek.pdf

(**) U.S. Census Bureau, U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis, News: U.S. International Trade in Goods and Services, November 2012 at 3-4 (U.S. Dept. of Commerce released Jan. 11, 2013). Available at http://www.census.gov/foreign-trade/Press-Release/current_press_release/ft900.pdf


Posted by Keith Clark on 11/26 at 01:55 PM
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Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Lectrosonics Helps Long Island Medium Make The Connection

Jeff James utilizes Lectrosonics wireless microphones on Theresa Caputo LIVE The Experience.

She sees dead people, and for Theresa Caputo, communicating with them is her life.

While there are those who dispute her abilities, Caputo’s gift has propelled her to fame - thanks in no small part to her show, the Long Island Medium (now in its fifth season), which airs on The Learning Channel (TLC).

Caputo has taken her gift live to the stage with Theresa Caputo LIVE The Experience.  Theresa is able to connect with her audience by being right there with them utilizing wireless microphones from Lectrosonics.

San Francisco, CA-based Jeff James is the Technical Director for Theresa Caputo’s LIVE The Experience. James’ professional background includes production management and tour direction for rock and roll artists Marilyn Manson, Megadeth, Social Distortion, and Pete Yorn as well as live to stage work for TLC’s Cake Boss and Discovery Channel’s Deadliest Catch.

In addition to Caputo’s show, James has plenty of experience dealing with the challenges of miking the talent. He recently discovered the benefits of Lectrosonics’ Digital Hybrid Wireless technology and has become very fond of the equipment.

For his work on The Experience, James reports using four Lectrosonics HH handheld transmitters outfitted with Shure SM58 capsules plus two SMQV super miniature beltpack transmitters for use with Countryman E6 microphones. He’s working with six channels – an ideal combination with the Lectrosonics Venue mainframe fully stocked with six VRS receiver modules.

“In my business, audio quality is always critical,” says James, “and in this regard, the Lectrosonics gear is exceptional. But what really makes all the difference is the dropout-free performance and range the system delivers.

“For Theresa’s live shows, we do large performing arts centers and arenas with capacities spanning anywhere from 2,500 to 8,000 people. Theresa’s live show is unique, as she spends 98% of the show in the audience and, at times, can be 200 feet from the wireless antennas.”

The compact form factor of the Lectrosonics SMQV beltpack transmitters are yet another attribute that James find compelling.

“I needed a body pack that wouldn’t be overly obtrusive when a tight outfit was being worn,” he adds. “I am constantly surprised – and impressed - by the quality of the signal and audio produced by the SMQVs at long range. They’re absolutely rock solid!”

When you’re operating at this level, reliability is crucial. Likewise, if questions arise, quality customer and technical support services must be readily available and, on that note, James gives Lectrosonics high marks.

“I’m a new convert to Lectrosonics - having used the equipment since just April of this year. And I have to say, I can’t evangelize enough when it comes to our system. I can work confidently knowing that signal loss isn’t going to be an issue when moving between various venue types on a daily basis.

Concrete, steel, 3,000 human bodies: Lectrosonics cuts through everything. I always enjoy hearing the rave reviews of our Lectrosonics equipment from the local audio engineers after they use our system.”


Posted by Julie Clark on 11/20 at 12:50 PM

Friday, November 15, 2013

Compelling Vocal Quality: Assembling A Compact Road Package For Take 6

Inside the sound for "the baddest vocal cats on the planet"

Over the course of 25 years, Take 6 has garnered more than its share of awards, including a whopping 10 Grammys, while earning the respect and praise of musical icons ranging from Stevie Wonder to Brian Wilson. Legendary producer Quincy Jones famously referred to the 6-member a cappella group as “the baddest vocal cats on the planet.”

Despite the longevity and accolades, Alvin Chea, Khristian Dentley, Joey Kibble, Mark Kibble, Claude V. McKnight III and David Thomas are still hard at it, recently taking their swinging, harmony-rich sound on the road for a world tour.

When I spoke with the group’s mix engineer and production manager, Tony Huerta, he was in Mackay, Australia, waiting to depart on a journey to the Molde International Jazz Festival in Norway – a 40-plus-hour trip with stops in Brisbane, Bangkok, Istanbul and Oslo along the way.

Denver-based Huerta has seen the world over and again in his seven years with Take 6, but he’s never covered as much of it in such a short span of time. He likes to travel light when it comes to audio production; that said, because the current tour is celebrating the group’s 25th anniversary, he’s hauling more gear than usual.

Typically, local providers have supplied wireless microphone systems and the console (he handles both front of house and monitor mixes), but this time out he’s carrying a Roland M-200i digital console and a 48-track Roland R-1000 digital recorder/player, as well as Shure ULX-D digital wireless systems and Shure PSM900 personal monitoring systems.

Engineer Tony Huerta pre-show with the Roland M-200i.

The M-200i is the first console with enough capability to meet the group’s needs that isn’t cost-prohibitive to carry, weighing in at about 20 pounds. “I was doing research for another client who wanted a smaller-format mixer and the M-200i came up,” he notes. “I checked it out at the 2013 NAMM show, and Roland let us use the console for a show while we were there. It had everything that we needed in terms of outputs, and we found that the preamps sound great.”

The 24-input by 12-output M-200i (which also includes an AES/EBU stereo digital output) can be controlled with or without an iPad loaded with the console’s remote app. Huerta actually uses two iPads – one for the console and another that lets the group tweak its in-ear mixes on stage, wirelessly linked to the console via a dedicated WiFi dongle.

Methods Of Capture
A Take 6 concert presents a blend of singing and “vocal drums,” with occasional piano accompaniment. Chea’s bass vocal is always captured with a Shure Beta 58 capsule, and these capsules are also the choice on songs when Dentley and the Kibble brothers are providing vocal drums. In straight-up singing applications, however, they change to transmitters outfitted with Shure KSM9H condenser capsules. “The KSM9H elements sound better for singing, but the 58s handle the low end of the bass voice and vocal drums more effectively,” Huerta explains.

On piano, typically a Steinway Model D grand specified by the band, the choice is two Shure Beta 181/C cardioid small-diaphragm, side-address condensers, one on the right side of the bridge to cover the low strings and the second between the support and bridge on the upper end of the instrument.

“This approach provides a great stereo spread, but the other thing that’s amazing is that the capsules are only about an inch from the piano lid when it’s shut,” he says. “The 181s are one of the only mics you can do that with, and they sound incredible. Even though they’re cardioid, they sound really good with the back closed off. The first time I took them on tour was in Europe, and when the local engineers heard the piano, they pretty much lost their minds.”

Shure ULXD4Q quad channel digital wireless receivers also fit the tour’s weight/size criteria. “The first thing that drove the choice was that Shure put four units into one rack space and dropped their weight,” Huerta states. “Four units weigh roughly 14 pounds, while before, two units weighed about 23 pounds, so we were pushing 100 pounds of wireless systems in flight cases, which cost thousands of dollars annually. Now I have eight channels in two rack spaces, which is so small and light that I can actually even carry them on to the plane if I want.”

The low self-noise and overall clarity of the digital wireless systems is another big plus. “I’ll take a microphone when I’m ringing out the sound system, put it at the front of the stage, crank up the gain, push it all the way up on the fader, and I don’t hear self-noise or hear the unit turn on and off,” he says.

Another boost to clarity comes from the group’s adoption of Westone ES5 earworn monitors with a proprietary flex-canal body that’s custom fit to each performer. The ES5 includes five tuned, balanced armature drivers (LF, two MF and two HF) fed by a passive 3-way crossover. These work in tandem with the PSM900 personal monitoring systems.

“The baddest vocal cats on the planet” in concert with Shure wireless mic and monitoring systems, and Westone earworn monitors.

The emphasis on clarity is particularly crucial for the a cappella style. “Some might think mixing an a cappella act is easy, but it’s more difficult,” Huerta states. “It’s like mixing six guitars on stage at once, very difficult to create separation with so many similar instruments in the mix.” The house mix is individual tracks, but for monitors he mixes down to a stereo pair and pans everything so the group can hear the blend.

Sonic Thing
Traveling with a house sound system is out of the question, which means adapting to each system from venue to venue. Huerta’s rider typically calls for active 3-way line arrays from premium makers such as Meyer Sound, JBL, EAW and NEXO, and he likes subwoofers on the deck to help the group can feel the bass. And he insists on having a substantial number of subs.

“Enough subs for a rock band,” he says, “because I push the low end as much as you would with a rock band. That’s a sonic thing and an energy thing.” It’s key to audiences feeling the full power of the group, whether they’re singing and/or acting as their own rhythm section. Further, when Dentley and the Kibbles go into full-fledged vocal drum mode, which accounts for about 25 percent of their performance during a show, Huerta runs the subs on an aux.

“I’ll open up the low end and send their channels through the subs, so it’s thumping 40 to 60 Hz just like a normal kick drum,” he explains. “That adds power to the low end and really excites the audience. The kick sound should thump you in the chest just like a real kick drum. And when it comes to Alvin’s bass vocal, he sings down to 50 Hz, so I have to have the low end for that as well.”

He uses the M-200i console’s onboard EQ, crossover and compression exclusively.

“It’s usually six guys and six mics – eight when Khristian, David or Alvin play piano – and I split it two ways; one layer for front of house, and a second layer, split internally to a second layer of faders, for monitors. That allows me to have a separate EQ for the house and monitors. Then I’ll split out the bass and vocal drums and send that to the subs on an aux to create the low end.

“I use all four FX units on the M-200i and the graphic EQs, which I insert on the mains, and parametric EQs on every channel and every output,” he continues. “For the subs, no matter what house we’re in, I create my own crossover with a low-pass filter on all the auxes that go to the subs. Then I’ll put a high-pass filter on the mains and create my own crossover, because, for an a cappella band, I want the crossover a little higher than I would for a band to reinforce the low end power of the bass vocal.”

Dialing It In
He’s always mixed the group’s monitors from FOH, with the M-200i simplifying that process significantly: “I set up each gig in about half an hour, and our sound check now takes about 10 minutes. We start with the IEM mix so the band can get comfortable with the stage and then I dial in the house. After that all they need to do is decide how much of the downstage ambient audience mics (Rode NT5 cardioid condensers placed left and right) they want in their ears.”

Huerta mixing on the current tour, with tracks recorded to a Roland R-1000 at left.

Via the Roland R-1000, he’s recording each show (18 live tracks in .wav format) as well as doing virtual sound checks that have made things even more efficient. “I just play back the previous night’s show directly into the M-200i multi-channel and bring up each individual mic as if the guys were there singing, so I can dial in the house mix before they even arrive.”

So the compact setup simplifies the day-to-day workflow for both he and the group, while Huerta’s experience as a singer in a cappella groups such as Urban Method and his work as a recording engineer and owner/operator of Sonic Audio (a studio in Denver that caters specifically to a cappella groups) also helps mightily in capturing and presenting the power of Take 6 live.

“Knowing what it’s like on stage in an a cappella setting, and understanding the power of the human voice and that the low end is what makes audiences ‘fly out of their seats’ is something I learned performing,” he concludes. “With Take 6, there are no instruments between the human voice and you. What they perform is straight out of their souls, their hearts, and their bodies, so audiences connect to it in a very personal way.”

Kevin McPherson is a feature contributor for ProSoundWeb and Live Sound International.

Posted by Keith Clark on 11/15 at 06:35 PM
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Riedel Sponsoring Innovative Monash University Formula SAE Team

Spotters, engineers, and drivers communicate with one another to ensure safe and effective testing and racing

Riedel Communications is sponsoring Monash Motorsport (MMS), a team of students from Australia’s Monash University that each year designs, builds, tests, and races an open-wheeled formula-style racecar in the renowned Formula SAE (FSAE) series.

Using two-way Motorola radios and headsets supplied by Riedel, MMS team spotters, engineers, and drivers communicate with one another to ensure safe and effective testing and racing of the team car.

“The radios provided by Riedel have been fantastic, and the reception is clear and crisp,” said Areeb Hassan, business team leader and suspension engineer for MMS. “We haven’t had a single issue with the gear and have had no need to contact Riedel for support, but the company has been very helpful and accommodating.

“We look forward to expanding our use of the communications system to enable the reception of valuable live telemetry data from the car and for competition updates during the Endurance Event.”

MMS competes in the FSAE design competition, which includes more than 500 universities from around the world. The team is currently ranked No. 2 in the world and has won the FSAE Australasia Competition for the past four years.

Having completed their latest car, the M13, the team has been testing and validating their design in preparation for the Australasia competition in December as well as a series of high-profile races in the U.K. and Germany in 2014. MMS was an early pioneer of the use of aerodynamics in FSAE, with its 2002 car being one of the first cars in the competition to feature wings.

The M13 has been designed with a much more aggressive aerodynamics package, boasting some of the largest front and rear wings in the competition, as well as the use of an undertray. The team designed the M13 using CFD modeling and has physically validated it in the Monash Wind Tunnel, also located at Monash University in Melbourne.

“The MMS team is an innovative and inspiring group of students that has achieved remarkable results in the FSAE Series, and it’s a pleasure to support their efforts by providing the reliable, high-quality communications equipment so critical in live test and race environments,” says Cameron O’Neill, solutions manager at Riedel Communications. “We wish MMS the best of luck as the team takes its new M13 car into global competition.”

Riedel Communications

Posted by Keith Clark on 11/15 at 05:55 PM
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Thursday, November 14, 2013

Shure Mics, Wireless And Personal Monitoring Sees Heavy Usage At 2013 CMA Awards

Most vocal mics and in-ear monitor systems were wireless, provided by ATK Audiotek

Bridgestone Arena in Nashville was host to the 2013 CMA Awards, known as “Country Music’s Biggest Night,” with a live ABC telecast and a venue packed with fans. Top artists Carrie Underwood and Brad Paisley co-hosted the awards, which honored both youth and experience with a three-hour string of hit songs and unusual collaborations.

With the show’s fast pace and multiple stages, most vocal mics and in-ear monitor systems were wireless, provided by ATK Audiotek. Using an artist-friendly approach, performers were free to use their preferred brand of products. According to Ryan Smith with Shure artist relations, that resulted in significant use of Shure UR Series wireless microphone systems throughout the evening.

The Shure KSM9 condenser microphne was used in performances by Vocal Group award winner Little Big Town, The Band Perry, and Keith Urban. The classic SM58 capsule was selected by Brad Paisley, opening act Luke Bryan, New Artist winner Kacey Musgraves, double winner Florida Georgia Line (Best Duo, Single of the Year), as well as Rascal Flatts and Hunter Hayes.

During the performance of Pinnacle Award winner Taylor Swift, the all-star band behind her included country legends Alison Krauss (SM58) and Vince Gill (UR2/KSM9). “I can always count on the sound quality of Shure. Having so many artists choose the KSM9 capsule was refreshing. It made my life much easier at front of house,” reports FOH engineer Rick Shimer.

Throughout the show, most artists wore their own custom earphones for monitoring, with the PSM 1000 wireless system handling in-ear wireless duties. One major test of Shure wireless reliability was the collaboration by Hunter Hayes (U2/SM58) and Jason Mraz (U2/SM86), which started in the dressing rooms backstage and moved all the way through the audience and up to the main stage, all with flawless audio.

Again acting as RF coordinator for the event was James Stoffo of Radio Active Designs. “With 20 channels of UHF-R and 20 channels of PSM 1000 in use on this show, I continue to be pleased with the RF stability of Shure products. The ability to infrared sync artists’ custom transmitters on the spot was easy. Throughout several performances on satellite stages, plus Hunter Hayes and Jason Mraz walking the hallways, our Shure systems remained solid.”

Head audio producer for the show was Tom Davis, with Paul Sandweiss of Hollywood-based Sound Design Corporation taking the role of audio coordinator. The broadcast production mixes were handled by Mark King. Remote audio facilities were provided by the Music Mix Mobile (M3) truck, with Jay Vicari and John Harris swapping music mixes. Inside the arena, Rick Shimer of Blackhawk Audio (White House, TN) performed the music mixes, with Pat Baltzell covering the production mix. Monitor mixing was another team event, with veterans Tom Pesa and Jason Spence manning the consoles.


Posted by Keith Clark on 11/14 at 02:11 PM
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DPA Microphones Goes To The Head Of The Class

Copmpany’s d:fine Headset Microphones provide schools with the high-quality audio and durability they demand for their productions.

Children are lovely, but they do have a habit of breaking things, which is why any piece of equipment used in a school environment needs to be very tough.

For Matthew Talks, founder of educational equipment specialists Podboffin, DPA Microphones’ versatile d:fine headset microphones certainly fit the bill as they are virtually unbreakable, even in the hands of kids.

Established in 2010, Podboffin provides recording, sound installation and live production services to schools and also consult on choosing the right audio equipment, setting it up and operating it.

The company recently invested in one dozen omnidirectional single-ear DPA d:fine headset microphones, supplied by DPA’s UK distributor Sound Network, which are now being hired out to UK schools.

“I was familiar with DPA microphones having previously sub-hired d:fine units, so I decided to purchase my own,” says Talks. “In schools, the number one requirement is always for mics, because the biggest sound problem school productions have is hearing students singing over a live band.

“The d:fine headset microphones completely solve this because I can get the capsule in really close to the singer with no plosive issues and with crystal clear sound. Usually mics have a short lifespan in schools from extensive use, which causes cables to break.

“However, I have yet to use the spare DPA mics because the first set I acquired are still going strong. Even if the cable were to break, the modular construction of the d:fine means I can replace just the cable at a fraction of the cost of the initial outlay.”

DPA’s popular d:fine headset microphones are specifically designed for actors, public speakers, broadcast hosts, musicians and singers who want a lightweight, easy to wear headset microphone that leave them free to move around without compromising vocal quality.

With their impressive gain before feedback and very stable construction, these unobtrusive microphones provide a discreet solution that can hardly be seen on the face. The range, which is renowned for its audio accuracy, is available in both directional and omnidirectional options and in single- or dual-ear designs with a choice of three lengths of microphone booms.

They are also compatible with just about any wireless system. With such versatility, many see the benefits of the added upfront investment, which Talks admits is an inevitable issue in the educational market.

Despite this fact, he notes that “once schools hear the difference that pro mics make when compared to budget mics, and see how little effort is required to get superb results, they never go back to other mics. I have yet to hire out d:fines and not get repeat business.”

Talks foresees his DPA d:fine headset microphones being hired by schools with good business model for school productions and believes they can justify the investment with an increase in ticket prices. This ensures that the production is top notch and audiences are not let down by bad sound.

To date, Podboffin has rented its DPA d:fine headset microphones for concerts and drama performances at Dr. Challoner’s Grammar School, The Beacon School and Gerrards Cross Junior School.

DPA Microphones

Posted by Julie Clark on 11/14 at 01:52 PM
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Friday, November 08, 2013

Audio-Technica Helps Smoky Mountain Center For The Performing Arts Reach Its Performance Peak

A-T wireless microphones enable this 1,500-seat performing arts center to accommodate all types of entertainment productions, from gospel vocal groups to rock bands to stand-up comedians and elaborate theatrical productions

When the Smoky Mountain Center for the Performing Arts opened in Franklin, North Carolina, its 1,500-seat theater brought state-of-the-art live-event capability to the region.

Performances since then have included musical productions, professional drama troupes, dance and choral festivals, recitals, and performances from varied musical genres including country, bluegrass, gospel, pop, contemporary Christian and more.

What it also offers all of these wide-ranging productions is an array of wireless microphones and systems from Audio-Technica, a leading innovator in transducer technology for over 50 years. 

The Smoky Mountain Center for the Performing Arts’ microphone complement includes A-T’s Artist Elite 5000 Series Frequency-Agile True Diversity UHF wireless system with 36 AEW-R5200 wireless receivers and AEW-T1000 beltpack transmitters, a dozen wireless handheld microphones (five AEW-T3300 cardioid condenser handheld transmitters, four AEW-T5400 cardioid condenser handheld transmitters and three AEW-T6100 hypercardioid dynamic handheld transmitters), 40 BP896 MicroPoint Subminiature omnidirectional condenser lavalier microphones, and an AEW-DA550C UHF Antenna Distribution system.

All of these have helped create the world-class sound that has made the Smoky Mountain Center for the Performing Arts a true destination for a variety of performing artists.

“These microphones have made my life so much easier, and the performers who’ve worked here have been very happy,” says Adam Drake, Chief Audio Engineer at the Smoky Mountain Center for the Performing Arts. “Their flexibility is amazing – we’ve used the handheld microphones on everything from music to international folk dancing troupes, and they’ve responded fantastically to the sound.

“We’ve even used the AEW-T6100 on drums on our Folk Music Night, which is not necessarily what they’re intended to be used for, and the results were incredible. I like the BP896 lavalier microphones better than any lapel microphone because it lets you position it for better pick-up and intelligibility.

“And the performance of all of the A-T mics is excellent – I had a 23-act talent show in here using a lot of microphones, and I didn’t have to turn up the gain at the console on any of them.

“The wireless systems work anywhere – I’ve had performers go into the balcony for some shows and there was never a single dropout, even with a wall in between the microphone and the receiver. And the transmitters’ performance is great; for instance, battery life – we had them on for over five hours a day at a time. So many performers have used the A-Ts, and everyone just loves them. And so do I.”


Posted by Julie Clark on 11/08 at 02:27 PM
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Thursday, November 07, 2013

DPA Microphones Enhances Main Stage Talent At Annual Monterey Jazz Festival

DPA microphones in regular use on the main stage at the Monteray Jazz Festival.

The Monterey Jazz Festival is one of the longest consecutively running jazz festivals and has featured some of the most riveting performances in the last 50 years.

With the bar set higher every year, show audiences – which have grown to more than 8,000 at the arena stage alone – now expect outstanding performances and higher quality audio each and every year.

DPA Microphones’ d:screet 4060 Omnidirectional microphone with its low-profile, natural sound, regularly accommodates Monteray Jazz Festival engineers as they look for a high-quality microphone that is guaranteed to perform in any environment.

The activity backstage at the annual Monterey Jazz Festival is usually chaotic as several guest engineers rifle through the festival’s audio inventory to select mics best suited to each performance.

Among them is Nick Malgieri, one of the festival’s freelance audio specialists, who always reaches for the DPA d:screet 4060, the mic he says he trusts most.

With the ability to amplify the most natural sound, the miniature mic is low profile so as not to distract the performers or audience members.

“I was really happy I was responsible for the main stage, because I had first pick of what mics I wanted to use,” says Malgieri. “I have been using DPA at this event for a few years now.

“Because jazz musicians all have opinions on microphone placement, and prefer something low profile, I love the DPA 4060. It removes that visual barrier for performers and audiences, so they don’t even notice the microphone is there.

“That means I get to really do my job and put the mics where I want them.” 

Originally designed for the live theater setting, and for close-miked instrument applications, the sound quality of the DPA 4060 is an accurate omnidirectional pattern, and therefore does not need to be aimed directly at the instrument to achieve quality pickup.

While Malgieri uses the 4060 primarily for the piano, he relies on it to meet his needs amplifying the pure sound of many diverse instruments at the jazz event.

“Every year there’s at least one act that is a large band, especially with a lot of percussion, and loud stage volume,” continues Malgieri. “Traditionally it’s a really difficult environment for sound engineers, particularly monitor engineers. For the DPAs to work well in that environment really speaks to their versatility.”

Malgieri often finds himself sharing his setup with fellow engineers backstage, who at first may question his choices until they hear the difference in a live performance.

“The 4060’s achieve great gain before feedback,” he explains. “Some engineers underestimate the power of an omnidirectional microphone to handle the job for a large stage.

“They are more used to directional microphones that have less stage bleed, but once they hear the real instrumental tone on a large PA system, they realize the DPA d:screet 4060 sounds more natural than any other microphone, and then they change their minds and are eager to try DPA themselves.”

Malgieri has mixed the past several Monterey Jazz Festivals as a freelance audio specialist for McCune Audio/Video/Lighting. He originally discovered DPA Microphones while mixing in a theatrical setting, and has been a fan ever since. 

DPA Microphones

Posted by Julie Clark on 11/07 at 12:28 PM
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Church Sound: Why In-Ear Monitors Make A Lot Of Sense For Smaller Churches

Reduced stage volume, improved overall monitoring -- IEM is not just for larger venues

A while ago I wrote about in-ear monitors (IEM) and some potential issues with them

While recently discussing IEM with a colleague, he made a statement that struck me: “In reality, it is the smaller church that needs in ears much more than the larger ones.”
A couple of things came to mind. Larger churches/ministries have the funding to get IEM, and they (often, at least) have paid technical staff that can properly setup and use in ears. And larger churches also have large stages in large rooms, and stage volume is frequently not as much an issue as it is in smaller churches.

Rather obvious reasons a small church might invest in IEM:

1) Stage volume is a huge issue. In some cases, 70-plus percent of the congregation probably hears more stage volume than sound coming out of the main loudspeakers

2) Because of the stage volume, there are continual complaints about loudness and that the vocals cannot be heard over the instruments

3) Further complaints about not being able to hear the vocals

4) Many small churches have singers and instrumentalist that have never played on a big stage and are perhaps self-conscious about their abilities. IEM allows them to better hear themselves and other musicians

5) Feedback can be a constant issue because the vocal monitors always need to be turned up too hot so the singers can hear themselves

So how can smaller churches move into IEM?

Fortunately, system costs have come down in recent years. Further, an investment can be made in just a few systems, with more receivers added over time as funds become available. 

I suggest starting with singers - although they’re not the loudest thing on stage, in general, their monitors tend to be loudest. So, a good starting point might be purchasing one transmitter and enough receivers for all of the vocalists. Then I would purchase a second transmitter and put the band on that mix.

Things to keep in mind about IEM:

1) They do take a bit to get used to, so use them in multiple rehearsals first

2) Mixing for “ears” is different than what is needed with standard floor monitors

3) Without ambient/audience mics feeding IEM, musicians will initially feel isolated and perhaps frustrated

4) Just like conventional monitors, when multiple musicians share a mix, there will be issues!

To help make the use of IEM successful, the person providing the IEM mix (usually the house sound operator) should use a set of headphones (or ear pieces) that match the ones the musicians have when setting up the monitor mix on an aux send on the console..

Also, the operator should try to make sure there is an ambient mic (or two) to feed that aux channel (and NOT the main mix).

I’ve found that placing a mic to capture some onstage sound as well as a mic to capture the audience/house sound usually works the best. Dialing the amount of each mic into the mix is a matter of personal taste - work with the musicians on this one.

In-ear monitoring is not a total solution to all stage monitor problems, but it’s a valuable tool that can help when deployed carefully and correctly.

Gary Zandstra is a professional AV systems integrator with Parkway Electric and has been involved with sound at his church for more than 30 years.

Posted by Keith Clark on 11/07 at 10:22 AM
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In The Studio: A Handy (And Inexpensive) Wireless Remote Control Solution

It's no fun to stop, take off your headphones, and walk back over to the computer
Article provided by Home Studio Corner.

If you’re like me, then a lot of your recording sessions in your studio involve you wearing several different hats.

For me, I’m a musician, so I’m always recording myself.

The problem is studios tend to be noisy. I like to get as far away from the computer and hard drive as I can. That means moving across the room.

Then the problem, of course, is that now I’m very far away from the computer. I have to do what I call the “recording dance,” where I scurry back and forth between the microphone and the computer.

This gets old really quick.

When you’re in the zone to record, and you’re feeling very creative and musical, it’s no fun to stop, take off your headphones, and walk back over to the computer to stop recording and set up a new take.

This is especially frustrating if you make a mistake two bars into the first song, and you have to stop everything and start over. You’ll find pretty quickly that you’ll lose that “zone” that you were in, and playing the music then becomes a chore.

There are a few possible solutions to this. Over the last few years, there have been at least a handful of wireless transport control products on the market.

Frontier Designs made one called The Tranzport. I don’t believe it’s for sale anymore, but it was essentially a wireless transport control that allowed you to start and stop playback and do a few other functions wirelessly.

Another solution is a very cool product from PreSonus called FaderPort. It’s great because it allows you to have volume control with the fader and also all the transport controls you need for recording. The one problem is that it’s not wireless. That’s not a huge problem. All you have to do is get a very long USB cable and place the transport next to you at the recording position.

Now you have the transport controls right there, within arms’ reach to start recording, stop recording, or do whatever else you need to do without having to get up.

The only problem with that solution is that you have to run a cable all the way across the room to the recording position while recording. Then you have to run it back to your mix position when you want to use the fader port for mixing and other things.

My Solution
Here’s what I do. When I bought my iMac, it came with a wireless keyboard. It’s not a full-size keyboard. It doesn’t have the number pad to the right-hand side, so it’s fairly small.

I used this for a while, but, if you do a lot of work in Pro Tools or any DAW, you know that there are shortcuts that you can use with the number pad on the right-hand side of the keyboard.

Since this wireless keyboard didn’t have that, I eventually broke down and bought a full-size USB keyboard for the iMac. That left me with a very handy wireless tool. Now, whenever I record across the room, I simply turn on my wireless keyboard and carry it with me to the recording position.

Since I know all the shortcuts, I can quickly and easily start and stop recording. If I mess up an intro in Pro Tools, I simply hit Ctrl-period. That stops recording and I can press Cmd-Spacebar to restart recording again. It’s very handy and saves me a lot of time, since I’m not bouncing back and forth from the chair, back to the computer, and then back to the chair.

Joe Gilder is a Nashville-based engineer, musician, and producer who also provides training and advice at the Home Studio Corner. Note that Joe also offers highly effective training courses, including Understanding Compression and Understanding EQ.


Posted by Keith Clark on 11/07 at 08:25 AM
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Wednesday, November 06, 2013

Problem Solvers: Mics And Techniques For Challenging Situations

Creative solutions to the daily challenges are readily available

Whether it’s a band using amplified and acoustic instruments, a bassist switching between electric and double bass, a drum kit right next to an acoustic piano, a particular sound that needs to be isolated in the face of loud ambient noise – or, well, you name it – selecting the right microphone (and deploying it in a certain way) can make a big difference in attaining the desired level and audio quality.

With that in mind, let’s take a survey of several live professionals about some of their “go to” mics and techniques when encountering acoustically difficult environments and/or in working with combinations of instruments.

Acoustic Piano
Preparing for a show with pianist/songwriter Mark Cohn, veteran FOH engineer Tom Dube announced that he could set up the piano mics in 60 seconds. With that, he reached inside the grand piano, positioned two DPA 4061 miniature omnidirectional condensers on the metal ribs of the piano’s harp with magnetic mounts, guided the cables, and plugged them into the stage snake.

Dube notes that he usually positions the mics in specific locations to maintain the proper phase relationship with the piano’s hammers. He then quickly adds a Barcus Berry XL4000 pickup to the soundboard under the lowest strings, running to the preamp.  (“Maybe the process takes 90 seconds,” he concedes.) 

At the console, he generally adds some gentle limiting and applies a high-pass filter to the 4061s at about 180 Hz to reduce stage rumble. Additional equalization depends on the particular piano, consisting of a bit of midrange attenuation centered somewhere between 300 and 700 Hz, and perhaps a slight boost between 3 and 4 kHz as well as 8 and 10 kHz. The DPA mics are “remarkably consistent and useable,” he notes.

“X” marks the spots – FOH engineer Tom Dube’s positioning for piano mics. (Credit: Tom Dube)

The XL4000 pickup serves to reinforce low frequencies that are sacrificed for feedback suppression with the high-pass filtering. “I’ll dump a whole lot of 1 kHz and 2.5 kHz, as well as bump up a bit of 12 5 Hz to add the missing bottom,” Dube adds. Finally, he has the player hold some lower tones during sound check to determine the best phase relationship between the mics and pickup.

When talking with FOH engineer Nick Malgieri at the main stage of the 2013 Monterey Jazz Festival, he referred to the Shoepps MK4 and its “magical gain-before-feedback ratio” even before any EQ when used as piano overheads.

“I’m not sure if any other mic overheads would work as well on an acoustic piano on a live stage with a band,” he says. Because of higher stage levels and instrumentation, the MK4 output is typically blended with some combination of internally mounted DPA 4060s, AKG C414s, or an Applied Microphone Technology (AMT) M40 boundary mic attached to the sound board. 

A DPA 4061 with convenient magnetic clip.

Acoustic Guitar
Getting an acoustic guitar to sound like it does unamplified, only louder, is a perennial challenge, especially when the guitar is doing more complex tasks than strumming chords in first position.

Solutions over the years have included a sound hole cover to seal the instrument’s acoustic chamber and lower the odds of feedback, as well as magnetic pickups under the strings, contact and under-saddle vibration-sensing pickups with outboard processing, and various small mics attached to the guitar either by themselves or in combination with under-saddle sensors.

At small venues where the audience is silent and the performer is still, simply placing a directional mic close to the instrument – avoiding close proximity to monitors and mains and adding judicious equalization – may do the trick. 

A recent solution is the L.R. Baggs Lyric system. Designed to be mounted in the guitar, the system includes a full-range directional mic in a specially designed noise-cancelling mounting that attaches inside the instrument on the guitar’s bridge plate, a small rotary volume control and presence setting on the underside of the sound hole, and an end-pin jack containing sophisticated tonal circuitry – including compression, limiting, and EQ to output a balanced acoustic sound. 

The system allows freedom of movement for the performer, since the mic always stays in the same position. I tested the Lyric by installing it into a custom handmade acoustic by luthier Mike Kelly (of Goodyears Bar, CA), with good results.

Keith Sewell, a touring guitarist with Lyle Lovett and the Dixie Chicks (among others), has been involved with the system since it was in prototype in 2012, seeking an internal mic-only solution for performing in amphitheatres and other large venues that would sound as close as possible to an unamplified acoustic. 

Because every venue and stage differs, Sewell says the Lyric needs a bit of tweaking each night, but once dialed in, he states, “it’s the best sound I’ve ever had as far as a guitar pickup,” adding that there is no way he could get even the best condenser mic as clear and loud in a live setting.

Lovett’s FOH engineer, John Richards, finds the mic very stable and musical in the mix. In a full band setting, he uses a high-pass filter at around 100 Hz on the guitar.

Guitarist Keith Sewell in concert with the L.R. Baggs Lyric system. (Credit: Keith Sewell)

Other effective solutions I’ve run across include an AMT S15G mic, which has a gooseneck external cardioid condenser element that positions between 3 to almost 6 inches above the surface of the guitar using a specialized clamp for the body and a beltpack preamp.

The DPA d:vote 4099G acoustic guitar mic provides a supercardioid element on a gooseneck with body clip, and is used externally pointing toward guitar. DPA offers a variety of exchangeable clips for this mic so that it can be used on violins and other strings, brass instruments, piano, drums, and so on.

And, the Fishman Ellipse Matrix Blend combines an under-saddle pickup with a miniature cardioid gooseneck condenser mic that goes inside the instrument. 

Guitar Amp
With decades of touring and studio experience, Mick Conley has miked his fair share of guitar amps. His choice is often a Shure SM7,  more typically used in radio broadcast as an announce mic. Though by the specs the SM7 is cardioid, Conley cites its “really tight pattern that isolates so well” as a key reason it works as desired in this application. It also includes bass roll-off and midrange presence boost controls for further tonal shaping.

When he has the time at a given show, he moves the mic position a bit to find the “sweet spot,”  listening through the house system. When using the same guitar amps at every stop on a tour, he may also mark the best spot with a piece of tape.

Dube has a few favored mics for guitar amps, including the ubiquitous Shure SM57. He also sometimes selects a ribbon mic such as a figure-8 Royer R-121 or a beyerdynamic M160 hypercardioid – or if available, a Sennheiser MD409 dynamic supercardioid (currently updated to the e609 Silver).

He emphasizes that mic positioning is critical to maintain a correct phase relationship, adding “use your ears.” Depending on the guitar, playing style, and amp, finding the best place to point the mic between the edge and center of the speaker cone is also a matter of listening. 

Kick Drum
Also while at Monterey, I ran into FOH engineer Dunning Butler as he was returning from the on-site equipment area with a mic to solve an audio problem on an upcoming performance at a venue that’s dubbed “Dizzy’s Den” at the festival.

It’s a long, rectangular room, designed for county fair displays rather than musical performances. As an acoustic space, it could be accurately described as “tubby” since its dimensions tend to accentuate low-frequency energy coming from the stage and the loudspeakers – leading to a lack of definition for bass instruments and kick drum. 

Dunning placed the beyerdynamic M88 cardioid that he’d retrieved close to the front head of the 18-inch kick drum (without a hole cut in the head), since in his experience the tight pattern and “bright sound” of the mic allow him to capture the sound without additional “boominess.”

Conley too mentioned the M88 as well as the more recent TG-series equivalent as “one of his favorite kick drum mics” that he also finds useful on toms and guitar cabinets.

Further Solutions
Flutes don’t get all that much attention, but they’re actually quite common to musical ensembles of a variety of styles, and they present unique challenges.

Noted flutist Michael Mason has found a solution with a Countryman ISOMAX 2, which is available in omni, cardioid, and hypercardioid patterns. Specifically, he mounts the mic to the instrument with it’s specialized flute clip, and sends signal to FOH via a Shure wireless system.

“The ISOMAX 2 provides excellent response and the clip mount offers all the flexibility I require in order to position my embouchure, with the ability to adjust the clip position for many of the extended techniques I perform,” he notes. “I position the clip and mic onto various areas of the headjoint, but never too close to the lip plate. I use the mic without the windscreen because it enables me to capture a wide range of articulations and wind sounds.” He adds that he knows of several other prominent flutists who regularly use the ISOMAX 2.

On the recent Justin Timberlake world tour, FOH engineer Andy Meyer turned to a unique solution he’s developed in applying an Audio-Technica AE5400 cardioid condenser mic – normally for live vocals – on the top and bottom of the snare drum. “I’ve been doing that since I was like seven years old,” he jokes. “Seriously, you cannot beat the 5400 in that application, and I keep trying.”

For unobtrusive close-miking of acoustic instruments and other audio sources, engineer Nick Malgieri chooses the DPA 4060, also a miniature omnidirectional model. He finds that this lavalier-style mic retains the clarity and high-end response along with faithfully reproducing “the sound of the body of the instrument.”

At times, he uses the 4060 as a “contact mic” by taping it to the instrument, and since it’s an omni, it doesn’t exhibit proximity effect that can color the sound. In more esoteric situations, he’s even taped it to a target to reinforce the impact of an arrow hitting home – with the audio relayed to the console via a Sennheiser G3 or Shure ULX-D wireless system. 

In addition to piano overhead applications, Malgieri sometimes uses a Shoepps MK4 as a lectern mic and to capture acoustic guitars and other acoustic instruments. For picking up more distant audio sources, he finds that the output of the MK4 is much more transparent than typical shotgun mics while still achieving the necessary gain.

Flutist Michael Mason showing the Countryman ISOMAX 2 placement on his instrument.

Stage Setup & Isolation
Audio and piano technician Brian Alexander has spent many years behind the scenes, touring with Chick Corea and others. He focuses on the stage setup and the interaction between stage levels, monitors, and mics. 

When stage levels are higher, emphasizing isolation between instruments based on where they’re positioned relative to each other, or even using sonic barriers (“if the musicians will put up with it,” he adds) can lead to more control over the audio to the front of house and the audience. Careful positioning of the null zones of the mics is also important. 

Further, in working at Monterey with vocalist Bobby McFerrin and his multi-piece band, including instruments ranging from drums, electric guitar, and keyboards to acoustic guitar, dobro, and bass ukulele, Alexander was greatly aided by both the careful stage arrangement and the use of in-ear monitors to keep the stage level low. Mixed by Dan Vicari, the results for the audience were dynamic, with every instrument able to be heard distinctly whether the band was rocking or playing intimately.

With so many mics to choose from, each with a unique set of characteristics, creative solutions to the daily acoustic challenges are readily available. The best approach is to set aside time to try some of the ideas presented here, as well as to come up with novel solutions of your own.

To the extent that the musicians will work with you, experiment with the positioning of instruments, amps, and monitors so that better isolation can be maintained – giving you more control at front of house.  The audience will appreciate your efforts.

Gary Parks is special projects writer for PSW/LSI, and has worked in the industry for more than 25 years, including serving as marketing manager and wireless product manager for Clear-Com, handling RF planning software sales with EDX Wireless, and managing loudspeaker and wireless product management at Electro-Voice.

Posted by Keith Clark on 11/06 at 11:28 AM
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Tuesday, November 05, 2013

Lectrosonics Wireless Technology Gives “1776” An Audible Boost

Audio quality and compact form factor support theatrical applications well

Based on a book by Peter Stone and featuring music and lyrics by Sherman Edwards, 1776 is a musical that draws on the events surrounding the creation and signing of the Declaration of Independence.

While the show focuses on events dating back some 237 years, there’s nothing ‘historical’ about the American Conservatory Theater’s (ACT) audio attributes, which utilizes Lectrosonics Digital Hybrid Wireless microphone technology.

St. Petersburg, FL-based sound designer Kevin Kennedy was contracted to coordinate sound for the American Conservatory Theater’s presentation of 1776. With a 20-plus-year audio background that spans everything from designing audio systems and mixing for touring Broadway musicals to mixing rock acts such as Alan Parsons, Kennedy is well versed in the sound reinforcement challenges of contemporary theater.

The Lectrosonics equipment used for 1776 is the theater company’s house system, which includes four Lectrosonics Venue series receiver mainframes—each one fully stocked with six VRT receiver modules for a total of 24 channels housed in four rack spaces. There’s also an assortment of transmitters, including four SMV Super-Miniature beltpacks, 18 SMQV dual battery Super-Miniature beltpacks, two HM plug-on transmitters for use with handheld microphones, and six SMDa Super-Miniature transmitters.

“Even though the house system consists of 24 channels, we actually required 26 channels for this production,” Kennedy explains. “As I was unable to secure additional Lectrosonics equipment, I found myself augmenting the Lectrosonics system with a competing manufacturer’s gear. Fortunately, the two systems complemented one another. Lectrosonics’ audio quality is excellent.

“I was particularly impressed with the build quality and the compact form factor of the Lectrosonics equipment,” he continues. “The small Lectrosonics transmitters are ideal for fitting in wigs and tight costuming situations and are really rugged. I also appreciate the fact that the LectroRM app for iPhone and iPad is available, as this handy tool makes it very easy to adjust audio level, frequency settings, and other system parameters when the SM transmitters are buried deep within wardrobe.”

Kennedy offers these final thoughts about the Lectrosonics equipment used on ACT’s presentation of 1776, “I have nothing but good things to say about the Lectrosonics units. They blend perfectly with the supplemental units that we used on the show and work very well with costuming—enabling us to easily hide the bodypack transmitter. Knowing that Lectrosonics is such a dominant presence in the broadcast market, it’s good to see them doing such good work in theater.”


Posted by Keith Clark on 11/05 at 03:50 PM
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Friday, November 01, 2013

Coming of Age: The Latest On Wireless Microphone Systems

A Real World Gear look at tech developments and a variety of systems

In the past year or so, several major players have introduced digital wireless microphone systems, ranging from entry level to professional units. While generally maintaining the traditional form and functions of the products, engineers have adapted concepts and techniques from computer networking, cellular telephones, and digital signal processing to enhance their performance.

Expect this trend to continue, since the new technologies can provide advantages in dense RF (radio frequency) environments, as well as generally excellent audio quality. And in some cases, they also offer ability to maintain the signal within the digital realm from the mic capsule through the console and beyond.

Digital RF requires a lower signal-to-noise ratio in order to deliver a usable signal to the receiver, compared with analog wireless. As well, the signal is either on and with undiminished audio quality, or off and silent. The “noising up” and other audio artifacts are rare with these systems. Typically, a lower transmission power is required from the digital system’s transmitter to achieve the range found with a 50 mW analog unit.

Digital wireless systems have a wider audio bandwidth, at both ends of the spectrum, than analog. A good analog system may boast a response from 50 Hz to 15 kHz, while the digital ones are close to flat from about 20 Hz to 20 kHz. Digital systems also don’t require companding circuitry that has the potential to affect audio quality. From my listening tests using several of these systems with voice and instruments, I’ve found the audio to be quite accurate and uncolored, even with the entry-level wireless.

Allowing the signal to remain digital is a feature of many of the professional units, which offer AES /EBU digital outputs as well as the standard analog XLR and quarter-inch connectors. Also, encryption schemes are easy to apply to the digital signal and decode at the receiver for pristine audio. Even without encryption, the signal is much less likely to be intercepted and decoded when in the digital domain.

Greater resistance to interference is another hallmark of the new digital wireless systems. However, we’re still talking about radio systems, and an interfering signal falling on a transmission channel can diminish range (since they’re all frequency agile, moving to a clear frequency will provide the solution) – but having an interfering signal break in and be reproduced as audio noise is unlikely. This characteristic makes frequency coordination and channel spacing easier; a few of the new digital systems make close, even spacing of channels possible.

Receivers often have a much wider tuning band than analog units, in some cases covering 150 MHz or more of spectrum. Using the new digital systems, you’ll have less need to carry several RF “splits” while touring in order to deal with crowded spectrum in locations with many DTV stations and other radio sources. Many of these systems operate in the UHF band between 470 – 698 MHz (for the U.S.), as well as in the 2.4 GHz region.

Finally, networking and computer monitoring/control that has been a feature of many professional systems has been expanded in the new systems. Remote control of the transmitter parameters as well as the receiver is often possible. These control capabilities can even be performed via a tablet computer or smart phone. Some systems can act as a spectrum analyzer, presenting a visual representation of the RF environment.

Take our Photo Gallery Tour of recent wireless systems from a number of manufacturers, highlighting key features such as transmission method, frequency band, audio bandwidth and sampling rate, transmitter power, and more.

Gary Parks has worked in pro audio for more than 25 years, including serving as marketing manager and wireless product manager for Clear-Com, handling RF planning software sales with EDX Wireless, and managing loudspeaker and wireless product management at Electro-Voice.

Posted by Keith Clark on 11/01 at 05:07 PM
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Thursday, October 31, 2013

Church Sound: The Value Of Radios For The Tech Team

Saving time while enhancing communications and efficiency
This article is provided by ChurchTechArts.

Whenever I hang out with fellow production guys at concerts, or at many larger churches, the tech guys always have radios. Usually compact Motorola or Kenwood units with those cool clip-on mics over their shoulder.

While I certainly saw the usefulness of those radios, I figured we didn’t need them for our church. We’re not really that big, and the productions we do aren’t that involved. Then came Vacation Bible School (VBS)…

For a variety of reasons, VBS was crazy production-wise. It was made crazier by the fact that I had an incredibly difficult time communicating with my ATD Jon. Though we had Clear-Com intercom stations on stage, I spent an inordinate amount of time hitting the call button waiting for someone to answer. It wasn’t anyone’s fault, but it was frustrating.

FRS Radios Don’t Do It For Me
To try to solve the problem, I pulled out the FRS radios we had bought a few years ago. Those didn’t help. In fact, they actually made the situation worse. Because we didn’t have mics for them, we could hear when one of us called.

In desperation, Wednesday afternoon I started looking for a real solution. I ended up with a pair of RCA BR-250s along with a pair of speaker mics. They arrived Friday afternoon just in time for tear down.

Initially, I was bummed because I didn’t think we would really need them on weekends. But as fate would happen, we had a few issues that needed to be figured out with one person on stage and another in the booth. Radios to the rescue! It was magical. We both agreed by the end of the weekend that a good set of radios is a life saver.

Since summer, the radios have become a regular part of our weekend routine. As soon as we arrive on Saturday or Sunday, we clip them on and go to work. It’s amazing how nice it is to quickly ask a question, clear something up or relay some information by simply tipping our heads and talking into the mic.

Time Will Tell…And It Does!
Having used them for about four months now, I can’t imagine doing production without them. The last few weeks, while Jon was away, getting married, I gave a radio to our teen volunteer lighting and sound techs (I’ve since bought a third).

Again, it was fantastic to be able to answer questions quickly without shouting all over the auditorium. And I think the guys liked wearing them, to be honest.

Most major cities have dealers that sell business class radios; we bought ours from Discount Two-Way Radio. They are located north of LA, so it was a quick ship for me. We bought RCA because I found them quickly, they had a great feature set (though our needs are simple) and they were cheaper than the Motorola units I saw. They also have a 3-year warranty.

When I was in the fire service years ago, all our radios were Motorola, and they were bulletproof. You certainly wouldn’t go wrong with them, either. I would discourage anyone from trying cheap (sub $125) FRS units you can find at the sporting good store. They just aren’t solid enough for production.

The RCAs were about $250 each with the mic and charger. While not cheap, they are well built, and most importantly, sound clear enough to be heard over the band during rehearsal. We can use them anywhere on campus and have no issues communicating.

More On The Way
I’m up to three of them right now, and I plan on adding at least one more this budget year to help out with larger events. Yes, they’re a bit expensive, but I’ve kind of reached the point where I’m done buying cheap stuff hoping it works.

I actually threw the FRS radios in the trash one day because I was so frustrated with them (I later pulled them out and gave them to someone else…). I need stuff that works, and these do. Like I said, I can’t imagine doing a weekend without them now.

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 10/31 at 08:46 AM
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